Food and Social Boundaries in Late Antique Syria-Mesopotamia: Syriac Christians and Jewish Dietary Laws and Alimentary Practices
The main focus of this article is on the various ways, in which food-related rhetoric was employed by Syriac Christians during Late Antiquity for the purposes of articulating a distinctive collective identity, independent of Judaism, and establishing social boundaries with Jews. It analyzes how the biblical dietary laws were reinterpreted by Syriac exegetes, such as Aphrahat (4th c.) and Jacob of Serugh (6th c.), who strive to demonstrate irrelevance of their observance for Christians. In addition, the rhetoric aimed at prevention of commensality between Christians and Jews, found in hymnography as well as in canonical works, is discussed. Finally, it addresses the complex issue of how these discursive affirmations of Christian independence from Jews and Judaism were related to the complex social reality of late antique Syria-Mesopotamia.