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Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity
by Daniel Boyarin

Yitzchak Schwartz, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

«Today we perceive Judaism and Christianity as totally separate religions, but in Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, author Daniel Boyarin describes the process in which "borders" were created to divide what was once a unified "Judaeo-Christianity," and the rich cultural interactions that took place between Jews and Christians even as the divisions between them were erected.»

Boyarin argues that in the first century, as Christianity emerged among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, Jewish society comprised a spectrum: some individuals completely rejected Jesus and his teachings, others believed in his divinity, but most fell somewhere in between. It was only during the next two hundred years that these groups increasingly began to view themselves as distinct from one another.

The book presents an analysis of how the distinctions emerged, as leaders in each group described the others as "heretics." They were not just describing each other, but rather, for the first time, speaking of "Judaism" and "Christianity" as distinct entities, leading their followers to see themselves as separate. Even as these borders were being erected, many ideas still flowed between the groups, a process that has continued into our own time.

Critics have questioned Boyarin's neat chronology, as well as his contention that Judaism never came to define itself as a distinct religion in the same way that Christianity did. Nonetheless, Boyarin marshals an impressive mastery of Jewish and Christian sources and a wide-ranging grasp of literary and social theory.

The exhibition Byzantium and Islam explores aspects of these same kind of interactions in the art and culture of Judaism, Christianity, and the newly established religion of Islam during the seventh to tenth centuries. To understand this period, we must first understand and question the notion of fixed, impenetrable borders between these groups.

About the Book
Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004

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About the Author

Yitzchak Schwartz is a student at the Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, as well as Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, where he researches Jewish material culture and cultural history. He is also a Research Associate at the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, where, among other projects, he is working on the exhibition The Samaritans: A Biblical People, which will open at the Museum of Biblical Art in Fall 2014.

About this Blog

This blog accompanied the special exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, on view March 14–July 8, 2012.