Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos: A rhetorical analysis

Publication Date



Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos (Against the Jews) is one of the most controversial works of early Christian literature for modern scholarship not only because of its subject matter, which denies the enduring validity of Judaism subsequent to the appearance of Christianity, but also because of the debate surrounding the authenticity of the second half of the work itself. Many believe that the parallels with the third book of Aduersus Marcionem indicate that someone other than Tertullian completed this work by taking material from the latter source. As a result, historical studies of the relationship between Jews and Christians have widely neglected this work.
Geoffrey D. Dunn is the first scholar to use classical rhetoric as the interpretative tool for analyzing the question of the authorship of Aduersus Iudaeos. He argues that Tertullian structured this work according to the rules of classical rhetoric and employed arguments familiar to anyone with training in oratory. This analysis demonstrates that the work's conceptual structure matches what is written, that there are parts of the pamphlet that remain an unrevised draft, and that it was Tertullian himself who later used the material from this work in Aduersus Marcionem.
A rhetorical perspective suggests that this work was intended as an idealized Christian contribution to be employed in the debate between Christians and Jews. The intended readers of Aduersus Iudaeos were Tertullian's fellow Christians, and, by writing the work, he sought to provide them with better debating points to use in their own encounters with Jews.
This book presents valuable evidence of an ongoing, lively interaction between Jews and Christians in late second-century Carthage about the validity of both religions and their interpretations of the scriptures.


Centre for Biblical and Early Christian Studies

Document Type


Access Rights

ERA Access

This document is currently not available here.