HELGA BOTERMANN: Das Judenedikt des Kaisers Claudius. Römischer Staat und Christiani im 1. Jahrhundert.
ARCTOS 31 /1997
Hermes Einzelschriften Band 71. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1996. 200 p. ISSN 0341-0064. DEM 88.
This monograph by Helga Botermann explores the much-discussed problem of Emperor Claudius’ policies against the Jews of Rome. Three sources (Cass. Dio 60,6,6; Acta Apostol. 18,2; Suet. Claud. 25,4) inform of Claudius’ measures but there has been controversy whether these texts refer to one edict only or even to two edicts. Botermann distinguishes two separate edicts against the Jews (in 41 and in 49).
The prime contribution of Botermann’s Judenedikt is that she widens the perspective of early Christian history and connects the movement of early Christians with the surrounding Roman Empire. She discusses the relation of early Christians towards their Jewish origins, arguing that Claudius’ edicts concerning Jews illustrate the long process in which Christians were separated gradually from Jews.
The main part of the book (chapters II-IV) concentrates on analyzing the sources. Botermann’s critical use of the Acts of the Apostles as a “normal” historical source shows particularly well how much an exhaustive study of sources can reveal. She remarks that the Acts and other early Christian sources cause special problems for theologians while for historians these sources are easier to deal with. Botermann warns of anachronisms since theologians are constantly in danger of interpreting early Christian movement as a religion of its own, apart from Judaism because the result is perceptible nowadays as Christianity.
An important question raised by Botermann is when and how early Christians began to identify themselves as a separate group from Jews and since when the Roman authorities began to regard Christians as a unit distinct from other Jews. Botermann argues that the distinction between Christians and Jews must be dated to a later period than the 40s that has traditionally been proposed as the turning point of the Christian movement. Paul and the writer of the Acts, for example, clearly regard early Christians as a part of Judaism though they criticize Judaism – inside Judaism, as Botermann points out. The Roman writers and authorities did not make any difference between different Jewish sects either; for the Roman authorities they all were mere troublemakers. The problem concerning the appearance and use of the name Christiani – is thoroughly discussed in the last part of the Judenedikt. Botermann’s argumentation is extremely interesting though after all her new chronology remains hypothetical.
Botermann’s Judenedikt is an excellent interdisciplinary study in which she has connected historical, philological and theological scholarship with each other in a fruitful way. She speaks for interdisciplinary studies in several passages in her book, complaining of the lack of cooperation between Altertumswissenschaftler and theologians.