Studies of the afterlife in ancient Judaism have often charted the historical emergence and development of beliefs, like resurrection, that would ultimately become normative within Western religions. Yet recent studies have focused more intently on specific aspects of ancient literary evidence, including apocalypses, sapiential texts, Philo, Josephus, and select Dead Sea Scrolls. Social-scientific analysis has also brought clearer insights into the interactive roles that attitudes toward death may play in shaping behavior, community continuity, political resistance, and self-definition. The present article surveys these developments, highlighting the conceptual diversity of attitudes toward death and the varied social roles that they played within their ancient Jewish contexts. The conceptual variety and social adaptability of afterlife beliefs to varying sectors of Judaism offer a revealing window into the process of theodicy-creation and legitimation in ancient Judaism.
The tractates of Niddah, Bekhorot, and Hullin investigate the generation of material bodies through ritual and status frameworks concerned with purity, dietary rules, sacrifice, property, and kinship. Drawing on insights from feminist science studies and new materialisms, I chart how nascent or emergent bodily materials were parsed in rabbinic science to then be theoretically donated, married, killed, ingested, or otherwise disposed. I show how the rabbis envisaged bodily products along a spectrum, drawing only a thin line between offspring (valad) and other material entities, with determinations of materiality and species factoring into such distinctions. Besides the content of rabbinic knowledge, I consider the conditions in which these knowledges were formulated. Feminist science studies and new materialist analyses of knowledge-making and agency offer approaches that go beyond dualist framings of active, knowing subjects (e. g. rabbinic men, humans, Romans) versus passive known objects (e. g. non-rabbis or women, non-human entities, or non-Romans). These approaches allow us to account for the ways in which rabbinic thinkers, from ca. the second through late fourth centuries, were entangled with and shaped by the “bodies” of their knowledge. Collectively, these approaches to the generation of bodily material and to the production of rabbinic knowledge thereof, make for a late ancient biology that differs from contemporary, “common sense,” Euro-American intuitions about the distinction between living and nonliving, between human and nonhuman, and between knower and known. Furthermore, this biology queers accounts of generation that rely on same-species, hetero-sexual reproduction.
In 2007, the late Ehud Netzer announced the discovery of the mausoleum of Herod the Great at Herodium. This paper considers Herod’s self-representation through his tomb at Herodium, which consists of a mausoleum on the side of a massive artificial tumulus that was planned by Herod as his final resting place and everlasting memorial. Comparisons with the lost Mausoleum of Alexander in Alexandria, the Philippeion at Olympia, and the Mausoleum of Augustus at Rome indicate that Herod intended Herodium to serve as a royal, dynastic monument and victory memorial situating him within a line of heroic and deified kings, while the site’s location overlooking Bethlehem visually asserted Herod’s claims to have fulfilled the expectations associated with a Davidic messiah.
The Letter of Aristeas can best be understood when interpreters attend to the full range of postures toward Hellenism and Judaism exhibited by the various characters in the work. These stances range from the translators’ public, universalist philosophizing before the king in Alexandria to the High Priest Eleazar’s more particularistic defense of Jewish ritual law articulated in Jerusalem. Yet when the translators work on the Island of Pharos, or when the High Priest writes to the King, these characters display other sides of themselves. For the author of Aristeas – himself a Jew parading rather successfully as a Greek – knowing how much to conceal or reveal, when and where, is a fundamental skill, the secret to success for Jews in the Hellenistic diaspora.
This article accomplishes two goals. The first is to update Carl Kraeling’s seating capacities for the Dura Europos synagogue by applying the methodology from Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits. Using the detailed methodology, this article shows that the synagogue in Dura Europos could have accommodated more worshippers than previously thought. The second goal is to analyze the resulting data in an effort to better locate the Jewish community within the city of Dura. The first part of the analysis focuses internally on the Jewish community, looking at the size of the worship community and the Jewish population of Dura. The second part considers the Jewish community within the wider local context in an effort to test Kraeling’s assertion that it was a “relatively small and unimportant” minority community. Although the updated seating capacities suggest that the Jewish community was only a small percentage of the total population of Dura, by comparing the seating capacity of the synagogue building with the seating capacities of the Christian building and Mithraeum, this article suggests that the Jewish community was more significant in terms of population than other minority religious groups in the city and that it experienced the most growth in the final decades of the city’s existence.
In der Hebräischen Bibel gibt es kein Verbot weiblicher Homoerotik. Auch in der Mischna und der Tosefta finden sich keine gesetzlichen Aussagen dazu. Spätere jüdisch-rechtliche Positionen zu weiblicher Homoerotik lassen sich in drei Punkten zusammenfassen, nämlich (1) „Sifra Achare Mot zu Lev 18,3 (keine Heirat weiblicher wie männlicher homoerotischer Paare)“; (2) „Talmudische Aussagen zu weiblicher Homoerotik im palästinischen Talmud Gittin 8,10,49c (Kontroverse, ob weibliche Homoerotik ein sexuelles Vergehen darstellt oder nicht) und in den babylonischen Talmudtraktaten Yevamot 76a (weibliche Homoerotik ist bloße Obszönität) und Schabbat 65a–b (Bedenken gegenüber Schwestern, die miteinander schlafen)“; und (3) „Maimonides: unterschied-liche Anschauungen über weibliche Homoerotik in seinen Werken Mischne Tora, Sefer Keduscha, Hilchot Issure Bia 21,8 und Kommentar zur Mischna Sanhedrin 7,4“. Diese halachischen Texte werden queer gelesen, um jüdische lesbische Frauen und andere heutige queere Personen zu stärken.
Fragment 5 of the scroll 4Q464 proved to be difficult to decipher. It is exceedingly dark and can only be read with the help of infra-red photographs. Recently, a new such image of this fragment became available. This note demonstrates that this photograph helps clarify much of the fragment’s diffi¬cult wording. While previous scholarship on 4Q464 assumed that fragment 5 deals with the Genesis Flood, this brief study suggests that it contains an admonition alluding to the events of Israel’s past. This new interpretation of fragment 5 supports an earlier proposal that it does not belong to 4Q464, but constitutes a fragment of a now lost text.
Light imagery features prominently in 2 Baruch in descriptions of the Torah and righteous individuals. While the Torah is pictured as a lamp that Moses lit and a light that illuminates the way of life, the righteous in 2 Baruch are those who possess the quality of splendor, a feature which falls under the light category and bears resemblance to descriptions of Torah in the text. It is this feature, splendor, which separates the righteous from the wicked and qualifies them to participate in the new age. Scholars of 2 Baruch have wondered about the quality of splendor and how righteous individuals attain it. This article responds to these queries by exploring the nature of the connection between the Torah as a source of light in 2 Baruch and the righteous as those who observe Torah and are characterized by the same light imagery.
Several unique types of finds from the Jericho cemetery of the Second Temple period are the sub¬ject of this article. Among these finds are unusual inscriptions (an inscribed memorial bowl from Jericho; personal names articulated in the Goliath tomb; and an abecedary with mystical hints), funerary art (a wall painting and a nefesh, or funerary marker), and evidence for the use of wooden coffins as a form of burial. The customs exhibited at the Jewish cemetery at Jericho reveal previ¬ously unknown data that contribute significantly to our knowledge of Jewish burial practices of the Second Temple Period. In addition to addressing this archaeological evidence, the article takes up how the burial practices at this site reveal the diversity among the deceased and designated roles associated with the deceased.