1-10 of 10 Results

  • Keywords: Judaism x
Clear all

Article

Ben Sira  

Benjamin G. Wright III

The book of Ben Sira is a wisdom text dating from the early 2nd century bce. It provides important evidence for Jewish wisdom traditions and teachers as well as Jewish scribes in this period. It was translated in Greek by the author’s grandson, and that version became the primary one, later becoming part of the Christian scriptural tradition. Fragmentary manuscripts of the Hebrew text were found in the Cairo Genizah and among the Dead Sea Scrolls.The Wisdom of Ben Sira is a Jewish wisdom book written in the early part of the 2nd centurybce by a Jewish scribe/sage from Jerusalem named Joshua ben (i.e., “son of”) Sira, who is better known from the Greek form of his name, Jesus son of Sira. Written in Hebrew, the work was not included in the Jewish canon of scripture, and the Hebrew text fell into obscurity. A translator, who in a prologue identifies himself as the author’s grandson, rendered the book into Greek in the latter part of the .

Article

Philon (4), ‘Philo’  

Maren Niehoff

Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 bce–45 ce) was a Jewish philosopher, Bible interpreter, and diplomat who produced one of the most voluminous and diverse oeuvres extant from antiquity. He started his career as a Bible commentator in the Jewish community of Alexandria, combining methods of Homeric scholarship with Platonic allegory and a transcendental theology of the God of Israel. As a budding philosopher, Philo significantly contributes to Middle-Platonism. Following an embassy to Gaius Caligula in Rome, Philo began to address wider Roman audiences and interpreted the Jewish tradition in the mode of Roman Stoicism. He provides a glimpse into the development of Roman Stoicism from Cicero to Seneca. His biographies of the biblical forefathers focus on characteristic anecdotes and anticipate Plutarch’s work. Philo’s works from his Roman period are paradigmatic for a broader merging of the Greek East with the Roman West and illuminate similar developments among the writers of the Second Sophistic.

Article

Tertullian, c. 160–c. 240 CE  

Eric Rebillard

Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born in a pagan family and grew up in Carthage. Nothing is known about his conversion, but it happened in his youth or at least before he got married (ux. 1.1). Because Eusebius says he was well versed in the laws of the Romans (HE 2.2.4), some scholars proposed to identify him with the jurist Tertullianus mentioned in the Digest. There is no evidence, however, that Tertullian ever provided legal advice for a living, and though he displays a good knowledge of Roman law, this is in par with a rhetorical education.1 According to Jerome (vir ill. 53), Tertullian was the son of a “proconsular centurion” and a presbyter. The first information raises many historical difficulties; the second is still debated.2 At the time of Jerome, it is unlikely that a writer would address so many issues of pastoral and disciplinary matters without some clerical status. In the 3rd century, his standing as a “sophisticated literate” likely conferred to him enough authority for it.

Article

conversion, Jewish  

Matthew Thiessen

There is little evidence of conversion to Israelite religion or Judaism in Jewish scriptures. For instance, while later rabbis understood the book of Ruth to portray the conversion of Ruth to Judaism, the book itself repeatedly refers to her as a Moabite, even after she declares to her mother-in-law Naomi that “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). Similarly, the Hebrew text of Esther 8:17 portrays numerous Gentiles Judaizing: “Many peoples of the land Judaized because fear of the Jews fell upon them.” The Septuagint translation (LXX) adds that this “Judaization” included circumcision. While some scholars believe that this verse refers to conversion, the author claims that this action was taken only out of fear of the Jews. These Gentiles did not Judaize out of religious conviction; rather, they merely pretended to be Jews to avoid Jewish retaliation for the violent machinations of Haman.

Article

Jerusalem  

Avner Ecker

After the Babylonian exile, Jews returned to their city under Cyrus I and rebuilt their temple in Jerusalem in 539 bce. Jerusalem eventually became the only monotheistic centre within the Greco-Roman world. Most Jews regarded their temple as the only temple to Yahweh. Three annual pilgrimages from the entire Mediterranean basin marked the city’s life cycle. The temple grew rich through donations, tithes, and a voluntary tax given by Jews. The city of the Second Temple Period was run according to a set of Jewish religious laws. Antiochus IV attempted to mould it into a Greek-style polis and instigated the Maccabean revolt (167–160 bce). The riches of the temple allured Hellenistic and Roman rulers alike, whereas the unique religious character of Jewish Jerusalem posed continuous political challenges. Indeed, the city was besieged, and the temple occasionally plundered by a succession of Hellenistic and Roman conquerors. Jerusalem and the temple flourished under Herod and his dynasts (Plin. HN 5.

Article

God-fearers (theosebeis)  

Pieter W. van der Horst

In ancient literature (both Graeco-Roman and Jewish and Christian) as well as in epigraphic material (mainly Jewish), one finds references to persons or groups variously called theosebeis, sebomenoi, phoboumenoi (ton theon), metuentes (in Hebrew parlance yir’ei shamayim, “fearers of heaven [=God]”). Although in the past scholars sometimes assumed these terms to be just designations of pious persons in general,1 nowadays the prevalent opinion is that they often refer to a quite specific category: gentiles who sympathize with the Jewish religion.2 The evidence evinces the existence of non-Jewish groups or individuals on the fringes of local synagogues who were deeply interested in aspects of Judaism and observed ad libitum precepts of the Jewish law (Torah), for instance by keeping the Sabbath and attending synagogue services or adhering to some form of monotheism, without, however, formally converting to Judaism (in contrast to proselytes).In Greek and Latin literature of the imperial period, references to gentiles who were attracted to Judaism are rare. Juvenal the satirist ridicules gentiles who have themselves circumcised and revere the Law of Moses after their father had begun to observe the Sabbath (metuentem sabbata patrem) and to abstain from pork (Sat.

Article

Cyril of Alexandria  

Matthew R. Crawford

Serving as bishop of Alexandria from 412 until his death in 444, Cyril was one of the two most influential episcopal leaders of the city during Late Antiquity, second only to Athanasius in terms of his involvement in ecclesiastical politics and his significance as an authority for later Christian traditions. His career was marked by attempts to oppose Jews, pagans, and Christians whose theology he regarded as contrary to the Nicene faith. In pursuit of this goal he proved to be a politically savvy tactician, as well as a rhetorically and intellectually powerful polemicist in pamphlets, letters, florilegia, and treatises. He was also an effective bishop who exhibited pastoral concern for the organization and vitality of the Egyptian church as well as its unity with other churches throughout the empire.Details of Cyril’s early life are murky. All that survives are much later reports that may not be accurate, such as the claim that he spent five years in the Nitrian desert receiving instruction from the ascetic Serapion (Severus ibn al-Muqaffa‘, .

Article

Biblical Archaeology  

Aren Maeir

Biblical archaeology is defined as the study of the archaeological remains of the peoples, cultures, and periods in which the biblical texts were formed. While in the past biblical archaeology was often seen as an ideologically motivated field of inquiry, currently, a balanced and scientifically advanced approach is common among most practitioners. The large body of research in this field, continuing to the present, provides a broad range of finds, insights, and understanding of the relevant cultures, peoples and periods in which the biblical texts were formed.Biblical archaeology may be defined as the study of the archaeological remains of the regions, cultures, and periods, in which the biblical texts were formed. Modern biblical archaeology does not attempt to prove or disprove the Bible. Rather, archaeological study of the cultures in which the Bible was formed, or which are included in the Bible narratives, can provide a better understanding of the material and intellectual context of the biblical texts. The primary aim, however, is to study the archaeology of these regions, periods, and cultures associated with the Bible, the biblical interface being secondary. Biblical archaeology focuses primary attention on the regions and cultures of the Southern Levant, specifically the region of modern-day Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and southern Syria. Nearby regions such as Egypt, northern Syria, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Aegean are within its scope of interest. The main chronological focus of biblical archaeology are the periods in which the actual biblical texts were formed and written down—the Iron Age, Persian period, and Hellenistic period for the Hebrew Bible, about .

Article

Ḥimyar, kingdom of  

Yosef Yuval Tobi

The beginning of the Ḥimyari kingdom is reckoned at 110 bce, when the tribe of Ḥimyar split off from the Qatabān kingdom in the western Ḥaḍramawt, located in the southern Arabian Peninsula, and established its own capital in Ẓafār, located in southeast of our time Yarim. Starting in the 1st century ce, there were incessant conflicts between the kingdom of Ḥimyar and the kingdom of Sheba, whose seat of government was Ma’rib, until the year 175, when the Ḥimyarites completely conquered the kingdom of Sheba. They had taken over Qatabān some hundred years earlier. The religion of the kingdom, as in all other kingdoms in South Arabia at the time, was polytheist, but during the 4th century, the effects of monotheism began to take hold. No later than 384, King Malkīkarib Yuha’min (r. 375–400) had adopted Judaism as the state religion. The kingdom of Ḥimyar remained in a state of constant war with the Christian kingdom of Axūm in Ethiopia, on the western shore of the Red Sea, while the Ethiopians succeeded in even occupying militarily the city of Ẓafār for a short time. The tension between the two kingdoms reached its peak during the time of As’ar Yath’ar’s reign (more commonly known as Yūsuf Dhū Nuwās) (517–525), who acted ruthlessly against the Christians in his kingdom, especially those in Najrān. Because of this action, the army of Axūm invaded Yemen in 525 at the request of the Christian Byzantine emperor, bringing an end to the Jewish kingdom of Ḥimyar. In 531, Abraha the Ethiopian took over the reins of government in Yemen and expanded his kingdom’s realm of influence further north towards the central part of the Arabian Peninsula. A short time following his death, Persia wrestled control of the kingdom, with the assistance of Sayf Dhū Yazan, who, according to tradition, was one of the descendants of Joseph Dhū Nuwās. In 629, Yemen fell entirely to the armies of Islam.

Article

diaspora, Jewish, 332 BCE–c. 600 CE  

Seth Schwartz

For some ancient Jews, “diaspora” (together with its cognates) was an actor’s and not an observer’s term. But its import was primarily theological: God punished the Jews for their sins by dispersing them from their native land of Israel. Yet “diaspora” retains analytic utility for historians, if taken to refer to the geographically and temporally varied modes of Jewish life outside Palestine. It is not known to what extent diaspora Jews were emigrants from Palestine and their descendants; nor do we know how numerous they were. But we can follow the evidence where it exists. The main lesson is that the onset of Roman rule created crises around the integration of the Jews into their host societies. Intentionally or not, in the cities of the east (and the big villages of Egypt) the Romans fomented discord between different elements of the population. In Egypt, this led at once to the ultimately lethal—for the Jews, anyhow—three-way competition between Jews, Greeks, and Egyptians. Even in Asia Minor, normally understood as the best-case scenario for Jews under Roman rule, the evidence indicates that Jewish life in the Roman imperial period was more fragile, constrained, fraught, and impermanent than is often supposed.