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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School Theology and Religious Studies PhD Programme PhD ceremonies Graduations 2009

17-09-'09 | M. Heemstra

How Rome's administration of the Fiscus Judaicus accelerated the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity
PhD student

M. Heemstra

Date and time

17 September 2009, 1.15 p.m.

PhD thesis

How Rome's administration of the Fiscus Judaicus accelerated the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity

Supervisors

Prof. G.H. van Kooten

Prof. B.H. Stolte

> Press release: Reformatorisch Dagblad (in Dutch only)
> Press release: Trouw (in Dutch only)

96 AD milestone in parting of ways between Judaism and Christianity

Marius Heemstra’s PhD research shows that the administration of the ‘Fiscus Judaicus’ under Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) and the reform of this Fiscus under Emperor Nerva (96-98) accelerated the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, resulting in two separate religions. The year 96 is crucial in this regard: from this moment on Roman authorities used a stricter definition of ‘Jew’, making it easier for them to distinguish between Judaism (an accepted religion within the empire) and Christianity (an illegal religious movement). Heemstra argues that this parting should be interpreted as a break between Jewish Christians and mainstream Judaism, both parties claiming to be the true representatives of the continuing history of Israel.

The first part of Heemstra’s thesis specifically focuses on the ‘Fiscus Judaicus’, the Roman institution that was designated to levy the Jewish tax from all Jews within the empire after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in year 70. Heemstra concludes that under Emperor Domitian, members of Christian communities were among the victims of the Fiscus Judaicus, which made a legal distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians.

The second part of the thesis looks at three New Testament books in particular: the Book of Revelation, the Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel of John. Both the Jewish and the Roman contexts of these books are studied, paying attention to tensions and controversies in both contexts.

Heemstra concludes that year 96 is an important milestone in the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity. From this moment on Roman authorities used a stricter definition of ‘Jew’, making it easier for them to distinguish between Judaism (an accepted religion within the empire) and Christianity (an illegal religious movement). Heemstra argues that this parting should be interpreted as a break between Jewish Christians and mainstream Judaism, both parties claiming to be the true representatives of the continuing history of Israel.

Marius Heemstra (Oude Pekela, 1960) studied theology at the University of Groningen and conducted his PhD research at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the same university. Heemstra works as a Corporate Insurance Manager at Koninklijke KPN NV in Groningen.

Last modified:30 March 2017 2.57 p.m.
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