Writing the Jews out of History: Pseudo-Hegesippus, Classical Historiography, & the Codification of Christian Anti-Judaism in Late Antiquity

Bay, Carson (2021). Writing the Jews out of History: Pseudo-Hegesippus, Classical Historiography, & the Codification of Christian Anti-Judaism in Late Antiquity. Church History, 90(2), pp. 265-285. Cambridge University Press 10.1017/S0009640721001451

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Scholarly narratives of the development of Christian anti-Jewish thinking in antiquity routinely cite a number of standard, well-known authors: from Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr in earlier centuries to Eusebius, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine in the fourth and early fifth centuries. The anonymous author known as Pseudo-Hegesippus, to whom is attributed a late fourth-century Latin work called On the Destruction of Jerusalem (De Excidio Hierosolymitano), rarely appears in such discussions. This has largely to do with the fact that this text and its author are effectively unknown entities within contemporary scholarship in this area (scholars familiar with Pseudo-Hegesippus tend to be specialists in medieval Latin texts and manuscripts). But “Pseudo-Hegesippus” represents a critical contribution to the mosaic of Christian anti-Jewish discourse in late antiquity. De Excidio's generic identity as a Christian piece of classical historiography makes it a unique form of ancient anti-Jewish propaganda. This genre, tied to De Excidio's probable context of writing—the wake of the emperor Julian's abortive attempt to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, resurrect a robust Judaism, and remove Christians from public engagement with classical culture—renders De Excidio an important Christian artifact of both anti-Judaism and pro-classicism at the same time. This article situates Pseudo-Hegesippus in a lineage of Christian anti-Jewish historical thinking, argues that De Excidio codifies that discourse in a significant and singular way, frames this contribution in terms of its apparent socio-historical context, and cites De Excidio's later influence and reception as testaments to its rightful place in the history of Christian anti-Judaism, a place that modern scholarship has yet to afford it. As a piece of classical historiography that mirrors not Christian historians—like Eusebius and others—but the historians of the broader “pagan” Greco-Roman world—like Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus—De Excidio leverages a cultural communicative medium particularly well equipped to undergird and fuel the Christian historiographical imagination and its anti-Jewish projections.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Jewish Studies
01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Historical Theology

UniBE Contributor:

Bay, Carson Michael


200 Religion
200 Religion > 230 Christianity & Christian theology
200 Religion > 270 History of Christianity
200 Religion > 290 Other religions
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
400 Language
400 Language > 470 Latin & Italic languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 870 Latin & Italic literatures
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 880 Classical & modern Greek literatures
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 890 Other literatures
900 History
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Cambridge University Press


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation


[UNSPECIFIED] Lege Iosephum! (SNF 180217)




Carson Michael Bay

Date Deposited:

08 Apr 2022 10:38

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:16

Publisher DOI:






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