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Abstract

Informed by the political power of the image of Cleopatra VII Philopator in late ancient southwest Asia and the eastern Mediterranean, this study investigates the Babylonian Talmud’s portrait of the Egyptian queen. I argue that depictions of the queen in classical rabbinic literature may not be as negative as previously thought and that the figure of Cleopatra acts as a potent character for the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud to assert rabbinic authority because of the depth of her knowledge about the human body and her fight against Rome. The portrait of Cleopatra serves a variety of purposes, first to support certain rabbinic concepts, like resurrection and menstrual impurity, through references to Cleopatra’s knowledge of embryology and the human body, and second, to elevate and include the rabbis themselves in the famous struggle of Cleopatra versus Rome, East versus West, with the goal of further authorizing the rabbinic project itself.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Authors: Laura Quick and Ellena Lyell

Abstract

In the book of Daniel, Daniel and his friends all adopt foreign dress to succeed in a foreign setting. We might understand this as a kind of colonization, wrought upon bodies. But this raises questions about their ethnic identity: can one remain Jewish if adopting and adapting to foreign embodied practices, including dress, adornment, and diet? By exploring embodied practices as an issue of ethnicity and identity formation in Daniel 1–6, we will argue that these stories make a bold claim about the embodied colonization of the foreign court: underneath their Persian garb, Daniel and his friends remain thoroughly Jewish after all.

Open Access
In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Free access
In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Author: Stefan Krauter

Abstract

Several recent studies have advanced the thesis that ancient Judaism and the emerging Christian movement took up the Middle Platonic trichotomic model of the human being. This article analyzes all instances of πνεῦμα in the works of Josephus. All passages in which Josephus talks about πνεῦμα in relation to living people can most plausibly be interpreted in the sense of “breath.” In addition, he uses the lexeme for demons, for the divine spirit and for wind, i.e., in the entire breadth of common language usage. A philosophical concept of πνεῦμα cannot be identified and there are no traces of a Jewish adaption of Middle Platonic anthropology in Josephus. He does not use πνεῦμα to denote a connection between human beings and the divine, nor does he have a πνεῦμα/ψυχή/σῶμα-model of humanity.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Author: Tyler Smith

Abstract

In Jewish Antiquities 14–17, Josephus draws extensively on Nicolaus of Damascus’s Universal History. Josephus and his immediate audience in Rome at the end of the first century would have seen Nicolaus’s work as a direct competitor for telling the history of the Jewish people in the Herodian period. This essay looks at Josephus’s use of conventional historiographical polemic to impugn the motivations of his predecessor and rival. By casting Nicolaus the historical actor as biased, Josephus casts doubt on the reliability of the Universal History. Ultimately, this opens up a new perspective on the Antiquities’s more censorious posture vis-à-vis Herod (relative to the more generous posture in his earlier work, the Jewish War): in a virtual competition with Nicolaus, Josephus seeks to win admiration for his own work as frank and impartial in its assessment of Herod while simultaneously fostering suspicion of Nicolaus’s work as obsequious and partisan.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Free access
In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Author: Brachi Elitzur

Abstract

This article discusses the development of a rabbinic tradition that draws on verses from Samuel’s speech dealing with the authority of leaders (1 Sam 12:6–11) against the backdrop of rabbinic political circumstances. In its earliest manifestations, this tradition is integrated into a story describing one of the confrontations concerning the determination of the Jewish calendar. These confrontations occurred in the Beit Midrash in Yavne under the leadership of Rabban Gamliel. The article traces the changes the confrontation underwent during the transitions between the different literary genres and suggests that these changes were influenced by the character of the social tension that existed when each genre was redacted. This article deals with the question of authority, power, and leadership in Palestine in the period of the Sages.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Author: Yonatan Adler

Abstract

The synagogue at Dura-Europos is undoubtedly the most prominent of the Jewish remains uncovered at the site. Dozens of Jewish coins found in excavations throughout the city have merited far less attention. Alfred Bellinger published a list of these coins in 1949; among the corpus of 14,017 coins found altogether at the site, 47 were identified as coins minted in Judea by Jewish rulers. This study offers the first comprehensive presentation and analysis of these Jewish coins. Following a review and analysis of the limited data on all 47 Jewish coins published in the original report, a full report is presented for the six coins from the Dura collection which are currently housed at the Yale University Art Gallery. This is followed by a discussion about the possible reasons why such a large assemblage of Jewish coins found its way in antiquity from Judea to distant Dura-Europos.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism

Abstract

The question of rabbinic apprehensions of the nonhuman is not frequently listed as paramount in the study of rabbinic legal texts. Yet, nonhumans such as animals, tools, and trees, as well as impersonal forces, such as impurity, fill much of the space within Tannaitic legal traditions. What effect, if any, do these nonhumans have on the Tannaitic subject, and in what ways do they shape the legal traditions of which they are a part? To answer these questions and to understand the relationship between rabbinic law and rabbinic science in relation to the nonhuman, this study takes up assemblage theory. This study sheds light on the relationship of humans and nonhumans in Tannaitic legal traditions and shows that these traditions are predicated on a science of the nonhuman, which itself is predicated on broader underlying ontological commitments. This study also brings clarity to the realism/nominalism debate in rabbinic literature.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism

Abstract

The modern conception of the self as bifurcated between inner and outer realms has and continues to hold sway as an unchecked presumption in biblical interpretation. The past decade of biblical scholarship, however, has seen a burgeoning effort to problematize this imposition with regard to emotion and interiority. The present study joins this conversation by challenging the presumption of “shame” as an emotional and interior category in the Hebrew Bible, a challenge that has already been initiated but is ripe for further probing. Informed by a practice theory of emotion and embodied cognition, and focusing on the metaphor Shame is Clothing, which appears in Job, Ezekiel, and Psalms, this study proposes material and enactive readings of “shame” wherein so-called shame roots as bwš, klm, and ḥpr center on bodily diminishment and practices of defeat as a matter of relational dynamics and power disparities.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism