Attractive Ethics

Interrelations between Jewish, Hellenistic-Roman and Christian Ethics in Antiquity

In the Roman Empire, Judaism and Christianity encountered a general fascination for religious movements from the East. It was from this revered cultural space, which geographically belonged to Asia, that Greeks and Romans traditionally expected new cultural and religious impulses. Monotheism in particular contributed to the attractiveness of Judaism from which Christianity evolved. Against this background, we shall research the question of the way in which not only the exclusive monotheism, but especially the relation to the exclusive Jewish and Christian ethics of commitment (Ethik der Hingabe) increased this attraction or respectively evoked rejection and polemics. Jewish commandment-ethics encountered cults in the Hellenistic-Roman cultural space that were organised around the "do ut des" principle. The interrelation between Godhead and the human being was similar to that of creditor and debtor. By Augustus at the latest, however, virtue ethics had come to play a predominant role (especially the Pietas), serving (national) integrative purposes. This project will conduct research on the interdependencies and interrelations between Jewish ethics and virtue ethics as well as on the reception of these dynamics in the New Testament. While traditionally New Testament ethics were interpreted against the backdrop of virtue ethics, recent studies have discussed the influence of commandment ethics on the ethical concepts to be found in the New Testament. This approach deserves further research, since it promises new insights into New Testament ethics and due to its interdisciplinary orientation (history of Antiquity/ Jewish history) and also into ethical concepts in Antiquity in general.

This project will examine the question of how the non-Jewish environment responded to the ethical beliefs and practices of Judaism and what perception of the Jewish way of life Judaism in turn expected from its environment. The research on the attraction to and rejection of Judaism, which have dominated scholarly discourses to date, will be extended to include the ethical perspective. We shall examine under which social circumstances in Antiquity a rigorous ethics, closely linked to an exclusive monotheism, appealed to which social groups and how Christianity participated in this attractiveness and even deliberately used it for its missionary purposes. We expect the results of this research to contribute to other ethical discourses

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Prof. Dr. Peter Wick

Prof. Dr. Peter Wick

Project Leader

Universitätsstr. 150
44801  Bochum
Office GA 8/148
+49 234 32-28103

Dr. Volker Rabens

Cooperation Partner

+49 3641 941123