The ritual murderers of Jesus? An investigation of ancient Judaism’s position in the comparative debates about Early Christianity in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century from a historical and sociological perspective

Start - End 
2016 - 2019 (ongoing)



This project will investigate (a) the sociological and historical context of the late 19th & early 20thcentury history of religions, focusing on anti-Semitism in scientific networks, and (b) the depictionof Judaism and the definition of the interrelation between Judaism, primitive Christianity and thepagan Umwelt in the contemporary comparative debates. More specifically I will study the viewscirculating within the transnational networks of Hermann Usener, Salomon Reinach, LouisDuchesne and of the scholars engaged in the “Nazareth inscription” controversy in the 1930s (e.g.Jérôme Carcopino, Marie-Joseph Lagrange). I will make extensive use of unpublishedcorrespondence to analyze the networks and to study the worldviews underpinning scientificnarratives. Modern scholarship has indicated the complex relation between anti-Semitism andcomparative religion, e.g. for the stereotypical depiction of Judaism by James G. Frazer, who alsoargued that the Passion had actually been a Jewish ritual human sacrifice. However, the issuerequires more research. My project will contribute to the History of Ideas but it is also relevant forcurrent historiography of ancient religion as it focuses on the process of history writing about thestill much discussed relations between Christianity, Judaism and paganism. I will publish anannotated anthology of elucidative letters and a critical edition of Franz Cumont & Aby Warburg’snotes of Usener’s influential Mythologie course (1886-1887)