Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Annette Y. Reed

Abstract

This dissertation explores one of the thorny problems of writing a social history of Early Christianity, the degree to which rhetoric either reflects or evokes worldviews, institutions, and other social formations. Through a focus on the textual traditions associated with Ignatius of Antioch, a second-century martyr and Christian bishop, I explore how language about Jews and Judaism was reproduced and rewritten in later centuries such that it has become evidence for our own histories of Jewish–Christian relations. The textual tradition of Ignatius’s letters includes multiple recensions and was reproduced repeatedly throughout Late Antiquity and into the Middle Ages. By comparing the various recensions, I show how both retention and alteration in the textual tradition can create new rhetorical effects. The different recensions provide evidence for the effects of earlier versions on later readers and how the reading and writing practices of later scribes gave birth to new images of the past and new modes of reading early Christian literature. By engaging recent scholarship on ancient education, scribal practice, and the materiality of texts, I show how careful attention to the effects of texts and textual production helps us better understand the processes and practices that give rhetoric social traction and force.

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