The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1–36; = BW) features Asael as the culprit who illicitly distributed forbidden knowledge to the mortals. In retaliation, God rendered multiple punishments, one of which was the targeting of Asael’s sight (10:5). However, the text itself does not explain why God chose to inflict this form of penalty. This article aims to fill in this literary lacuna in light of the triadic association between sight, light, and knowledge – an association that was widely known in antiquity. This undertaking suggests that the particular offense of the Watchers, including Asael, described in 16:3 (i.e., misusing sight and light in knowledge acquisition) is critical to understanding Asael’s optical sentence. Ultimately, BW demonstrates a talionic correspondence between Asael’s sin and sentence.
This article is an experimental exploration of how gender shapes the conceptualization of knowledge, both among ancient Jews and among modern scholars of ancient Judaism. It focuses on the Sibylline Oracles, putting recent specialist research on their earliest strata into conversation with theoretical discussions of positionality. Attention to the anachronism of modern scholarly assumptions about embodiment and knowledge opens the way for analyzing the different meanings made by the female positioning of the Sibyl in antiquity. This article argues that her gender functions differently even in the Hellenistic-era and the Roman-era strata of the Third Sibylline Oracle. To read its Hellenistic-era strata with an eye to the gendering of knowledge, moreover, adds much to our analysis of Jewish responses to Greek paideia, while also enriching our understanding of the transformation of biblical prophecy in other Hellenistic-era Jewish writings, like the Enochic Book of the Watchers.
Philo draws on the Wisdom of Solomon in his tripartite critique against idols found in On the Decalogue and On the Contemplative Life. As he fashions these critiques in the pursuit of upholding Mosaic law, Philo not only criticizes Greek and Egyptian forms of worship, he also integrates the notion of moderation evident in Hellenism and Hellenistic-Egyptian Isis worship. This essay demonstrates ways in which the pursuit of moderation and Isis as lawgiver are integrated into Philo’s concepts of Moses as lawgiver and pursuit of law in opposition to Roman forms of excess. The essay considers various texts, including excerpts from Greek philosophers and Hellenistic Egyptian hymns to Isis, in addition to considerations of contemporary Roman excesses vis-à-vis Philo’s Decalogue, Contempl. Life, and his uses of Wis. Philo’s Hellenistic Judaism emerges from a simultaneous criticism yet also integration of both Hellenistic and Hellenistic-Egyptian concepts and traditions.
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 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.
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 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.
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.