This essay is intended to demonstrate that the Song of Songs (Canticles) is a product of a Hellenistic and Jewish intellectual background. It takes up motifs from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and is based on the Hellenistic poetry from Greece–Sicily–Alexandria. Its basic literary forms (Paraklausithyron, runaway love, descriptive songs of man and woman) were derived from the Hellenism of Alexandria, e.g. Theocritus and Moschus or its predecessors as an amalgam of these cultures. This conclusion is further supported by the manuscript evidence for the Songs of Songs found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, many scholars have held that there was a revival of the Hebrew language during the Hasmonean period, associated with a growing nationalistic sentiment under Hasmonean leadership at that time. Other scholars have rejected this idea, opting instead for a revival of the language at different times, or for no revival at all. Though the idea of a national revival of Hebrew has often been used to explain various historical or literary phenomena in early Judaism, serious defenses of this position have been lacking. In this article, we examine much of the relevant literary, epigraphic, and archeological evidence in order to reassess the idea of a revival of Hebrew associated with Hasmonean rule. In light of this evidence, we conclude that such a revival finds strong literary and archaeological support, and may justifiably be assumed by historians of Second Temple period Judaism.
The Book of the Watchers (i.e., 1 Enoch 1–36) contains several punishments for the fallen Watchers’ crimes. Interestingly, one of the penalties is optical in nature – God forces the Watchers to observe the eradication of their beloved offspring (10:12; 12:6; 14:6). However, the text itself does not explain why God chose to inflict this form of penalty. The present article seeks to provide a satisfactory explanation in light of the ocular theories contemporaneous with the mentioned literature. This undertaking reveals that the Watchers’ particular offense – voyeurism (6:2) – is critical to understanding their optical sentence because the deities often employed visual penalties to punish improper amorous gazing. In this regard, the Book of the Watchers demonstrates a talionic correspondence between the Watchers’ voyeurism and God’s response to it. Ultimately, the ocular penalty depicts God as the righteous judge who renders fitting retributions to the criminal.
The house of study of Amoraic Palestine has resisted study because of its informality. By situating it alongside Hellenistic, Roman and Christian education, this article argues that examining their funding provides a means of understanding the structural tendencies of these study circles. Communal support appears mostly aspirational, providing clues as to intention and conflicts regarding inclusion. Similarly, narratives concerning individual gifts urge their moral good rather than their reliability, thus pointing inevitably to fees as the underlying means of support for the beit midrash. The necessity of fees in turn demands consideration of how those of more marginal means, including scribes, could afford this tuition. Finally, that teaching younger children provided one avenue of such support reveals a complex interdependency of those who had easier access to this education and those who had less access, as well as the barely glimpsed suggestion of other educational alternatives.
Josephus’ rewriting of the account of Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16) consists of a lengthy juridical prayer/speech not attested in the biblical source in which a list of historical episodes is embedded. Moses’ representation as standing in court before God and the people and defending his leadership by recalling past events appears to derive from 1 Samuel 12. At the same time, however, the catalogue of historical incidents in A.J. 4.43–45 elaborates the “works” in Num 16:28, demonstrating that everything happens according to God’s will – including the granting of the priesthood to Aaron. An analysis of A.J. 4.43–45 evinces that it combines conventions from both biblical historical summaries and Hellenistic catalogues, the individual episodes (e.g., the Exodus) constituting a sophisticated reworking of Pentateuchal narratives and passages from Deutero-Isaiah and the Psalms.
This article makes the case that the citation of Manetho’s Aegyptiaca found within Josephus’ Contra Apionem 1.250 is the work of a later anti-Jewish interpolator. Within the passage is an unnoticed chiasm that artificially binds the description of Osarsiph/Moses there with the Osarsephos introduced earlier in C. Ap. 1.238–9. It further suggests that the reason a negative depiction of Moses is not more fully integrated into Manetho’s story is the result of the interpolator inferring Manetho’s negative evaluation of the Jews as a result of his negative evaluation of the Hyksos. Manetho is, in other words, not the father of Egyptian anti-Judaism, though an anonymous editor may well be.
Most commentators have translated Jub. 2:22 as though God’s commandments rise as a fine fragrance. This note suggests that this idea is unparalleled in early Judaism, and it argues that the Ethiopic of this verse should be understood differently. The idea expressed in Jub. 2:22 is that “the doer of God’s will” is the one to ascend as a fine fragrance. Some implications of this suggestion are explored.
This article examines the meaning and the development of the terms used to introduce baraitot transmitted by amoraim in the Bavli: “Tannei Rav X.” Why are these baraitot not introduced with the more usual terms used for citing a baraita, “tanya” and “tannu rabbanan?” I will argue that the term “tannei Rav X” was created in the generations that followed the named amora, as an alternative to the usual citation formula employed by the sage himself when he first quoted the baraita. A sage later to Rav X (or the “stam”) who wished to refer to a baraita quoted earlier by Rav X, used the term “tannei Rav X” to do so. These baraitot (around 80%) have parallels in tannaitic compositions or in the Yerushalmi. This finding bears additional weight on the question of the origins of the terminology used to quote baraitot in the Bavli.
Many diaspora communities identify not only with a distant homeland but also with others distant from the homeland. How exactly do these intercommunal connections take place and contribute toward a shared identity? What specific aspects of diasporan identity are created or strengthened? What practices are involved? This study will begin to answer these questions through investigating two practices which were widespread among diaspora Jewish communities during the last two centuries of the Second Temple period (1st cent. B.C.E.–1st cent. C.E.). First, we will show how sending offerings and making pilgrimages to the Jerusalem temple from these communities enabled regular intercommunal contact. Then, we will suggest some ways in which these voluntary practices reinforced a cohesive Jewish identity and the importance of the homeland, especially the city of Jerusalem and the temple, for many diaspora Jews, whether they lived in Alexandria, Rome, Asia Minor, or Babylonia.
The first century sees a substantial rise in the frequency with which Greek speaking authors discuss pistis (here, understood as fidelity, trust, confidence, proof). The authors who use pistis the most include Philo, Paul, and Josephus. This suggests that while many people are thinking about fidelity, ethnic Judeans are thinking about it disproportionately. This essay focuses on two such authors, Philo and Josephus. I argue that both Judeans claim fidelity to be a foundational national-ethnic characteristic, from the patriarchs to their own day. Furthermore, the article argues that this image of enduring Judean fidelity can be better understood within the context of living under the colonizing power of Rome – a principate that is equally preoccupied with fidelity (fides).