Network analysis reveals insights about the interconnections of Judaism and Christianity in the first centuries CE

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The development of the two religions: Christianity and Judaism, is a topic of much debate. Whereas Judaism and Christianity are known as separate religions, in fact, these two religions developed side by side. While earlier researchers conceptualized a “parting-of-the-ways,” after which the two religions evolved independently, new studies reveal a multi-layered set of interactions throughout the first several centuries CE. Until recently, this question was explored with the limited source material and limited tools to analyze it. While working on a limited set of data, from a specific corpus, this project offers a new set of methodological tools, borrowed from computer sciences, that could ultimately serve for understanding the connections between Jews and Christians in late antiquity. We generated models of inter-religious Christian–Jewish networks that demonstrate the scope, nature, and advantages of network analysis for revealing the complex intertwined evolution of the two religions. The Jewish corpora chosen for this research are rabbinic writings from late antique Babylonia and Palestine. Christian texts range from the first through sixth centuries CE. Instead of representing interactions between people or places, as is typically done with social networks, we model literary interactions that, in our view, indicate historical connections between religious communities. This novel approach allows us to visually represent sets of temporal–spatial–contextual relationships, which evolved over hundreds of years, in single snapshots. It also reveals new insights about the relationships between the two communities. For example, we find that rabbinic sources exhibit a largely polemical approach towards earlier Christian traditions but a non-polemical attitude towards later ones. Moreover, network analysis suggests a temporal–spatial familiarity correlation. Namely, Jewish sources are familiar with early, eastern Christian sources and with both Eastern and Western Christian sources in later periods. The application of network analysis makes it possible to identify the most influential texts—that is, the key “nodes”—testifying to the importance of certain traditions for both religious communities. Finally, the network approach is a tool for pointing scholarly research in new directions, which only reveals itself as a result of this type of mapping. In other words, the network not only describes the known data, but it is itself a way to enlarge the network and lead us down new and exciting paths that are currently unknown.

Original languageEnglish
Article number191
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)
  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Psychology (all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)


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