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Article

Martin Goodman

Modern accounts of hostility to Jews in classical antiquity have often been complicated by a concern to relate pagan anti-Semitism to the anti-Judaism of some early Christians and to the history of anti-Semitism in more recent times. A literary tradition hostile to Jews and Judaism can be traced back to Greek writers in Egypt from the 3rd century BC. The social, cultural and political background to anti-Jewish invective cannot always be discerned, but it has been plausibly argued that propaganda aimed at Jews after the attack on the Jerusalem Temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and after the destruction of the Temple by Titus in A.D. 70 will have had a major impact: in the early second century AD, Tacitus wrote of the Jews that they ‘regard as profane all that we hold sacred; on the other hand, they permit all that we abhor’ (Hist. 5.4.1). Hostility seems to have been directed to Jewish customs rather than race, so that apostate Jews were not generally taunted with their origins, but the causes of hostility are debated. Some have argued that Jews were disliked just because they were different, but other scholars have focussed on local tensions, such as Jewish-Greek conflict in Alexandria in the first century AD (over Jewish aspirations to Alexandrian citizenship and Greek resentment of Roman protection of the Jews) and the periodic expulsions of Jews from Rome in the same period. The apparent significance of ancient antisemitism, compared to hostility to other minority groups, may be exaggerated by the preservation of unusual amounts of material about Jews in the later Jewish and Christian traditions, and by the emphasis laid on the campaign in Judaea by the Flavian regime, which used celebration of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 to disguise their seizure of power in the civil war of 68–69.

Article

Archelaus (4), following the will left by his father *Herod (1), was appointed by Augustus ethnarch of the southern part of Herod's kingdom—*Judaea, *Samaria, and *Idumaea. Archelaus married (scandalously) Glaphyra, daughter of *Archelaus (5) of Cappadocia, previously the wife of his own half-brother, as well as of King *Juba (2) of Mauretania.

Article

Tessa Rajak

The Alexandrian Jewish narrative of the making of the Greek translation of the Law (Torah) for the library of *Ptolemy (1) II Philadelphus, at the instigation of his librarian, *Demetrius (3) of Phaleron. The supposed author, a courtier named Aristeas, in an elaborate letter to his brother Philocrates, describes a mission to Eleazar, the high priest at *Jerusalem. Eleazar expounds the philosophical rationale of the Law, and supplies 72 scholars, six from each tribe. At a seven-day banquet, they guide the King on good kingship; he is impressed with their wisdom and piety and with their God. On the island of Pharus (see alexandria (1)), they complete their work in 72 days, in total harmony; they then present the translation to the King and to the Jewish community: it is to remain unchanged. The Letter has historical elements: the ascription of the start of what was to become the *Septuagint to Ptolemy Philadelphus is credible; and the description of Jerusalem has realistic elements.

Article

Aristobulus (2), an Alexandrian Jew (see alexandria), probably of the second half of the 2nd cent. bce, author of a commentary on the Pentateuch which is known only through quotations by *Clement of Alexandria, Anatolius, and *Eusebius. This has been thought by some scholars to be a much later work (of the 3rd cent. ce) falsely ascribed to Aristobulus; but this conclusion is not necessary. If the earlier date be accepted, the book is the earliest evidence of contact between Alexandrian Jewry and Greek philosophy. Its object was twofold, to interpret the Pentateuch in an allegorical fashion and to show that *Homer and *Hesiod, the Orphic writings (see orphic literature), *Pythagoras (1), *Plato (1), and *Aristotle had borrowed freely from a supposed early translation of the OT into Greek. Though Aristobulus toned down the anthropomorphism of the OT, his thought remained Jewish and theistic; it did not accept the pantheism of the Stoics nor anticipate the Logos-doctrine of *Philon (4).

Article

Steven Fine

Architecture, coinage, and funerary remains reflect distinctive Jewish modes of participation in the larger visual culture of the Graeco-Roman period. Jews tended to distance themselves from artefacts and imagery deemed potentially 'idolatrous', although this category was somewhat fluid. *Hasmonaean and Jewish revolt coinage exhibits mainly floral motifs and a palaeo-Hebrew script, reminiscent of Tyrian numismatics. The Temple menorah and showbread table appear on lepta of Antigonos Mattathias (39 bce), and other Jerusalem cult objects are found on coins of the First Revolt (66–74 ce) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–5 ce), which bear a tetrastyle representation of the lost Temple. The architecture of Herod's Temple (c.20/19 bce – 70 ce) was consonant with Augustan imperial architecture, apart from the avoidance of human and most animal imagery. From the 3rd cent. ce, symbols drawn from the Temple cult (e.g. the menorah), some of which were carried over into *synagogue liturgy (e.

Article

Babatha  

Kimberley Czajkowski

Babatha was a Jewish woman who lived in the province of Roman Arabia in the first half of the 2nd century ce. Her documents were found wrapped up in a leather purse in the Cave of Letters, near the Dead Sea. Babatha’s archive is multilingual and dates from before and after the annexation of the region in 106 ce. It consists of legal and administrative documents, including marriage contracts, deeds of gift, land registrations, and two cases of litigation that were aimed at the court of the Roman governor. The archive therefore sheds light on various aspects of the life of one particular Jewish family in this era, particularly on everyday legal transactions in the newly annexed province and “on the ground” reactions of imperial inhabitants to the new ruling power.Babatha was a Jewish woman who lived in the province of Roman Arabia in the first half of the .

Article

Werner Eck

Shim‘on Bar Kokhba lead the rebellion of a part of the Jewish people, who organized an independent Jewish state for the short period from 132 to 136, during the reign of Hadrian. The rebellion which was finally crushed by the Roman army with heavy effects for the Jewish heartland in the province Judea.

Bar Kokhba (“son of a star”) is a sobriquet given to Shim'on, the leader of the Jewish revolt from 132–136. In his own letters, his real name is—in Aramaic/Hebrew language—Shim'on bar/ben Kosiba (P. Yadin 50; XḤev/Se 30, et al.); in Greek sources he is called Βαρχωχεβας (Justin, Apol. 1.31.6; Euseb. Hist. eccl. 4.6.2; 4.8.4), or Χοχεβᾶς (Sync. 660) or in Latin Cochebas (Hieron. De vir ill. 21); for all forms of names see PIR2 B 53; S 746.

The name Bar Kokhba (“son of a star”) carries a positive messianic association; it should go back to Rabbi Akiba, with reference to Balaam’s statement in Numbers 24.17: A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of tumult. Akiba is said to have awarded him the title Messiah: “This is the king: messiah.” However, this assignment to Rabbi Akiba is probably unhistorical; it is an ascription made by later rabbis.

Article

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

Edith Mary Smallwood and M. T. Griffin

Berenice (4) (b. 28 ce), daughter of M. *Iulius Agrippa I, was married to Marcus, brother of Ti. *Iulius Alexander in 41, and then in 46 to her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis. From his death (48) she lived with her brother, M. *Iulius Agrippa II. To quieten rumours of incest, she persuaded Polemon, priest-king of Olba in Cilicia, to marry her (53/54), but the marriage did not last long. She played some part in public affairs: in 66 she tried, at first single-handed and then with Agrippa, to prevent the Jewish Revolt, and in 69, in Agrippa's absence, she supported the Flavian cause. *Titus fell in love with her while he was in Judaea (67–70), and when she visited Rome with Agrippa (75) he openly lived with her, perhaps for some years. He deferred, however, to public opinion and did not marry her, and on his accession (79) he dismissed her with regret on both sides (Suet.

Article

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

Edith Mary Smallwood and Tessa Rajak

Caesarea (2) in Palestine, under its original name of Strato's Tower (after a king of *Sidon), was captured by the *Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus in 103 bce, attached to the province of Syria by Pompey in 63, and given to *Herod (1) by Octavian in 30. Between c.22 and 10 bce, Herod rebuilt the city on a lavish scale, renaming it after the emperor, and constructing a huge artificial *harbour, now exposed through underwater archaeology. Tensions over the control of the constitution between the large Jewish minority and the Graeco-Syrian majority led to riots, and delegations were sent to Nero. His decision against the Jews was followed by the desecration of a synagogue. The ensuing massacre of 20,000 Jews, allegedly in a single day, sparked off the first Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 ce. The city was the administrative capital of *Judaea under the procurators and again after 70, with a vigorous commercial life and a Roman lifestyle.

Article

Lawrence H. Schiffman

The Cairo geniza was a storeroom for no longer usable holy books in the synagogue of Fustat, Old Cairo, where for centuries, old Jewish manuscripts, mostly in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo- Arabic, including also secular documents and communal records, were deposited. In the 19th century, European scholars became aware of this collection and manuscripts were removed to a variety of libraries in Europe and the United States. This material provides those studying the ancient world and ancient Jewish texts in particular with an amazing treasure of documents, throwing light on the history of the biblical text and its interpretation, the Hebrew language, Greek and Syriac versions of the Bible, Second Temple and Rabbinic literature, Jewish liturgy and the later history—political, economic, and religious—of the Jews in the Mediterranean basin. This material has totally reshaped our understanding of these fields. In the area of Bible, these texts illustrate the manner in which the vocalization and cantillation symbols were developed. Hebrew versions of some important Second Temple literature, later found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, had earlier been discovered in the geniza. Many previously unknown Midrashim and rabbinic exegetical materials have become known only from this collection. This material has provided an entirely new corpus of liturgical poetry.

Article

Leonard V. Rutgers

Subterranean cemeteries comparable to the early Christian catacombs of Rome. Jewish catacombs have been discovered in Beth She‘arim (Galilee) (2nd–4th cents. ce) and Rome (1st–5th cents. ce). They contain Jewish artwork (menorah) and many Jewish epitaphs, mostly composed in koine Greek and vulgar Latin. Recent radiocarbon dating suggests the Jewish catacombs of Rome may have inspired the early Christian ones.

Article

Article

Martin Goodman

Circumcision of male genitalia was widely practised in the ancient near east, as Herodotus (2.104) was aware. In general both Greeks and Romans found the custom repulsive and ridiculous, which led to tensions especially with Jews, for whom circumcision, as a religious imperative, played a central role in establishing cultural identity. Jewish circumcision was prohibited by *Antiochus (4) IV Epiphanes and probably by *Hadrian, but *Antoninus Pius specifically permitted Jews to circumcise their own sons (Dig. 48.8.11). Although *Josephus wrote that other peoples, including Egyptian priests, practised circumcision in his day (Ap. 2.141–44), it was generally regarded as a distinctively Jewish custom by Greeks, Romans, and early Christians. Apostates from Judaism sometimes used epispasm, a surgical procedure to reverse circumcision, and rabbis after the *Bar Kokhba revolt changed the method of Jewish circumcision to make such reversal more difficult.

Article

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

Martin Goodman

Documents made of leather and papyrus, and, in one case, of copper, found between 1947 and 1956 in caves near Qumran by the Dead Sea. The scrolls, written by Jews, are mostly in Hebrew and *Aramaic , but a small number are in Greek. Many are fragments of biblical texts from the Old Testament and from Jewish religious compositions otherwise only preserved through Christian manuscript traditions. The scrolls were written in the last centuries bce and 1st cent. ce.

Of particular significance in the study of *Judaism in this period are the texts composed by sectarians, whose relationship to the nearby settlement site at Qumran is debated. These texts include community rules, hymns, liturgical texts, calendars, and works of bible interpretation. Among this last group is found the pesher type of interpretation, characteristic of this sect and rarely found elsewhere in Jewish literature, in which the real meaning of scriptural passages is alleged to lie in hidden allusions to more recent events.

Article

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.

Article

Dov Gera

Eleutheropolis (Arabic Beit Jibrin; Hebrew Beth Govrin, Beit Guvrin) is situated in Judea’s Shephelah on the southwesterly road from Jerusalem to Ascalon. This area was known as Idumaea in the Hellenistic period, the city of Maresha being an important centre. Presumably, the destruction of Maresha by the Parthians in 40bce pushed the city’s survivors to resettle some 2 km to the north and to form the village of Beth Govrin. A locality of that Semitic name, Βαιτογαβρεῖ (ἢ Βαιτογαβρά), Baetogabrei or Baetogabra, is attested in the 2nd century ce (Ptol. Geog. 5.16.6). In 199/200ce, when traveling through Syria Palaestina to Egypt, the emperor Septimius Severus refounded Beth Govrin as a polis, naming it Lucia Septimia Severiana Eleutheropolis. The city’s coins, all issued under the Severans starting with Septimius Severus’s own reign and extending to that of Elagabalus (Aurelius Antoninus (2)), disclose Eleutheropolis’s original pagan character, for they portray various deities including Tyche, Zeus Heliopolitanus, and a river god.

Article

Martin J. Brooke

A late antique genre in which material from the Bible is versified in hexameters. Six major texts survive, the earliest being (1) the Evangeliorum libri IV of *Iuvencus. (2) The Heptateuchos of ‘Cyprianus Gallus’ versifies the first seven books of the Old Testament, and may originally have extended further. (3) The Carmen Paschale of Caelius *Sedulius consists of four books which synthesize the Gospel narratives, preceded by a résumé of Old Testament miracles. A prose version of the same material was written to accompany the poem. Provenance is uncertain, but the works are usually dated to ce 425–50. (4) The Alethia of Claudius Marius Victorius, a teacher of Marseilles, is a three-book paraphrase of the earliest portion of Genesis, written c.430. (5) Alcimus Avitus, born of a noble family c.450 and appointed bishop of Vienne c.490, wrote a five-book epic De spiritalis historiae gestis, treating Genesis 1–3, the Flood, and the Crossing of the Red Sea. (6) The De actibus Apostolorum of the Italian subdeacon Arator treats the material of Acts in two books, devoted respectively to Sts Peter and Paul.