This thesis argues that early Christians actively engaged rhetoric and symbols
of monotheism in diverse literary strategies as an ideological tool for resisting,
repositioning, and rereading Judaism in order to shape their own collective identity
from 100 to 200 CE (ch. 1). Belief and confession of one God provides an important
basis for social comparison between Jews and Christians because it represents a
fundamental Jewish identity marker also shared by Christians (ch. 2). A survey of
divine unity and uniqueness rhetoric in early Christian literature revealed three broad
trajectories in which monotheistic motifs assumed significance in shaping Christian
literature and thereby the production of "Christianness" itself. This thesis examines
specific moments in each trajectory that highlight particularly well the functionality
of monotheism in the process of forming Christianness relative to Judaism.
Ignatius of Antioch provides the first example (ch. 3). The literary shaping of
Philadelphians and Magnesians reveals that for Ignatius what fundamentally
distinguished "Judaism" and "Christianism" was not monotheism but their respective
response to the revelation of God through Jesus in the gospel. Monotheism was not a
tool for classifying difference but a powerful weapon for resisting threatening Jewish
influence within the Christian church. Only as an element of resistance brought to
bear on an already established "Judaism"-"Christianism" divide did monotheism
represent, reflexively and secondarily, a means of shaping Christian identity.
Another trajectory overtly utilised "knowledge" of the one God as primary
criterion for indexing sameness and difference between Christianity, Judaism, and
other groups (ch. 4). Kerygma Petrou and Aristides' Apology employ such
monotheistic classification strategies to situate Christianity in a global framework
alongside other religious and/or ethnic collectivities. Both texts locate the "newness"
of Christianity alongside the more well-known status of Jews. In so doing, they
effectively reposition Judaism within the global framework of religious and ethnic
groups to clarify and legitimate the meaning of belonging to Christian identity.
Some Christians employed "two powers" hermeneutic strategies to reinterpret
Jewish scriptural traditions of exclusivist monotheism by insinuating into scripture a
second figure, Jesus, alongside the one God (ch. 5). Aristo's Disputation of Jason
and Papiscus and Justin's Dialogue demonstrate awareness that the scriptures are
shared intellectual property and the proper locus for Christian-Jewish debate. "Two
powers" interpretations thus reflect conscious attempts to reread Jewish monotheistic
textual traditions in a new way. Through them an entire reconstruction of the
symbolic universe of monotheism can take place in explicitly Christian terms.
These diverse strategies reveal a complex network of early Christian literary
production that used monotheistic symbols and rhetoric as an implement to resist,
reposition, and reread Judaism, thereby producing distinctly Christian identities (ch.