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.
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.
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.
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.
The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1–38; BW) describes a series of punishments that God renders against Asael (10:4–8). Several scholars have tried to identify possible traditions that stand behind these punishments in light of Jewish and Greek literatures. However, Henryk Drawnel recently challenges such attempts, positing a Mesopotamian background. Although Drawnel has shown that interacting with Mesopotamian literatures has something to offer in grasping a fuller understanding of the mentioned passage, this article argues that Greek literatures are still valuable sources, potentially shedding further light on the design of the punishment motifs in BW. In order to demonstrate this supposition, I interact with the myths of Prometheus, Tantalus, and Teiresias. Ultimately, I suggest that scholars should be open to the possibility that various traditions, rather than a single tradition, stand behind the punitive descriptions in BW 10:4–8.
Three distinct cultural phenomena emerged in the Hasmonean period (152–37 BCE): the concept of Gentile impurity, full body immersion in a ritual bath, and (relative) abstinence from the use of imported foreign pottery. This article examines the historical and archaeological evidence for these three traits: their chronology, geographical distribution, and interrelationship. All three relate to the contact between Judaeans and non-Judaeans. They symbolize social boundaries that were created to foster the ethnic identity of the Judaeans vis-à-vis local Gentiles. The creation of these ethnic boundaries was encouraged by the Hasmonean state both because they corresponded to the Hasmonean ideology and political aims, and because state formation usually contributes to the development of ethnic identity.
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.