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AutorIn: Yael Wilfand

This paper examines Mishnah Soṭah 9:14, Tosefta Soṭah 15:8 and Jerusalem Talmud Soṭah 9:14, 24c (= Pe’ah 1:1, 15c), which provide accounts of the rabbinic prohibition against teaching Greek to one’s son. Scholars often consider these sources in the context of Jewish attitudes toward Greek culture and Hellenization. This mishnah has also been examined in relation to the events of 115–117 C. E. (the Diaspora Revolt); thus, establishing a link between the ban on teaching Greek and the destruction of the Jewish community in Alexandria. In this study, I show that these texts place this exclusion in the framework of relationships with Roman authorities, thereby associating it with confrontations between Jews and Romans. Thus, I suggest that this proscription be read in a Roman context more than a Greek one, especially in the Tosefta and the Jerusalem Talmud, which mention that language as a means for enabling communication with Roman authorities.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism
AutorIn: Aaron Koller

It has often been noted that Mishnah Avot is heir to aspects of the biblical tradition of Wisdom. A further element of this inheritance is studied here: the tradition of ending a Wisdom book with a selfreferential coda, commenting on the value of the text just completed. A philological study of the end of Avot opens this study, and the results of that study allow us to situate the coda to Avot in the context of other codas in the Mishnah, especially tractates Neziqin and Kelim. The paper then moves to situate the conclusion to Avot in the heritage of the conclusions of earlier Jewish books of Wisdom – Ben Sira, Qohelet, and Proverbs, as well as other biblical books that show the imprint of Wisdom, such as Hosea.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism
AutorIn: Sandra Gambetti

The fragmentary state of Ezekiel’s Exagoge unfortunately prevents its readers from formulating firm theses about the play’s cultural function and general significance. However, it remains possible to formulate well-reasoned hypotheses and thereby stimulate further research on this fascinating text. This article discusses the political significance of the Exagoge through the exploration of five different hypotheses stemming from as many possible historical scenarios of the mid-second cent. B. C. E. within which Moses, the tragic hero of the play, could have acquired particular relevance. The “Mosaic constituencies,” whose political interests Ezekiel may have addressed by writing his play, are either the Oniads or the Samaritans or the Hasmoneans.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism
in Journal of Ancient Judaism
AutorIn: Jeff Jay

This article provides a literary analysis of how references to spectacle and stage-craft function in Philo’s In Flaccum, which is a valuable text for understanding Philo’s complex and seemingly contradictory attitudes toward the theater, stage-craft, and drama. After marching Jews into the theater of Alexandria for punishment during the pogrom, Flaccus becomes a spectacle himself when Philo portrays Flaccus’s deportation to exile as a procession. By staging an elaborate textual spectacle starring the deposed Flaccus, Philo exploits the well-attested punitive dimension of spectacles. Through exhibition he is able to maximize justice, comfort the Jewish victims, and issue a deterrent to future powerholders over Jews. Philo, moreover, imbues the narrative of Flaccus’s demise with an overriding sense of tragedy by eliciting several of tragedy’s motifs and moods, including reversal, revenge, recognition, lamentation, and emotionalism. This elicits sympathy for Flaccus, which reinforces the warning that his plight could be the plight of any Roman ruler, each of whom must decide how like or unlike Flaccus he will govern. Philo thus shows himself to be deeply acculturated in the communicative dynamics of the spectacles and, through these references, is able to craft his own complex textual display. He thus participates in spectacle-creation himself, and this allows him to comfort and defend his people and speak powerfully back to leading power holders.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism
AutorIn: Sören Swoboda

While the discussion on how to classify Josephus’ works within ancient historiography is not new and attention is increasingly being paid to the genre of “tragic history,” more recently there have been attempts to draw parallels between the Jewish War and Greek tragedy (e. g., Chapman and Feldman). Following a sociological definition of “Hellenism,” my paper argues not only that optimal conditions existed in Flavian Rome after 70 C. E. for Josephus to use in his account of the Jewish War certain elements of tragedy and that at least in reference to some aspects a bridge can be constructed from Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles to Josephus via the Exagoge of the Jewish tragedian Ezekiel, but also that the Jewish War, among other goals, in many ways pursues the same goal as the influential theory of the Aristotelian Poetics defined for the tragedy and that was already named by Gorgias of Leontini: Pity is to be aroused by scenes that cause horror. In discussing this theory of tragedy, which is controversial in many details and must be brought into relation with other statements by Aristotle on awakening pity, this paper presents arguments for the thesis outlined above, which is based on the observation that Josephus’ horrific representation of suffering is without parallel in the context of Greco-Roman historiography, that he embeds the motif of pity in the work in various ways, and that in the proem he himself problematizes the classification of the account as historiography by justifying the pathetic elements, which ancient historians like Polybius criticized as being only suitable for the tragedy. Of critical importance in all of this is a clear distinction between tragedy and ancient drama on the one hand and pathetic and horrible elements of ancient historiographies and tragedies on the other. With reference to the key text, Ant. 7.127–129, this paper concludes that the generally accepted intentions of the Jewish War—to sketch the Jewish people as inherently noble and for the most part not to blame for the insurrection—can in some respects also to be understood against the background of the theory of tragedy, according to which pity can only result from the staging of a suffering “tragic hero.”

in Journal of Ancient Judaism

Philo’s claims to have attended the theater are well known; yet the extent to which dramatic themes inform his writings remains to be explored. This study juxtaposes two of Philo’s treatises that engage with drama in disparate ways. First, in the Legatio ad Gaium, drawing on contemporary disdain for acting, Philo criticizes the emperor’s theatrical pretentions. Coupled with his aspirations for divine honors, Philo depicts Gaius’ passion for performing as particularly contemptuous. More than mere personal folly, however, Gaius’ administration was an enactment of a tragic plot in which the Jews had become the dramatic victims. By contrast, in Quod omnis probus liber sit, Philo provides a string of exempla in support of the Stoic paradox that the virtuous person is truly free, even if enslaved; among these are two popular dramatic heroes: Polyxena and Heracles. The contrast between these two treatises foregrounds the complexity of Philo’s relationship with the stage: on the one hand, the bloody violence of tragedy is emblematic of Gaius’ policies toward the Jews; on the other, individual dramatis personae are evoked as embodying the ideals of virtue.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism
Evangelien und Apostelgeschichte. Labiau 1580
Mit dem Erscheinen der kritischen Textedition der Evangelien und der Apostelgeschichte der ersten litauischen Bibelübersetzung (1580/1590) von Johannes Bretke (lit. Jonas Bretkunas) liegt dieser Teil der Bibel erstmals in allen drei Reihen der umfassenden Bretke-Edition vor: Faksimile-Band, Texteditions-Band, Kommentar-Band.
Für die philologische und theologische Forschung ist es ein Glücksfall, dass die Bretke-Bibel bis in unsere Tage nicht gedruckt wurde, so blieb uns das wertvolle Manuskript mit seinen zahlreichen grammatischen, lexikalischen und stilistischen Varianten über Jahrhunderte erhalten. Der Editionsband zeigt nun die teilweise sehr komplizierte Textentwicklung detailliert und fortlaufend kommentierend bis zur Fassung letzter Hand auf, wobei das Ringen des Übersetzers um die Schaffung einer adäquaten litauischen Bibelsprache deutlich wird. Die Handschrift stellt nicht nur eine mächtige Basis für die historische Sprachforschung dar, sondern ist zugleich ein beeindruckender Beitrag zur Geistesgeschichte des Herzogtums Preußen im 16. Jahrhundert.
AutorIn: Alison Schofield

Jodi Magness’ proposal that an altar existed at Qumran leaves some unanswered questions; nevertheless, her conclusions are worthy of consideration. This study examines her claim that the residents at Qumran had an altar, modeled off of the Wilderness Tabernacle, through the lens of critical spatial theory. The conceptual spaces of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, such as The Damascus Document and The Community Rule, as well as the spatial practices of the site of Qumran do not rule out – and even support – the idea that Qumran itself was highly delimited and therefore its spaces hierarchized in such a way that it could have supported a central cultic site.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism
AutorIn: Dennis Mizzi

Despite numerous attempts at elucidating the significance of the animal bone deposits, the phenomenon remains one of the elusive aspects of Qumran archaeology. Among the many proposed hypotheses, there are those that see the deposits as the remains of sacrifices carried out at Qumran, a line of interpretation that has been picked up afresh by Jodi Magness. In the present paper I argue that, while Magness makes a compelling case for seeing the bone deposits as the remains of sacrifices, the totality of the evidence does not seem to support her notion that sacrifices were offered at Qumran. Nonetheless, Magness’ hypothesis provides important foundations for further explorations of the significance of the deposits. Two alternatives are suggested, namely that the animal bones could represent sacrificial remains from animals offered in the Jerusalem temple but consumed at Qumran or that they could be evidence for the ritualization of ordinary meals involving meat partaken there. In the end, it must be acknowledged that this phenomenon may very much present us with an unsolvable riddle – the bone deposits may be identified as the remains of ritual activity, but its meaning may well be unrecoverable.

in Journal of Ancient Judaism