Rabbis and priests are often viewed as two groups in competition and rabbinic sources relating to priests are consequently interpreted through a prism of conflict. While focusing on the situation in Sasanian Babylonia, this paper posits that the ancient sources point to a more complex situation whereby there is also much evidence of a positive attitude towards the priesthood in rabbinic sources. These sources must of necessity be treated seriously in any appraisal of the interaction between rabbis and priests.
This article assesses the importance of lineage and virtue in Josephus’ notions of Jewish nobility and the Jewish people. Furthermore, it investigates the respective roles of Josephus’ priestly education and his exposition to Roman culture in his use of such concepts. I argue that while Josephus adopted some aspects of Roman or Greco-Roman discourses on nobility, such as the notion that true nobility goes along with virtue, he resisted the Roman sociopolitical view of nobility, because he tended to identify Jewish aristocracy with the priesthood and thus stuck to a genealogical model. By contrast, Josephus’ definition of the kinship (oikeiotēs) that unites the members of the Jewish people as based either on birth/common ancestors or on choice (the choice to live under Jewish laws, implicitly characterized as virtuous) in Against Apion reflects the impact on the Judean historian of Roman citizenship grants and the pro-Roman discourses that praised this policy.
Analysis of the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11:1–12:25 reveals that it possesses several layers. The report of the second Ammonite War, which represents the initial content of 2 Samuel 11:1–12:31 and serves as the basis of the original Bathsheba Affair story, glorified David as a great warrior and gracious king, who married the widow of his fallen-in-action officer, Uriah the Hittite, and adopted Uriah’s newborn son, Solomon. The later Bathsheba Affair story, written by a pro-Solomonic author during Solomon’s reign, introduced the arbitrary taking of Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite’s wife, by David before her husband met a natural warrior’s death. According to this version, Bathsheba remained with David in his palace and conceived there. The story demonstrates that Solomon, Bathsheba’s firstborn child, was not Uriah’s son but rather, by claiming direct royal lineage to King David, was David’s legitimate successor to the Throne of Israel. The next three revisions of the story 1) introduced Nathan the Prophet’s accusations against David, presumed to have been written between the late ninth and late eighth centuries B.C.E. by a prophetic author; 2) replaced Solomon with a fictitious firstborn child, written by a Deuteronomistic writer in the exilic period; and 3) introduced David’s second transgression – the murder of Uriah – written by an anti-Davidic author in the post-exilic period.
What is the Mishnah? A code of law or an anthology of Tannaitic literature? The traditional approach relates to the Mishnah as a legal code written by the school of Rabbi Yehudah The Prince. However, among scholars of Mishnah this approach has been the subject of fierce controversy for many years. There were those who regarded the Mishnah as a collection of sources not intended in any way to present legal rulings. Others, however, followed the traditional approach, arguing that Rabbi Yehudah intended to produce legal rulings in the Mishnah and did so by means of emending the text of the sources he had used and editing them. The resolution of this controversy lies in understanding the historical process of the reception of the Mishnah. At first, the Mishnah did function primarily as an anthology. It was only the second generation of the Amoraim, Talmudic sages, who began to regard the Mishnah as a uniform work and an authoritative and binding legal code. Subsequent generations of Amoraim reformulated their approach to the Mishnah with regard to both hermeneutics and legal decision making. Thus, one who studies the Talmud without taking into consideration the historical development concealed within it is influenced by the later approach, which dominates most of the Talmud. An additional stage in the process of the canonization of the Mishnah took place toward the end of the Amoraic period and, in particular, at the time of the redaction of the Talmud in the Savoraic period: both the text of the Mishnah and its language became consecrated, in similarity to the text of the Bible, and a fastidiousness developed with regard to the language of the text, down to the last word. In this article I will endeavor to delineate this historical process.
The Levitical jubilee cycle was originally a chronological structure for marking the progress of sabbatical and jubilee years. In the second century B.C.E., the writers of Daniel 9 and the book of Jubilees were among the first to transform the jubilee cycle into a mode of conceptualizing the pro¬gress of history and the place of the Judean people in that history. In this article, I examine their adaptations of this cycle as a way to structure time and reflect on the progress of history. I argue that they employed this structure as an epochal mode of chronicling history in imitation of the Seleucid Era. In this context, the Levitical jubilee emerges, alongside other chronographic strategies such as the Danielic four empires schema and the ten weeks of the Apocalypse of Weeks, in order to construct an alternative to the Seleucid Era for understanding the history of Judea and its people.
This article examines the dual tenet generally upheld by scholars of Second Temple Judaism that a single concept of impurity existed in that period, and that purity and impurity formed a coherent, unified system of meaning. Herein I will contend that we should turn our focus on the phenomenological aspect of a specific source of impurity, and study this in its broader cultural contexts. Centering on corpse impurity as it appears in a selection of narrative, halachic, and archaeological sources, this article treats purity and impurity as an order of meaning inherently interconnected with that of honor and shame – which was equally dominant in the thought and practices of ancient Judeans – and identifies three modes of relationship between these two orders of meaning: 1) impurity as attached to shame, 2) impurity as attached to honor, and 3) corpse impurity as symbolizing the contrast between human and divine honor. Finally, I argue that the different functions and meanings of impurity, honor, and shame in each of these modes of interrelationship may be explained by the two networks of social relations to which all Judeans in Second Temple times belonged – the kinship one and the cultic one – and which, albeit partly overlapping, need to be distinguished for analytical purposes. The approach proposed here enables us to establish a link between God and the system of ancient Judean ritual purity in a way that suits the preeminence of metonymy as a strategy of representing entities that stands at the core of this order of meaning – especially when the dead are concerned – rather than the metaphoric and symbolic explanations which currently prevail.