Anda di halaman 1dari 290

Judaism in the Roman World

Ancient Judaism and


Early Christianity
Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Antiken
Judentums und des Urchristentums
Edited by
Martin Hengel (Tbingen),
Pieter W. van der Horst (Utrecht),
Martin Goodman (Oxford),
Daniel R. Schwartz ( Jerusalem),
Cilliers Breytenbach (Berlin),
Friedrich Avemarie (Marburg),
Seth Schwartz (New York)
VOLUME 66
Judaism in the Roman World
Collected Essays
by
Martin Goodman
LEIDEN BOSTON
2007
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Goodman, Martin, 1953-
Judaism in the Roman world : collected essays / by Martin Goodman.
p. cm. (Ancient Judaism and early Christianity, ISSN 1871-6636 ; v. 67)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-90-04-15309-7
ISBN-10: 90-04-15309-8 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. JudaismHistoryPost-exilic period,
586 B.C.-210 A.D. 2. JudaismHistoryTalmudic period, 10-425. I. Title. II. Series.
BM176.G63 2006
296.09'014dc22
2006049637
ISSN 1871-6636
ISBN-13: 978 90 04 15309 7
ISBN-10: 90 04 15309 8
Copyright 2007 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill,
Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijho Publishers and VSP.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior
written permission from the publisher.
Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted
by Brill provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to
The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive,
Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA.
Fees are subject to change.
rnix+rr ix +nr xr+nrnr.xrs
CONTENTS
Preface ........................................................................................ vii
Acknowledgements .................................................................... ix
Chapter One Early Judaism ......................................... 1
Chapter Two Identity and Authority in Ancient
Judaism ................................................... 21
Chapter Three Josephus and Variety in First-Century
Judaism ................................................... 33
Chapter Four The Temple in First-Century CE
Judaism ................................................... 47
Chapter Five The Pilgrimage Economy of Jerusalem
in the Second Temple Period .............. 59
Chapter Six Sacred Scripture and Deling the
Hands ..................................................... 69
Chapter Seven Texts, Scribes and Power in Roman
Judaea ..................................................... 79
Chapter Eight Jewish Proselytising in the First
Century ................................................... 91
Chapter Nine A Note on Josephus, the Pharisees and
Ancestral Tradition ................................ 117
Chapter Ten The Place of the Sadducees in
First-Century Judaism ............................ 123
Chapter Eleven A Note on the Qumran Sectarians,
the Essenes and Josephus ...................... 137
Chapter Twelve The Persecution of Paul by Diaspora
Jews ......................................................... 145
Chapter Thirteen Sadducees and Essenes After 70 CE ... 153
Chapter Fourteen The Function of Minim in Early
Rabbinic Judaism ................................... 163
Chapter Fifteen Modeling the Parting of the
Ways ...................................................... 175
Chapter Sixteen Kosher Olive Oil in Antiquity ............. 187
vi cox+rx+s
Chapter Seventeen The Jewish Image of God in Late
Antiquity ................................................. 205
Chapter Eighteen Sacred Space in Diaspora Judaism ...... 219
Chapter Nineteen Jews and Judaism in the
Mediterranean Diaspora in the
Late-Roman Period: the Limitations of
Evidence ................................................. 233
Index of Names and Subjects .................................................. 261
Index of Ancient Literature ....................................................... 269
PREFACE
The studies reprinted here originally appeared in diverse publications
between 1990 and 2006, and in many cases they are not easily avail-
able. They were written for a variety of purposes, but they reect
a consistent approach in the study of Judaism from the late Second
Temple period to the end of antiquity and I hope that reissuing
them in a single volume may prove useful.
It is largely by accident that I have written on so many aspects
of the religious lives of ancient Jews. I was trained as a Roman his-
torian and came to the study of Jewish texts originally as a source
for social, cultural and administrative history; for such purposes, it
was necessary to analyse the religious milieu and meaning of these
texts only to the extent that this claried their value as evidence for
other aspects of Jewish and Roman history. However, I discovered
early in my teaching career that many colleagues simply assumed
that anyone who works on Jewish texts must be interested in reli-
gious history for its own sake, and after a while I succumbed. In
any case, it proved impossible to give lectures on Roman Palestine
without taking a view on numerous contentious issues in the study
of Judaism, and the provision of lectures for the Theology faculty
in Oxford on Varieties of Judaism encouraged a re-examination of
received opinion on many aspects.
The studies reprinted here reect these origins. They are not the
work of a theologian: they deal with the religious lives of ancient
Jews rather than with religious ideas in the abstract. Those lives are
situated, explicitly or implicitly, against the background of the wider
history of the Roman world. Throughout there is a strong concern
to clarify the limitations of the surviving evidence for ancient Judaism
and to encourage gentle scepticism about some of the later myths
about Judaism in the early centuriesmyths which were created
already by the end of antiquity, within the rabbinic and Christian
traditions, but which have in many cases survived to the present.
The texts of the essays are republished here unchanged from their
original form except for the correction of a few misprints, since ref-
erence to more recent discussions of the issues they raise would not
have changed the arguments and would have impaired the clarity
viii rnrr.cr
of the presentation. But readers may nd it helpful to know about
a few of the most signicant later works relevant to the articles
written in the 1990s: for Chapter 2, Shaye Cohen, The Beginnings of
Jewishness: boundaries, varieties, uncertainties (University of California Press,
Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1999); for Chapter 7, Christine
Schams, Jewish Scribes in the Second-Temple Period (Shefeld Academic
Press, Shefeld 1998); for Chapter 8, Martin Goodman, Mission and
Conversion: Proselytising in the Religious History of the Roman Empire (Oxford
University, Press, Oxford, 1994); for Chapter 18, Steven Fine, This
Holy Place: On the Sanctity of the Synagogue During the Greco-Roman Period
(University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Ind., 1998).
Martin Goodman
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Original publication details of these studies are as follows:
Early Judaism, in E.W. Nicholson (ed.), A Century of Theological and
Religious Studies in Britain 19022002 (British Academy, Oxford, 2003),
13551.
Identity and authority in ancient Judaism, Judaism 39 (1990),
192201.
Josephus and Variety in First Century Judaism, The Israel Academy
of Science and Humanities. Proceedings. Vol. VII No. 6. Jerusalem, 2000,
20113.
The Temple in First Century CE Judaism, in J. Day (ed.), Temple
and Worship in Biblical Israel (T. & T. Clark, London and New York,
2005), 45968.
The pilgrimage economy of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period,
in L. I. Levine, ed., Jerusalem: its sanctity and centrality to Judaism,
Christianity and Islam (Continuum, New York, 1999), 6976.
Sacred scripture and deling the hands , Journal of Theological Studies
41 (1990), 99107.
Texts, scribes and power in Roman Judaea, in A.K. Bowman and
G. D. Woolf, eds., Literacy and Power in the Ancient World (Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 1994), 99108.
Jewish proselytising in the rst century A.D., in T. Rajak, J.M.
Lieu and J. North (eds.), Jews among Pagans and Christians in the Roman
Empire (Methuen, London, 1992), 5378.
x .ckxovrrrorvrx+s
A note on Josephus, the Pharisees and ancestral tradition, JJS 50
(1999), 1720.
The place of the Sadducees in First-Century Judaism, in M. Gregory,
S. Heschel and F. Udoh (eds.), Festschrift for E.P. Sanders (University
of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Ind., 2006).
A note on the Qumran sectarians, the Essenes and Josephus, JJS
46 (1995), 1616.
The persecution of Paul by diaspora Jews, in J. Pastor and M. Mor
(eds.), The Beginnings of Christianity (Yad ben Zvi, Jerusalem, 2005),
379387.
Sadducees and Essenes after 70 CE, in S.E. Porter, P. Joyce and
D.E. Orton (eds.), Crossing the Boundaries. Essays in Biblical Interpretation
in honour of Michael D. Goulder (Brill, Leiden, 1994), 34756.
The function of minim in early rabbinic Judaism, in H. Cancik,
H. Lichtenberger and P. Schfer (eds.), Geschichte-Tradition-Reexion.
(Festschrift fr Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburstag) ( J.C.B. Mohr (Paul
Siebeck), Tbingen, 1996), vol. 1, 50110.
Modeling the Parting of the Ways, in A.H. Becker and A.Y. Reed,
The Ways that Never Parted ( J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tbingen,
2003), 11929.
Kosher olive oil in antiquity, in P.R. Davies and R.T. White (eds.),
A Tribute to Geza Vermes (Sheeld Academic Press, Sheeld, 1990),
22745.
The Jewish Image of God in Late Antiquity, in R. Kalmin and
S. Schwartz (eds.), Jewish Culture and Society under the Christian Roman
Empire (Peeters and JTS Press, Leuven, 2003), 13345.
Sacred Space in Diaspora Judaism, in B. Isaac and A. Oppenheimer
(eds.), Studies on the Jewish Diaspora in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods
(Te'uda volume 12; Tel Aviv University and Ramot Publishing, Tel
Aviv, 1996), 116.
Jews and Judaism in the Mediterranean Diaspora in the late-Roman
period: the limitations of evidence, in Carol Bakhos (ed.), Ancient
Judaism in its Hellenistic Context, (Brill, Leiden, 2005), 177203.
I am grateful to the publishers of each of these articles for permis-
sion to republish them in this volume.
.ckxovrrrorvrx+s xi
CHAPTER ONE
EARLY JUDAISM
In a chapter dedicated to the discussion of changing scholarly perspec-
tives during a century of endeavour, it is appropriate to begin with
the observation that any decision as to what to include under the
rubric of Early Judaism must itself be the product of a distinctive
perspective. I shall discuss in this chapter the work that has been done
on Judaism in the late Second Temple period and in late antiquity
down to the closure of the Talmudthat is, roughly from 200 BCE
to c. 500 CE. Descriptions of this Judaism as early, though common
in British scholarship, is not universal. In the eyes of orthodox Jews
who trace the origins of Judaism to the giving of the Torah to Moses
on Mt Sinai, the late Second Temple period lies a long way down
the continuous stream of halakha. In contrast, scholars who view
Second Temple Judaism as a prelude to Christianity and rabbinic
Judaism after 70 CE as theologically insignicant may describe the
last days of the Temple as Sptjudentum. A well-meaning eort to
mediate between these attitudes by describing this period as Middle
Judaism has not proven popular.
1
It may justify my retention of the term Early Judaism for this
chapter to note that I am thereby reecting the mainstream per-
spective of British scholars in Second Temple Judaism over the past
century, since most still come from a background in biblical studies,
in which a sharp break between the Israelite religion of the First
Temple and Judaism of the Second Temple is taken for granted.
2
That late Second Temple Judaism is seen as early is testimony
to the appreciation among such scholars that there were to be
authentic later forms of Judaism from the early rabbis down to the
modern day.
1
G. Boccaccini, Middle Judaism: Jewish Thought, 300 BCE200 CE (Minneapolis,
Minn., 1991).
2
Note, for instance, the implications of the decision to begin the Cambridge History
of Judaism with the Persian period (vol. 1, ed. L. Finkelstein and W.D. Davies,
Cambridge, 1984). Vol. 2 (1989) of the Cambridge History covers the Hellenistic
period; vol. 3 (1999), jointly edited by W.D. Davies, W. Horbury and John Sturdy,
covers the early Roman period.
2 cn.r+rn oxr
In contrast to Britain, in the world of scholarship outside the United
Kingdom the main institutional changes inuencing approaches to
early Judaism have been the creation of two new academic contexts
for such study, namely Jewish studies and religious studies. Neither
context was known at the beginning of the twentieth century but there
are now numerous departments, courses, periodicals and academic
posts dedicated to Jewish studies, particularly in the great centres in
the United States and Israel. Departments of religious studies have
similarly been established in many universities in the United States,
with Judaism of all periods studied in the context of other faiths
and religion in general.
Academic study of Jewish culture began in nineteenth-century
Germany as a form of armation of the place of Jews within
European culture. These pioneers of the Wissenschaft des Judentums were
all themselves Jews and wrote for a Jewish readership. Almost all were
either independent scholars or based in Jewish theological institutions.
In the United Kingdom, University College London appointed a Jew
as Goldsmid Professor of Hebrew in the mid-nineteenth century, and
Cambridge had a lecturer in rabbinics soon after, but it was only in
the twentieth century that Oxford established the Cowley Lecturer-
ship in Post-biblical Hebrew and then, in 1939, the Readership in
Jewish Studies. In this respect British universities diered little from
other Western institutions, with the notable exception of the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, which had been established in the 1920s as
a university for the Jewish people.
There was to be drastic change with the general expansion of
university teaching in Western Europe and the United States in the
1960s. This general expansion coincided, especially in the United
States, with a demand for greater attention to be paid to study of
previously ignored social groups, in particular women and ethnic
minorities. The incorporation of Jewish studies into the curricula of
many American universities over the past forty years has owed much
to the search by American Jews for a Jewish identity, both in the
case of the students who take these courses and the donors through
whose municence academic posts have been established. Hence their
academic concentration has generally been in the history of the Jews
in comparatively modern times. Nonetheless, study of early Judaism,
particularly the story of the last days of the Second Temple and its
aftermath, has much contemporary resonance and exerts a strong
hold on many students and teachers in these departments.
r.nrv tr.isv 3
The United Kingdom has not witnessed a similar explosion in
Jewish studies in universities. Anglo-Jewry is among the larger popu-
lations of diaspora Jews but the size of the community is dwarfed
by the number of Jews in the United States, even allowing for
the considerable diculties inherent in establishing precise gures
when the denition of Jewish identity is itself disputed. English Jews
have been less inclined than Jews in North America to stress their
Jewishness as part of their identity, preferring instead a low prole
within English society. There is only one university department in
the United Kingdom devoted to Hebrew and Jewish Studies, in
University College London. In recent years some universities have
established centres or programmes as a way to coordinate the teaching
of sta already in post with an interest in Jewish subjects but, with
the exception of the privately funded Oxford Centre for Hebrew and
Jewish Studies, the initiatives have been fuelled less by the interests of
donors or potential students than by the desire of university authori-
ties to make a gesture towards incorporation of a new academic eld
made fashion able by its popularity in the United States.
The pattern for university teaching of religious studies is also set
in the United States, where to some extent it is the product of the
institutionalised separation of church and state. Since state-funded uni-
versities are forbidden to teach Christian theology, study of religions
has to be carried out in a more neutral fashion than is standard in
the divinity schools or in European universities, and this separation
has led quite naturally to study of religions other than Christianity,
including Judaism. A similar pattern has begun to spread in the
United Kingdom in recent years, but only slowly. For a long time
the Religions Department in the University of Lancaster provided
a rare British example of the teaching of religions on the model of
departments in the United States. Much more common has been
the accretion of religious studies to existing departments of Christian
theology, with the self-evident risk that non-Christian religions, studied
dispassionately from the outside, would emerge as pale and formulaic
in comparison with the Christian doctrines discussed with committed
passion by adherents from within the Christian tradition.
These institutional changes have aected in dierent ways the study
of Second Temple Judaism and the study of Judaism in the early
rabbinic period. In 1900 most scholarship on Second Temple Jews
was written by New Testament scholars whose primary interest lay
in the background to Jesus. In 2000 this motivation remained strong
4 cn.r+rn oxr
among many in the eld and has, if anything, been increased over
the past quarter-century by awareness of the Jewishness of Jesus and
many aspects of the early church (see below). But there are also more
and more scholars from within Jewish studies who view this period of
Judaism in the light of the history of Judaism as a whole, and some
(though few in the United Kingdom) who take the quite abundant
evidence for the religion of Jews in this period as a starting point for
wider explanations of the nature of religion as a whole. The century
has also seen incursions into this eld by classicists aware that the
Jewish material, apart from its intrinsic interest, provides particularly
abundant insights into themes of change, acculturation and resistance
which are prominent issues elsewhere in the Mediterranean world in
the late Hellenistic and early Roman imperial period.
The later period of early Judaism, from c. 70500 CE, has con-
cerned classicists less, for the simple reason that too much of the
evidence is in Hebrew or Aramaic. In 1900 most New Testament
scholars lost interest in the history of Judaism after the end of
the rst century CE: in terms of Christian theology, the history
of Judaism ceased to be a concern once the history of Israel was
safely in the hands of the church. The third/fourth edition of Emil
Schrers Geschichte, published in 190111, took the story of Judaism
to the defeat of Bar Kokhba in 135 CE, after which, he implied,
nothing of any importance occurred.
3
The eorts of the pioneers of
the Wissenschaft des Judentums to study early rabbinic Judaism as a
theological system comparable to the great monuments of systematic
Christian theology of the patristic period were continued for the most
part only in Jewish theological seminaries and were largely ignored in
the universities. In this respect the position has much changed. First,
the Jewish theological colleges of 1900 were almost entirely based in
Europe and were destroyed in the Holocaust along with much of the
rest of European Jewry; those that survived, including Jews College
in London (later renamed the London School of Jewish Studies),
did not exert in later years the same inuence in this eld that they
did in the rst thirty years of the twentieth century. Secondly, there
has been a concerted eort, mostly (but not only) in departments
3
E. Schrer, Geschichte des Jdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, 3rd/4th edn.
(Leipzig, 190111).
r.nrv tr.isv 5
of religious studies in the United States, to build on the pioneering
eorts made by early twentieth-century scholars to subject rabbinic
materials to the same sort of critical scrutiny as other religious
texts, by the publication of translations of the texts into European
languages and the application to the texts of techniques originally
used to analyse other literatures.
4
The essentially pietistic approach to
these writings, which was almost universal in the Jewish seminaries
in 1900, is still to be found in some current scholarship,
5
but many
rabbinic scholars in universities now come to the subject without the
benet (and drawbacks) of previous immersion in a traditional yeshiva
training in study of the Talmud, which is almost indispensable for
real familiarity with these very complex texts but brings with it a
tendency to ahistorical conation. This lack of traditional training
is itself a symptom of the deepening division between religious and
secular Jewish society, particularly in Israel, where those devoted to
Talmud study often see no value at all in an academic approach to
the texts. The upheavals of the twentieth century produced a series
of great scholars who, after a traditional training, left orthodoxy
behind on their entry into the university world.
6
Such transitions
are of course still possible, but they are increasingly rare. It is worth
noting how many of the leading Jewish scholars in this eld in the
United Kingdom have been migrs from elsewhere in Europe.
Change over the twentieth century has largely been a product of
a change of perspective: dierent sorts of scholars are tackling the
eld, for dierent reasons. But this change has been fuelled by a
series of remarkable new nds over the course of the century, which
have themselves led research in new directions.
In the rst half of the twentieth century, the bulk of the new
documents to have had such an impact were all found in Egypt,
4
Earlier in the twentieth century, much of this work was carried out in Germany
by H. Albeck and others, but note, in particular, the voluminous studies in more
recent years by Jacob Neusner, in some of which, e.g. Torah from our Sages, Pirke
Avot: A New American Translation and Explanation (Dallas, Tex., 1984), the location of
this approach in the United States is specically stressed.
5
For a current critique, see S. Schwartz and C. Hezser in M. Goodman (ed.),
The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (Oxford, 2002) pp. 79140.
6
For an illuminating and reective description of this process in his own case,
see the autobiography of David Halivni, The Book and the Sword: A Life of Learning in
the Shadow of Destruction (Boulder, Col., 1998). Halivni, a Holocaust survivor, teaches
at Columbia University in New York.
6 cn.r+rn oxr
preserved by the dry climate. Near the beginning of the twentieth
century the most important nds were of material composed after
antiquity, which nonetheless had an importance for study of this
period also. These were the documents from the Cairo Geniza, of
which the bulk were brought from Egypt to Cambridge in the 1890s.
These texts had all been deposited in the Cairo synagogue between
the ninth and twelfth centuries CE, and revolutionised study of the
medieval Mediterranean world, but it seemed clear quite early in
their study that some of the texts were based on much older mate-
rials, some of them from late antiquity. Already in 1910, Schechter
published as Fragments of a Zadokite Work what turned out to be a late
copy of the Damascus Rule eventually to be found in Qumran.
7
The same period of discovery around 1900 unearthed a great
number of papyrus documents from Egypt, which, although not
religious texts themselves, shed much new light on the religious
lives of Egyptian Jews. In the 1920s, Sir Arthur Cowley published
the Aramaic texts from Elephantine which revealed the distinctive
religious customs of a Jewish military garrison in Egypt from c. 610
to c.390 BCE, shedding much light on the varied nature of Judaism
at the very end of the biblical period,
8
and over the course of the
century plentiful Egyptian Jewish papyri from later periods down to
the upheavals in the Egyptian Jewish community in the early second
century ce, most of them unearthed in the course of excavations at
the beginning of the century, were published as they were deciphered,
culminating in the magisterial corpus published by Tcherikover, Fuks
and Stern,
9
with an appendix on the Egyptian Jewish inscriptions
on stone by David Lewis.
Many of the Egyptian documents were concerned with the social,
legal and political status of Jews rather than Judaism, but the same
was not true of the great cache of religious documents found in the
caves above Qumran by the Dead Sea in the late 1940s.
10
Here was
a mass of biblical texts, hymns, rules, prayers and psalms, hidden
for safekeeping in antiquity and never recovered until accidentally
7
S. Schechter, Documents of Jewish Sectaries, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1910).
8
A.E. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri from the Fifth Century BC (Oxford, 1923).
9
V. Tcherikover, A. Fuks and M. Stern (eds.), Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum,
3 vols. (Harvard, Mass., 195764).
10
See the inuential translation by G. Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in
English (London, 1997).
r.nrv tr.isv 7
discovered by bedouin in 1947. Initial disputes over the dates when
the documents were written were resolved in the 1990s by carbon-
14 dating of the leather and papyrus, so that no scholar doubts any
longer that they were written by Jews in the late Hellenistic or early
Roman period.
Publication of the scrolls languished during the 1960s, 1970s and
1980s, both because of the diculty inherent in their decipherment
and because of the political volatility of the region where they were
found, which made it hard to put pressure on recalcitrant editors.
Conspiracy theories about the reason for delay abounded in the
popular press but have proven groundless now that the nal frag-
ments have been made fully available both on CD-Rom and in
the ocial series of the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert published by
Oxford University Press.
The Qumran texts have generally been taken as evidence for the
history of late Second Temple Judaism up to 70 CE. In contrast,
the private legal documents found further south in the Judaean
Desert and in Jericho have had an important role in reassessments of
Judaism in the years following the destruction of the Temple. These
papyri, discovered partly by accident in the 1950s and partly through
controlled archaeological searches in the early 1960s (and, to a lesser
extent, also since then),
11
contain marriage contracts, divorce deeds,
records of debt and property transfers and other documents clearly of
great importance to the individuals who, apparently during the Bar
Kokhba war of 1325, secreted them away in the caves where they
were found. Their signicance for the history of Judaea lies in the
eclectic systems of law apparently adopted by these Jews in central
areas of their personal lives, and the discrepancies between the law
they used and that advocated in the rabbinic corpus.
12
The enterprising and energetic approach exhibited in the search
for documents in the Judaean Desert caves by Yigael Yadin in the
early 1960s has characterised Israeli archaeology more generally
11
Most of the documents are now available in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vols.
2, 27 and 38; see DJD 39, published in 2002, for the denitive guide to publication
details of all these texts. For an account of the archaeological explorations of the
early 1960s, see Y. Yadin, The Finds from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters
( Jerusalem, 1963).
12
See H.M. Cotton, The Rabbis and the Documents, in M. Goodman (ed.),
Jews in a Graeco-Roman World (Oxford, 1998), pp. 16779.
8 cn.r+rn oxr
over the past fty years. The main impulse to archaeological
research (as in many other countries) has often been a desire to
bolster nationalistic claims in the new state, and Israelis continue to
have a fascination for the archaeology of the land, which outstrips
their general interest in the ancient past. But, whatever the motives,
the increase in knowledge brought by the explosion of excavations
over half a century has been great. For the Second Temple period,
most signicant have been nds of, for instance, great numbers of
stoneware bowls in the excavations of Jerusalem.
13
For knowledge of
Palestine in the late-Roman period, the rst excavations of the Beth
Shearim necropolis in the 1930s, and the discovery in the 1920s of
a late-Roman synagogue oor at Beth Alpha depicting the signs of
the zodiac, have had a huge impact (see below, pp. 1112).
Finally, the study of Judaism in the diaspora has been revolutionised
by new discoveries in the twentieth century. Before 1900 diaspora
Judaism was known primarily through the voluminous treaties of Philo
and the ambiguous evidence from the Jewish catacombs in Rome.
Excavations in the early 1930s in Dura-Europos on the Euphrates by
a team from Yale University unearthed a synagogue building precisely
dated to the mid-third century, when the building was covered with
earth as part of the defensive measures taken by the city when it
was under siege.
14
The earth covering protected an extraordinary
series of frescoes depicting biblical scenes, opening up the possibility
that such Jewish art was long established outside this one building
which happened to survive. No other diaspora nds have had quite
the impact of the Dura-Europos synagogue, but identication as a
synagogue of a huge late-Roman basilica in Sardis in the 1960s has
encouraged much speculation about the possible relationship of Jews
to the surrounding culture, particularly because the Sardis synagogue
occupied so prominent a position in the fourth-century city.
15
Less
spectacular new evidence has accumulated gradually over the century
as inscriptions on stone have been unearthed and published. First
collected by J.B. Frey in the 1930s, the texts of these inscriptions
13
N. Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem (Oxford, 1984).
14
C.H. Kraeling, Excavations of Dura-Europos, Final Report VIII.I: The Synagogue
(1956, augmented 2nd edn., New York, 1979).
15
A.B. Seager and A.T. Kraabel, The Synagogue and the Jewish Community,
in G.M.A. Hanfmann, Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times (Cambridge, Mass., 1983),
ch. 9. [See Chapter 19, below.]
r.nrv tr.isv 9
have been re-edited and augmented in more recent editions,
16
and
have formed the basis of some major claims about the nature and
distribution of religious authority among Jews, particularly in the
context of synagogues.
17
The combination of dierent sorts of scholars approaching the
subject and the availability of this mass of new evidence has pro-
duced quite new perspectives on much of early Judaism. These
new perspectives may be said to have some things in common. All
of them reect increased uncertainty about aspects of Judaism that
scholars one hundred years ago thought they knew precisely. Much
progress has consisted in the dismantling of such knowledge. So,
for example, in 1900 much of the Jewish literature composed before
70 CE was unhesitatingly ascribed to an Essene, Pharisee or Sadducee
author, on the imsiest of grounds. It is dicult to imagine such
certainty now.
An interest in these non-normative early Jewish texts was signalled
early in the twentieth century by R.H. Charles, through the publica-
tion of a magisterial edition of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
of the Old Testament, and the research on the Samaritans by Moses
Gaster.
18
Charless edition, which brought together the eorts of a
number of scholars who had spent the previous decades unearthing
and editing a series of medieval manuscripts of these early texts,
itself encouraged further similar research in the same area, mostly by
biblical scholars. Arguments for the signicance of this material were
reinforced when some of the pseudepigrapha, notably Jubilees and
parts of I Enoch, were found in their original Hebrew and Aramaic
forms among the Dead Sea Scrolls, thus conrming their early date
and Jewish authorship and providing an invaluable insight into the
16
See especially W. Horbury and D. Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Greek and Roman
Egypt (Cambridge, 1992); D. Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, 2 vols.
(Cambridge, 19935).
17
See, for example, B. Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue (Atlanta,
Ga., 1982).
18
R.H. Charles (ed.), Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2 vols.
(Oxford, 191213). Compare the more cautious comments of the editors of the
volume published in the 1980s, partly to replace Charles (H.F.D. Sparks (ed.),
The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford, 1984)), and the more eclectic collection in
J.H. Charlesworth (ed.), Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (London, 19835). For
Gasters work, see M. Gaster, The Samaritans: Their History, Doctrines and Literature
(Schweich, London, 1925).
10 cn.r+rn oxr
extent and nature of any changes made to such texts in the process
of transmission by Christian scribes and translation into Greek (and,
often, from Greek into other languages).
19
The Dead Sea Scrolls themselves of course have provided an
excellent insight into a particular brand of non-normative Judaism,
and a huge literature has been devoted to study of the organisation,
theology and history of the community responsible for the sectar-
ian documents. British scholars were among the earliest to attempt
such interpretation in the 1950s, with important work by Chaim
Rabin, Cecil Roth, Sir Godfrey Driver, J.L. Teicher, John Allegro,
H.H. Rowley, and (most inuentially) Geza Vermes.
20
Study of the
Scrolls has become almost a separate sub-discipline of study on early
Judaism, with two specialist journals devoted to them and widespread
public interest in every revelation of their contents. Much of this
interest (from scholars as much as the general public) has been in
the signicance of the Scrolls for the history of early Christianity,
and a recent analysis of the law to be found in the sectarian writings
even claimed to be rescuing the Scrolls for the study of Judaism.
21
Some of the theories promulgated about the origins of the sect have
pushed to the edges of plausibility in a search to establish for them
a greater signicance than perhaps they have. In fact, the size and
inuence of the sect, and its relation to the other varieties of Judaism
in the late Second Temple period, remain still disputed despite all
this eort.
22
It is to be hoped that in due course, as their novelty
wears o, the texts will take their rightful place along with the rest
of the evidence for Judaism in this era.
The main impulse to much of the study of non-normative Judaism
in the diaspora has also been archaeological discovery, but in fact
its greatest exponent in the rst half of the twentieth century, Erwin
19
Among such contributions, see M. Black, The Book of Enoch (Brill, 1985);
M.A. Knibb, Translating the Bible: The Ethiopian Version of the Old Testament (Oxford,
1999).
20
The bibliography on Dead Sea Scrolls research is huge. See among recent
general introductions, G. Vermes, An Introduction to the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls
(London, 1999). For the site at Qumran, the best introduction is still the 1959
series of Schweich Lectures: R. de Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand
Rapids, Mich., and Cambridge, 2002).
21
L.H. Schiman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (Philadelphia, Pa., 1994).
22
See, for example, N. Golb, Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Search for the Secret
of Qumran (London, 1995); M. Goodman, A Note on the Qumran Sectarians, the
Essenes and Josephus, JJS 46 (1995), 1616 [Chapter 11, below].
r.nrv tr.isv 11
Goodenough, had already written an investigation into diaspora
Judaism as expressed in Justin Martyrs Dialogue with Trypho (one of
the earliest D.Phil. theses to be examined in Oxford, in 1921) when
his view that Greek diaspora Judaism in late antiquity continued
to be radically dierent from the Judaism of the rabbis was appar-
ently dramatically conrmed by the excavation of the Dura-Europos
synagogue in the early 1930s. Goodenoughs own reconstruction of
a mystical Jewish theology to be ascertained by interpretation of
the images used in Jewish art has not convinced many,
23
but the
general principle that archaeology might provide insights into types
of late-Roman Judaism not known from the rabbinic texts continues
to have a powerful attraction. In particular, excavation in the 1960s
of a large basilica in the centre of Sardis decorated with mosaics
which exhibited Jewish iconography (see above, n. 15) has encour-
aged speculation that in Asia Minor Jews practised a distinctive,
self-condent synagogue-based Judaism quite dierent from that of
the rabbis,
24
but whether so much can really be validly deduced from
mute archaeological remains is unclear. The history of synagogue
excavations within the land of Israel induces salutary caution. When
in the 1920s a charming, if somewhat rustic, mosaic carpet from a
synagogue oor was unearthed in sixth-century Beth Alpha in the
Jezreel valley, the central motif of the mosaic, a depiction of the
signs of the zodiac with the sun-god at the centre of the circle, was
explained as an alien intrusion into synagogue art: perhaps the Roman
emperor had insisted on its incorporation.
25
Finds of further zodiac
mosaics in conjunction with unambiguously Jewish symbols (menorah,
lulav, incense shovels, shofar) at other Galilean synagogue sites over
the course of the twentieth century have made it abundantly clear
that the zodiac was a distinctively Jewish symbol.
26
Any argument
that zodiacs provide evidence of non-rabbinic Judaism is weakened
23
E.R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Graeco-Roman Period, 13 vols. (New York
and Princeton, NJ, 195368).
24
See among recent studies, P. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor
(Cambridge, 1991); J. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to
Trajan (Edinburgh, 1996).
25
For an early discussion, see the volume published by the Academy: E.L.
Sukenik, Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece (London, 1934).
26
See now the comprehensive catalogue of the current state of scholarship on
ancient synagogues in L.I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogues: The First Thousand Years
(New Haven, Conn., and London, 2000).
12 cn.r+rn oxr
by the name of the donor of one of the nest mosaics, that in the
fourth-century synagogue at Hammat Tiberias. This donor, a certain
Severus, described himself in Greek as a member of the household
of the illustrious patriarchs.
27
There is no room for doubt that the
patriarchs to whom he refers were the descendants of Rabbi Judah
haNasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, the central text of rabbinic
Judaism. It is just possible that by the fourth century the patriarchs
had drifted away from rabbinic Judaism,
28
but it is not very likely,
since the Palestinian Talmud, in the form of an elucidation of, and
commentary on, Judah haNasis Mishnah, was probably the product
of Galilean rabbis in precisely this region at precisely this period.
To many scholars it now seems preferable to admit to the possibility
that rabbinic Jews were more tolerant of acculturation into the wider
Roman world than might be apparent from the texts they produced
for the consumption of insiders.
The nal type of non-normative Judaism to be examined here
because it evoked attention for the rst time in the twentieth century
has been the study of mysticism. Credit for the emergence of the
study of Jewish mysticism as a distinct eld belongs almost entirely
to the Jerusalem scholar Gershom Scholem, whose insistence on tak-
ing seriously texts which had been sidelined by the Wissenschaft des
Judentums as insuciently rational to deserve study revealed a long-
lasting strand of Judaism that stretched from late antiquity through
the medieval kabbalah up to modern times.
29
Among the aspects of
Scholems pioneering work most questioned in more recent years has
been precisely the extent of such continuity, in particular, the justi-
cation for asserting that the roots of the mystical texts preserved in
medieval hekhalot manuscripts lie in late antiquity.
30
A fruitful eld
of enquiry has been the relationship between such mystical tradi-
tions preserved by the rabbis and the accounts of heavenly visions
found in the Jewish apocalyptic traditions preserved by Christians.
In the study of all such texts, there is still much disagreement as to
whether they reect mystical practices or only literary genres, and
27
M. Dothan, Hammat Tiberias: The Ancient Synagogue ( Jerusalem, 1984).
28
See most recently, S. Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 BCE to 640 CE
(Princeton, NJ, 2001).
29
Most inuential of Scholems many works in this area has been Major Trends
in Jewish Mysticism ( Jerusalem, 1941).
30
See P. Schfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur (Tbingen, 1981).
r.nrv tr.isv 13
to what extent they represent deviant Judaism or a mystical aspect
of the mainstream.
31
The same logic that has prompted some to extreme scepticism
about the possibility of getting back from the evidence of medieval
manuscripts to learn something about late-antique mysticism has
also been applied to more mainstream texts, in particular the bibles
(Hebrew and Greek) used by Jews in late antiquity and the transmis-
sion of rabbinic literature.
Discussions of the nature of the Hebrew biblical text in late antiq-
uity have been transformed by the discovery of large numbers of
biblical manuscripts at Qumran. In many cases these texts are close
in wording to the text copied by the medieval masoretes, but some
variations are considerable, sometimes demonstrating the nature of
the Hebrew text underlying the LXX translation, sometimes provid-
ing readings previously wholly unknown. Arguments about the extent
to which the biblical text was still uid in the late Second Temple
period are bedevilled by the diculty of showing when a text is a
biblical fragment or part of a biblical commentary or paraphrase.
Many British bible scholars, such as Paul Kahle and James Barr, have
been much engaged in these discussions about the biblical texts.
32
Fragments of Greek biblical texts found at Qumran (in particular
the Psalms Scroll) have also had an impact on Septuagint studies. The
Septuagint was an area of much interest to British scholars already
in 1900; the great Septuagint expert H.B. Swete was a founding
fellow of the Academy, and the tradition was carried on throughout
the century by others, such as Sir Frederick Kenyon. The Qumran
texts provide evidence that some Jews were engaged in an exercise
to bring their Greek bible closer to the Hebrew already by the rst
century CE and that the attitude expressed by Philo (Vita Mosis 2.44),
that the LXX had itself been divinely inspired, was presumably not
shared by all other Jews.
33
31
See, for example, F.C. Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (London, 1914);
C.C. Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic Judaism and Early Christianity
(London, 1982).
32
For example, J. Barr, The Variable Spellings of the Hebrew Bible (Schweich Lectures,
Oxford, 1989).
33
See H.B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge, 1900);
H. St. J. Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship (Schweich Lectures, London,
14 cn.r+rn oxr
Both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Cairo Geniza documents
stimulated in the second half of the twentieth century an upsurge in
interest by textual scholars such as Paul Kahle in the targumim, the
Aramaic translations of the Hebrew bible. Since the targumim often
paraphrase the original text and add new material, their elucidation
can illuminate post-biblical Judaism.
34
The revolution in the treatment of rabbinic texts has also in part
been based on the history of the manuscripts. Scholars in the nine-
teenth and early twentieth century succeeded in bringing to public
attention a number of rabbinic texts previously unknown, but publica-
tion tended to be only of the readings of a single manuscript,
35
and
neither in these cases, nor in the printing of the traditional rabbinic
texts, was there any attempt to produce scholarly editions such as are
standard for the Greek and Latin literary texts of classical antiquity,
nor have many such editions appeared over the past century. There
is still no critical edition of the text of the Babylonian Talmud.
Instead, scholars can now consult on CD-Rom readings from a
huge number of talmud manuscripts and are left to decide on their
own the signicance of the many variants.
36
This lack of editions is
not simply a reection of the magnitude of the task, given the size
of many of the texts. Attempts in the 1980s to produce a scholarly
edition of the Palestinian Talmud revealed such wide discrepancies
between manuscripts that the team responsible resolved instead to
publish the variant readings in synoptic form.
37
The extent of variation
has encouraged some scholars to doubt whether the whole notion of
an original text of such documents is valid. Whole sections of texts
found in the manuscripts of the Palestinian Talmud are also found
in the manuscripts of Genesis Rabba, and some have suggested that
rabbinic material circulated in late antiquity in units smaller than
1921; 2nd edn., London, 1923); F.G. Kenyon, Recent Developments in the Textual
Criticism of the Greek Bible (Schweich Lectures, London, 1933); S.P. Brock, C.T.
Frisch and S. Jellicoe, A Classied Bibliography of the Septuagint (Leiden, 1973), and
N. Fernndez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the
Bible (Leiden, 2000).
34
P. Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (Schweich Lectures, London, 1947).
35
For example, W.H. Lowe (ed.), The Mishnah of the Palestinian Talmud (Cambridge,
1883).
36
Lieberman Institute: The Sol and Evelyn Henkind Talmud Text Databank with Search
Capability (1998).
37
P. Schfer et al. (eds.), Synopse zum Talmud Yerushalmi (Tbingen, 1991).
r.nrv tr.isv 15
the composite medieval texts. Others have protested that such radi-
cal scepticism is not justied in the case of all late-antique rabbinic
texts, and a few scholarly editions have begun to appear.
38
In the rst half of the twentieth century a number of scholars,
most inuentially the Harvard theologian George Foot Moore, tried
to extract an overall theology from the rabbinic corpus.
39
The few
scholars in the United Kingdom to contribute in this area were mostly
expatriate Jews based in Jews College, such as Adolf Bchler and
Arthur Marmorstein.
40
The middle of the twentieth century saw the
publication of a monumental study of the whole of rabbinic thought
based on a mass of diverse rabbinic sources,
41
but this monument
was not left unchallenged for long. Its publication was rapidly fol-
lowed by a strong reaction against such conation as ahistorical, and
most work on rabbinic theology in the second half of the twentieth
century was less ambitious.
42
A few scholars have applied form criticism in an attempt to nd
the basic units of rabbinic reasoning
43
and determine the history
of development of rabbinic law.
44
This latter approach has proved
compatible with redaction criticism. In its extreme form, this involves
the claim that it is impossible to generalise about rabbinic thought
in any way beyond the Judaism of a particular text.
45
This extreme
approach has not been adopted by many, but interest in the nal
layer of each text, including its process of redaction, is increasing.
Among the most acute analysts has been Louis Jacobs, the leading
light in Anglo-Jewish scholarship on halakhic rabbinic texts now for
38
For the debate on the principles involved, see P. Schfer and Ch. Milikovsky
in JJS 37 (1986), 13952; 39 (1988), 20111; 40 (1989), 8994.
39
G.F. Moore, Judaism in the rst Centuries of the Christian era: The Age of the Tannaim
(Cambridge, Mass., 192730).
40
A. Bchler, Studies in Sin and Atonement in the Rabbinic Literature of the First Century
(London, 1928); A. Marmorstein, The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God, 2 vols. (London,
192737).
41
E.E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Belief ( Jerusalem, 1975).
42
See the strong criticism of Urbach in J. Neusner, The Rabbinic Traditions about
the Pharisees before 70, 3 vols. (Leiden, 1971).
43
See recently, A. Samely, Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah (Oxford,
2002).
44
Most voluminously, J. Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Purities, 22
parts (Leiden, 19747), and his equally detailed studies of the other branches of
Mishnaic law.
45
J. Neusner, Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah, 2nd edn. (Atlanta, Ga.,
1988).
16 cn.r+rn oxr
some three decades, and a prolic author of works on contemporary
as well as early Jewish thought. More general has been increasing
awareness that study of rabbinic texts should allow for the possibil-
ity (indeed probability) of change between the tannaim (of the rst
two centuries CE) and the amoraim (of the third to fth centuries),
and of dierent inuences on the rabbis of Palestine and those of
Babylonia, not least in the development of traditions of midrashic
exegesis of the biblical texts.
46
The eects of the surrounding culture on early Judaism was in
general a continuing scholarly preoccupation in the twentieth cen-
tury. The prime issue has been the extent to which Judaism was
inuenced by Hellenism. In 1937 Elias Bickerman suggested in his
book Der Gott der Makkaber that some Jews welcomed and inter-
nalised a Greek interpretation of their ancestral religion, and that
the revolt of the Maccabees in the 160s BCE should be seen as
a reaction to such Hellenising.
47
In 1974 Martin Hengel compiled
evidence of many dierent kinds (including much archaeological and
epigraphic material) to demonstrate that Judaism during the third and
early second century ncr was as much a part of wider Hellenistic
culture as other regions which had been conquered by Alexander
the Great.
48
The evidence is incontrovertible and has eectively
ended the distinction, common in the nineteenth century, between
Hellenised diaspora Judaism and the Semitic Judaism of the home-
land, but its signicance, as assembled by Hengel, has been much
debated, with challenges both to the notion that this spread of Greek
culture provides a religious explanation of the Maccabean revolt,
49
and to the general assumption that the use of Greek artefacts and
language will necessarily have had an eect on the religious outlook
of Palestinian Jews.
50
Research into the impact of Greek culture on
the rabbis has been less intensive, and most scholars have been less
46
L. Jacobs, Structure and Form in the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge, 1991); on
midrash, see, for example, G. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic
Studies (Leiden, 1961; 2nd edn., Leiden, 1973).
47
E.J. Bickerman, Der Gott der Makkaber (Berlin, 1937).
48
M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, Eng. trans. (London, 1974).
49
Fergus Millar, The Background to the Maccabean Revolution, JJS 29 (1978),
121.
50
M. Goodman, Epilogue, in J.J. Collins and G.E. Sterling (eds.), Hellenism in
the Land of Israel (2001), pp. 3025.
r.nrv tr.isv 17
inclined to suggest that the adoption of Greek terms and ideas are
likely to have had any deep eect on rabbinic Judaism,
51
although
the synagogue art of late-Roman Palestine has itself sometimes been
seen as evidence of Hellenisation.
52
In other respects too, study of early Judaism has been illumined
by research into the realia of Jewish life. In the last years of the
nineteenth century, Sir George Adam Smith published his histori-
cal geography of the Holy Land
53
and Emil Schrer in a series of
editions his monumental history of the Jews in the time of Jesus
Christ.
54
Schrers study, and that of Joachim Jeremias published in
1969, were somewhat schematic, in the tradition of nineteenth-cen-
tury German classical scholarship, but they laid the foundation for
future research, and the revised English Schrer, published between
1973 and 1987, remains a standard resource for scholarship.
55
The
rst really imaginative reconstruction of the nature of their religious
life for late Second Temple Jews was the synthetic study by E.P.
Sanders, published as Judaism: Practice and Belief.
56
Here, for the rst
time, is an attempt to empathise with the Jews who saw the Temple
in its last days as the centre of their religious lives. It is symptomatic
of the accretion of detailed and often recondite scholarly disputes
about some of the more important issues about the Pharisees and
the nature of the purity laws that Sanders felt it necessary to hive
o such issues into a whole second volume, published in fact before
the synthetic account.
57
For Schrer and Jeremias interest in the nature of rst-century
Judaism was explicitly as the background for the life of Jesus, and
Hengel and Sanders also entered the eld originally as New Testament
scholars, and retain a strong interest in the history of early Christianity.
Realisation during the second half of the twentieth century that
early Christians are best understood with a full appreciation of the
51
S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, 2nd edn. (New York, 1962).
52
See Sukenik, Ancient Synagogues.
53
George Adam Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (London, 1894).
54
Originally published as E. Schrer, Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte
(Leipzig, 1874).
55
J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Eng. trans. (London, 1969); E. Schrer,
rev. G. Vermes, F. Millar, M. Black and M. Goodman, The History of the Jewish
People in the Age of Jesus Christ, 3 vols. (Edinburgh, 197387).
56
E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE66 CE (London, 1992).
57
E.P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah (London, 1990).
18 cn.r+rn oxr
Jewish background has been a catalyst for much further research,
especially into the relation of specic New Testament texts to the
Jewish writings of the period. Such links were already being made
before the twentieth century, but new since the 1970s has been the
attempt to integrate the religion of Jesus and less frequently Paul
into the general picture of Judaism itself. That Jesus was a Jew to
be understood fully within his Jewish environment was the claim of
the highly inuential study by Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew.
58
Despite
widespread acknowledgement of the rationale behind the approach
this implies, integration has in fact been sporadic, hindered in part
by the great edice of New Testament scholarship, which discour-
ages straightforward use of the New Testament evidence. In very
recent years some scholars have suggested that integration of Jewish
and Christian history should go still further, and that the parting of
the ways between Judaism and Christianity should not be seen as
having occurred until the time of Constantine.
59
This reassessment
of the history of the two traditions is based on a radical refusal to
view Jewish and Christian material primarily through the lens of
later Judaism and Church history, but it ies in the face of much
evidence that rabbinic Jews and mainstream Christians in fact dened
themselves, at least in part, by what they were not, this being, by
denition, a prime concern of patristic heresiologists and (of less
obvious importance, given the rare use of the word) of the rabbis
who invented the term minut to describe the wrong opinions of all
those Jews whose religious ideas did not agree with theirs.
60
Where does this leave current study of early Judaism? It is fair to
say that more regular attention is being paid to its elucidation than
in any previous period, and with more awareness of the possible
extent of variety. Where British scholarship may be thought to have
a special role to play may be in the continuing strength of classical
studies within the United Kingdom and the increasing readiness of
classicists, encouraged by the example of polymaths such as Arnaldo
Momigliano, to accept Jewish studies as pertinent to the wider clas-
58
G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historians Reading of the Gospels (London, 1973).
59
D. Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism
(Stanford, Calif., 1999).
60
M. Goodman, The Function of Minim in early Rabbinic Judaism, in H.
Cankik, H. Lichtenberger and P. Schfer (eds.), Geschichte-Tradition-Reexion: Festschrift
fr Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburtstag (Tbingen, 1996), vol. 1, pp. 50110 [Chapter
14 below].
r.nrv tr.isv 19
sical world.
61
Classical scholars have played a major role in putting
the Jewish evidence properly into the context of the Greek and
Roman world. Too much remains disputed for syntheses of current
knowledge to retain authority for long. It is not unreasonable to hope
that when new syntheses are produced at the end of the twenty-rst
century, both British scholars and the British Academy will be seen
to have played a signicant part.
61
See A. Momigliano, Alien Wisdom: The limits of Hellenization (Cambridge, 1975);
J. Reynolds and R. Tannenbaum, Jews and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias (Cambridge,
1987); F. Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 BCAD 337 (Cambridge, Mass., 1993);
T. Rajak, The Jewish Dialogue with Greece and Rome: Studies in Cultural and Social Interaction
(Leiden, 2000).
CHAPTER TWO
IDENTITY AND AUTHORITY IN ANCIENT JUDAISM
The modern debate on Who is a Jew? has become heated, not
least because it involves a conict of authority between dierent
jurisdictions, each of which claim the right to dene or assign Jewish
identity. It is the purpose of this article to document a parallel phe-
nomenon in the period of the Second Temple, the Mishnah and
the Talmuda phenomenon which, as far as I know, has been left
unconsidered in the voluminous recent scholarship on Jewish identity
in antiquity. How did anyone in the ancient world know that he or
she was Jewish? Or, to put it another way, who decided who was
a Jew? In what context was such a decision made? To anticipate
the conclusion: if it can be shown that a variety of such decisions,
and the uncertainties that they undoubtedly engendered, were com-
mon two thousand years ago, we may throw modern dilemmas into
perspective.
In the ensuing pages it will emerge that there were at least ve
main ways of establishing the Jewishness of an individual in antiquity.
Sometimes, his armation that he was a Jew might suce, at least
to his own satisfaction. Alternatively, some central Jewish authority
might take to itself the right to dene status. Local Jewish com-
munities might decree which among their number really belonged
to them. Local gentiles might arrogate the task to themselves. Or
the gentile state might select Jews from the general population for
its own purposes. Some combination of these possibilities was also
likely enoughand, in the case of most Jews, all sources of authority
doubtless agreed on their Jewishness. The question of authority will
have arisen mostly in discussions or assumptions about the status of
those who might be seen by some as on the fringes of the community,
when dierent denitions by the various perceived authorities may
have clashed. In what follows, illustrations of each of these sources
of authority for dening Jewishness will be examined in turn.
Not surprisingly, the role of a strong central authority in dening
Jewish status is clearly attested in this period only in the land of Israel
itself. The actions of Hasmonaean High Priests in the conversion of
22 cn.r+rn +vo
Idumaeans (in the 120s BCE) and Ituraeans ( in c. 104 BCE) presup-
posed that such unilateral action, involving the forced circumcision
of males, could turn gentiles into Jews. In other respects, too, the
Temple authorities at all times had to make decisions about who
was Jewish. So, for instance, some types of oerings could probably
be oered up by the priests only if they had been brought by an
Israelite. More drastically, gentiles were excluded from the inner
courts of the Temple on pain of death, a prohibition backed up
by force, as Josephus recorded, and as surviving fragments of the
Temple inscription warning against infringements conrm.
1
For the
preservation of the purity of the Temple, mistakes could not be
countenanced.
However autocratic they may have been within the sanctuary,
those who controlled the Temple never had the capacity, outside
its connes, to impose very widely their idea of who was a Jew.
Those adherents of the faith who never brought an oering to the
Temple would never subject their status to scrutiny. This category
will have included most such adherents who lived in the diaspora
and who, despite the Biblical requirement of thrice-yearly pilgrimages,
never went to Jerusalem. There is good evidence that the priests in
Jerusalem could notand probably did not usually try toimpose
their will on the diaspora. So, for instance, a rival Jewish temple which
oered cultic ceremonies similar to the Jerusalem shrine ourished
at Leon topolis in Egypt, apparently without serious challenge, from
c. 160 BCE, until it was closed down by the Romans in 73 CE as
a possible centre of disaection ( Josephus, Jewish War 7.42036).
At any rate, any role played by the Jerusalem priests in deciding
on Jewish status came to an abrupt end with the destruction of the
Temple sanctuary and the city in 70 CE. Late rabbinic reconstruc-
tions of Jewish history arm an immediate, successful assumption of
authority by groups of learned sages led rst by Yoanan b. Zakkai,
then by the descendants of Hillel and others. Such a reconstruction
does not accord fully with the evidence of the earliest compilations
of rabbinic teaching. In the Mishnah, which reached its present form
(more or less) in about 200 CE, and the Tosefta, which probably
dates to c. 250 CE, it is taken for granted that the rabbis oper-
ate even in the Holy Land among Jews who do not take seriously
1
J.B. Frey, ed., Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum II (1952), no. 1400, pp. 32830.
irrx+i+v .xr .t+noni+v ix .xcirx+ tr.isv 23
many of the religious matters which were of great concern to the
rabbis themselves. Many of such Jews, particularly those of doubt-
ful status as Jews, among those termed ammei ha-arz by the Sages,
presumably would not have taken kindly to attempts by the rabbis to
impose their criteria for Jewish status on the rest of the population.
I have, indeed, suggested elsewhere that the discussions to be found
in early rabbinic legal texts about social relations between Jews and
gentiles may, when they are not purely theoretical, reect the Sages
attitudes to those who dened themselves as Jews but by criteria
which the Sages did not accept. In favour of this hypothesis (which
remains unprovable) is the mass of legislation about gentile-Jewish
relations in rabbinic texts from Galilee. Without such an hypothesis
it is dicult to explain the rabbis concern with the practicalities of
social and commercial dealings with gentiles, for near-contemporary
pagan and Christian sources describe the area of Galilee as inhabited
exclusively by Jews.
2
In the diaspora and in remote villages in the land of Israel it
could have been more feasible to leave questions of status to the
local communal authorities. Jews, in theory, needed to know quite
often whether those with whom they came into social contact were
Jewish or gentile. As Tacitus remarked (Histories 5.5), Jews were
separate in their meals and their beds. The question was acute
when marriage was proposed, for Jews believed that they married only
other Jewseven if, in practice, there were exceptions. Similarly, if
Jews believed that gentiles handling their food or wine could pollute
it, it ought to have been imposible to leave the status of associates
in doubt.
And, yet, the impression is that, up to the end of the rst century
CE, it was doubt that prevailed. Josephus ( Jewish War 7.41) wrote
of gentiles in Syrian Antioch whom the Jews had in a certain way
made a part of their community; it is quite unclear whether either
Josephus or the Antiochene Jews thought of these adherents as Jews
or as friendly gentiles. In another passage, which is theologically
incomprehensible (at least to me), Josephus arms (Antiquities 14.403)
that the Idumaeans, whose ancestors had been forcibly circumcised
in the second century BCE (see above), were now half-Jews.
2
M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, AD 132212 (1983), pp.
4153.
24 cn.r+rn +vo
References to friendly gentiles in texts of the rst century CE or
earlier are so ambiguous or untrustworthy that the very existence
of a category of gentile godfearers has been attacked as a gment
of modern scholarship.
3
Where there was only one synagogue and one set of Jewish
authorities in a city, ad hoc decisions on such matters might bring
some clarity, but, in bigger cities such as Rome, where at least ten
individual synagogues whose names are attested on inscriptions seem
to have been independently organized, a conict of jurisdiction was
all too likely. In any case, for those gentiles, like the royal family of
Adiabene, whose conversion to Judaism took place in a context where
no Jewish community yet existed (see Josephus, Antiquities 20.1753),
some other authority for conrmation of their Jewish status must
have been sought.
The story of the Adiabeneans seems to imply the possibility, at
least, that, in some sense, an individual could decide for himself
or herself whether he or she was Jewish. Proselytes were seen as
those who brought themselves to the Jewish nation or faith or God;
the word proselyte is derived from the Greek word proserchesthai,
which means to approach or to come to. Types of proselytes
described as gerim gerurim, who were attacked by rabbis in texts of
the third century CE and later as not genuine converts, are believed
by some scholars to have been precisely such self-made proselytes,
which would suggest, of course, that such people existed (but that,
for those rabbis, at least, an armation of faith did not suce to
make one Jewish). But diculties in interpreting this term, which
can also be understood quite dierently, preclude too much reliance
on this argument.
4
It might seem that the role of gentile authorities in the denition
of Jewishness should have been negligible. So, doubtless, it was,
in areas where there was a Jewish majority or state, as in Judaea
before 70 CE, but there were occasions when outsiders may have
had some role to play.
Thus, for instance, the Greek cities of Asia Minor, largely under
pressure from Julius Caesar, who wished to ensure the loyalty of
3
A.T. Kraabel, The Disappearance of the Godfearers, Numen 28 (1981):
11326.
4
Against the standard understanding of gerim gerurim, see E. Bammel, Judaica:
Kleine Schriften I (1986), pp. 13439.
irrx+i+v .xr .t+noni+v ix .xcirx+ tr.isv 25
the Jews to his side during the Roman civil war against Pompey,
oered various privileges to the Jews in their midst in the mid-rst
century BCE. They must have drawn up some criteria or list to
clarify which inhabitants of the city should benet: according to
the decrees preserved by Josephus in his Antiquities, Jews in these
places were granted, among other benets, a special exemption from
military service and from appearing in law courts on the Sabbath.
It is not clear how a law suit could be temporarily postponed by
an unexpected appeal by one of the parties to his privilege of not
answering charges on Saturdays. Perhaps the court simply took the
appellants word, or had a hearing on the question. Perhaps local
Jewish leaders provided the civic magistrates with the names of
members of the Jewish community. Perhaps some other means was
used. We do not know.
There was, in theory, much greater potential for the denitions of
Jewishness that were imposed by the Roman state to have an eect on
Jewish self-awareness, if only because here, at least, was an authority
which could impose its will on the great majority of Jews and which,
at various times, needed to know precisely who was Jewish. On the
one hand, after 70 CE Rome extorted a special poll tax which only
Jews, and all Jews in the Roman Empire, were required to pay. The
eects of this tax, known as the scus Judaicus (literally, the Jewish
treasury), will be discussed further below. On the other hand, the
sons of Jews were specically exempted, from the mid second cen-
tury CE on, from the ban on circumcision which was introduced by
the emperor Hadrian. Around the time of the Bar Kochba revolt,
Hadrian equated circumcision with castration, as barbarous practices
unworthy of his enlightened rule, but his successor, Antoninus Pius,
felt impelled to mollify Jewish feelings by permitting the continua-
tion of this ancestral custom, while insisting that any non-Jew who
indulged in the practice would incur the death penalty. There is
good evidence that people other than Jews (Samaritans, and some
Arabs and Egyptians, for example) had previously been in the habit
of circumcising boys, and that these non-Jews were eectively pre-
vented from doing so in the future. Before he imposed the ultimate
sentence on an oending circumciser, a Roman judge must have
had ways of knowing with some certainty that the culprit before
him was denitely not a Jew.
But a concern of this kind by the Roman state to make clear
who was a Jew is not attested or, indeed, plausible, before the last
26 cn.r+rn +vo
years of the rst century CE. In the rest of this discussion I shall
explore the hypothesis that the ambiguities about status, which, as
has been shown, were tolerated with (to us) surprising ease until
then, gave way after that date to a new Jewish awareness of a need
for greater clarity; and that this new awareness was precipitated, as
so often in Jewish history, by the attitude of the outside worldin
this case, the Roman state.
The immediate factor which led to change was the reform by the
emperor Nerva of the exaction of the special Jewish poll tax, the
scus Judaicus. As was noted above, this tax was imposed on Jews
after 70 CE by the emperor Vespasian, after the suppression of
the great revolt and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The levy was intended both as a punishment for rebellion and as a
means of raising money for rebuilding the temple of Jupiter on the
Capitol in Rome. The temple had burned down in the civil war
which accompanied Vespasians seizure of the purple, and the transfer
to Jupiter of funds which had previously been paid by Jews to the
Jerusalem Temple was a deliberate symbol of the Jews defeat. From
the start, the tax was collected assiduously, and tax receipts, written
on pieces of broken pottery, which have survived in the sands of
Egypt, attest that both men and women were required to pay. A
state ocial was specially appointed to supervise collection and, at
the local level, designated bureaucrats drew up lists of those liable.
Vespasian and his subordinates evidently assumed that the
denition of a Jew was not a problem. For Romans up to and
including Vespasians lifetime, the Jews were a people who followed
peculiar religious customs: to Cicero, for instance, Jews (like Syrians)
were a nation born to be slaves (De Prov. Cons. 5.10), while the
philosopher, Seneca (On Superstition, in Augustine, City of God 6.11)
described Jews as an accursed race with foolish customs. The
same standard description of Jews was also presupposed by Josephus,
when he wrote about the imposition of the same Jewish tax in his
Jewish War (7.218), which was published in the late seventies or early
eighties CE: On the Jews, wherever they might be, he imposed a
tax, ordering each of them to pay two drachmas every year to the
Capitol. But Josephus, as we have already seen, was at least aware
of the possibility of proselytism, although he did not use the term,
whereas, in gentile sources, it appears that the ethnic denition was
the only concept that they had of a Jew. As far as I can tell, there
is no unequivocal evidence that any gentile writer before this time
irrx+i+v .xr .t+noni+v ix .xcirx+ tr.isv 27
was even aware of the notion that a non-Jew could become a Jew
simply by a change of religious allegiance. Silence in this case can
be seen as signicant. For Greeks and Romans, who had their own
distinctive ideas about the function of citizenship in their society and
the ways that it could be cautiously extended by the community,
Jewish acceptance of outsiders into the body politic simply on the
grounds of their adoption of Jewish religious customs was very strange.
Furthermore, this silence about proselytes contrasts both with a good
deal of amused or angry comment in contemporary sources about the
spread of Jewish practices among the pagan populationthe sabbath
was particularly popularand with the vehemence and frequency of
the polemic against conversion to Judaism in Latin literature of the
early second century CE, after the institution of the proselyte had
become widely known, for reasons to be examined below.
Such gentile certainties about Jewish identity were shattered through
the actions of Domitian, Vespasians younger son, who became
emperor in 81 CE. According to his biographer, the Roman writer
Suetonius, whose Lives of the Caesars was published in the rst half
of the second century, Domitian exacted the Jewish tax in a fash-
ion which struck contemporaries as particularly harsh. The passage
(Domitian 12.2) is worth quoting in full:
Besides other taxes, that on the Jews was levied with the utmost
vigour, and those were prosecuted who without publicly acknowledg-
ing that faith yet lived as Jews, as well as those who concealed their
origin and did not pay the tribute levied upon their people. I recall
being present in my youth when a man ninety years old was inspected
before the procurator and a very crowded court to see whether he
was circumcised.
People were evidently compelled to pay to the scus even if they lived
a Jewish life only in secretor if they simply, by whatever means,
concealed the fact that they had been born Jewish.
The identity of these unfortunates can be surmised with some
condence. They were not gentiles or proselytes, for we are told
by the later historian, Cassius Dio (67.14.13), that non-Jews who
drifted into Jewish ways were condemned by Domitian either to
death or to deprivation of their property. The charge brought against
such gentiles (including the consul for the year 95 CE and the
consuls wife, who was a relative of the emperor) was atheismthat
is, refusal to worship pagan gods out of devotion to Judaismwhich
may provide further conrmation that the category of a Jewish
28 cn.r+rn +vo
proselyte was not yet known to the Roman state. It can be assumed
that Domitian could not impose a tax on such gentiles for behavior
which he himself categorised as illegal in Roman law. The people
most at issue must, therefore, have been ethnic or born Jews who
no longer followed their religion. Hence the plight of the old man
whose humiliation was witnessed by the biographer Suetonius, quoted
above. His circumcision was the one sign of his origin that he could
not easily eace.
It seems that the suering of such apostates aroused considerable
resentment at Rome and it is not hard to see why. Romans were
characteristically tolerant of people from other ethnic origins so long
as they assimilated into Roman culture. Many who were born as Jews
did precisely that. Most such are now untraceable in the historical
record, for they cannot be distinguished from other citizens of the
empire, but, since numerous Jews were brought to the capital city
as slaves and received Roman citizenship on acquiring freedom, it is
likely that a good proportion of the citys population was descended,
directly or indirectly, from ethnic Jews. How many of these were
compelled by Domitian to pay to the scus Judaicus is impossible
to discover. It would be good to know whether Domitian required
both or only one parent to be Jewish to justify ascribing to them
a Jewish origin, but there is no evidence. However, the career of
one impressive individual which is comparatively well recorded may
illustrate the sort of apostate Jew who was subjected to the humili-
ation of the tax. Tiberius Iulius Alexander came from a leading
wealthy Jewish family in Alexandria and was a nephew of the great
Jewish philosopher, Philo. As Josephus noted (Antiquities 20.100), he
did not stand by the practices of his people. Appointed governor
of Judaea and, later, prefect of Egypt, he helped the Romans to
capture Jerusalem in 70 CE and enjoyed high favour with the new
dynasty. Men like him would not take kindly to being identied with
the defeated and despised nation of the Jews.
The depth of the resentment is evidenced by the actions of the
new emperor, Nerva, when Domitian was murdered in 96 CE. Nerva
had connived at, perhaps had a hand in organizing, the assassination.
His own right to supreme power was nebulous, and he initiated a
series of measures designed to win popularity in Rome. One such
measure tackled the problem of the Jewish tax. Coins were issued
proclaiming FISCI IUDAICI CALUMNIA SUBLATAthe mali-
cious accusation with regard to the Jewish tax has been removed.
irrx+i+v .xr .t+noni+v ix .xcirx+ tr.isv 29
The tax itself continued to be collectedit was still being raised in
the mid-third centurybut it was hoped that it would no longer
cause such opposition.
An important reform thenbut consisting of what? The liter-
ary sources do not state, but it is a reasonable hypothesis that the
main thrust was to correct the abuses which had occurred under
Domitian. From then on, only those Jews who continued openly in
their ancestral practices were liable to the tax: that is, the denition
of a Jew was by religion, not race.
5
One result of this reformand conrmation of its naturewas
that the Roman state, and Romans in general, rapidly became aware
of the Jewish concept of a proselyte. For writers of the early second
century CE, one of the most objectionable aspects of Jews, on a par
with their social isolation, circumcision, and alleged proclivity to lust,
was not that the Jews themselves should continue with their peculiar
customsthese were at least partially justied in Roman eyes by
their antiquitybut that pagans should forsake the old gods in order
to become Jews. The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, quoted by Arrian
(Discourses 2.9.20), said in a discourse delivered in c. 108 CE that
whenever we see a man halting between two faiths, we are in the habit
of saying, He is not a Jew, he is only acting the part. But when
he adopts the attitude of mind of the man who has been baptized
[sic] and has made his choice, then he both is a Jew in fact and is
also called one.
With greater contempt the satirist Juvenal (Satires 14.97102) casti-
gated proselytes who
worship nothing but the clouds and the divinity of the heavens, and
see no dierence between eating swines esh . . . and that of man, and
in time they take to circumcision. Having been wont to out the laws
of Rome, they learn and practise and revere the Jewish law, and all
that Moses handed down in his secret tome . . .
The historian Tacitus was most hostile of all in the description of the
Jews with which he prefaced his account of the siege of Jerusalem
of 70 CE He wrote of
5
I have discussed this more fully in Nerva, the Fiscus Judaicus and Jewish
Identity, Journal of Roman Studies 79 (1989), 4044.
30 cn.r+rn +vo
those who are converted to their [i.e. the Jews] ways [that] the earli-
est lesson they receive is to despise the gods, to disown their country,
and to regard their parents, children and brothers as of little account
(Hist. 5.5).
How did Jews react to this new Roman denition of Jewishness as
a religion to which one could convert and from which one could
apostatise? The defection of those ethnic Jews who had drifted away
from the community must have appeared oensively blatant when
it was advertised by public refusal to pay the tax. By contrast, the
loyalty of gentiles who chose willingly to dene themselves as Jews
despite the tax burden must have looked impressive. At any rate,
Jews in the Roman empire would no longer remain in as much
doubt as the Jews of Antioch in the sixties CE about which of the
ethnic gentiles who frequented their community reckoned that they
belonged fully within it. Those who had accreted to the synagogue
could be presumed to think of themselves as proselytes if they paid
the two denarii to the scus Judaicus and gained such subsequent
advantages as ocial permission not to attend pagan cult worship
or court cases on the Sabbath. Yet, proselytes undoubtedly existed
earlier, and Godfearers or half-Jews continued even at this time,
although without incurring the Jewish tax and the benets that
went with it.
Indeed, the most striking innovation which can be dated with
some condence to this periodthe second to early third century
CEwas a new interest among Jews in dening the role and status
(in Jewish eyes) of those gentiles who were preceived as being mor-
ally good without having chosen to become Jews. Jewish authors
of earlier centuries did refer to gentiles, and it was a commonplace
that, at the end of days, gentiles would come to recognize the Jewish
God; but, on the position of gentiles in the meantime, little more
was said than abomination of the idolatry to which it was assumed
that they all subscribed. In the second century CE it seems that this
lack of concern about gentiles was challenged.
One strand of evidence is to be found in rabbinic texts. The
Tosefta, compiled in the mid-third century CE, contains the earliest
extant information of an attempt by rabbis of the preceding genera-
tions to lay down what behaviour should be demanded in theory
from a gentile who wished to remain gentile but still achieve virtue
(Tosefta, Avodah Zarah 8 (9):4). The Sages of the third century had
already agreed that the basic commandments which had been the law
irrx+i+v .xr .t+noni+v ix .xcirx+ tr.isv 31
for the sons of Noahthat is, the ancestors of the Jewish people
before Abrahamalso applied to contemporary non-Jews, since they,
like Noahs sons, were not bound by the covenant between God
and Israel made at Mt. Sinai. The rabbis debated only the precise
nature of those commandments, arriving (after much discussion) at
the eventual, now standard, list preserved in the Babylonian Talmud
(Sanhedrin 56a): prohibitions of blasphemy, idolatry, sexual immorality,
murder, robbery, eating a portion of a living animal, and a require-
ment to set up courts of law. It has been argued by some scholars
that the idea of these so-called Noachide Laws originated not just
a generation or so before their rst attestation in the third century
but many centuries earlier, but this is not very plausible, for they
have left no clear trace in the copious Jewish literature of the last
centuries BCE and the rst century CE. It seems to me at least as
likely that the development of the concept reected increased Jewish
speculation about righteous gentiles as the boundaries between Jew
and gentile were claried in the second century CE.
6
A second strand of evidence has a wholly dierent origin. The
recently discovered inscription from the city of Aphrodisias in
Caria (in modern Turkey) contains the names of a large number
of benefactors of a Jewish institution whose precise nature remains
obscure.
7
The inscription, on two sides of a large stone, was prob-
ably set up in the citys synagogue. According to the editors of the
text, the most likely date for its erection was the early third century
CE. It is a most curious document. On face a the names listed are
those of Jews; of these, three, whose names would otherwise appear
to be entirely Jewish, are described on the stone as proselytes. On
face b still more Jewish names are inscribed, but those are followed
by a small gap in the list, under which is found a new heading:
And these are the Godfearers. Below this are written no fewer
than fty-two names, no one of which is Jewish in origin and some
of which are positively pagan. Of these individuals, a number are
described as city councillors, a rank which would entail participation
in the pagan rites of the city for anyone not specically exempted
6
See D. Novak, The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism (Toronto Studies in Theology,
14, 1983).
7
J. Reynolds and R. Tannenbaum, Jews and Godfearers at Aphrodisias (Cambridge
Philological Society, Supplementary Volume XI, 1987).
32 cn.r+rn +vo
(as were Jews). It is not going too far to see here the rst explicit
evidence for Jews giving formal recognition in a religious context to
a group of local gentiles whose close relationship with the Jewish
community was acknowledged despite their clear determination not
to become Jews. One can assume, perhaps, that such public Jewish
acknowledgement that gentiles can achieve virtue without conversion
to Judaism made all the more secure, in the eyes of other Jews,
the Jewishness of those gentiles who nonetheless preferred to become
proselytes.
Many problems and uncertainties about Jewish identity remained
after 96 CE. Presumably, a gentile who simply started voluntarily
paying an annual contribution to the scus Judaicus but did not change
his lifestyle in any other way would not thereby nd immediate
acceptance as a proselyte if he encountered a rabbi from Galilee.
If someone born a Jew managed to escape the attentions of the
tax authorities, other Jews might reckon him lucky rather than an
apostate. Even if he found it necessary to attend pagan sacrices to
avert suspicion, some might think of him as a bad Jew rather than
assume that he had left the faith altogether. But, even if clarity was
not achieved after the tax reform by the Roman state in 96 CE, a
change of some sort does seem to have occurred. Jews may still, in
practice, have been uncertain in particular cases exactly who was a
Jew, but they did become more aware, perhaps for the rst time,
that they did need to know.
CHAPTER THREE
JOSEPHUS AND VARIETY IN FIRST
-
CENTURY JUDAISM
It is a commonplace that Judaism before 70 CE included a number of
distinct varieties. The question to be tackled in this paper is the extent
of that variety. It will be my contention that a proper awareness of
the necessary limitations of the surviving evidence should encourage
scholars to expect greater variety than is usually acknowledged.
1
Scholarship on late Second Temple Judaism is voluminous. Though
the stream of studies over the past century and a half shows no
sign of abating, no consensus seems to be emerging on this central
issue. In essence, scholars divide into two camps. Those tempera-
mentally inclined to harmonize the evidence take parallels between
groups mentioned in the source texts to indicate probable identity.
Thus, for instance, the Dead Sea sectarians are judged to have been
Essenes (or Sadducees, or Jewish Christians), or the adherents of
Beth Shammai are identied with the Zealots.
2
On the other side,
those temperamentally inclined to distinguish between groups may
be accused of producing a veritable hubbub of varieties of Judaism,
and some scholars have even taken to referring to Judaisms in the
plural.
3
When trying to justify their approach (which they do only
1
This article is a modied version of a lecture presented to the Israel Academy
of Sciences and Humanities in April 1998, in the course of a visit arranged under
the Academys exchange scheme with the British Academy. I am grateful to the
Israel Academy for its hospitality and to a number of colleagues for their help-
ful comments after the lecture. Since the subject of the lecture deals with general
issues of historical method and does not attempt to introduce readers to previously
unnoticed evidence, I have preserved the lecture format in the published text rather
than presenting numerous examples or citations of modern scholarship to reinforce
the points made. I hope that as a result the argument may emerge more clearly.
2
Examples are too numerous to list, but for the Dead Sea sectarians as Essenes
see, e.g., G. Vermes in E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus
Christ (rev. G. Vermes et al.), Edinburgh 19731987, II, pp. 583585; as Sadducees,
R. North, The Qumran Sadducees, CBQ, 17 (1955), pp. 164188, and much
recent scholarship based on 4QMMT; and as Jewish Christians, R. Eisenman, The
Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians, Shaftesbury, 1996. On Beth Shammai and
the Zealots, see I. Ben-Shalom, The School of Shammai and the Zealots Struggle against
Rome, Jerusalem 1993 (in Hebrew).
3
On Judaisms in the plural see, e.g., J. Neusner, E. Frerichs and W.S. Green
34 cn.r+rn +nnrr
rarely), both sides in this historiographical conict have tended to
resort to appeals to instinct or taste; or, at best, to the simplicity of
their explanation of the evidence, as if it can be taken for granted
that the explanation should be simple. My intention in this paper is
to provide a rationale for preferring one approach over the other,
so that in future investigations of the evidence scholars may have a
better idea of what the signicance of the similarities between groups
they discover is likely to be. I shall try to demonstrate that it is
better to distinguish than to harmonize, and I shall do so through
an investigation of the main source of evidence for Second Temple
Judaism, the writings of Flavius Josephus.
Of course, Josephus does not provide the only evidence for rst-
century Judaism, but his writings have a special signicance, for two
reasons. First, most of the other evidence was written either, like the
Dead Sea Scrolls and the rabbinic texts, within a particular branch
of Judaism for fellow insiders, or, like the pagan writings collected
and edited by Menahem Stern, by outsiders for outsiders. The for-
mer group shows no interest in discussing other types of Judaism
except when they impinge upon their own type, while the latter all
too readily falls into caricature.
4
Only Philo, in some of his extant
writings, and Josephus, in (probably) all of his, were insiders who
set out to explain Jews and Judaism to outsiders.
5
Second, and more
(eds.), Judaisms and their Messiahs, Cambridge 1987. I should state clearly at the out-
set that the extreme form of this view, that there was no common core at all in
late Second Temple Judaism, seems to me demonstrably incorrect. All pious Jews
shared at least the beliefs that they worshipped the God whose Temple was in
Jerusalem and that they had a common history in which a covenant between God
and Israel was enshrined in the Torah, which all Jews knew they had to observe.
It is important also to clarify that the varieties I am investigating constituted self-
aware groups (what Josephus and others called haireseis). It is unwarranted and
misleading to treat each text or author as if it or he constituted a separate Judaism.
For a brief but acute analysis of the external impulses which lead scholars either
to conate or to divide see D.R. Schwartz, MMT, Josephus and the Pharisees,
in J. Kampen and M.J. Bernstein (eds.), Reading 4QMMT: New Perspectives on Qumran
Law and History, Atlanta 1996, p. 72.
4
See M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, IIII, Jerusalem
19741984.
5
On the readers of Philos works see Schrer, History (above, note 2), III, pp.
814, 817818, 840, 853854, 878 and 889; on the readers of Josephuss historical
writings see P. Bilde, Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome: His Life, His Works
and Their Importance, Sheeld 1988, pp. 7578, 102103.
osrrnts .xr \.nir+v ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 35
crucially, only in the works of Josephus is an extensive description
of the dierent types of rst-century Judaism provided.
Thus, if Josephuss writings had not survived it would be hard to
reconstruct the picture of variety that he presents in the Jewish War,
the Antiquities and the Life. Philo refers to the Essenes, Therapeutae,
and unnamed extreme allegorists, but not to Pharisees, Sadducees,
the Fourth Philosophy, Zealots, Christians, or hakhamim. In the New
Testament there is mention of Pharisees and Sadducees and of course
Jewish Christians, but nothing about Essenes. Tannaitic texts are simi-
larly silent about Essenes. By contrast, surviving pagan writings from
the rst two centuries CE on Jews and Judaism appear completely
unaware that Judaism was in any way divided. Both Pliny and Dio
Chrysostom refer to Essenes, and Tacitus mentions Christians, but,
although these authors were aware that these groups originated in
Judaea, they do not describe them as types of Jews.
6
Thus, the only ancient source to refer even to all three of the
Jewish philosophies especially singled out by Josephus on numerous
occasions as characteristic of Judaism, let alone the numerous other
types of Judaism to which he referred in passing, such as the Fourth
Philosophy, ascetics such as Bannus and John the Baptist, and so
on, was Josephus himself. The crucial question is how full a picture
Josephus intended to give of rst-century Judaism.
The rst common misapprehension to clear away is the widespread
belief that Josephuss division of Judaism into three haireseis should be
taken seriously as evidence that only three types of Judaism existed
in his day.
7
It is true enough that Josephus made frequent mention
of this division,
8
often referring the reader back to his full discussion
of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes in Jewish War, 2.119161,
but his insistence on this three-fold division is bizarre when the
whole point of describing the three philosophies in that context was
to introduce to readers a novel Fourth Philosophy, on which he laid
the blame for the outbreak of war against Rome in 6 CE. Thus,
in all his later references to Judaism, such as at Vita, 10, Josephus
6
Pliny, N.H., 5.73; Dio ap. Synesius, Vita Dionis (= Stern, Greek and Latin Authors
[above, note 4], I, p. 539); Tacitus, Ann., 15.44.28.
7
E.g., M. Broshi, Ptolas and the Archelaus Massacre (4Q468g = 4Q historical
text B), Journal of Jewish Studies, 49 (1998), pp. 341345.
8
B.J., 2.119; A.J., 13.171173; A.J., 18.11; Vita, 10: the haireseis are three in
number as I have often said.
36 cn.r+rn +nnrr
ought, if he was consistent, to have referred to the four philosophies
in Judaism, but he never did. It will not do to argue that he referred
only to the three philosophies of which he approved and omitted
the fourth philosophy for that reason, since he seems also to have
disapproved of the Sadducees, who are described un favourably in
all the passages which refer to them in any detail. Nor should the
appearance of a similar threefold division of Judaism in Pesher Nahum,
where Israel is divided into Judah, Ephraim and Menasseh, be taken
as evidence that Josephus was pedantically accurate in his assertion
that there were three philosophies. Rather, it shows that Jews liked
to divide up their society in this way, perhaps in imitation of a topos
familiar elsewhere in the Hellenistic world.
9
(Similarly, patristic writers
from Justin Martyr to Epiphanius liked to list seven Jewish haireseis,
although the names on their lists varied tremendously.)
10
Second, it is not even the case that Josephus consistently stressed
that there were dierent varieties of Judaism. On the contrary,
the main message of Josephuss only deliberate presentation of the
theology of Judaism, in Against Apion, 2.179210, specically stressed
the unity and uniformity of Jewish beliefs and practices. Doubtless
this emphasis on uniformity was occasioned in part by apologetic
concerns, since Josephus was intent in this passage on comparing
the Jews to the ckle and variegated Greeks. It is also quite possible
that Josephus took at least part of his description of Judaism from an
Alexandrian predecessor. However, it is hard to see why he should
have copied down from an earlier text a description of Judaism
which he did not himself believe to be true, or how he could have
hoped to convince his gentile readers about the unity of Jews if he
thought his own earlier works, which he expected some of them to
have read, painted a clear picture of Jewish heterogeneity.
11
The probable conclusion is that Josephus did not believe that he
had drawn up a proper picture of Judaism at all in his earlier works.
He intended, so he said, to write a description of the nature of Jewish
9
See D. Flusser, Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes in Pesher Nahum, in M.
Dorman, S. Safrai and M. Stern (eds.), Essays in Jewish History and Philology in Memory
of Gedaliahu Alon, Jerusalem, 1970, p. 159 (in Hebrew).
10
On the patristic texts see J.M. Lieu, Epiphanius on the Scribes and Pharisees,
Journal of Theological Studies, 39 (1988), pp. 509524.
11
See my study of Contra Apionem in M. Edwards, M. Goodman and S. Price
(eds.), Apologetic in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, Christians, Oxford 1999, chap. 3.
osrrnts .xr \.nir+v ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 37
customs, but that project apparently was never completed.
12
His aim
in the works he did write was entirely dierent. The Life constituted
an apologetic autobiography in which Josephus defended himself
against attacks on his behaviour in the revolt against Rome; apart
from his protestations about his personal piety, religion was hardly
relevant.
13
The Jewish War and the Antiquities concentrated on political
and military history, in imitation of Thucydides and Polybius (in the
case of the War) and (probably) of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (in the
case of the Antiquities), so there was no need to refer to any variety
of Judaism except when it had an impact on political events.
14
This
was indeed the explicit reason for the description of the three haire-
seis in War, Book 2, and A.J., Book 18, as a contrast to the Fourth
Philosophy. Similarly, Philo, not inexperienced in philosophy, was
mentioned only because he was at the head of the Jewish delegation
which went from Alexandria to Italy to bring a complaint before
the emperor Gaius Caligula (A.J., 18.259).
Hence, it is entirely probable that Josephus may have failed to
mention those religious groups and tendencies which had no politi-
cal impact of the type that interested him, even if such groups were
inuential in other ways or such varieties of Judaism were commonly
espoused. Only a minuscule proportion of Josephuss writings has
anything at all to say about any variety of Judaism. It is quite wrong,
for example, to view A.J., 1318, as an apologia for the Pharisees,
since they hardly feature in the narrative.
15
What should follow from all this is a radical disinclination, when
confronted with evidence from other sources which does not explic-
itly tie up with the evidence in Josephus, to use subtle arguments
to make the evidence appear so to conform. Such arguments are
of course perfectly possible and are often deployed. Distinctions are
made between the views of a Jewish group from inside and from
12
On this uncompleted project to compose four books on Jewish theology and
practice see A.J., 20.268 and elsewhere; and see the brief, not wholly convincing
discussion by D. Altschuler, The Treatise On Customs and Causes by Flavius
Josephus, Jewish Quarterly Review, 69 (19781979), pp. 226232.
13
See Bilde, Flavius Josephus (above, note 5), pp. 104113.
14
Ibid., pp. 65104.
15
D.S. Williams, in Morton Smith on the Pharisees in Josephus ( Jewish Quarterly
Review, 84 [1993], p. 39), notes that only 0.0109% of A.J., books 1318, refers to
Pharisees either individually or collectively.
38 cn.r+rn +nnrr
outside; discrepancies are explained as a result of the development
of a group over time, or as evidence that dierent strands of a
group co-existed; as a last resort, the sources of the evidence which
contradicts Josephus are sometimes dismissed as ignorant. My point
is simply that the deployment of such arguments itself presupposes
a faith in Josephuss thoroughness in his treatment of varieties of
Judaism in his day for which there is no warrant.
In the study of two groups in particular the tendency of scholars
to conate evidence seems to me to have been misleading: the Dead
Sea sectarians, whose close relationship to the Essenes in Josephus
is still only doubted by a minority of scholars, and the hakhamim
found in tannaitic texts, whose close relationship to the Pharisees in
Josephus is almost universally taken for granted.
In the half century since the rst scrolls were found by the Dead
Sea, the group behind the sectarian documents has been identied
variously with Pharisees, Sadducees, Jewish Christians, Zealots, and,
most commonly, Essenes.
16
In each case it is possible to point to
parallels between specic aspects of sectarian behaviour or theology
as revealed by the scrolls and similar traits attributed to one group
or another in the Greek and Latin descriptions, but it is self-evident
from the multiplicity of hypotheses that the total set of parallels is
not sucient in any one case to establish identity. Thus, the leading
Essene hypothesis has to cope with serious discrepancies, such as the
contradiction between the strong insistence of the classical sources on
the Essenes devotion to the common ownership of property and the
assumption in some scrolls (e.g., CD, 9.1016) that sectarians might
own their own goods. It seems to me (as to some others) better to
treat the Dead Sea sect as a previously unknown Jewish group.
17
The
whole value of the chance nd of these new documents lies not in
lling in the gaps in an obscure corner of an already fairly complete
picture of late Second Temple Judaism but, far more importantly, in
their revelation of a type of Judaism not previously attested.
16
For the argument which follows see in greater detail my article, A Note on the
Qumran Sectarians, the Essenes and Josephus, Journal of Jewish Studies, 46 (1995),
pp. 161166 [Chapter 11, below].
17
See S. Talmon, The Community of the Renewed Covenant between Judaism
and Christianity, in E. Ulrich and J. Vanderkam (eds.), The Community of the Renewed
Covenant, Notre Dame, Ind., 1994, pp. 510.
osrrnts .xr \.nir+v ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 39
Much less has been written about the relationship between the
hakhamim and the Pharisees. There is a consensus that, while it is
wrong simply to equate the two groups, in some way the hakhamim
emerged from the Pharisees. Thus, for example, rabbinic stories
about the Houses of Hillel and Shammai have been characterized
as Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70.
18
This quasi-
unanimity is rather curious, because there are quite powerful argu-
ments against identication.
19
Most important of these is the fact
that the tannaim never referred to themselves or their predecessors
before 70 as Pharisees. There is absolutely no explicit evidence
that Hillel or Shammai considered themselves to be Pharisees. It is
hard to see how this can have been accidental, or simply a contrast
between insider and outsider literature. Pharisaios in Greek was a
self-designation used by both Josephus and St Paul.
20
Whatever its
derivation, it was evidently a Semitic term in origin, translatable into
Hebrew as perush,
21
for the tannaim did refer occasionally to perushim
as opponents of Sadducees on halakhic issues, but without identify-
ing themselves with these perushim. Thus, the tannaim knew that there
was a group of Jews called Pharisees, but they did not consider the
Pharisees to be connected to their own circle.
22
The distinction is
clear in Mishna Yadaim 4:6:
The Sadducees say, We cry out against you, O Pharisees, for you
say The Holy Writings make the hands unclean, but the writings
of Hamiram do not make the hands unclean! Rabban Yohanan b.
Zakkai said, Have we nothing against the Pharisees save this!
It is clear from this passage that Yohanan b. Zakkai, at least, did
not identify himself as a Pharisee, or at least he was not so identied
by the compiler of the Mishna. Ingenious arguments can of course
18
J. Neusner, Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70, IIII, Leiden 1971.
19
See P. Schfer, Der vorrabbinische Pharisismus, in Paulus und das antike
Judentum, Tbingen 1991, pp. 125175. See also, more briey, S. Cohen, The Sig-
nicance of Yavneh, Hebrew Union College Annual, 55 (1984), pp. 3642.
20
Jos., Vita, 12 (despite the cautionary remarks of S. Mason, Flavius Josephus
on the Pharisees: A Composition-Critical Study, Leiden 1991, chaps. 1415); Paul in
Philippians 3:5.
21
Cf. A.I. Baumgarten, The Name of the Pharisees, Journal of Biblical Literature,
102 (1983), pp. 411428.
22
The only explicit texts are Mishna Yadaim 4:6, 7; and Tosefta Hagiga 3:35.
Other relevant texts are conveniently collected in J. Bowker, Jesus and the Pharisees,
Cambridge 1973, along with those passages in which the term perushim appears to
have been used in a purely negative sense of separatists (e.g., Mishna Sotah 3:4).
40 cn.r+rn +nnrr
be devised to explain these phenomena and conate the evidence,
but I would suggest that it is not justiable to seek to do so when
conation is itself deemed implausible.
I suggest, then, that the Pharisees and the hakhamim were two quite
separate, self-aware groups which ourished both before and after
70 CE. I posit this hypothesis in full awareness that it raises three
diculties, which will need to be discussed separately.
The rst problem, and the easiest to deal with, is the fact that
on all issues on which rabbinic texts state that the Pharisees took
a particular stance against others, their stance was identical to that
taken by the hakhamim themselves when the stance of the hakhamim
happens to be recorded in later texts.
23
From this it can be deduced
only that Pharisees and hakhamim in some respects had similar views,
not that their groups were identical. In the late Second Temple there
seems to have been a series of issues on which all Jews, and each
group of Jews, might be expected independently to take a stand, such
as purity rules (for example, the requisite dimensions of a mikveh),
controversial elements of the Temple cult (for example, the sacrice
of the red heifer, the date of the omer oering, and the calendar), life
after death, eschatology, and messianism.
24
It was perfectly possible
for two groups to agree on one issue but disagree on another. Thus,
the Dead Sea sectarians followed the same halakha as the Sadducees
in some cases, but there is no reason to suppose that they did so qua
Sadducees; on the contrary, the author of 4QMMT makes it clear
that the we and the you in the textclearly separate groupscan
agree in specic instances against them.
25
In the same way, dierent
groups might adopt the same slogans and concepts but adapt them
to their own use. Quite dierent Jews might appeal to the notion of
zeal as shown in the distant past by Pinchas, or to the name Zadok,
or to separation or separateness as desirable.
26
The identication of
common themes and slogans is an important part of the study of
Judaism in this period, but it is a quite separate exercise from the
identication of distinct groups or tendencies.
23
E.g., Mishna Yadaim 4:7, on details of purity law and on the law of
damages.
24
A similar point is made by A.I. Baumgarten in The Flourishing of Jewish Sects
in the Maccabean Era, Leiden 1997, pp. 5557.
25
See Y. Sussmann, The History of Halacha and the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Preliminary Observations on Miqsat Ma'ase ha-Torah (4QMMT), Tarbiz, 59 (5750),
pp. 1176 (in Hebrew).
26
Baumgarten, Flourishing (above, note 24), p. 56.
osrrnts .xr \.nir+v ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 41
The second problem is the later rabbinic construction of Jewish
history in Second Temple times, in which actions attributed by
Josephus to Pharisees are sometimes attributed in amoraic sources
directly to rabbinic-type sages; an example is the hostile attitude of
the Pharisees as a group toward Alexander Jannaeus and their ami-
cable relations with his widow, Shelomzion.
27
The best explanation
seems to me to lie in the rabbinization of history. One of the most
striking features of the earliest stratum of rabbinic literature is its
apparent vagueness about the rabbinic past before the time of Hillel
and Shammai; the chain of tradition in Mishna Abot, Chapter 1,
is as signicant for what it does not say as for what it does. By the
amoraic period, the need to understand all of Jewish religious lead-
ership since Moses as rabbinic led to the description of even such
a gure as Ezra as a talmid hakham.
28
It was comparatively easy to
claim for the rabbinic movement a gure from the early rst century
BCE like Shimon b. Shetah.
The third and nal factor has probably been the most inuential
in the common tendency to treat Pharisees and hakhamim as part of
a single movement, and that is the extent to which the ideologies
of both Pharisees and hakhamim were closely related to the common
Judaism of ordinary Jews. Here there has been much confusion, and
a longer discussion is necessary.
According to Josephus, the Pharisees were inuential with the
masses (A.J., 13.298), although they were themselves quite a small
group: Josephus gives the number of Pharisees who refused to take
an oath of loyalty to the emperor in the time of Herod as above
six thousand (A.J., 17.42). The explanation of their inuence must
therefore lie in their teachings, but, despite Josephuss assertion in
A.J., 18.15, it is hard to accept that the teachings which gave them
prestige were their idiosyncratic views on fate and the afterlife.
27
Compare Jos., A.J., 13.288298 to Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 66a (cf. M.J.
Geller, Alexander Jannaeus and the Pharisees Rift, Journal of Jewish Studies, 30
[1979], pp. 202211), and see the traditions about Shimon b. Shetah and Yannai
in Gen. Rabba 91:3 and parallels, and about Shimon b. Shetah and Shelomzion
in Babylonian Talmud Taanit 23a. See in general S.J.D. Cohen, Parallel Historical
Traditions in Josephus and Rabbinic Literature, in Proceedings of the Ninth World
Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem 1986, I, pp. 714.
28
For the stories about Ezra see L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, Philadelphia
19091938, IV, pp. 354359; VI, pp. 441447.
42 cn.r+rn +nnrr
It is more plausible that their popularity stemmed from their attitude
toward ancestral tradition.
29
Josephus states in various places that the Pharisees, unlike the
Sadducees, accepted the regulations handed down by ancestral tra-
dition (A.J., 13.297, 408). This terminology does not imply that the
tradition was particularly Pharisaic: Josephus uses the same terms
to refer to the traditions by which Josiah had been guided long ago
(A.J., 10.51), and there the ancestors in question were evidently those
of all Jews. What distinguished this ancestral tradition was that it was
not written down, which was why the Sadducees rejected it (A.J.,
13.297), but there is no reason to suppose therefore that it was pre-
served orally, let alone that it should be identied with what rabbis
from the amoraic period on described as the Oral Torah. It is far
more likely that the paradosis accepted by Pharisees from previous
generations was transmitted not by words but through behaviour,
as Philo assumed in praising ancient ancestral customs in a com-
mentary on Deut. 19:4:
Another commandment of general value is Thou shalt not remove thy
neighbours landmarks which thy forerunners have set up. Now this
law, we may consider, applies not merely to allotments and boundaries
of land in order to eliminate covetousness but also to the safeguard-
ing of ancient customs. For customs are unwritten laws, the decisions
approved by men of old, not inscribed on monuments nor on leaves
of paper which the moth destroys, but on the souls of those who are
partners in the same citizenship. For children ought to inherit from
their parents, besides their property, ancestral customs which they were
reared in and have lived with even from the cradle, and not despise
them because they have been handed down without written record.
Praise cannot be duly given to one who obeys the written laws, since
he acts under the admonition of restraint and the fear of punishment.
But he who faithfully observes the unwritten deserves commenda-
tion, since the virtue which he displays is freely willed. (De Spec. Leg.,
4.149150, Loeb translation)
As Philo suggested (rightly), religion is usually caught, not taught.
30
29
For a slightly more detailed version of this argument see my article, Josephus,
the Pharisees and Ancestral Tradition, Journal of Jewish Studies, 50 (1999), pp. 1720
[Chapter 9, below].
30
On the Pharisaic nomima see the survey of scholarship in Mason, Flavius Josephus
(above, note 20), pp. 230245. On the Philo text see N. Cohen, Philo Judaeus: His
Universe of Discourse, Frankfurt 1993, pp. 258272, but note that she, too, takes
unwritten law to be oral (p. 281).
osrrnts .xr \.nir+v ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 43
The Pharisees not only accepted for themselves the validity of
customary interpretation of halakha; they added authority to such
customs by asserting that this acceptance was not arbitraryon the
contrary, they prided themselves on the accuracy of their interpreta-
tion of the Torah (A.J., 17.41; Vita, 191, etc.).
31
It is not surprising
that Pharisees were popular when they supported ordinary Jews in
their customary behaviour, giving them the comforting knowledge
that they had the approval of pietists who were unrivalled experts in
the law (Vita, 191). In any particular case, it may have been hard to
tell whether a custom was carried out just because it was customary
or because it had the approval of the Pharisees, or for both reasons.
To be sure, in cases like the attack by the Sadducee Jonathan on the
Pharisees in the time of John Hyrcanuswhich, according to A.J.,
13.296, led Hyrcanus to abrogate all the nomima established by the
Pharisees for the people and to punish all those who observed such
regulationsthe enemies of the Pharisees clearly implied that these
were Pharisaic rules. However, this is the stu of polemic. Usually,
it was perhaps unnecessary to ask whether ancestral tradition or
Pharisaic concurrence with such tradition mattered most.
It is probable that the attitude of the rabbinic hakhamim toward
ordinary customs was similar. The best evidence can be culled from
the marriage contracts, divorce documents, deeds of sale, renuncia-
tions of claim and other legal documents from the Bar Kochba
period which have been discovered in the Judaean Desert.
32
These
documents were certainly written by or for Jews and in some cases
refer explicitly to the law of Moses and Israel. However, as has
long been noted, although the law in use is essentially similar to
that found in tannaitic texts, there is no evidence that any rabbi
was involved in either the preparation or the enforcement of the
agreements, and there are also numerous variations in them from
tannaitic law, some minor, others of greater import.
33
One way to
31
On Pharisees claim to accuracy see Baumgarten, Name of the Pharisees
(above, note 21), pp. 413417.
32
The bulk of the documents are now published in the series Discoveries in the
Judaean Desert, vols. II and XXVII, and in Y. Yadin, The Documents from the Bar-Kokhba
Period in the Cave of Letters: Greek Papyri (ed. N. Lewis), Jerusalem 1989.
33
See the summary by H. Cotton in H.M. Cotton and A. Yardeni (eds.), Aramaic,
Hebrew and Greek Documents: Texts from Nahal Hever and Other Sites (DJD, XXVII),
Oxford 1997, pp. 154157.
44 cn.r+rn +nnrr
explain these dierences is to dismiss the Jews who produced the
documents as marginal to Jewish society, and the claim that this was
so is undisprovable. However, it is equally possible that the Judaean
Desert documents simply reect one strand in a general common
Jewish law, and that what the tannaim did was to put into order
existing legal customs by subjecting them to analysis on the basis of
legal principles, logic and biblical proof texts.
34
That this was indeed
the case at least to some extent is clear from the internal evidence
of the Mishna, according to which, for instance, quite substantial
dierences in marriage customs between Galilee and Judaea were
acknowledged and accepted by the tannaim (cf., for example, Mishna
Ketubot 4:12). That is to say, rabbinic Judaism was not a special
variety of Judaism created by the decrees and decisions of innumer-
able hakhamim through the ages; rather, it was ordinary, customary
Judaism as interpreted and approved by the hakhamim in the rst
two centuries CE.
If this analysis is correct, it will be seen that the Judaism of the
Pharisees and the Judaism of the hakhamim must in some respects
have been very similar, since both accepted the validity of ancestral
custom. However, this does not at all reinforce the notion that the
two movements were in some way connected. It is entirely possible
for two groups to co-exist in one period and place with almost
identical interests but clearly separate identities. An outsider view-
ing varieties of orthodox Judaism in the contemporary world could
not easily see the dierences which divide one hasidic group from
another, but it would be a big mistake to ignore the strong sense
of group identity within each type of hasidism. It is often by the
little dierenceslittle as perceived by outsidersthat people and
groups establish their identity over against others. Modern scholars
may be unable to nd a specic identiable dierence in theology or
practice between the hakhamim and the Pharisees, but this may simply
reect our ignorance of, in particular, the theology and practices of
the Pharisees. It is quite possibly otiose even to look for any such
dierence: as with contemporary hasidim, it may be mainly or only
the names and the allegiances of the members of two groups that
dierentiate one from the other.
34
This was my argument in my book, State and Society in Roman Galilee, A.D.
132212, Totowa, N.J., 1983, pp. 160161.
osrrnts .xr \.nir+v ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 45
It is of course true that in the period while the Temple still stood
two sages are specically attested as belonging both to the Pharisees
and to the hakhamim: Rabban Gamaliel and his son, Simon.
35
These
two are the only hakhamim described in extant Greek sources as
Pharisees, although, since the family was both prominent and rich,
there is no particular reason to attribute their evident inuence in
Judaean politics to their membership in either group.
36
It is naturally
possible that the ascription of these two individuals in one source to
the hakhamim and in another source to the Pharisees is explained by
the basic identity of these two groups, as is usually assumed, but it
is no less possible that an enthusiastic Jew could, if he so wished,
belong to more than one group at a time. There is indeed evidence
that just as it was possible to migrate from one variety of Judaism
to anotheras Josephus did, according to his autobiography (Vita,
1012)so it was possible to hold simultaneous membership in two
groups. Not all groups were tolerant of each otherthus it was pre-
sumably impossible to be both a Pharisee and a Sadduceebut other
combinations, such as Pharisaism and the Fourth Philosophy, were less
obviously contradictory (cf. Josephus, A.J., 18.4, 23). It may be best
to envisage the varieties of Judaism as a series of overlapping circles,
much as some eclectic Roman thinkers in the early empire found it
possible to align themselves with a number of dierent philosophies
at the same time. The notion of choice underlies the term hairesis,
used of all these varieties of Judaism not only by Josephus but also
by Philo and the author of the Acts of the Apostles.
37
Thus, what
made each group distinct was simply the fact that some individual
Jews chose to adopt its ideas and practices.
My intention has been to show how partial our knowledge of
Jewish history in this period really is. If we relied, as for other
religions in the Roman Empire, on the evidence of pagan authors,
archaeology and inscriptions, we would be unaware of any variety
within Judaism at all.
38
Hence our picture of the dierent types of
35
On Gamaliel, see Acts 5:3439 and 22:3; Mishna Orla 2:12, Rosh hashana 2:5,
Yebamot 16:7, Sotah 9:15, Gittin 4:23, and Abot 1:16; on Simon b. Gamaliel see Jos.,
Vita, 191; and Mishna Abot 1:17 and Keritot 1:7.
36
See Schfer, Der vorrabbinische Pharisaismus (above, note 19), p. 172.
37
See the examples gathered by Baumgarten in The Flourishing of Jewish Sects
(above, note 24), p. 3.
38
See my article, Jews, Greeks and Romans, in M. Goodman (ed.), Jews in a
Graeco-Roman World, Oxford 1998, pp. 314.
46 cn.r+rn +nnrr
Judaism relies wholly on the sources preserved, for religious purposes,
by later Jewish and Christian traditions. Since much of the mate-
rial found in each of these traditions is lacking in the other, it is
obvious that both traditions have been highly selective, and it was
always likely that there existed further material which was ignored by
both. The Dead Sea scrolls provided historians with precisely such
material, and their signicance should not be weakened by forcing
what they tell us into the straitjacket of what was already known
from other sources.
Hence, the number of varieties of Judaism that existed at the end
of the Second Temple period must be judged even greater than what
emerges from simply reading Josephus. According to the Jerusalem
Talmud, Sanhedrin 29c, R. Yohanan stated that Israel did not go
into exile until there were twenty-four sects of minim. It is not clear
precisely what constituted a sect of minim, but R. Yohanan would
seem to have reckoned that there were at least twenty-ve types of
Judaism before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CEone accept-
able variety and twenty-four others. I would not advocate reliance
on R. Yohanans mathematics, but I would suggest that in essence
he was just about right.
CHAPTER FOUR
THE TEMPLE IN FIRST
-
CENTURY CE JUDAISM
Among the many aspects of the Jews and Judaism that seemed odd
to non-Jews in the ancient world, worship through oerings and
sacrices in the Temple in Jerusalem was not included. Greeks and
Romans found Jews amusing, occasionally admirable, and (sometimes)
disgusting, because of their strange customs, such as stopping work
on the Sabbath, their distinctive food laws, and the circumcision of
males (Stern 197484; Feldman 1993). But the attitudes of Greeks
and Romans to the Jerusalem Temple in the nal century of its
existence, after it had been rebuilt magnicently in the Roman man-
ner by Herod the Great, was primarily admiration (Tacitus, Histories
5.8.1). To worship through oering sacricial animals, libations, and
incense on special altars in areas consecrated and puried by dedi-
cated priests was standard religious behaviour for almost everyone
in the ancient world (Beard, North and Price 1998). It was also not
just part but the centre of the religious life of the Jews, a fact whose
importance has faded somewhat over the past two millennia as both
Jews and Christians (and, later, Muslims) have learned other ways
to worship, without a Temple.
The Jerusalem Temple is in fact, or at least should be, much better
known than any other temple system in the ancient world precisely
because these later Jews and Christians preserved so much evidence
about the way that the Temple operated. For no other temple does
there survive a record of sacricial ritual as detailed as the lengthy
discussions in the Mishnah and the Tosefta. For no other temple do
we have a long rst-hand description by a priest who had known the
cult from the inside, as Josephus did. The happy chance that so much
literary material about the Temple was kept by these two dierent
religious traditionsrabbinic Judaism and Christianityprovides a
unique opportunity to gauge in what ways the Temple mattered to
ordinary Jews in the generations immediately prior to its destruction
(Sanders 1992: 47169, 30514; Hayward 1996).
That the Temple was, in some sense at least, of supreme signi-
cance to the vast majority of Jews may be surmised from a single
48 cn.r+rn rotn
traumatic episode which occurred some thirty years before its demise.
Both the contemporary philosopher Philo and the (slightly younger)
historian Josephus narrate the reaction of Jews worldwide when the
crazy emperor Gaius Caligula attempted to install in the Temple
a statue of himself so that he might be worshipped there as divine
(Schrer 1973: 38896). Philo, who was in Rome at the time as
part of a delegation which had come to the capital to seek redress
for his home community in Alexandria in the diaspora after they
had suered pogroms, switched his eorts to try to counter this far
more serious threat to the whole Jewish nation. Agrippa I, grandson
of Herod the Great, a royal adventurer who had contrived to gain
the friendship of Caligula, risked both that friendship and his life
by protesting against the sacrilege. The Jews of Judaea and Galilee
staged a sit-down strike to prevent a Roman army marching on
Jerusalem with the statue. In the event, calamity was averted by the
assassination of the tyrant emperor, but not before Jews all over the
Roman world had been spurred into collective outrage in a way not
recorded either in earlier crises or in the national traumas of the
two later great revolts in Judaea in 6670 and 132135 CE or the
diaspora uprising of 115117 CE.
Precise details of the appearance of the Temple just before 70 CE
are much debated, not for lack of information but because the evi-
dence of Josephus (Ant. 15.41020; War 5.184227; Apion 2.102109)
does not cohere in all respects with that in the Mishnah (Avigad
1984). Excavations around the Temple site have brought clarity only
to a small selection of the resulting problems of interpretation. The
most probable explanation of most of the discrepancies is not that
either source is wholly wrong but that the lay-out of the building
changed over time (Levine 1994): one extra item of knowledge which
is furnished by archaeology is that Josephuss references to structural
work on the building having continued almost up to the outbreak
of the Great Revolt in 66 CE seem to be correct.
But if details are sometimes hazy, the general picture is not.
The Temple was huge compared to other shrines in the Roman
empirerivalled by the great temples of Egyptfor the good reason
that whereas devotees of other cults built local shrines, Jews, with few
exceptions, directed their pious oerings to just the one place. The
main impression in the main courts was spacewhere the enclosed
perimeter of a normal pagan temple had trees, votive oerings and
statues, the Jerusalem shrine had a vast piazza for worshippers to
+nr +rvrrr ix rins+-crx+tnv cr tr.isv 49
gather (Pseudo-Hecataeus in Josephus, Apion 1.199), the whole area
preserved, according to Philo (Spec. Laws 1.74, 156), in a state of
exceptional cleanliness. The walls and doors surrounding the court
were brightly decorated both with objects dedicated by individuals
(such as a golden chain dedicated in memory of his release from
captivity by Agrippa I [ Josephus, Ant. 19.294], or the gilded gate
donated by a certain Nicanor according to the Mishnah [m. Yoma
3.10]), and with outstanding works of art, such as the golden vine
( Josephus, War 5.210), which proved suciently famous to come
to the attention of the gentile historian Tacitus (Histories 5.5.5), or
the huge purple, blue and scarlet embroidered tapestries on which
a panorama of the heavens (excluding the zodiac) was apparently
portrayed ( Josephus, War 5.21213). It was a sparkling stage set for
the worshippers who came to throng the great open space whose
size and capacity had been massively increased by Herods use of
modern Roman techniques of vaulting to extend a platform along
the side of the hill.
Not that a capacity crowd was normal. On ordinary weekdays,
the courts must have felt quite empty, since the daily communal
ritual all took place in a restricted area around the court of the
priests where the animals were sacriced, burned and (in some cases)
eaten, and the libations were poured. The actors in this solemn ritual
were all priests, qualied to serve by inheritance through the male
line. Physical impairment would disbar a priest from his duties, but
otherwise birthrather than skill, piety or knowledgewas the only
criterion (Schrer 1979: 237308). Doubtless the caste preserved its
own traditions handed down through the generations, but for the
great mass of non-priestly Jews too much was at stake in what the
priests did for their conduct to be left entirely without outside scrutiny
and (occasionally) interference (Goodman 2000).
The rules of the sacrices carried out by the priests on behalf of
the nation were divinely ordained in the Torah. In marked contrast
to pagan cults, in which worshippers themselves decided what they
thought the gods wanted and judged their success by what they
saw as signs of divine pleasure or displeasure, in the Jerusalem
Temple the procedures were laid out by the divine recipient of the
oerings, a precise menu with a precise set of times for the meals
to be served. In other cults, in times of emergency regular sacrices
could be postponed, with the understanding that the gods would be
willing to wait. By contrast, the divine timetable of Sabbaths, new
50 cn.r+rn rotn
moons and festivals cannot be altered by humans (Holladay and
Goodman 1986). Hence widespread concern among non-priests that
the oerings made by the priests should be carried out in accordance
with the divine will, and the disputes among dierent groups, such
as Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes, on the correct calendar or
on matters of intricate cultic detail such as the purity of the priest
who carried out the ritual of the red heifer (m. Par. 3.7). The extra-
ordinary nd at Qumran of multiple copies of Miqat ma'a hattr,
a letter from the Dead Sea sectarians to the High Priest urging him
to follow their rulings in such matters, provides evidence of just such
attempted interference in the public procedures in the Temple even
by a fringe group (Qimron and Strugnell 1994).
Beyond the writing of letters and occasional mass demonstrations,
the control by non-priests over the day-to-day running of the Temple
was indirect at best, and it is hard to know how often ordinary Jews
would go into the Temple precincts for worship. Within Jerusalem,
the Temple was the main arena for public meetings of all kindsit
was here, for instance, that the rst Jewish Christians preached
their message (Acts 2.4647; 5.21, 42)but there is no evidence
that individuals would go specially to the building for private prayer
unless they wished to present a private sacrice of their own. There
was in theory no limit to the number of such sin, guilt and other
private oerings one could bring (Sanders 1992: 8990), buying an
animal (usually a bird) from the noisy livestock compounds in the
royal portico on the southern edge of the Temple platform and then
handing it to a priest, who would carry out the slaughter on your
behalf (Sanders 1992; Goodman 1994a). In practice, the fact that
no-one, however pious, could bring an oering for every possible
sin must have made such oerings essentially voluntary, a matter
of individual conscience (or, for the insecure, an issue on which to
seek guidance from a religious expert of one persuasion or another).
It is a reasonable hypothesis that inhabitants of Jerusalem brought
oerings to the Temple more often than those who lived further
away, although demonstrating that physical distance created any
dierence in attitude to the Temple as an institution is not possible
(Goodman 1999b).
The experience of the individual worshipper was altogether dierent
on the days of festivals. According to Josephus (War 6.42027), there
were 2,700,000 men in Jerusalem for the Passover of 65 CE, to which
number should be added women and children. Josephuss gure is
+nr +rvrrr ix rins+-crx+tnv cr tr.isv 51
not trustworthy, but the impression of a vast crowd such as can
still be seen today in Mecca is conrmed by numerous stories about
the political volatility of these occasions, which in the rst century
CE all too often provided opportunity for riots and assassinations
( Josephus, Ant. 20.18687). The international avour of the pilgrim
crowd was much boosted in these nal years not just because Herods
rebuilding programme had made the Temple a tourist attraction
even for non-Jews, but because, following the eradication of piracy
by Pompey the Great and the imposition of Roman rule over the
whole Mediter ranean world, diaspora Jews from all over that world
could, and did, travel with a fair degree of safety to Judaea to pay
their respects and their dues (Goodman 1999a [Chapter 5 below]).
Attendance at such festivals was evidently enjoyable, since there is
good evidence that many women and children went up to Jerusalem
even though they had no requirement to do so (Safrai 1985). Part of
the impact on the individual will have lain in the feelings of antici-
pation, heightened by the purication procedures which preceded
entry into the Temple precincts ( Josephus, Apion 2.104). On arrival,
the worshipper was struck by the imposing architecture, the building
towering high above him, the precious metals and stones glinting in
the sun (cf. Pseudo-Philo, LAB 26)giving rise in descriptions of the
building to recurrent imagery of intense light (Hayward 1996: 1516).
Enmeshed within the crowd, the pilgrim who brought and took to
a priest a personal oering would not see much of what happened
to his or her animal in the court of priests when it was sacriced.
Women in particular will have had to strain to catch sight of what
was going on since they were conned at a further distance, in the
court of the women. But perhaps this did not matter, and distance
added an element of mystery and power. Cut o from the messy
business of the abattoir and butcher, the worshipper could gaze
in awe at the practised precision of the priests, who operated like
angels ( Jubilees 30.14), carrying out their duties in complete silence
(Pseudo-Aristeas 9295).
Not that the Temple as a whole can have been silent, or even
hushed. There was the sound of Levites singingpresumably, given
the acoustics of the open-air courtyard, providing background noise
rather than hymns with distinguishable words. There were occasional
blasts on the trumpet and the constant sound of animals on the
way to slaughter. The same animals must have given a distinctive
smell to the place, overlain with the scent of roast meat. Incense
52 cn.r+rn rotn
was of course oered up on the altar, but its scent will hardly have
percolated to the outer courts. In the summer heat of Jerusalem all
such smells will have dissipated quite rapidly in the open air, as will
the tang of human perspiration, hardly avoidable in such a crowd
despite the hope expressed by Ezekiel (44.18) that the priests at least
should avoid wearing any clothes that cause sweat.
It is easy, with empathy, to imagine the huge emotional impact
of the Temple on those who visited it two thousand years ago, but
the signicance of the Temple went much deeper than just the emo-
tion it elicited from the occasional visitor. The Temple was also an
institution of immense importance for those many Jews who were
never able to visit the Temple at all because it was too far away.
The extreme case was the universal horror, discussed above, at the
attempted desecration of the Temple by Gaius Caligula in 40 CE,
but, on a more mundane level, ordinary diaspora Jews in Asia
Minor, Rome or Babylonia demonstrated their commitment to the
public sacrices for Israel by the annual payment of a half-shekel to
Temple funds by each adult male. These payments involved sucient
transfer of wealth to come to the attention of Roman governors (and
encourage their rapacity) (cf. Cicero, Pro Flacco 28.6669). Josephus
described the existence in Leontopolis in Egypt of a second Jewish
temple, which operated for over two hundred years until it was shut
down by the Romans in c. 72 CE (War 7.42032; Ant. 13.6273),
but it was strikingly not to that temple that the great philosopher
Philo looked, despite his proximity to the site, but to Jerusalem. What
mattered to Philo, who seems only once to have visited Jerusalem but
who devised a complex allegorical interpretation of the details of the
Temple ritual, was the idea of the Temple cult (Sandmel 1979).
As a result, the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE will have
been an appalling disaster for diaspora Jews just as much as for
those in Judaea, even if the former had not been caught up in the
ghting. They could, and did, provide explanations, both theologi-
cal and secular, for what had happened (e.g. 4 Ezra; Josephus, War
6.127), but equally crucial was the question of what to do next.
The older history textbooks claim that the immediate reaction was
to start planning for a Judaism without a temple, a process led by
Yohanan b. Zakkai at Yavneh, but such behaviour, farsighted though
it turned out to be in practice, is not likely to have been standard
among ordinary Jews (cf. Goodman 1994b [Chapter 13 below]). For
them, the next step was entirely obvious. The Temple had been
+nr +rvrrr ix rins+-crx+tnv cr tr.isv 53
destroyed, so the task of Jews must be to ensure that, as rapidly as
possible, it be rebuilt.
In many ways, such an expectation was wholly reasonable. A
rebuilt Temple would not have to be as grand as that of Herod, or
even as impressive as the edice Herod had replaced. Once the site
was suciently cleared of rubble (a laborious task), the erection of
a modest sanctuary and altar would be a simple matter. Plenty of
priests survived to ociate, and presumably some still knew what
to do. Josephus (War 6.268) recorded that people were all too well
aware of the exactness of the cycle of Destiny which had delayed
the Temples fall until the precise month and day (as it was sup-
posed) when the Babylonians had destroyed the Temple of Solomon,
but in that case they will also have been aware that in due course a
new Temple had been built to replace it. Nor was such rebuilding
unique to the Jews. When other religious buildings burned down in
the Roman world, a not infrequent accident, it was a standard act
of pagan piety to permit their re-erection. Emperors before 66 CE
freely recognized the worth of the Jewish cult (cf. Josephus, War
2.413). Jews might well believe that it would be only a short time
before it began again.
Why, then, did it not happen? The answer for at least the next
one hundred and fty years, and perhaps down to the end of late
antiquity, does not seem to have been any lessening of desire on the
part of the Jews, but the refusal of the Roman state to permit the
Jews to behave like all other religious groups within the empire.
The reasons for this unique reluctance by Rome, a reluctance
which was to have enormous implications for later Judaism, in fact
had, at least in origin, little to do with the Jews at all. In the imme-
diate aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the rst priority
of the Roman emperor Vespasian was not the fate of the Jews but
his own position in the Roman state (Levick 1999). Appointed by
Nero in 66 CE to the command in Judaea, he had been selected
as general over so large a military force precisely because, although
he was militarily competent, he was politically insignicant and
would therefore pose no threat to the ( justiably) paranoid emperor
(Goodman 1987). Nero died in 68 CE following a coup, and was
succeeded the next year by no less than four claimants, of whom
Vespasian was the last. In practice, Vespasian thus came to power
through victory in civil war, but glorying in such an achievement
was not best calculated to endear him to his new subjects. Instead he
54 cn.r+rn rotn
chose, following the precedent of earlier usurpers (notably Augustus),
to parade himself as conqueror of foreign enemies dangerous to the
state. The only enemies about whom he could possibly make such
a claim were the Jews, whom his son Titus subdued in August 70
at great speed, with exceptional ferocity, and with unusual disregard
for the loss of Roman soldiers, precisely in order to consolidate as
rapidly as possible the propaganda benets for his imperial image
(Goodman 1987: 236).
According to Josephus (War 6.23866) Titus (and presumably also
Vespasian) had not intended that the Temple should be burned.
Since previous emperors had valued highly the Jews practice of
oering sacrices in the Temple for the well-being of the emperors
themselves, it is not at all unlikely that original Roman war aims
involved the re-establishment of the Temple cult under the leader-
ship of pro-Roman high priests such as had cooperated with the
Roman state since direct Roman rule was rst imposed in Judaea
in 6 CE. But once the Temple was destroyed, neither Vespasian
nor Titus could safely apologize, since, if the destruction was not
portrayed as deliberate, it had to be the product of an incompetent
failure of discipline by the commanders on the ground, and would
constitute an act of the greatest impiety which would besmirch the
record of the new regime.
In any case, no apology was forthcoming. On the contrary, the
utensils of the Temple were paraded in their triumph in Rome and
displayed as booty in the temple of Pax near the Forum ( Josephus,
War 7.15862), and all Jews were compelled to pay a symbolic spe-
cial annual Jewish tax of two denarii to Jupiter Capitolinus in place
of the contribution that adult Jewish males had previously sent to
Jerusalem ( Josephus, War 7.218). It must have been hard for the
Jews, preoccupied with the aftermath of national defeat, to compre-
hend the reasons for this Roman recalcitrance, and their growing
frustration, culminating in the disastrous defeat of Bar Kochba, can
be traced through the next sixty-ve years.
In 96 CE the Flavian dynasty founded by Vespasian and Titus
came to an end with the murder of Domitian, Tituss younger
brother. The new emperor, Nerva, had not been involved in the
Judaean war, and the legends on some of his coins, which proclaim
a major change in the collection of the Jewish tax, even perhaps
its abolition, suggest that he was willing to allow the Jews to return
to their earlier state as a protected minority religion within the
+nr +rvrrr ix rins+-crx+tnv cr tr.isv 55
variegated and multicultural empire ruled by Rome (Shotter 1983).
It was almost certainly at this time that Josephus wrote in his last
published work, Contra Apionem (rmly dated only to between 93 and
c. 100 CE), that Jews have only the one Temple in which to worship,
using the past tense when referring to the Temple building but the
present tense when referring to worship within it ( Josephus, Apion
2.102109, 193199; cf. Bauckham 1996).
The dashing of these entirely reasonable hopes seems to have
come about for reasons that, once again, the Jews can hardly have
anticipated, or ever fully understood. Nerva was an old man when
he became emperor in mid-96 CE, and quite soon after his acces-
sion, his bodyguard, the praetorian cohorts on whom he relied for
his personal security, compelled him to adopt a suitable son and
heir so as to avoid the uncertainty about the succession which had
proven so politically damaging in Rome over the past century (Grin
2000). Nerva chose a young army commander named M. Ulpius
Traianus, the future emperor Trajan. As luck would have it, the
fortune of Trajans previously obscure family had been made, like
that of Vespasian, some thirty years earlier in the Judaean war, when
his father, also called Traianus, had commanded a legion against
the Jewish rebels (Alfldy 1998 and 2000). Any hope that the Jewish
Temple might be rehabilitated within Roman society was lost.
The long-term consequences were immense. Towards the end
of Trajans rule, in 115 CE, a violent Jewish insurrection erupted
in Egypt, Cyrene, Cyprus and Mesopotamia. Our sources of evi-
denceall either Christian or pagan, since the rabbis were silent
on the whole awful aairgive no reason for the uprising, but the
obvious cause will have been frustration at the continuing refusal
of Rome to allow the Temple to be rebuilt (Goodman 1992; contra
Horbury 1996).
The nal suppression of the revolt in 117 CE coincided with the
death of Trajan (Pucci 1981), and his successor, Hadrian, was at rst
too occupied in securing his own position within the Roman state to
have time to deal fully with the Jews. When he did so, eventually,
it was in characteristically thorough fashion (Birley 1997). In 130
CE he decided to expunge the name of Jerusalem altogether and to
found upon the site of the city a miniature Rome, the Roman colony
Aelia Capitolina (Cassius Dio 69.12.12). The Jews rebelled for the
freedom of Jerusalem, as their coins proclaimed, led by Simon bar
Kosiba, acclaimed Bar Kochba by his admirers (Mildenberg 1984).
56 cn.r+rn rotn
But resistance was in vain. In 135 CE the defeated province was
renamed Syria Palaestina, Jews were forbidden to remain in their
homeland, and the possibility of rebuilding the Temple faded into
the distant future (Eck 1999).
This whole sorry tale of frustrated hope attests to the continuing
centrality of the Jerusalem Temple in the religious lives of the Jews
both in the homeland and in the diaspora even many years after
its destruction. Some have argued that the detailed descriptions of
the Temple and its rituals found in the Mishnah, redacted some
seventy years or so after Bar Kochba, were idealizing and never
intended to reect the real institution (Neusner 1979), but there is
no evidence to support this view and it seems more reasonable to
assume that the reason for their intense discussions of the way that
sacrices should be oered was that the tannaim generally hoped
for a return to temple worship in their own days.
It is dicult to judge precisely when this hope faded and was
projected instead on to the future state of Israel in the days of the
Messiah, but a point by which at least some Jews appear to have
reconciled themselves to life without the Temple may be discerned
in the mid-fourth century CE, when, in 362 CE, the emperor Julian,
who had once been a Christian but had apostatized to paganism,
decided that a good way to infuriate his former co-religionists was to
rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Avi-Yonah 1976: 185207).
Rebuilding started, but the attempt eventually came to nothing
because Julian died soon after, in 363 CE, while on campaign. The
Christian sources narrate in horried tones the start of rebuilding
and the enthusiasm of the Jews, but, so far as is known from sur-
viving manuscripts of rabbinic texts composed in Palestine in the
fourth century and later, this was not an enthusiasm shared by the
rabbis, who (if the surviving manuscripts give an accurate picture)
seem almost totally to have ignored what had happened.
It is possible, then, that at least among the rabbis, by the mid-fourth
century hopes for the rebuilding no longer looked to the immediate
future. On the other hand, it is certain that the signicance of the
Temple priests remained powerful for some Jews at least for the
rest of late antiquity, as can be seen from the frequent references
to the priestly courses in fthsixth century Palestinian synagogue
mosaics and the prominence of priests in Palestinian poetry ( piyy)
of this period (Irshai 2003). Such attitudes may largely have been
the product of eschatological expectation, but it is not impossible
+nr +rvrrr ix rins+-crx+tnv cr tr.isv 57
that they were also practical and mundane. By the twelfth century
CE it was possible for Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed 3.32, 46)
to refer to the whole system of sacricial worship as a regrettable
stage through which Jews had to go in order to wean them from
worse practices (though even then such an attitude was by no means
standard; cf. the view of Nahmanides, Commentary on Lev. 1.9), but by
then Jews lived in a wholly dierent world in which neither Christians
nor Muslims saw a role for sacrices. It would be unsurprising if
the eventual fading of Jewish hopes for the Temple service to be
restored in the immediate non-eschatological future were linked, like
so much in Jewish history, to developments in the culture of the
surrounding world.
Binrioon.rnv
Alfldy, G. (1998) Traianus Pater und die Bauinschrift des Nymphums von Milet,
Revue des Etudes Anciennes 100: 36799.
Avigad, N. (1984) Discovering Jerusalem (Oxford: Basil Blackwell).
Avi-Yonah, M. (1976) The Jews of Palestine (Oxford: Basil Blackwell).
Bauckham, R. (1996) Josephus Account of the Temple in Contra Apionem 2. 102
109, in L.H. Feldman and J.R. Levison (eds.), Studies in Josephus Contra Apionem
(Leiden: E.J. Brill): 32747.
Beard, M., J.A. North and S.R.F. Price (1998) Religions of Rome (2 vols.; Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press).
Birley, A.R. (1997) Hadrian: The Restless Emperor (London: Routledge).
Busink, Th.A. (1978, 1980) Der Tempel von Jerusalem (2 vols.; Leiden: E.J. Brill).
Eck, W. (1999) The Bar Kochba Revolt: The Roman Point of View, JRS 89:
7689.
Feldman, L.H. (1993) Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press).
Goodman, M. (1987) The Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against
Rome, AD 6670 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
(1992) Diaspora Reactions to the Destruction of the Temple, in J.D.G. Dunn
(ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, AD 70 to 135 (Tbingen: J.C.B.
Mohr [Paul Siebeck]): 2738.
(1994a) E.P. Sanders Judaism: Practice and Belief; SJT 47.1: 8995.
(1994b) Sadducees and Essenes after 70 CE, in S.E. Porter, P. Joyce and
D.E. Orton (eds.), Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of
Michael Goulder (Leiden: E.J. Brill): 34756.
(1999a) The Pilgrimage Economy of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period,
in L.I. Levine (ed.), Jerusalem: Its Sanctity and Centrality to Judaism, Christianity and
Islam (New York: Continuum): 6976.
(1999b) Galilean Judaism and Judaean Judaism, in W.D. Davies and
W. Horbury (eds.), The Cambridge History of Judaism (3 vols. so far; Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press), III: 596617.
(2000) Josephus and Variety in First-Century Judaism, Proceedings of the Israel
Academy of Sciences and Humanities 7.6: 20113.
Grin, M. (2000) Nerva, in A.K. Bowman, P. Garnsey and D. Rathbone (eds.),
58 cn.r+rn rotn
The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn):
XI, 8496.
Hayward, C.T.R. (1996) The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Source Book (London:
Routledge).
Holladay, A.J., and M. Goodman (1986) Religious Scruples in Ancient Warfare,
Classical Quarterly 36: 15171.
Horbury, W. (1996) The Beginnings of the Jewish Revolt under Trajan, in H.
Cancik, H. Lichtenberger and P. Schfer (eds.), Geschichte TraditionReexion.
Festschrift fr Martin Hengel zum 70 Geburtstag (3 vols.; Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul
Siebeck]): I, 283304.
Irshai, O. (2003) The Role of the Priesthood in the Jewish Community in Late
Antiquity: A Christian Model?, in C. Cluse, A. Haverkamp and I.J. Yuval (eds.),
Jdische Gemeinden und ihr christlicher Kontext in kulturrumlich vergleichender Betrachtung
(5.18. Jahrhundert) (Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden, 13; Hanover: Verlag
Hahnsche Buchhandlung): 7585.
Jacobson, D.M. (199091) The Plan of Herods Temple, Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel
Archaeological Society 10: 3666.
Levick, B. (1999) The Emperor Vespasian (London: Routledge).
Levine, L.I. (1994) Josephus Description of the Jerusalem Temple, in F. Parente
and J. Sievers (eds.), Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in
Memory of Morton Smith (Studia Post-Biblica, 41; Leiden: E.J. Brill): 23346.
Mildenberg, L. (1984) The Coinage of the Bar Kokhba War (Aarau: Sauerlnder).
Neusner, J. (1979) Map without Territory: Mishnahs System of Sacrice and
Sanctuary, History of Religions 19: 10327.
Pucci, M. (1981) La Rivolta Ebraica al tempo di Traiano (Pisa: Giardini).
Qimron, E., and J. Strugnell (eds.) (1994) Qumran Cave 4, V: Miqat Ma'ae Ha-Torah
(DJD, 10. Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Safrai, S. (1985) Pilgrimage at the Time of the Second Temple ( Jerusalem: Akademon,
2nd edn [Hebrew]).
Sanders, E.P. (1992) Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE66 CE (London: SCM
Press).
Sandmel, S. (1979) Philo of Alexandria: An Introduction (New York and Oxford: Oxford
Uni versity Press).
Schrer, E. (197387) The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (3 vols.
in 4; revised G. Vermes et al.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Shotter, D.C.A. (1983) The Principate of Nerva, Some Observations on the Coin
Evidence, Historia 32: 21823.
Stern, M. (ed.) (197484) Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (3 vols.; Jerusalem:
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities).
CHAPTER FIVE
THE PILGRIMAGE ECONOMY OF JERUSALEM IN THE
SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD
There have been many general studies of the economy of Jerusalem
in the late Second Temple period.
1
It is clear that, despite social
tensions engendered by the inequitable distribution of wealth, this
was an exceptionally prosperous society.
2
The basis of such prosperity
can hardly have been the exploitation of the agrarian hinterland in
the Judaean hills which, despite the panegyrical remarks of Josephus
(War 3, 4950), was too poor and too far from the coast for the
encouragement of cash crops for interregional trade. Jerusalem did
not lie on any important trade route. Nor was prosperity a product
of the political role of the city in the Herodian period and under
Roman procuratorial rule, for the government of Judaea was often
based elsewhere than Jerusalem and, in marked context to Ptolemaic
Alexandria, Jerusalem never developed a society and economy based
around a royal court. The wealth of Jerusalem derived in one form
or another from its sanctity. It is a truism that without its religious
role Jerusalem would never have become a major city; specically,
although by the end of the Second Temple period the city may have
attracted wealthy visitors to study or to settle in an exciting inter-
national atmosphere, the main cause of prosperity was the presence
of the Temple. The aim of this paper will be to explore the role in
the economy of mass pilgrimage and, in particular, the signicance
of pilgrimage from abroad.
In theory, the economic impact of pilgrimage should have been
immense. According to the Torah (Ex. 23:17; Deut. 16:16), every
adult Jewish male was required to visit the Temple three times each
year, and although the total size the Jewish population in this period
is unknown, it was undoubtedly very large indeed.
3
Comparison with
1
For example, J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (London, 1969).
2
M. Goodman, The Ruling Class of Judaea: the Origins of the Jewish Revolt against
Rome AD 6670 (Cambridge, 1987), 5175.
3
For estimates of the size of the Jewish population, see L.H. Feldman, Jew and
Gentile in the Ancient World (Princeton, 1993), 293, 55556.
60 cn.r+rn ri\r
the history of Mecca in more recent times encourages speculation
that much of Jerusalems society might have been bound up in the
service industries required by pilgrims, so that the periodic pilgrim
festivals might have become the harvest of the city,
4
although
since Jerusalem did at least have some indigenous economic base,
the city would not have been as totally dependent on visitors as
Mecca became.
5
Some aspects of the pilgrimage process and its importance in later
Second Temple Judaism can be derived from explicit evidence in
the ancient sources, particularly the writings of Josephus and early
rabbinic texts.
6
Visitors might use tents (Ant. 17, 21317) but often
they needed to be given accommodation by institutions
7
or indi-
viduals (Mark 11:11), for which they might pay in cash or in kind
(as envisaged in T Ma'aser Sheni 1:12). They needed food, drink,
luxuries, and souvenirs, and it is reasonable to assume that the
craftsmen of the city, who greeted the pilgrims on arrival according
to M Bikkurim 3:3, took advantage of the market for their goods.
Pilgrims tended to stay not just for the minimum period required,
but for the whole festival period, often bringing with them their
wives and children, even though the latter were under no obligation
to visit the Temple at all.
8
Proper performance of pilgrimage with-
out considerable expenditure was more or less impossible, however
cheaply the pilgrim tried to live, since, according to early rabbinic
texts, there was a requirement for the money earned in exchange
for the second tithe (Deut. 14:26) to be spent by the pilgrim while
within the boundaries of the city.
9
It is unlikely that every adult male Jew visited Jerusalem at the
same time, but ancient comments on the impact of pilgrimage in the
rst century CE make it clear that the festivals were very crowded.
The interest of the sources lies naturally not in economics but in the
4
M.N. Pearson, Pious Passengers: the Hajj in Earlier Times (London, 1994), 172
87.
5
F.E. Peters, Jerusalem and Mecca: the Typology of the Holy City in the Near East (New
York and London, 1986).
6
See especially S. Safrai, Pilgrimage in the Time of the Second Temple
2
( Jerusalem,
1985) (Hebrew). See also J. Feldman, La circulation de la Tora: les plerinages
au second Temple, La Socit juive travers lhistoire, IV, ed. S. Trigano (Paris,
199293), 16178.
7
J.-B. Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Judaicarum, II (Rome, 1952), no. 1404.
8
Safrai (above, note 6), chapter 6.
9
E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief (London, 1992), 12829.
+nr rirniv.or rcoxovv or rnts.rrv 61
political volatility which resulted from the presence of huge numbers
of people (War 2, 224 and elsewhere). Passover was apparently a
particularly popular pilgrimage time (Ant. 17, 214), but the Pentecost
and Tabernacles festivals were also well attended. Numbers in ancient
texts are always hard to evaluate, but Josephus clearly intended
to impress his readers when he gave the gure of 2,700,000 male
pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the Passover in 66 CE (War 6,
425); the size of the citys normal population is unknown, but even
the highest estimate is under a quarter of a million.
10
As Philo remarked with pride, these pilgrims came from all over
the Jewish world: they were thousands of men from thousands of
cities (Special Laws 1, 69). Such mass international pilgrimage is not
attested for any other cult in the Roman empire, for the simple
reason that only Jews insisted (at least in theory) both that only
one Temple was a valid place for sacrices and that all adult male
devotees of the cult were duty bound to make regular obeisance
there. Other shrines, like the sanctuary of Asclepius at Pergamum
or Artemis at Perge, also hosted regular large gatherings,
11
but these
festivals were essentially local aairs for the surrounding region. A
devotee of Asclepius in Italy would usually visit a shrine to the god
closer to home than Pergamum, and would see no value in the long
trek to Asia Minor; pagan pilgrims who embarked on long journeys
were the exception, not the rule.
12
It seems clear that mass international pilgrimage was a feature of
Judaism which distinguished it from other religions, thus explain-
ing the nervousness of the Roman authorities at the potentiality for
political unrest among such huge crowds. It is worth comparing the
caution of Trajan when asked by Pliny the Younger about setting
up a re brigade in Nicomedia in Bithynia (Letters 10, 3334). It
is also likely (if unprovable) that such pilgrimage was to prove an
important element in the prosperity of the city in the last century
of its existence. Below I shall investigate a question which, I think,
has not been previously asked by scholars: when did such mass
international pilgrimage start?
10
See the gures quoted by Feldman (above, note 3).
11
R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven, 1981), 2526.
12
Ibid., 29.
62 cn.r+rn ri\r
It has been noted before that no reference to international pilgrim-
age can be found in any source referring to the period before Herod.
13

I would like to suggest that this silence may not be accidental. It
seems to me signicant that nothing about such pilgrimage can be
found in the glowing description of Jerusalem found in Ps. Aristeas
to Philocrates 83120, a text composed probably in the mid-second
century BCE, or in the writings of any of the Greek and Latin
gentile authors who wrote about Jews before the mid-rst century
BCE
14
despite the fact that mass movements across international
borders would have been very noticeable in the late Hellenistic period,
with Jews coming from Alexandria (in Ptolemaic territory until 31
BCE) or Babylonia (in Parthian territory). Both Jewish and non-Jewish
writers referred quite frequently to the transfer of money from the
Diaspora to the Temple. This was the theme of Cicero (On Behalf
of Flaccus 28), Josephus described it as an ancient custom (Ant. 14,
185267; 16, 16078), and according to Bar. 1:1014 Babylonian
Jews sent money (rather than themselves) to Jerusalem for oerings
and prayers to be made on their behalf in the holy city on the feast
days. None of these sources, however, refers to Diaspora pilgrim-
age. It seems likely that the pilgrimage feasts before Herods time
involved essentially only local Jews from the land of Israel; the vastly
expanded Temple court which Herod was to build would eventually
be lled to overowing, but no source suggests a problem with lack
of space in the Temple before then.
If mass pilgrimage began in Herods reign, how did it come about?
By chance, perhaps. It is notoriously hard to gauge the intentions
of individuals from their actions. But it seems to me more likely
that the prime motivator was Herod himself. Herod was a remark-
able businessman, speculator, and entrepreneur,
15
and had initiated
numerous complex nancial schemes.
16
It is hard to believe that he
was unaware of the economic consequences of the upsurge in the
number of visitors to Jerusalem during his rule, especially when
his own expenditure did so much to support it (see below). It was
13
Safrai (above, note 6), 55.
14
See the authors cited in volume I of M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews
and Judaism ( Jerusalem, 1974).
15
M. Grant, Herod the Great (London, 1971), 173.
16
See especially E. Gabba, The Finances of King Herod, Greece and Rome in
Eretz Israel: Collected Essays, eds. A. Kasher et al. ( Jerusalem, 1990), 16068.
+nr rirniv.or rcoxovv or rnts.rrv 63
unlikely that Diaspora pilgrimage would have become popular unless
it was encouraged. Diaspora Jews were not tied into the Temple
service by the close links of the ma'amad system, which apparently
applied only to inhabitants of the land of Israel.
17
It is possible that
the loyalty to Jerusalem of the huge Jewish population of Egypt (and
especially Alexandria) was threatened by the competing attractions
of the shrine at Leontopolis, although concern about such competi-
tion cannot be proved. Josephus even hints that pilgrims were only
expected to go up to Jerusalem from the ends of the land which
the Hebrews shall conquer (Ant. 4, 203). It was a product not of
a change of halakha from the biblical requirement, but of custom,
that Diaspora Jews had come to assume that they were not required
to visit the Temple three times a year. If their custom was to alter,
they would have to wish to go.
Herod had good economic reasons to encourage pilgrimage from
the Diaspora. The kingdom of Judaea, granted to him and captured
for him by the Roman state,
18
lacked more than a few capital assets.
There was a limit to the wealth to be derived from natural resources
such as the balsam groves of 'En Gedi, and Judaea was not well
suited to bring in a large income from agricultural exports. The only
real asset of the kingdom to be exploited was the status of Jerusalem
as a religious center, and that is what Herod set out to do.
The time was propitious for the venture. The pax Romana permitted
freedom of movement throughout much of the world inhabited by
Jews, particularly after the suppression of Mediterranean piracy by
Pompey in 67 BCE.
19
After 31 BCE, the huge Alexandrian Jewish
community was, like Judaea, integrated into the Roman empire;
the Jews of Syria and Asia Minor had been incorporated within
the empire earlier. The Babylonian community remained under
Parthian rule at this time, but trading contacts between the empires
multiplied, as is evident from the sudden prosperity of the caravan
city of Palmyra,
20
which facilitated communications of other kinds.
In any event, the brief episode of Parthian control over Judaea in
17
On the ma'amad, see M Ta'anit 4:23.
18
On Herods accession to power, see Josephus, Ant. 14, 38193.
19
See P. Greenhalgh, Pompey: the Roman Alexander (London, 1980), 91100.
20
On Palmyra, see J. Starcky and M. Gawlikowski, Palmyra
2
(Paris, 1985), 3642;
E. Will, Les Palmyrniens: la venise des sables (Paris, 1992), 3346.
64 cn.r+rn ri\r
4037 BCE
21
initiated far closer relations between Palestinian and
Babylonian Jews than had been known for many centuries.
22
Even
if Herods Hasmonaean predecessors thought of encouraging mass
pilgrimage (which is unknown, although many of them invested in
the repair of the Temple itself), political instability would have made
it dicult.
23
By contrast, Herod chose the right time.
The economic advantages brought by such pilgrims were multifari-
ous. Pilgrims helped to protect delivery of the oerings sent to the
Temple, even by those who did not themselves go up to worship (cf.
Ant. 17, 31213, on the caravans which came from Babylon); accord-
ing to T Sheqalim 2:3, which may or may not be based on anything
more than speculation, the oerings from remote lands were a rich
source of Temple income. Jews from the Mediterranean Diaspora
seem to have picked up from their gentile compatriots the practice
of euergetism, apparently uncommon among Judaean Jews outside
the Herodian family. Thus, the gates of the Temple were plated
with gold by Alexander the Alabarch, who came from Alexandria
(War 5, 201206), and there are other examples of such conspicu-
ous expenditure by individuals in search of prestige.
24
Visitors were
bound to spend money on the purchase of souvenirs,
25
and although
it is impossible to tell precisely when the non-biblical requirement
to spend all second tithe money in Jerusalem became current,
26
it is
probable that it was in operation in Herods time.
How could Herod set about attracting Diaspora pilgrims to the
holy city? The dictatorial methods he used in the administration of
Judaea
27
would hardly work in this case, since he lacked any formal
powers outside his kingdom, but he was an expert at diplomacy, as
shown by his ability to prosper through the Roman civil wars. The
examples of the capitalist schemes of the Ptolemies in Egypt and the
21
E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, eds.
G. Vermes et al., 3 vols. (Edinburgh, 197387), I, 27883.
22
On Herod and the Jews of Babylonia, see J. Neusner, A History of the Jews of
Babylonia, I: The Parthian Period, rev. ed. (Leiden, 1969), 3439.
23
I owe this observation to Ed Sanders.
24
On the inscription near the Temple by a Jew from Rhodes, see B. Isaac, A
Donation for Herods Temple in Jerusalem, IEJ 33 (1983), 8692.
25
See M. Del Verme, Giudaismo e Nuovo Testamento: il caso delle Decime (Naples,
1989), 19497.
26
J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (London, 1969), 9.
27
A. Schalit, Knig Herodes: der Mann und sein Werk (Berlin, 1969).
+nr rirniv.or rcoxovv or rnts.rrv 65
radical reorganization of Rome by Augustus after Actium undoubt-
edly inuenced his general policies, but in this case only indirectly.
Some methods of encouragement were simply practical. Herod
protected the pilgrimage route from Babylonia by installing a military
colony in Batanaea (Ant. 17, 2931), although there is no evidence
that he encouraged a network of protected pilgrimage routes for the
Mediterranean Jews; on the contrary, arrival at his new port city
of Caesarea would have presented a disconcerting rst view of the
holy land for pious Jews, since the temple of Rome and Augustus
dominated the harbor.
28
The Temple provided, either through its
own sta or by leasing space to entrepreneurs, good facilities for
the exchange of foreign currencies (M Sheqalim 2:1, 4), but Herods
only obvious contribution to this service was the building of the great
basilica in which it was probably housed.
More signicant, perhaps, were Herods eorts to alter Diaspora
attitudes to the Temple to make Diaspora Jews feel that pilgrimage
would be worthwhile. Among more blatant moves was the appoint-
ment of high priests from the principal Diaspora communities, such
as the Babylonian Hananel, and Jesus b. Phiabi and Boethus, both
from Egypt. This preference for non-Judaean priests as incumbents
of the highest oce has often been discussed as part of the suppres-
sion of the local Jewish elite,
29
but it is reasonable also to emphasize
its eect in raising the prole of Diaspora Jews in Jerusalem. Herod
in any case maintained contact with many Diaspora communities,
portraying himself as their protector throughout the Roman empire,
much as Hyrcanus had done before him; in this case, his patronage
may have bought the king prestige in the eyes of his Roman mas-
ters by showing him to be a ruler with a constituency wider than
just Judaea, and the promotion of pilgrimage may only have been
a secondary motive.
30
It is plausible to postulate a similar dual motive for the single action
by Herod most likely to have stimulated pilgrimagethe rebuilding
of the Temple. Rebuilding began in 20/19 BCE and was basically
28
On the buildings of Caesarea, see K.G. Holum and R.L. Hohlfelder (eds.), King
Herods Dream: Caesarea on the Sea (London and New York, 1988), 72105.
29
See especially M. Stern, Social and Political Realignments in Herodian Judaea,
The Jerusalem Cathedra, III, ed. L.I. Levine ( Jerusalem, 1982), 4062.
30
Josephus, Ant. 16, 2765; cf. Schrer (above, note 21), I, 319.
66 cn.r+rn ri\r
completed by ca. 12 BCE, although work on the building continued
fairly constantly until 64 CE, since the edice needed frequent repair.
31

Herod himself explained his massive expenditure as a product of
his piety and wealth, according to Josephus, whose report probably
derived from Nicolaus of Damascus (Ant. 15, 38090), and the new
edice was doubtless intended to reect the glory of his rule, much
as Augustus tried to enhance his own image by the rebuilding of
the city of Rome. The initial completion of the Temple project was
celebrated on the anniversary of Herods accession to power (ibid.,
15, 42131). Like Augustus in contemporary Rome, Herod enhanced
public space by enlarging the hillside through the use of an articial
platform built on arches. It is less likely that Herods main hope
was to win popularity with his Jewish subjects, who were apparently
nervous about the whole project and the possibility that it might
prove sacrilegious (ibid., 15, 385); like Augustus, Herods main hope
may have been to ensure his reputation for posterity.
At the same time, it is a reasonable assumption that Herod believed
that his rebuilding made economic sense and that it was more
than simply a heavy nancial drain. It is hard to doubt Josephus
insistence (ibid., 15, 380; 17, 162) that Herod paid for the initial
construction out of his own pocket, but the continuing work on
the site, not completed until more than three-quarters of a century
later, was nanced from Temple money and the grandiose project
may have served a useful purpose in releasing into the economy
sacred funds otherwise kept idle in the Temple treasury.
32
In prac-
tice, the building project stimulated the entire economic life of the
kingdom.
33
Despite the behavior of Agrippa II in seeking alternative
jobs for the workmen after the Temple was nally completed in
64 CE (ibid., 20, 21922), it is implausible to see the provision of
employment as a prime aim of Herod. Equally implausible is the
picture of Herods nances given by Josephus (Ant. 16, 15055),
where he described Herods municence as the product of a pas-
sion for honor which blinded him to the economic consequences of
his generosity. According to Josephus, it was only after prolonged
famine that Herods expenditure on urban reconstruction led him
31
Ibid., I, 292, note 12, on the chronology.
32
Gabba (above, note 16), 16668.
33
Ibid., 166.
+nr rirniv.or rcoxovv or rnts.rrv 67
into diculties in feeding his subjects from his own resources (ibid.,
15, 30216). The whole thrust of this paper is to encourage the view
that Herods expenditure was really a capital investment expected
to pay o in time in the promotion of tourism. Pilgrimage to the
great new sanctuary, one of the wonders of the Roman world, built
on a massive scale with meticulous care, became an enjoyable and
awe-inspiring experience, such that Diaspora Jews would be willing
to undergo the inevitable discomforts of the journey and, on arrival,
would spend their money in the holy city.
It takes time for investment in infrastructure to pay o, and it is
unlikely that Herods own nances beneted greatly from the inux
of tourists he encouraged. His own income derived from direct and
indirect taxation in Judaea (beneting in the latter case from the
increase in interregional trade) and by the prot from tax concessions
in various parts of the empire leased to him by the Roman state. It
also remained true, even in the very last days of the Temple, that
the great majority of pilgrims still seems to have come from the
land of Israel. There is no evidence that a Diaspora Jew like Philo
went up more than once to Jerusalem (On Provid. 2, 64), and it is
a surprising fact that non-local coin issues have rarely turned up in
the archaeology of the city.
34
Nonetheless, by the mid-rst century
CE, many Jews from many dierent places could be found in the
vicinity of the Temple (Acts 2:911; 6:9), and Jerusalem was, in
the eyes of Pliny the Elder, one of the great cities of his time (Nat.
Hist. 5, 14).
34
Z. Safrai, Jerusalem as an Economic Center during the Roman-Byzantine
Period, Recent Innovations in the Study of Jerusalem, eds. Z. Safrai and A. Faust (Ramat
Gan, 1996), 29 (Hebrew).
CHAPTER SIX
SACRED SCRIPTURE AND DEFILING THE HANDS
I. The Canon of Scripture
Much has been written about the creation of the canon of the Jewish
bible.
1
Most discussion has revolved around the authority and divine
inspiration of particular disputed texts which belong to what was
later termed the writings: Daniel, Song of Songs, Esther, Ecclesiastes.
Perhaps, it has been suggested, the attitude of Jews two thousand years
ago was rather more liberal than that of later rabbinic Judaism or
developed Christianity, and they did not yet have any xed list of texts
which they considered divinely inspired. Perhaps, on the contrary, new
writings which purported to come from the acknowledged prophets of
old could be passed off as no less sacred than longer accepted booksit
is, after all, not unreasonable to attribute a hope for such acceptance to
the authors of the pseudepigrapha which survive.
2
I do not intend here to contribute further to this discussion of the limits
of the canon, but rather to draw attention to a problem logically prior
to it. Whatever texts they included in the category of sacred scripture,
Jews of the rst century seem to have taken for granted the category
itself. But what exactly did they mean by ascribing sanctity to a book?
Did they refer to the ideas contained within the book, or to the words of
the book when spoken, or to the book itself as a physical object, or to all
of these? I hope that an investigation of the rabbinic texts which discuss
the delement of the hands may provide some clues.
1
See most recently the contrasting views of R. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon
of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (1985) (with thorough
bibliography) and J. Barton, Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel After
the Exile (1986). The rabbinic evidence is laid out very usefully in S.Z. Leiman, The
Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: the Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence (1976). I am very
grateful to John Barton and Wilfred Lambert for their comments on the rst draft of
this article; the mistakes that remain are not their responsibility.
2
For this argument see J. Barr, Holy Scripture: canon, authority, criticism (1983) and, more
fully, Barton, op. cit.
70 chapter six
There has been much interest in these passages, under the heading of
the Council of Jamnia, for over a century. After Graetz in 1871 it was
long assumed that the disputes of the rabbis about whether the Song
of Songs and Ecclesiastes dele the hands (e.g. mYad. 3:5) constituted
the nal discussion among the Jewish authorities which led to the
closure of the canon. This general consensus has been challenged in
recent years, primarily on the grounds that later rabbis were portrayed
as quoting particular texts as authoritative or divinely inspired despite
their insistence that those texts do not dele the hands. Some modern
scholars have rightly stressed that the issue for the rabbis of the rst
and second centuries AD may well have been nothing more than the
practical problem of knowing how to avoid pollution. If rabbis genuinely
cared which of the books they used might dele their hands, it may be
a mistake to misconstrue their disputes to t in too neatly with later
Christian notions of a canon of authoritative inspired texts.
3
But this negative conclusion can hardly be the end of the matter. If
the authority of their contents did not distinguish texts which dele the
hands from other texts, on what other grounds did the rabbis make the
distinction?
The suggestions made by modern scholars seem rather lame.
Leiman and Barton, nding in the rabbinic texts themselves conicting
explanations of the phenomenon, simply choose those rabbinic ideas
which seem to them most plausible. Thus, for Leiman, the straightforward
answer given by R. Mesharshiya ( . AD 350375) in bShab. 14a should
be accepted:
?
.
.
And why did they impose uncleanness upon a book? R. Mesharshiya said:
Because originally they stored food of terumah with the scroll of the Torah
and said This is holy and that is holy. But when they saw that it came to
harm, the rabbis decreed uncleanness on it.
To prevent holy books from suffering in this way from what he describes
as the mouse problem, Leiman suggests that it was necessary to prevent
them from being stored next to food set aside for sacred purposes lest
3
Barr, op. cit., pp. 501; Barton, op. cit., p. 69.
sacred scripture and defiling the hands 71
they be eaten by rodents.
4
It seems a complicated way to achieve a
simple end.
Barton, by contrast, relies on bMeg. 7a, where the compiler puts
forward a different explanation to reconcile two apparently discrepant
opinions both recorded in the name of R. Samuel ( . 22050).
.
?
. .
Rab Judah said that Samuel said: Esther does not dele the hands. Are
we to say that Samuel believed that Esther was not produced [said]
under [the inspiration of ] the holy spirit? Yet Samuel said that Esther was
produced under [the inspiration of ] the holy spirit. It was produced to be
recited and it was not produced to be written.
Barton suggests that the explanation given here about the book of Esther
might also account for earlier disputes as to whether Song of Songs
and Ecclesiastes dele the hands. If all these books were intended to be
recited rather than to be read by each individual from a scroll, it might
be argued that written versions of such texts were only aides-mmoire
for the ofciant in public recitations and therefore were not sacred in
themselves.
5
The main problem with this theory is that the liturgical
use of megillot besides that of Esther is not attested until medieval
times, and references already in the Mishnah to the Esther scroll as the
megillah render any suggestion that it was only one of a number rather
implausible.
I suggest a rather different approach to the conicting statements of
the rabbis. The only fact beyond dispute is that such texts do indeed
conict, which suggests that at least by amoraic times it was unclear what
was the reason for the belief that texts dele hands: thus, according to
R. Simon b. Menasia ( . AD 170200), cited in tYad. 2:14, the scriptures
dele because they are inspired not by men but by God (
), a notion implicitly denied by R. Samuel ( . AD 22050)
according to the text in bMeg. 7a cited above. The Mishnah itself (mYad.
4:6) portrays Sadducees as nding the whole notion that holy books
above all could dele quite bafing:
4
Leiman, op. cit., p. 116.
5
Barton, op. cit., pp. 6872.
72 chapter six

. [?] ,
The Sadducees say, We protest against you, O Pharisees, for you say that
sacred scriptures dele the hands but the books of Hamiram [Homer?
apostates?] do not dele the hands.
The whole notion of deling the hands, whatever its cause, is itself
rather strange, as a number of scholars have observed.
6
According to
the bible, delement, when it occurs, is assumed to affect the whole
body, not just the hands. It is obscure why and in what context deled
hands could pose a problem, although it may reasonably be speculated
that priests in the Temple would be more likely to show concern at
such a condition than would lay Jews in secular surroundings. At any
rate it was evidently considered desirable to avoid delement where
possible, since in mEduy. 5:3 the ruling of the followers of Shammai,
that Ecclesiastes does not dele the hands, was interpreted as evidence
of leniency:
.
.
R. Ishmael [variant: R. Shimon] says: Three things in which the House of
Shammai are lenient and the House of Hillel are strict. Ecclesiastes does
not dele the hands according to the House of Shammai.
Behind all this seems to lie rabbinic embarrassment about a system
which they endorse but do not understand. For example, the status
of the special scrolls of the biblical books found in the Temple was
rendered somewhat anomalous if all sacred writings were reckoned to
dele. These were particularly important documents since they acted
as archetypes to which the scribes making copies could at least in
theory refer, but any notion that they could impart impurity within the
precincts of the Temple would presumably make them very difcult to
use, since priests who kept themselves scrupulously undeled would be
unwilling to touch them. At mKel. 15:6 the rabbis solve the problem with
the simple assertion that the book of the Temple court was exceptional
in that it alone did not dele (. ).
Why not? The rabbis do not even try to give a reason. It was evidently
not reckoned to be something inherently different about those particular
6
E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (1985), pp. 1856.
sacred scripture and defiling the hands 73
scrolls themselves, since, according to tKel.B.M. 5:8, books of the Temple
taken outside the precincts do dele:
.
.
The book [deposited by] Ezra which went outside [the Temple Court]
deles the hands. And not only the book of Ezra but even the prophets
and the Homashim [?].
On the other hand, according to the same passage entry into the Temple
did not prevent other sacred scrolls from deling the hands just as they
did in secular surroundings
.
And another book which entered there deles the hands.
The rabbis of the second and third centuries seem to have found
themselves confronted by a general religious attitude, that holy texts
dele the hands, whose rationale was obscure to them. A reconstruction
of the origins of such an attitude is not therefore likely to be found
by choosing between the various hypotheses put forward in ignorance
by later rabbis. More fruitful may be an examination of the possible
reasons for such an attitude in the context of other developments within
Judaism in the period of the Second Temple.
II. The Pentateuch
The details of synagogue services of the rst century CE cannot be
precisely known, but the essential features seem clear enough. A crowd
of worshippers, perhaps after special ablutions, gathered at a special
place or building. Psalms were probably chanted in praise of the deity.
From an adjoining room or other hidden place was brought a chest.
An object was reverently extracted from the chest and from its special
wrappers, all present trying to avoid touching it directly. At the end
of the ceremony the object was carried back to its hidden place. To
an ill-informed outsider the Jewish rite may have appeared to differ
from forms of worship in contemporary pagan cults in Syria only in
the simple fact that the object of reverence was neither the god nor a
74 chapter six
representation of the god, to which sacrices and libations were to be
offered, but a scroll, whose sole function was to be read.
7
To what extent did the parallel indeed strike outsiders? It is hard to
tell, for Greek and Latin writers followed Jews before AD 70 in assuming
that the centre of Jewish worship was the Temple in Jerusalem, and they
have almost nothing to say about the functioning of synagogues. But
some diaspora synagogues may have looked like temples, for Josephus
at BJ 7.445 appears to refer to that in Antioch in the rst century as
a GTP, and in the later Roman period the architecture of synagogues
in Palestine shows marked resemblances to the village temples found in
neighbouring pagan areas. It may be signicant that at Dura-Europus
and in later synagogues the niche in which the scrolls were kept was in
the centre of the wall towards which prayer was directed.
8
The unique attitude of the Jews was, then, their belief that the physical
scrolls which contained their sacred texts were themselves sacred objects.
No parallel notion can found in Greek or Roman paganism. Nor was
this attitude conned to a few. When a soldier in a village of Judaea
in the early 50s AD deliberately destroyed a copy of the Torah there
was a mass protest against his action, and the procurator Cumanus
was sufciently impressed by the accusations of sacrilege to order the
public execution of the culprit to assuage the outrage of the Jews ( Jos.
BJ 2.22931; AJ 20:115). It might seem to outsiders that in practice the
difference between Jews reverence for the Torah scroll and that of
pagans for their idols was negligible.
Nothing in the biblical references to the written Torah had suggested
the desirability of such an attitude to the scrolls of scripture. The
process had evidently occurred naturally without, so far as is known,
the intention or deliberate collusion of any authority. As pagans might
carry their idols with them for comfort, so might Jews keep copies of
scripture for consultation in times of stress.
9
If Jews became aware of such parallels, one imagines that they would
be at the least rather embarrassed and more probably horried. After all,
7
Precise descriptions of temple cult practices in Syria in this period are lacking, but
see Herodian 5.3.36 (on Emesa) and Lucian, On the Syrian Goddess (on cults in Hierapolis
and elsewhere).
8
See the survey of current views of such matters in L.I. Levine (ed.), The Synagogue
in Late Antiquity (1987).
9
For a pagan carrying his personal idol, see Apuleius, Apologia sive pro se de magia 63.4.
For Jews having available a copy of the Torah for looking at before battle, see 2 Macc.
8:23.
sacred scripture and defiling the hands 75
the bible itself is clear enough in its prohibition on the worship of objects
made by men. It may be signicant that rabbinic texts consistently avoid
describing the scrolls as themselves sacredthey are termed
(writings of the holy) rather than (e.g. mYad. 4:6)but
perhaps this is simply a semitism.
I suggest, very tentatively, that the origins of the notion that sacred
books dele the hands may lie in this embarrassment. According to mYad.
4:6 (see above), the notion originated with, or at least was particularly
espoused by, the Pharisees (. . . . ). If
this is correct, it may be speculated that, in a fashion which may be
characteristic of the general functioning of their application of the Oral
Torah, the Pharisees made sense of and provided religious justication
for what was already well established custom. Faced by the fact that
ordinary Jews treated scrolls of scripture as too special to be used as
ordinary objects, and unwilling to accept that such behaviour could be
put down to the semi-idolatrous notion that pieces of parchment could
be sacred, the Pharisees may have explained customary behaviour by
asserting that the scrolls of the Torah must be handled with care because
when touched they would dele the hands.
III. Sacred Scripture
There is much evidence that the Pentateuch had a special position
in Jewish life in the Second Temple period as at other times. So, for
instance, the annual festival on Pharos described by Philo celebrated
the translation into Greek of the Pentateuch alone (Philo, Vita Mosis
2.412). But, if the hypothesis outlined above about the origins of the
idea that scrolls of the Torah dele the hands is at all close to the truth,
the way lies open to understanding the implications of the assertion that
copies of other biblical books could have the same effect.
Precisely because delement by copies of the Torah was such an ill-
dened concept, it was reasonable to suppose that anything connected
with or similar to a scroll of the Pentateuch might share in the aura. The
thongs, straps, wrappings, and so on attached to scrolls dele the hands
in the same way as the scrolls themselves, at least according to tYad. 2:12,
written in the third century AD:

.
.
76 chapter six
The thongs and straps which one sewed onto a book, even though it is
not permitted to keep them, impart delement to hands. A container of
books, and a box of books, and the wrappings of a book, so long as they
are clean, impart delement to hands.
Similarly, it may be that any religious book which was accepted as
authoritative might dele the hands so long as it looked like a Torah
scroll. At any rate, the converse is explicitly attested: according to mYad.
4:5 no writing, however divinely inspired its contents, could dele the
hands if it was not written, like a scroll of the Pentateuch, in formal
Assyrian characters, on parchment and in ink (
. , ).
It seems likely that the vagueness and power of this feeling that a
special aura emanated from such perfectly produced scrolls was a
strong incentive to the production of pseudepigraphic additions to
the corpus of authoritative Jewish religious texts. Of the many and
varied documents which have been found by the Dead Sea, almost
all the religious texts were written not just with extra care but, more
signicantly, on parchment; in contrast, the cheaper medium of papyrus
was generally used for secular documents, including legal contracts
whose physical preservation might seem to be at least as important to
the owner as that of particular copies of religious works. The use of
parchment goes far beyond what later ages were to dene as canonical
books, to include much of the pseudepigrapha and sectarian works. It is
likely that this tendency was not conned to Dead Sea sectarians. The
rabbis would not have needed to assert, as they do at tYad. 2:13, that
the books of the minim do not dele the hands, unless a real possibility
that they might do so was recognized by at least some Jews of the time;
it seems probable that such books will have looked similar to the books
reckoned sacred by the rabbis, since otherwise exclusion on the grounds
of physical appearance alone would have sufced.
IV. Approaches to the Biblical Text
How would the general attitude described above affect the way Jews
before AD 70 approached the preservation of the text of the Bible?
It is tempting, particularly perhaps for biblical scholars, to assume
that people who believe that a text is sacred will go to great trouble to
ensure its precise transmission. The variety of textual traditions found
alongside each other at Qumran suggests that this temptation should be
sacred scripture and defiling the hands 77
resisted. Just as Josephus could vary the biblical text considerably while
claiming, however speciously, to reproduce it with complete accuracy
(AJ 1.17), so a common assumption that scrolls which looked right were
special might do away with the need to worry over the precise words
which they contained.
Nor is it justied to assume that the increasing emphasis of rabbis of
the second century ad on greater precision in the copying of biblical texts
was primarily concerned with the meaning of those texts. What may still
have mattered most was the perfect reproduction of the appearance of the
text, as emphasized by R. Akibas renowned interest in every aspect of
that appearance, even to the decorative crowns of the letters. A similar
preoccupation with appearance rather than meaning may perhaps be
found in the production of the new translation of the Hebrew bible
into Greek by Aquila in the second century AD: this curiously over-
literal version attempted to reproduce the syntactical peculiarities of
biblical Hebrew in an entirely articial Greek despite the obfuscation
of the Septuagint text which resulted, a process most clearly illustrated
by the notorious translation of the Hebrew particle by the Greek
word UP.
If what concerned Jews most of all was the external appearance
of the text, the preference of early Christians for a strikingly different
form of book production may be more easily explained. It has long
been noted that the use of the papyrus codex for sacred writings was
universal among Christians from the beginning and that this practice
is very strange since conservatism in such matters is to be expected.
Roberts and Skeat have argued forcefully that neither economy, nor
compactness, nor comprehensiveness, nor convenience of use or ease
of reference can well explain Christian preferences in this regard, and
they have suggested that the birth of the codex among Christians came
about through a concerted effort to differentiate their communities from
those of the Jews.
10
Why, then, did tannaitic and amoraic rabbis eventually feel the need
graduallyperhaps over centuriesto dene which texts did dele the
hands when copied in a certain way and which, however beautifully
produced, did not? No evidence permits a straightforward answer, and
it may be fruitless to speculate. But it is ironic that the same rabbis who
were exercised to create greater clarity in the denition of a canon of
10
C.H. Roberts and T.C. Skeat, The Birth of the Codex (1983), pp. 4557.
78 chapter six
authoritative texts added to the confusion by their own sayings. It was
axiomatic for the rabbis that their own teachings bore the authority
of divine inspiration since they had been passed on by word of mouth
from one generation to the next, but no compilation of rabbinic dicta
was ever said to dele the hands.
CHAPTER SEVEN
TEXTS, SCRIBES AND POWER IN ROMAN JUDAEA
No ancient society was more blatantly dominated by a written text
than that of Jews in the Roman period. The most inuential text
was of course the Hebrew bible, of which many thousands of copies
must have existed by the rst century AD, scattered throughout the
Jewish world. Since such great authority was attributed by Jews to
the bible, it is a reasonable hypothesis that the ability to read, write
and interpret biblical texts will have brought prestige to those who
possessed it within Jewish society.
The survival from antiquity of much evidence about Jews in this
period through the continuous Jewish and Christian religious tradi-
tions down to modern times, and the discovery of archaeological nds
in the Judaean Desert over the last half century, make it possible
to test this hypothesis. My suggestion at the end of this essay will
be that among Jews reading did not in itself bring power, but that
writingor at least writing of a particular kindprobably did.
The date of the canonisation of the Hebrew bible and its Greek
translation, the Septuagint, is much debated, but disagreement revolves
primarily around the questions of what books were contained within
the canon at which period and what precisely a canon of the bible
should be understood to be.
1
No one doubts that, by late Hellenistic
times in Judaea, a select core of texts, more or less corresponding
to those eventually enshrined within the bible, was recognised by
all Jews as the main foundation of their theology and the source of
authority for almost all their civil, criminal and religious laws and
customs.
These texts were taken so seriously by Jews that everything written
in them was assumed to be valid and important in contemporary
life. Apparent discrepancies within the texts were regularly explained
away by ingenious interpretation. New laws and customs were either
1
Contrast Beckwith (1985) to Barr (1983) and Barton (1986).
80 cn.r+rn sr\rx
generated or justied by subtle exegesis of biblical passages.
2
According
to the rabbis, an ability to read scripture was thus a prime aim of
education (cf. Mishnah Abot 5.21). But writing was less common,
3
not
because it was thought unimportant but, on the contrary, because
the production of religious texts was a specialised task.
When Josephus claimed in the rst century AD (C. Ap. 1.3741) that
Jews venerated their religious texts with a zeal which far surpassed
the nonchalant attitude to their own traditions of other peoples in the
ancient world, he may have had partly in mind the serious attention
paid by Jews to the contents of these texts: regular reading by Jews
of the laws ensured, so he claimed, both accuracy and unanimity in
their interpretation (C. Ap. 2.17581). But Josephus boast at C. Ap.
1.3741 may also have reected a dierent and even more striking
peculiarity of Jewish culture, a peculiarity about which he wrote in
the immediately following passage in Contra Apionem. This was the
belief that religious power was enshrined within the physical object
on which the divine teachings were inscribed.
Josephus wrote that Jews were prepared to risk their lives to pre-
serve the scrolls of the Law (C. Ap. 1.424). When a Roman soldier
destroyed a text, the result was a riot (B.J. 2.22931; A.J. 20.115).
Josephus claimed with pride that he had used his privileged position
to rescue books from destruction in Jerusalem in AD 70 (Vita 418). A
scroll of the Law could be a rallying sign for the seditious (Vita 134)
or, in the eyes of the victorious Romans, a symbol of the defeated
nation, paraded at the culmination of the triumphal procession of
Titus and Vespasian in Rome (B.J. 7.150).
The sacred text par excellence was the Pentateuch, properly inscribed
in the stipulated Hebrew lettering in ink on parchment, but other
books from what was later described as the canon of scripture could,
if correctly written, also share in the numinous quality obscurely
dened by the rabbis as the ability to dele the hands.
4
The reli-
gious power of such written objects may have been only loosely
connected to the meaning of the words they contained, since few of
the works now included within the corpus of the prophets and (in
particular) the writings were ever subjected in antiquity to the intense
2
Vermes (1970, 1973).
3
Schrer (197387: II 420).
4
Goodman (1990) [Chapter 6 below].
+rx+s, scninrs .xr rovrn ix nov.x tr.r. 81
study and interpretation accorded to the Pentateuch. The symbolic
signicance of the texts used as tellin (phylacteries) was particularly
blatant, since they were encased in leather in such a way that they
usually could not be read at all.
5
The origins of this reverence for physical texts can perhaps be
traced back to biblical times. The two tablets of stone brought down
from Mt Sinai by Moses had enshrined a powerful religious charge;
carried in the specially devised ark (Exodus 25.1022), they had
formed the focus of Jewish veneration, and those who lacked sucient
respect for them were liable to divine punishment, like Uzzah who
unwisely touched the ark in its journey from Gibeah to Jerusalem (II
Samuel 6.7). In one symbolic passage in the book of Ezekiel (3.13),
prophetic utterance was said to have been achieved by swallowing
a written text on parchment (cf. also Jeremiah 15.16).
6
According to the later rabbinic view of such attitudes, one of the
reasons was simple. At least by the fth century AD, if not earlier,
the Hebrew alphabet was reckoned by Jews to be sacred in itself:
the tabernacle had been created out of the letters (Babylonian Talmud
Berachot 55a), each letter had a symbolic meaning (Babylonian Talmud
Shabbat 104a), every stroke made by a scribe in the creation of a text
had its signicance (Pirkei de R. Eliezer 21). Such numinous qualities
seem to have adhered only to sacred texts in Hebrew. Despite the
widely attested belief that the Septuagint translation of the bible
into Greek had been divinely inspired (cf. Philo, Vit. Mos. 2.412),
there is no evidence that Greek biblical scrolls were ever aorded
the same reverence.
However, in the early Roman period it is wrong to suppose that
Hebrew functioned only as a sacred language. On the contrary, texts
found in the Judaean Desert reveal Hebrew in secular use, at least
among some Jews, well into the second century AD.
7
The sound of
spoken Hebrew became in itself sacred, and therefore worrying (and
indeed dangerous), only when the Divine Name was pronounced.
The author of Targum Jonathan to Deuteronomy 32.3 neatly linked
the taboo against uttering the Name to that encapsulated in the
notion of sacred texts, by asserting that Moses, who did utter the
5
See Benoit, Milik and De Vaux (19601: 805).
6
Davis (1989).
7
On languages used in Roman Palestine, see, e.g., Schrer (197387: II 208).
82 cn.r+rn sr\rx
Holy Name, only dared to do so after he had dedicated his mouth
with eighty-ve letters (which was the minimum quota of letters
from a sacred text which had to be inscribed for the parchment on
which it was written to dele the hands, cf. Mishnah Yadaim 3.5). It
is possible that this reverence for the Name was also sometimes one
of the causes of Jews respect for their written texts, since, as the
documents preserved in the Cairo Genizah in the early Middle Ages
amply illustrate, any writing which contained the name of God was
treated as too precious for deliberate destruction when no longer
needed.
8
But the inclusion of the Divine Name cannot have been
the only reason for treating some texts as holy, for the texts which
deled the hands could acquire this power by containing any eighty-
six consecutive letters from the appropriate book. In the case of the
book of Esther, notoriously, the Divine Name did not occur at all.
It is worth asking whether this high valuation ascribed to religious
texts as objects had any eect on Jews use of secular written docu-
ments, but the answer is mostly negative.
9
The private documents,
recording loans, marriage contracts and so on, which have been found
in the Judaean Desert, seem to have served the same function as
documents in contemporary Greek and Roman societyessentially,
to act as a record of agreements between individuals.
10
This was,
for instance, the purpose of the ketubah (meaning, literally, written
object), which recorded the stipulation made by a husband to his
wife as to the recompense she could expect upon divorce or widow-
hood; the use of writing to conrm that stipulation seems to have
been a practice borrowed by the Jews from Greek customs.
11
The
archive of the unfortunate and litigious woman Babatha, who left her
private documents wrapped up in a sack in a Judaean Desert cave
in the last days of the Bar Kokhba war,
12
reveals even a remarkable
lack of concern about the language to be used in such documents.
She preserved legal agreements in Greek and Aramaic as well as in
8
On the Cairo Genizah in general, see Reif (1988). On the writing of the
Divine Name in Hebrew manuscripts, see Sanders (1965: 7); on the Name in Greek
manuscripts, see P. Oxy. 3522; Tov (1990: 12).
9
Schams (1992).
10
Documents in Benoit, Milik and De Vaux (19601); Yadin (1989).
11
Archer (1990) 1713.
12
Yadin (1971). For the Greek documents, see Yadin (1989). The semitic docu-
ments are so far unpublished.
+rx+s, scninrs .xr rovrn ix nov.x tr.r. 83
Nabataean. The language used may have depended sometimes on
the preferences of the parties involved, but it may also simply have
reected the expertise of the scribe.
The exceptions which prove the rule are the secular documents
to which power was accorded when this notion was inherited from
biblical law, as in the use of a get (divorce document) to eect a
valid break between a married couple (cf. Deuteronomy 24.14),
or the document dissolved in water and given to a sotah (suspected
adulteress) to drink (cf. Numbers 5.1131). In both these latter cases,
precise formulation and production of the documents was reckoned
crucial to their validity.
13
The need for precision would seem necessarily to give a role to
experts, as in any legal system, but in the second half of this paper,
I shall argue specically that the special Jewish attitude towards
religious texts may have given peculiar prominence and power to
the scribes who produced them.
Even the secondary role of scribes in recording oral transactions
could of course be highly important in societies which attributed
strong evidential value to written documents, as was evidently the
case among Jews in the Roman period. Babatha presumably believed
that her scrolls of papyrus and skin could ensure her status and her
property rights. It was assumed in rabbinic texts that scribes (soferim)
could be found in village markets with blank forms to record loans
and sales.
14
Such services could be essential for normal life: a vow
taken not to benet in any way by a named individual could, accord-
ing to one rabbinic opinion, be cancelled if he turned out to be a
scribe (Mishnah Nedarim 9.2). But, important though this function was,
there is no evidence that it was more vital in Jewish society than in
other contemporary societies. It is thus plausible to seek a religious
explanation of some kind for the common modern assumption that
scribes had a central role in Jewish life in rst-century Judaea.
This view that the authority of scribes was paramount in almost
all areas of Jewish behaviour
15
derives primarily from the New
Testament. In the gospels, the term grammateis (scribes) was used
frequently in references to the opponents of Jesus. In twenty-two
13
See discussions in the Mishnah, tractates Gittin and Sotah.
14
Cf. Goodman (1983: 579).
15
See, for example, Saldarini (1989: 24176).
84 cn.r+rn sr\rx
places, Jews depicted as acting as the authorities were described as
high priests and scribes. Eighteen times they were named as scribes
and Pharisees. The authors of the synoptic gospels seem clearly
to have thought of scribes as a separate class within the Judaean
religious establishment.
But when attention is turned to the precise religious role of
Jewish scribes as pictured in the New Testament, oddities emerge.
Most strikingly, scribes are never depicted as writing anything. In
so far as they are said to undertake any specic religious activity,
it is teaching (Mark 1.22; Matthew 7.29, 17.10). Thus the standard
histories of Judaean society before the destruction of the Temple in
AD 70 explain the prominence of scribes by equating them with
Pharisees.
16
As the argument was formulated by Jeremias, scribes
won inuence as expert interpreters of the Mosaic Law, which they
exegeted in the light of Pharisaic traditions which were specically
preserved in oral form.
17
This standard view is odd in a number of dierent ways. First,
the correct Greek for an interpreter of texts, rather than a writer
of them, should have been grammatikos, not grammateus. Secondly, the
notion that scribes had authority specically because of what neither
they nor anyone else wrote down seems rather bizarre.
18
It is true
that some later rabbinic texts (e.g. Babylonian Talmud Temurah 14b)
emphasised the importance of preserving traditions by word of mouth,
master to pupil, rather than in written form.
19
But in practice, and
regardless of later rabbinic beliefs about the oral publication and
transmission of their most inuential document, the Mishnah,
20
at
least some of the smaller, less popular rabbinic compositions must
have been written down, as were those writings of the sectarians at
Qumran which have been discovered in the Dead Sea caves.
Thirdly, it is by no means clear that scribes should be equated
with Pharisees, not least because that would render otiose the col-
location scribes and Pharisees found in the gospels.
21
Fourthly, it is
16
See, for example, Jeremias (1969: 2435, 37980).
17
Jeremias (1964).
18
See Bickerman (1988: 16176, esp. 163).
19
Strack and Stemberger (1991: 3549).
20
For arguments in favour of accepting such beliefs, see Lieberman (1962: 8399),
but the issue is still debated.
21
This is not to say that scribes could not be confused with Pharisees in dierent
versions of the same story in dierent gospels. Cf. Cook (1978: 8895).
+rx+s, scninrs .xr rovrn ix nov.x tr.r. 85
uncertain that Pharisees in the rst century subscribed to a concept
of an oral Torah alongside the written Torah. Explicit formulation
of this notion is found only in rabbinic texts of the third century
AD.
22
Fifthly, neither Josephus nor Philo suggests that a class of
scribes had religious authority in Judaean society. According to
Josephus, there was no need for lay scribes as legal experts because
the main teachers and interpreters of scripture were priests (cf.
C. Ap. 2.165, 1847; Vita 1968; B.J. 3.252). As E.P. Sanders has
trenchantly remarked, most of the persons described as scribes
in modern scholarly works were not so designated in any ancient
text.
23
The standard view of the role of scribes in rst-century Judaea is
thus rather dubious. But the prominence of scribes can hardly be
dismissed altogether. The New Testament picture of Jewish scribes
must have come from observation of some facet of Jewish life. It
can hardly have been an anachronism under the inuence of the
organisation of Christian communities, for within those communi-
ties scribes are not attested as a dened group. Nor can it have
derived from the pagan Greek environment within which much of
the New Testament was composed: in civic Greek society, a gram-
mateus could be an important administrator, like the town clerk in
Ephesus described in Acts of the Apostles 19.35, but no class of
scribes (in the plural) existed. What in the Jewish background could
have come through to the early Church to encourage them to depict
Jewish scribes as they did?
References to scribes in surviving Jewish texts from antiquity are
rather sparse, in marked contrast to their ubiquity in the synoptic
gospels. In few cases is an interpretation of their role as that of a
legal expert totally precluded, but in most cases it is by no means
obvious. Thus some scribes (soferim) in the Hebrew bible could be
government ocials rather than legal experts (e.g. II Kings 22.313).
Ezra may have won his reputation for deep understanding of the
law not by virtue of his role as scribe but because he was a priest
(Nehemiah 12.1213); in any case his designation as scribe may
have been an ocial Persian title as well as a description of his role
within Jewish society.
24
In the royal charter for Jerusalem issued by
22
Sanders (1990: 97130).
23
Sanders (1992: 17481).
24
Cf. Schraeder (1930).
86 cn.r+rn sr\rx
the Seleucids at the beginning of the second century BC, the scribes
of the sanctuary were, according to Josephus (A.J. 12.142), granted
privileges as ocials of the Temple, but, like the scribes described
in II Chronicles 34.13 as a class of Levite, these individuals seem to
have been on a fairly low social level and in my view are more likely
to have been bureaucrats than religious leaders or iuris periti.
25
It seems hard to imagine that the polemic in the New Testament
can have been aimed simply at such people. Thus nothing much is
gained by asserting that the scribes of the gospels and the Acts of
the Apostles should be identied as Levites.
26
Even if the suggestion
is correct, it leaves open the question why the particular functions of
these Levites laid them open to such antagonism. Only occasionally
does the role of scribes as interpreters rather than simply writers
of religious texts emerge as clearly from Jewish texts as from the
Christian gospels. The rabbis, in texts compiled in the late second
century AD and later, ascribed some specic religious teachings to
the soferim of a distant, but evidently post-biblical, past (e.g. Mishnah
Tohorot 4.7; Abot 6.9), even though in the same texts the term sofer,
when it was applied to their own day, was reserved for descriptions
of technicians or schoolteachers.
But the best example of a scribes profession being described as
that of a religious teacher may be found in the extended praise of
the scribes life to be found in the treatise of Ben Sira (38.2439.11),
composed in the early second century BC. The passage is worth
quoting at length (Anchor Bible translation):
The scribes profession increases wisdom;
whoever is free from toil can become wise.
How can one become wise who guides the plough,
who thrills in wielding the goad like a lance . . .?
So with every engraver and designer
who, labouring night and day,
Fashions carved seals . . .
So with the smith sitting by the anvil,
intent on the iron he forges . . .
So with the potter sitting at his work . . .
All these are skilled with their hands,
each one an expert in his own work;
25
Contra Bickerman (1988: 1623).
26
Schwartz (1985).
+rx+s, scninrs .xr rovrn ix nov.x tr.r. 87
Without them no city could be lived in,
and wherever they stay, they do not hunger.
But they are not sought out for the council of the people,
nor are they prominent in the assembly.
They do not sit on the judges bench,
nor can they understand law and justice.
They cannot expound the instruction of wisdom,
nor are they found among the rulers.
Yet they are expert in the works of this world,
and their concern is for the exercise of their skill.
How dierent the person who devotes himself to the fear of God
and to the study of the Law of the Most High!
He studies the wisdom of all the ancients
and occupies himself with the prophecies;
He treasures the discourses of the famous,
and goes to the heart of involved sayings;
He studies the hidden meaning of proverbs,
and is busied with the enigmas found in parables.
He is in attendance on the great,
and has entrance to the ruler.
He travels among the peoples of foreign lands
to test what is good and evil among people.
His care is to rise early
to seek the Lord, his Maker,
to petition the Most High,
To open his lips in prayer,
to ask pardon for his sins.
Then, if it pleases the Lord Almighty,
he will be lled with the spirit of understanding;
He will pour forth his words of wisdom
and in prayer give praise to the Lord.
He will direct his counsel and knowledge aright,
as he meditates upon Gods mysteries.
He will show the wisdom of what he has learned
and glory in the Law of the Lords covenant.
Many will praise his understanding;
his fame can never be eaced;
Unfading will be his memory,
through all generations his name will live.
The congregation will speak of his wisdom,
and the assembly will declare his praises.
While he lives he is one out of a thousand,
and when he dies he leaves a good name.
The term used for scribe at the beginning of this panegyric (38.24)
is, in the Greek, grammateus. Such a man, according to Ben Sira, is
devoted to study and wisdom (38.3439.3).
88 cn.r+rn sr\rx
It is true that much of Ben Siras treatise was compiled from
highly traditional clichs culled from the wisdom literature of the
Near East, and it is quite possible, as E.P. Sanders has recently
stressed,
27
that Ben Siras own authority derived in part from the
fact (if it was a fact) that he was a priest. It is worth noting that
the praises accorded by Ben Sira to the life of the scribe are closely
paralleled in other wisdom texts, most strikingly in an Egyptian
text, The Instruction of Khety, Son of Duauf.
28
But it seems inescapable
that Ben Sira meant his praises to apply at least in part to his own
society. If so he must have thought that the role of scribes was (or
should be?) to dispense wisdom at leisure, not just to be engaged in
the copying of sacred texts.
It is likely enough, then, that some individuals in Jewish society
called scribes had prestige in that society because of their legal exper-
tise. But in the rest of this paper I shall explore the possibility that
they may also have gained prestige by virtue of the main function
suggested by their name, that is, writing.
I discussed in the rst part of this paper the numinous qualities
attributed by all Jews to the parchments on which biblical and some
other texts were inscribed. Large numbers of such texts must have
been produced, since all sources agree that all, or at any rate all adult
male, Jews had regular access to at least a Pentateuch scroll, since
they could expect to hear it read aloud in synagogues at least once
a week, on the Sabbath.
29
The onus of producing a valid text, and
therefore a sacred object, presumably lay entirely with the scribes.
There is no evidence that any system existed for checking texts
once complete. In any case this would be an exceptionally labori-
ous task for texts as long as the Pentateuch. It is quite possible that
archetypes of some (all?) biblical books were kept in the Temple
(cf. Mishnah Kelim 15.6).
30
But there is no reason to suppose that all
copies in use were made by consultation with these archetypes: the
gospel references to scribes presuppose their wide dispersion around
the country. In practice, numerous variants in biblical texts were
preserved at Qumran, probably by a single group of Jews, if the
27
Sanders (1992: 181).
28
Skehan and Di Lella (1987: 44950).
29
Schrer (1973: II 44754).
30
See Leiman (1976).
+rx+s, scninrs .xr rovrn ix nov.x tr.r. 89
Dead Sea sectarians were responsible at least for the preservation, if
not necessarily the production, of all the scrolls found in the nearby
caves.
31
So far as is known, no-one xed any seal on nished texts
to certify their accuracy. This is not because all copies were assumed
accurate, for the rabbis had traditions about the activity of soferim
(scribes) in correcting texts into which errors had crept, in a fashion
similar to Hellenistic scholarship on the text of Homer.
32
It is worth
remarking that such scribal activity seems to have been accepted by
the rabbis without complaint. What made a parchment scroll holy
was therefore presumably the authority of the scribe who said that
he had copied a sacred text correctly onto it.
It requires little imagination to suggest the prestige which might
accrue to a scribe who can produce a holy object, for which Jews
might be prepared to die, simply on his own authority by the marks
made on parchment. For people of a book, the writers function
was bound to seem admirable. On over twenty of the inscriptions
set up by Jews in the city of Rome, the title (or description?) gram-
mateus was displayed.
33
When the targumim referred to Moses as the
scribe (safra) par excellence,
34
they thought of him perhaps not only
as interpreter of the Divine Law but, more prosaically, as the man
who wrote down the words of God (Exodus 34.27).
Perhaps the two roles of scribes, as writers and interpreters, were
mutually reinforcing. An expert sofer who was trusted to produce
valid manuscripts for worship might well also be a learned exegete
of the biblical texts he assiduously copied. Such learning must have
been presupposed by the author of the post-talmudic tractate Soferim,
whose detailed regulations for the production of texts belong in their
present form to the early mediaeval period, if he really expected the
rules which he laid down to be scrupulously followed.
35
It might be precisely for such learning that a scribe was trusted as
a scribe. In that case, perhaps there never existed a class of scribes
whose main function was to teach the Law, as the scholarly consensus
has it. Hence the silence of Philo and Josephus about such a class.
31
On biblical texts from Qumran, see Vermes (1977: 198225); for current
uncertainty about the origins of the scrolls, see (most radically) Golb (1989).
32
Lieberman (1962: 2037).
33
Leon (1960: 1836, 265331).
34
Vermes (1973: 52).
35
Higger (1937).
90 cn.r+rn sr\rx
But those pious scholars whose expertise in producing holy copies
of the sacred texts was renowned may also by denition have been
treated as authorities in other aspects of religious life. Hence, when
scribes laid down their teachings, their words had power.
Binrioon.rnv
Archer, L.J. (1990) Her Price is above Rubies: The Jewish Woman in Graeco-Roman
Palestine. Shefeld.
Barr, J. (1983) Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism. Oxford.
Barton, J. (1986) Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile.
London.
Beckwith, R. (1985) The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its
Background in Early Judaism. London.
Bickermann, E.J. (1988) The Jews in the Greek Age. New York.
Cook, M.J. (1978) Marks Treatment of the Jewish Leaders (Novum Testamentum
Supplementary Volume 51). Leiden.
Davis, E.F. (1989) Swallowing the Scroll: Textuality and the Dynamics of Discourse in Ezekiels
Prophecy. Shefeld.
Higger, M. (1937) Masseket Soferim. New York.
Jeremias, J. (1964) Grammateus, in Kittel (1964).
(1969) Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. London.
Kittel, G. (196474) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 9 vols. Grand Rapids,
MI.
Leiman, S.Z. (1976) The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: The Talmudic and Midrashic
Evidence. Hamden, CT.
Lieberman, S. (1962) Hellenism in Jewish Palestine: Studies in the Literary Transmission,
Beliefs and Manners of Palestine in the I century B.C.E.IV Century C.E., 2nd edn.
New York.
Reif, S.C. (1988) Published Material from the Cambridge Genizah Collection: A Bibliography.
Cambridge.
Saldarini, A.J. (1989) Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society. Edinburgh.
Sanders, J.A. (1965) The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave II (11QPsa) (Discoveries in the
Judaean Desert 4). Oxford.
Schams, C. (1992) The attitude towards sacred and secular written documents in
first-century Judaism, M. Phil. thesis, Univ. of Oxford.
Schraeder, H.H. (1930) Esra der Schreiber. Tbingen.
Schwartz, D.R. (1985) Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. Who were the Scribes?,
Zion 50: 12132 [in Hebrew].
Skehan, P.W. and Di Lella, A.A. (1987) The Wisdom of Ben Sira, Anchor Bible vol.
XXXIX. New York.
Tov, E. (1990) The Seiyal Collection I: The Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever
(8 Hev XII gr) (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 8). Oxford.
Vermes, G. (1970) Bible and midrash, in The Cambridge History of the Bible I 199231.
Cambridge.
(1973) Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic Studies, 2nd edn. Leiden.
(1977) The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective. London.
Yadin, Y. (1971) Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish
Revolt against Imperial Rome. London.
(1989) The Documents from the Bar-Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters: Greek Papyri,
ed. N. Lewis. Jerusalem.
CHAPTER EIGHT
JEWISH PROSELYTIZING IN THE FIRST CENTURY
For all students of the religious history of the Roman Empire the
emergence and spread of Christianity must be a great challenge to
explanation and understanding. Among a welter of signicant fac-
tors which contributed to this phenomenon, one, it seems to me,
stands pre-eminent. Other religions spread either because worshippers
moved or because non-adherents happened to nd them attractive.
Christianity spread primarily because many Christians believed that
it was positively desirable for non-Christians to join their faith and
accrete to their congregations. It is my belief that no parallel to the
early Christian mission was to be found in the ancient world in the
rst century. There is no space here to describe the dierences, which
seem to me to be crucial, in the activities of contemporary pagan
priests or philosophers. Nor is there room to elucidate the possible
internal motivation for mission within the early Church. The aim
of this chapter will be purely negative. Many scholars have claimed
that the idea of a mission to convert was inherited by the early Jesus
movement from contemporary Judaism.
1
I feel that the evidence for
such a claim is imsy and may fruitfully be re-examined.
I should make it clear that I do not doubt either that Jews rmly
believed in their role as religious mentors of the Gentile world or
that Jews expected that in the last days the Gentiles would in fact
come to recognize the glory of God and divine rule on earth. But
the desire to encourage admiration of the Jewish way of life or
respect for the Jewish God, or to inculcate general ethical behaviour
in other peoples, or such pious hope for the future, should be clearly
distinguished from an impulse to draw non-Jews into Judaism. In
the following pages I shall look in some detail at the evidence which
1
For an extreme example of the argument that the rst Christians imitated Jewish
missionaries see Georgi 1987: 83228. This study was completed in 1989. I have
beneted from much secondary literature that I have not had space to cite here. I
am grateful to Paula Fredriksen and Ed Sanders for help and advice.
92 cn.r+rn rion+
has previously been put forward to commend the view that Jews in
the rst century actively sought proselytes.
Pnosrrv+rs vi+nix Jtr.isv
The argument tends to begin from the simple fact of the exis-
tence of proselytes (e.g. Feldman 1986). It is indeed worth noting
that familiarity with the concept of conversion has bred disregard
among modern historians of the peculiarity of such an institution.
Jews constituted a nation which at some time before the Hellenistic
period accepted the principle that it was open to anyone to integrate
himself or herself into its political and social community simply by
acceptance of Jewish religious customs. The potential exing of com-
munal boundaries entailed by such a notion is quite astounding. It
is in marked contrast to the jealous preservation of the rights of
individual citizens by Greek city-states and the exclusion of outsiders
from such rights. The dierence was particularly marked because,
like Romans but unlike Greeks, Jews accepted the notion that their
politeia was not xed to any particular locality.
We have evidence of at least some such converts during the
Hellenistic period and early Roman Empire. Josephus described the
women of Damascus as converts in AD 66 ( Jewish War II 20, 2
(55961)) and provided a detailed description of the conversion of
famous royal proselytes from Adiabene (Antiquities XX 2, 34 (3448)).
Acts 6:5 refers to a proselyte of Antioch. The semi-technical use of
the term proslytos in the Septuagint suggests that the right of such
converts to be considered as part of the house of Israel was widely
recognized by Jews. And while there is no evidence that converts
made up any great proportion of the Jewish population, the lack of
such evidence cannot be decisive in assessing how many proselytes
there were.
Furthermore, both Josephus and Philo seem in general to have
assumed that proselytes are to be welcomed. Philos ethical maxim
that proper nobility is not an accident of good birth (On the Virtues
35 (187)) may have implied that anyone could acquire the virtues
enshrined in the Jewish Law. The author of 2 Maccabees 9:17
rejoiced that the wicked king Antiochus Epiphanes on his death-bed
promised to become a Jew. Similarly Josephus was clearly proud
of the converts in Adiabene. Jews were happy to accept committed
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 93
converts, as Josephus stated explicitly (Against Apion II 28 (210)) (cf.
Cohen 1987).
Jrvisn Missiox.nv Ac+i\i+v: Tnr E\irrxcr
It is likely enough, then, that Jews welcomed sincere proselytes in
the rst century. But passive acceptance is quite dierent from active
mission. The evidence alleged to show that Jews took positive steps to
win proselytes is commonly culled from a variety of sources which
I shall outline here in brief.
I begin with the least convincing arguments. The activities of
the earliest Jewish believers in Jesus have been adduced as indirect
evidence that some Jews who did not believe in Jesus were doing
the same thing (Georgi 1987: 101). But this prejudges the possibil-
ity of unique circumstances in the early Church which might have
led to such missionary behaviour. It is likely that texts of the early
Church which appear to attack Jews as competitors for the souls of
converts refer in fact to followers of Jesus who, in the eyes of their
opponents, clung too hard to Jewish customs. The missionary zeal
of these Jewish Christians may have come not from their Judaism
but from their belief in Christ.
Second, it has been argued that the probable growth of the Jewish
population in this period, as evidenced by the remarkable spread of
Jewish settlement in the Diaspora, the size of some of the communi-
ties there, and the increase in the population of Palestine apparent
from archaeological survey of settlements, is in itself evidence of
Jewish proselytizing (cf. Feldman 1986: 59). This seems dubious on
two counts. On the one hand ancient writers explained the Jewish
Diaspora by the overpopulation of the home country (Philo, Moses II
42 (232)) and Jewish fertility by the Jews strange ideological opposi-
tion to abortion, infanticide and contraception (cf. Tacitus, Histories
V 5); to this one could add the Jewish concept of charity, unique
in the ancient world, which made it a religious duty to prevent the
children of the poor from dying in infancy, so that the main natural
inhibition on population growth was at least partially stied.
2
The
2
See my arguments in Goodman 1987: 61. Note, however, that rabbinic refer-
ences to Jewish foundlings (e.g. mKiddushin 4:22) suggest that some Jews may have
adopted the standard Gentile custom of exposing unwanted children.
94 cn.r+rn rion+
theory that a massive surge of proselytes to Judaism accounted for
this population growth is not impossible, but it runs up against the
curious fact that no ancient Jewish writer claimed that such wide-
spread conversion had taken place, although it would have been an
obvious source of pride. On the other hand, even if proselytes did
comprise a high proportion of rst-century Jews, this does not imply
that such converts were actively sought.
But the case for a Jewish mission to win proselytes is based on
better arguments than these, and in the next few pages I shall
attempt to present as strongly as possible the best reasons often
proposed, before oering counter-arguments in the second section
of the chapter.
In certain circumstances some Jews may have insisted on Gentiles
conversion. In the most dramatic instances, whole populations of
Gentiles are said to have been incorporated within the Jewish nation
by the militant Hasmonaean dynasty. Thus the Idumaeans of southern
Palestine were encouraged and perhaps forced by the Hasmonaeans
to convert en masse in the 120s BC, and some of the Ituraeans of
the northern part of the country were compelled to submit to cir-
cumcision in 104103 BC according to Josephus (Antiquities XIII 9,
1 (2578); 11,3 (319)).
3
Both the Bible and the Apocrypha record
with some glee how Gentiles at moments of Jewish glory converted
to Judaism out of fear of the Jews (cf. Esther 8:17). Like Achior the
Ammonite, such Gentiles saw the power of the Lord, believed and
were converted ( Judith 14:10). More generally, even Jews as lax in
their religious observance as members of the Herodian dynasty insisted
that their Gentile marriage partners should be initiated into Judaism
before marriage. All Jews accepted the metaphor of the nation as a
family into which outsiders had to be adopted to be accepted, and
when a anc refused to take up Jewish customs, the wedding was
liable to be cancelled (cf. Josephus, Antiquities XX 7, 1 (139)). It is
also possible, although not certain, that at this period, as later, some
3
Kasher 1988: 4677, 7983, argues vehemently and ingeniously that the allegation
that the Hasmonaeans used force was fabricated by Gentiles as anti-Hasmonaean
propaganda. But I am unconvinced by his assertion, which is necessary for his
argument, that Josephus included such propaganda in his history out of lip-ser-
vice to his Roman masters. Josephus was proud of his own Hasmonaean lineage
( Josephus, Life 1 (24)).
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 95
Jews still expected that their slaves would submit to circumcision as
stipulated in Genesis 17:1213: this would at any rate be desirable
if the slave was to be used for domestic purposes, since only if the
slave was considered in some sense Jewish (or at least not an idolater)
could the danger of pollution to food be avoided.
Since it is possible that Jews thus sometimes insisted on conver-
sion when they had the power to enforce their will, it has been
suggested that they used persuasion when that was the only weapon
available to them. Undoubtedly proselytes were often instructed in
Judaism by some Jew before conversion; the name of the teacher
of the royal family of Charax Spasinou, Ananias, was preserved by
Josephus (Antiquities XX 2, 34 (3442)). There is no evidence that
any such teachers travelled abroad specically in order to deliver
such teaching. The traveller Eleazar who insisted that the king of
Adiabene, Izates, should be circumcised if he wanted to follow Jewish
law is often portrayed as a missionary, but Josephus (Antiquities XX
2, 4 (44)) made it clear that his intention in coming to Adiabene
was not to convert anyone but simply to pay his respects to the
royal family. But a considerable literature has survived which, it
has been claimed, may reect the arguments and methods used by
such missionaries to win converts, if such missionaries did in fact
exist.
A partial list of such literature can conveniently be found in Dalbert
(1954); to the texts there discussed could be added, among others,
the romantic story Joseph and Asenath. This literature is somewhat
heterogeneous. The writings of Demetrius the Chronographer com-
prise a rather dry analysis of the time-periods given in the biblical
narrative. Philo the Elder, Eupolemus and Artapanus rewrote the
biblical stories in prose with considerable embellishments. Ezekiel
the Tragedian did much the same with the narrative of the Exodus
but in his case produced his reinterpretation in dramatic form. Ps.-
Hecataeus and Ps.-Aristeas wrote glowing accounts of Judaism as a
way of life and of Jews as a people, presenting themselves in the
guise of non-Jewish writers. The Jewish authors of parts of the corpus
of Sibylline Oracles similarly slipped comments about Judaism into
the oracles they forged. Finally, at least three authors attempted to
produce a version of Judaism that would t more or less comfort-
ably with contemporary Greek philosophy. Of these, the author of
the Wisdom of Solomon made the fewest concessions to the rigours
96 cn.r+rn rion+
of philosophical analysis, Philo made the most. Aristobulus, who
wrote in the second century BC, lay somewhere between the two
(see Schrer 1986: 470704).
All these writings have in common that they were composed in
Greek by Jews. They survive, often only in very fragmentary form,
only through the interests of the Christian Church; they were almost
entirely ignored by the Jewish tradition until the Renaissance. Why
should anyone believe that they were originally composed with a
Gentile audience in mind? After all, it seems fairly likely that the
greatest literary production of Greek-speaking Jews, the translation
of the Bible into Greek as the Septuagint, was intended for use by
Jews in their own liturgy, and this is also probable for the revisions
of the Septuagint by Aquila and others. None the less the Septuagint
may point to at least a secondary intention by the authors to bring
Judaism to the attention of a Gentile audience, for there is evidence
that at least one Gentile writer, the anonymous author of a rhetorical
treatise On the Sublime, may have come across at least the opening of
the text of Genesis (see commentary in Stern 1974: 3615). It has
even been argued that the survival of writings like those of Philo
through a non-Jewish tradition may imply that they were originally
intended for non-Jews (Georgi 1987: 368). At the least it can be
asserted that there is no proof that such literature was not meant for
outsiders alone.
If Gentiles read such literature, were they expected to react by
considering conversion to Judaism? Perhaps. At any rate, that they
would be expected to develop a friendly attitude towards Jews and
Judaism seems clear: a work like the third Sibylline book unabash-
edly praises the Jews and their mode of worship.
But if Jews did write such propaganda literature in order to win
proselytes, how did they expect to make sure that their propaganda
was read or heard? In a time before mass printing, books would
spread only in single, rare copies. Enthusiasts would have to employ
slaves to produce their own copies. Perhaps, then, it has been sug-
gested, the literature enshrines material that was disseminated more
widely by oral means. It has been alleged that Jews invited pagans
into their synagogues to hear displays of preaching along the same
lines as the extant writings. Georgi has drawn attention to Philos
statement that each seventh day the synagogues stand wide open in
every city as schools of good sense and other virtues, while Philos
denial that Jews on the sabbath attended performances in the theatre
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 97
has been taken to suggest that a comparison between synagogues and
theatres was possible.
4
Josephus wrote of the Jews of Antioch that
they had brought into their rites (thrskeiai ) in the rst century AD
many Greeks and (presumably by this means) made them in some
sense part of themselves ( Jewish War VII 3, 3 (45)). Not enough
survives of rst-century synagogues to tell whether they allowed easy
access to casual outsiders to listen from the street, but it is possible:
in Caesarea in AD 66 one synagogue was down an alleyway next
to pagan houses, though in this case not conversion but antagonism
resulted ( Josephus, Jewish War II 14, 4 (2856)).
If Jews were really eager to win converts, the easiest way to
increase their number might be to remove some of the more onerous
requirements laid upon proselytes. It has been vehemently argued
by, among others, McEleney (1974) that some Jews in the Diaspora
were prepared to allow some male Gentiles to be treated as Jews
even without undergoing circumcision. It is certain that an uncir-
cumcised Jew was not a logical impossibility. Later rabbis discussed
haemophiliacs for whom the operation would endanger life and could
therefore be forgone (bPesaim 96a). When other rituals, including
the bringing of an oering to the Temple, were also required of
converts, the question also arose of the religious status of a proselyte
who had fullled some of the initiation procedures but not (yet?) all
of them (Nolland 1981: 17394). Philo in one passage referred to a
small group of Jewsextreme allegoristswho believed that only the
inner meaning of the Torah matters and that its actual observance
was therefore irrelevant (On the Migration of Abraham 16 (89)). Such Jews
might perhaps forgo circumcision for their sons and stress instead a
moral allegory such as that propounded for the operation by Philo
himself (Questions and Answers on Exodus II 2). Finally, Epictetus wrote
in the early second century as if the ultimate sign of dedication to
Judaism by a convert was baptism, and the same seems also to have
been implied by the (probably Jewish) author of Sibylline Oracles IV
164, who wrote in c. AD 80, although this latter passage may refer
not to a baptism for converts but just to a bath for purication.
If Jews were so keen to win converts, they will have been eager
also to lure pagans away from their customary worship. A pragmatic
4
Philo, On the Special Laws II 15 (62); Moses II 39 (211); cf. Georgi 1987: 85,
11314.
98 cn.r+rn rion+
willingness to partake in other cults was not standard for Jews,
although it was not entirely unknown in this period as in others.
5
As
such, any Jewish mission for converts was likely to provoke opposition
from the Gentile society in which it operated. Evidence for resentment
against Jews on these grounds is not to be found in pagan writings
composed before AD 96, and I have argued elsewhere (Goodman
1989b) that before that date Romans at least were actually ignorant
of the Jewish notion that a Gentile could become Jewish. But modern
authors have pointed out that Jews were expelled from the city of
Rome in 139 BC and AD 19 and have asserted that this was as a
punishment for seeking proselytes (e.g. Stern 1974: 35760; 1980:
70). In the former case one of the Byzantine epitomators of the
rst-century writer Valerius Maximus implied that the Jews crime
was that they tried to transmit their sacred rites to the Romans. In
the latter case Cassius Dio (LVII 18, 5a) is said by John of Antioch
to have written (in the early third century AD) that the Jews were
converting many of the natives to their ways, an explanation which
is missing in the earlier historians Josephus and Tacitus, who related
instead a curious story of the duping of an aristocratic Roman lady
proselyte by unscrupulous Jews intent on her money. It is not impos-
sible that Tacitus was ignorant and that Josephus (Antiquities XVIII 3,
5 (814)) hid the truth because it embarrassed him in his apologetic
aim of reconciling the Romans to the Jews.
6
The case for believing in a mission to win proselytes may reason-
ably be ended with two of the most striking categories of literary
evidence. First, Horace, Satires I 4, 1423, veluti te / Iudaei cogemus
in hanc concedere turbam, has been interpreted to mean that like the
Jews, we will compel you to join our throng (see Stern 1974: 323).
Second, and most strikingly, Matthew 23:15, which reads Woe to
thee, scribes and Pharisees, that you cross land and sea to make
one proselyte, seems to imply that scribes and Pharisees did indeed
travel in such a way to win converts to Judaism.
5
Note, for example, Herods attendance at a Roman state sacrice on the Capitol
in Rome at the start of his reign ( Josephus Jewish War I 14, 4 (285)), despite his
portrayal of himself as a Jew.
6
Thus Georgi 1987: 923. For the texts, see Stern 1974, Stern 1980.
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 99
Tnr Ansrxcr or . Jrvisn Missiox: A Rrix+rnrnr+.+iox
This last text, from the gospel of Matthew, has often been taken as
the starting-point for discussions of the Jewish attitude to mission in
the rst century AD, and it seems tting to begin with this passage
my scrutiny of all the arguments and evidence for such a mission
which have been laid out above.
What reason, then, not to believe the plain meaning of Matthew
23:15? Few scholars would wish to construct too elaborate an argu-
ment on one of Matthews statements about Pharisees, since his
discussion of them is notoriously tendentious and polemical and the
undiscriminating collocation scribes and Pharisees in the woes in
this gospel may be attributed to his muddled views as a redactor.
7

The saying here ascribed to Jesus may belong to the earliest (i.e.
Palestinian) stratum of the tradition about him, since it uses various
Semitisms including the Aramaic term Gehinnom ( Jeremias 1958:
1718, n. 4), but the fact that it is omitted by Luke suggests that it
reects the special interests of Matthew, whose own preconceptions
about the desirability of winning converts for Christ may therefore be
reected in the ascription of parallel aims to the despised Pharisees.
However this may be, it is overwhelmingly likely that the phrase
made sense to Matthews audience at the end of the rst century
and that they accepted that Pharisees could be particularly eager to
gain one proselyte.
But what does this phrase mean? The expression is decidedly
odd. Why land and sea? And why one proselyte? Is the reader
expected to supply the term to make it even one proselyte? It has
been suggested that Matthew had in mind a particular instance of
a Gentile converted by a Pharisee, which is possible (so Munck
1959: 266). Even an isolated case, however, would be sucient to
show that some Jews were interested in seeking converts in the rst
century. And that is what Matthew 23:15 clearly must mean if the
term proslytos is understood in its customary sense. But this, as I shall
show below, cannot be taken for granted. I shall suggest instead that
7
Precisely what group was designated by the word grammateis in the gospel of
Matthew is not clear. See Garland 1979: 416.
100 cn.r+rn rion+
Matthew is here attacking Pharisees for their eagerness in trying to
persuade other Jews to follow Pharisaic halakhah.
8
It seems clear that the proslytos to whom Matthew referred became
a Pharisee or a follower of Pharisaic teaching as a result of the
Pharisees eorts. He becomes twice the son of Gehinnom that the
Pharisee is, which is not an expression which Matthew was likely
to use about Jews qua Jews. Is the conversion of Jews to Pharisaism
something that Pharisees would have found desirable in the rst
century? There is little explicit evidence, but it seems at least pos-
sible. Pharisees believed that they alone could interpret the Torah
correctly and it would seem obvious that, like the prophets of old
calling the people to repent, they should feel a duty to teach the
rest of the Jews how to live righteously and bring divine blessings
on to the community. Similarly the members of the Qumran sect,
if they were celibate, as is probable, may have adopted a missionary
stance in order to survive for their divinely ordained mission, since
no children could be born within the group. The only gure given
in any ancient text for the size of the Pharisees sect is Josephus
reference to the more than six thousand individuals who identied
themselves as Pharisees at the end of the rst century BC when they
refused to take an oath to Herod (Antiquities XVII 2, 4 (415)). There
is no evidence that there were any more followers of the sect than
that number, even though they were widely inuential, persuading
the people about prayers and sacrices ( Josephus, Antiquities XVIII
1, 3 (15)). It is reasonable to suppose that they might wish as many
Jews as possible to become Pharisees, although precisely how such
a conversion would be marked (other than by the self-description of
the convert) is unclear.
That Matthew should nd such missionary behaviour by Pharisees
objectionable is also unsurprising. For much of the rst century the
followers of Jesus may have been competing against Pharisees and
other interpreters of Judaism to win Jews as converts to Christianity.
More of a problem is the implication that Pharisees sought follow-
ers outside Palestine, for which there is no other rm evidence: the
Diaspora Jew St Paul claimed to be a Pharisee, but he may have
been trained in Jerusalem rather than Tarsus, and Josephus, who said
8
This interpretation was oated by Munck 1959: 267 in one paragraph, but (so
far as I know) it has never been fully argued.
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 101
that he was a Pharisee when in Rome, made no explicit mention
of Pharisaic teachers outside the land of Israel. But the teachings of
the rabbis, who were in some ways the successors of the Pharisees
after AD 70, did in time spread to Babylonia and elsewhere and
eventually were to become normative among Jews of the western
Diaspora as well. In any case, the same objection applies whatever
interpretation of the term proslytos is preferred, since there is also no
other evidence for Pharisees seeking to convert Gentiles to Judaism
outside Palestine.
9
In sum, the passage makes good senseeven better senseif pros-
lytos has the meaning I have suggested rather than that traditionally
attributed to it. Is such a meaning possible? There are a number of
factors in its favour. First, it should be noted that the term is very
rare in the rst century except in quotations from the Septuagint. It
was hardly used by Philo and never used by Josephus. Apart from
the passage in Matthew, the only book of the whole new Testament
where it is found is Acts, where it occurs three times (Acts 2:11;
6:5; 13:43). It was clearly becoming a technical term among Jews for
a converted Gentile, and had been doing so since the time of the
Septuagint translation of the third and second centuries BC (see Allen
1894), but its meaning was not yet conned to this sense alone.
An examination of Philos use of the term may illustrate this
continuing exibility. In referring to Gentile converts to Judaism
Philo preferred to use the word eplus. Proslytos appears only when
it is already found in the passage of the Septuagint which Philo
was quoting (Daniel 1975: 22112). In the Septuagint itself proslytos
undoubtedly usually means a Gentile convert: the Hebrew word gr
which means immigrant or resident alien in the earlier layers of
the Pentateuch and Gentile who has become Jewish only in the
latest layer, was always translated by proslytos in the Septuagint when
it has the latter meaning (except once, when it was transliterated as
geiras), whereas other terms, such as paroikos, were usually used for
those places where gr appears in the Hebrew with one of its earlier
9
Baumgarten 1983: 414, n. 10, argues that Eleazar, who converted the king of
Adiabene, Izates, may have been a Pharisee because he was described by Josephus
(Antiquities XX 2, 4 (43)) as akribes (accurate) in the Law. But akribeia in Josephus
writings cannot always be equated with Pharisaism: in Josephus, Against Apion II
31 (227) the Spartans are said to have observed their laws akribs (as noted by
Baumgarten himself, 1983: 413, n. 6).
102 cn.r+rn rion+
meanings (Meek 1930). But Gentile convert cannot have been the
only acceptable meaning of proslytos for the Septuagint translators for,
just occasionally, this term also was used to mean a resident alien
(e.g. Leviticus 19:10; 24:16).
This latter use is striking in the Greek of Exodus 22:20, where
proslytoi is found, as a translation of grim, to refer not to Gentiles
but to the Israelites in Egypt. Philo evidently found such a usage
strange but not impossible, since he did not choose to substitute one
of the other Septuagintal translations of gr at this point, as he could
have done. In Questions and Answers on Exodus II 2 he commented
that what makes a proslytos is not circumcision (which, he therefore
implied, is what one might have expected), since the Israelites were
not circumcised until they began their wanderings in the desert; what
matters is turning to God for salvation. He made the same observa-
tion at On the Special Laws I 9 (51), pointing there to the etymology
of the word, which suggests that the proslytos comes to a holy life
from a dierent one. This sense of proserchesthai as the approach to
something sacred can also be found in the general use of the verb
in the gospel of Matthew (Edwards 1987), and in Josephus, Jewish
War II 8, 7 (142), where those who join the sect of the Essenes are
described as tous prosiontas, a participial form of the same verb.
What I suggest, therefore, is that proslytos in the rst century had
both a technical and a non-technical sense, and that in that latter
sense it could quite easily be applied to Jews. This usage is precisely
parallel to that long ago noted for the term God-fearer in this
period, which often, sometimes apparently as a semi-technical term,
referred to Gentiles but which was also, perhaps metaphorically,
used to describe Jews (Feldman 1950). If this argument is accepted,
then it will no longer be possible to use Matthew 23:15 as a proof-
textoften the proof-textfor a mission by Pharisees and other Jews
to win converts to Judaism from the Gentile world.
So too with the other literary evidence. The text in Horace,
Satires I 4, 1423, veluti te / Iudaei cogemus in hanc concedere turbam, need
not refer to Jewish eagerness to proselytize at all: Horace certainly
portrayed the Jews as prone to use pressure to achieve their ends
but he implied nothing about Gentiles being compelled to become
Jewish or about the corollary of such conversion, that such converts
learn to despise their own gods. The Jewish crowd was notorious
in Roman politics, at least in the previous generation when Cicero
referred to them (In Defence of Flaccus 28, 66) as prone to use mass
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 103
10
See M. Smith 1978. If Kasher 1988: 468 is correct to emphasize against
Josephus account the remark of Strabo, Geography XV 2, 34, that the Idumaeans
are Nabataeans [sic], but owing to a sedition they were banished from there, joined
the Judaeans and shared in the same customs with them, there would be no need
to explain Hasmonaean motives in forcing conversions since the whole story of such
conversions was fabricated. But see my reservations, above, note 3.
intimidation to get their way when lawsuits were in progress, and
that may be all that is at issue here (Nolland 1979).
It is unlikely that any of the residual arguments for a Jewish mis-
sion in the rst century would ever have been proposed if such a
mission had not already been presupposed. The mass conversions to
Judaism said by Josephus to have been forced by the Hasmonaeans
were obvious political gambits which may have owed something to
the example set by the Roman republic in the spread of Roman
citizenship over Italy: the notion of an indenite expansion of citizen-
ship in this way is found in the ancient world only among Jews and
Romans and, since the latter had found it strikingly advantageous
in the centuries immediately preceding the Hasmonaean dynasty, it
would not be all that surprising if the Jewish monarchs, who were
eager to maintain contact with the Romans, followed suit.
10
Certainly
a Gentile observer such as Timagenes (cited by Strabo) accepted
such conversions as standard political incorporation of a neighbouring
people ( Josephus, Antiquities XIII 11, 3 (319)). If the Hasmonaeans
wanted a theological justicationand it is quite possible that by
the 120s BC they had so far assumed the characteristics of a normal
Hellenistic state that they saw no need for onethey could nd it
in the notion that the land of Israel must be puried by the exclu-
sion of idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 12:13). Despite the location of
Pella just east of the Jordan, such an attitude would best explain
the treatment of the inhabitants of that place: because they did not
promise to go over to the national customs of the Jews, their city
was destroyed ( Josephus, Antiquities XIII 15, 4 (397)). It was the same
notion as lay behind the enthusiastic exclusion of Roman military
standards from polluting the land when the Syrian legate Vitellius
wished to march through with his legions against the Nabataeans in
AD 37 ( Josephus, Antiquities XVIII 5, 3 (121)). So too the Galileans
who were intent on the enforced circumcision of two of Agrippa IIs
Gentile courtiers whom they caught in their territory in AD 67
argued that those who wished to live among the Jews must needs
104 cn.r+rn rion+
be circumcised ( Josephus, Life 23 (113)). If this distinction was
generally made by Jews, it provides of course an argument against
any universal mission, since it suggests that Gentiles are welcome to
remain uncircumcised provided that they live outside the Holy Land.
As for the conversion of the Idumaeans, it is true that biblical Edom
was not part of the biblical land of Israel, but in Maccabaean times
the story of the relationship between Jacob and Esau (ancestor of
Edom) was rewritten in the book of Jubilees to emphasize both their
fraternal origins and the justied domination of the latter by the
former. In any case the area inhabited by Idumaeans by the 120s
BC was north of biblical Edom and in fact lay within the southern
part of the old kingdom of Judah.
11
The assumption by Jews that marriage partners should convert
before union seems to have been general by the rst century. As
evidence can be cited the very public insistence to this eect by the
women of the Herodian family. Against such a view, it has been
argued that the term memigmenon at Josephus, Jewish War II 18, 1
(463) must refer to Jews who have intermarried with the Gentile
population. That many intermarriages without conversion took
place is highly probablethe papyri from rural Egypt may provide
examples.
12
But it must be assumed that many Jews viewed such
liaisons with distaste, for the actions of the Herodians would otherwise
be inexplicable. It is, however, hard to see how such insistence on
conversion for marriage can be seen as missionary. It might even
be suggested that opportunities for mission were lessened by such
a custom since a Jew could not seek to convert his or her partner
after marriage, as was permitted among Christians (II Corinthians
7: 1214). That Jews in general preferred to portray themselves as
marrying only within the fold was common knowledge (cf. Tacitus,
Histories V 5: discreti cubilibus). When an outsider was allowed in, he or
she would have to be initiated into the community; such behaviour
reinforces the groups boundary and solidarity, it does not open it
up to the outside (cf. B. Wilson cited in Towler 1974: 125). In other
words, it is striking that the conversion of the Gentile partner was
11
On the attitude of the book of Jubilees, see Mendels 1987: 7581.
12
See Tcherikover and Fuks 1960: 23, on CPJ II, no. 144. On the Josephus
passage, see M. Smith 1987: 182, n. 33. On intermarriage, see in general ibid.,
656.
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 105
apparently devised at some time between the period of Ezra, who
does not seem to have conceived of such a solution to the problem
of foreign wives, and the rst century AD, but, though of immense
practical importance, the innovation in no way attacked the basis
of Ezras ideal Israel as a pure nation separated from the pollution
which enveloped it. All this needs emphasis because it is a priori
probable that in antiquity, as now, the majority of conversions to
Judaism took place to facilitate a marriage. It is noteworthy that the
story of Asenath in Joseph and Asenath seems to portray her as the
paradigm of the proselyte, but that the main theme of the story is
that she cannot marry Joseph while she is heathen whereas she can
and does so as soon as she has been initiated into Judaism.
Little need be said about the other group on whose circumcision
Jews may have insisted, namely their male slaves. It has been sug-
gested above (see p. 95) that this may have been partly for domestic
convenience, and it is likely that almost all slaves owned by Jews, at
least in Palestine, will have served primarily as domestic servants since
that was their normal function in the Near East. Such insistenceif
indeed it was already standard at this period, which is debatable (see
p. 94)must be understood in a similar way to conversion for mar-
riage. The slave became by force a member of the family group and
circumcision established him as part of that group. Such an attitude
reveals nothing at all about Jews expectations and hopes for those
whose economic circumstances did not bring them into this sort of
close social relationship with a Jewish family.
What explanation should be oered for the fragments of the
large literature which, it is claimed, was produced to win converts
to Judaism? The argument, it will be recalled, was roughly as fol-
lows (see p. 96). Some Jews wrote a number of religious tracts in
Greek during the rst century AD and the two centuries before.
Such works would have been more or less readily comprehensible
to non-Jews. Since the main burden of such writings was praise of
Judaism and the Jewish God, it is assumed that those Gentiles who
read such material were expected or hoped to become proselytes.
The fallacies in this assumption are evident and have been demon-
strated by others since the pioneering work of Tcherikover (1956).
It is more than likely that most if not all the Jewish literature in
Greek was composed primarily for Greek-speaking Jews. This has
already been pointed out for the Septuagint translation of the Bible
(see pp. 967), but the same assertion applies also to all the Jewish
106 cn.r+rn rion+
texts which both proclaim their Jewishness and stress the need to
keep the Law. There is no evidence at all of any Gentile interest
in, for example, the Wisdom of Solomon or the fourth book of
Maccabees. It is highly unlikely that any non-Jew would be inter-
ested in the dry chronological calculations of Demetrius. Even those
writings masquerading under Gentile authorship, such as the work
of Ps.-Hecataeus and Ps.-Aristeas, may have been intended primar-
ily for Jews: Jews steeped in the surrounding Greek culture as well
as their own religious traditions will have taken comfort from such
testimony by respected Gentiles to the truth of their faith, much as
more recent rabbis appeal on occasion to modern science as support
for the wisdom of traditional Jewish customs.
It is of course possible that some of these works were read by
Gentiles as well as by Jews, and that this was intended by their
authors, even though the only Gentile known to have taken any
interest in any of these writings before Christians adopted them was
the polymath Alexander Polyhistor, who collected such material in
the rst century BC for his own work On the Jews. But, if so, it
is hard to see what Gentiles were to make of such literature. The
status of Gentiles in the cosmic order was referred to on occasion,
particularly in the Sibylline Oracles, but this question was decidedly not
the main focus of the bulk of these works. On the contrary, their
main theme was the excellence of Judaism. When the writings urged
specically Jewish customs, such as the observance of the sabbath,
they tended to be pseudonymous: thus, the fact that Orpheus was
portrayed by a Jewish forger as approving of rest on every seventh
day, or that Phocylides was shown approving of Jewish morality, was
likely to be comforting for a Jew who was impressed by Orpheus
and Phocylides but was not likely to persuade a Gentile to become
Jewish. By contrast, those writings which were openly Jewish often
urged not conversion to Judaism but a more general ethic. The themes
which crop up in, for instance, the Testament of Abraham are moral
ones: charity, hospitality, the avoidance of adultery and homosexual-
ity, the shunning of infanticide and so on (cf. Collins 1983: 13774
on the common ethic). Even in a work like the third book of the
Sibylline Oracles, where the fact that it was the Jewish cult that was
being praised was only thinly disguised and one could argue that
such a disguise was a necessary part of the oracular form, there was
no suggestion that Gentiles should immediately rush to convert, or,
indeed, that the covenant of Judaism (including circumcision) had
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 107
anything to do with themat least, until the nal reckoning at the
end of days (Collins 1985: 1656).
Literature intended to persuade Gentiles to abandon their social
customs and enter a new society in Judaism would need to be far
more direct than this. It is only because some modern scholars
assume (wrongly) that Jews sought proselytes of some sort that they
have sometimes attributed to such writings an intention to attract
proselytes who would observe only a select few of the commandments
(McEleney 1974: 3234). For Josephus, the matter was simple: those
proselytes who found it beyond their endurance to keep the laws
properly were considered to be apostates (Against Apion II 10 (123)).
And yet, as has been seen (see p. 97), many have argued that one
religious duty in particular was often waived by Jewish missionaries
in their eagerness to win proselytes. It was possible, so it is claimed,
for Gentile males to become Jewish without undergoing circumci-
sion. Why this particular duty rather than any other? To be sure,
circumcision is a painful business and cases are recorded from the
ancient world of this being the sticking-point for would-be converts:
Izates of Adiabene hesitated to undertake an act which might prove
disastrously unpopular with his subjects (Josephus, Antiquities XX 2,
4 (389)). But the main reason for modern scholarly interest in this
particular religious duty is the emphasis laid upon it by St Paul in
his attacks on those of the circumcision and his insistence that it
was not required for entrance into the Church (McEleney 1974:
32841). The operation is no more painful or dangerous than that in
other initiation rites; indeed, it could be argued that the discomfort
caused constitutes part of its ecacy for initiation. Many peoples
other than Jews practised (and practise) the same custom. It seems
naive to suggest that dropping this one requirement could bring a
ood of proselytes to join the Jewish fold. The physical discomfort
would be negligible compared to the social problems faced by the
new convert.
But in fact the evidence for uncircumcised proselytes is anyway
minimal and should be discounted.
13
Epictetus, assuming baptism as
the main sign of initiation (ap. Arrian, Dissertations II 9, 20), may
simply have been confused or taking a part of the initiation ceremony
to stand for all. The rabbinic texts said to consider the possibility of
13
See Nolland 1979 for the following arguments.
108 cn.r+rn rion+
a proselyte who has not (yet?) been circumcised discussed the case
only as part of a gradual unveiling of a complex theoretical argu-
ment. An examination of Philos allegorical method and its application
to the signicance of circumcision makes it highly implausible that
he suggested the abolition of this law any more than any other. It
needs to be recognized how far-reaching such an abolition would
be. Circumcision was the symbol of the Jew (for outsiders as well
as for Jews themselves), however many other peoples did it and
regardless of the occasional Jew who, for whatever reason, did not
carry out the Law. The attitude of Metilius, the Roman garrison
commander in Jerusalem in AD 66, can be taken as indication of
the importance of the rite. He was prepared, he said, to become
Jewish (ioudaizein) even as far as undergoing circumcision ( Josephus,
Jewish War II 17, 10 (454)).
One nal claim needs to be countered, namely that the expulsion
of the Jews from the city of Rome in 139 BC and AD 19 was in
retaliation for the vehemence of their proselytizing (see p. 98). Neither
case is as well documented as is often assumed. The aair in 139
BC was referred to only by Valerius Maximus, an author of the
late rst century BC whose remarks survive only in two Byzantine
epitomators, Julius Paris (c. AD 400) and Nepotianus (c. AD 500).
Since the two accounts dier, they are clearly not preserved verba-
tim, and the confused nature of the reference to Jupiter Sabazius in
Julius Paris has been well claried by Lane (1979; see Stern 1974:
35760 for the passage). According to Nepotianus, the Jews were
banished, along with astrologers, for trying to transmit their sacred
rites [sacra] to the Romans; private altars were therefore removed
by the Roman authorities from public places, and they were expelled
from the city. Various peculiarities about this story have been noted.
One is that it is not clear who these Jews could be. There is no
other evidence for a Jewish community in Rome in the second cen-
tury BC. The suggestion has been made that these Jews were the
deputation from Simon the Maccabee mentioned in the rst book
of Maccabees, but this does not t in with the required date. More
signicant, however, is the odd description of the Jews alleged crime.
It seems dicult to imagine a new convert being recommended to
set up altars of any kind. Jews did countenance the setting up of a
temple at Leontopolis in this period by priests who had come from
Jerusalem, but no Jews are recorded as having approved of the use
of private altars in this way. What was at issue here, then, if the
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 109
account is not totally confused, was something rather less than the
conversion of proselytes. I suggest that the Jews were accused not of
teaching Romans to despise their native cults, which would be the
most obvious and objectionable eect of conversion, but simply of
bringing in a new cult into public places without authority, a prac-
tice which the Romans traditionally deprecated, as they had shown
recently in their opposition to the spread of the cult of Bacchus.
What may have happened is that some Romans, impressed by Jews,
chose to express their admiration in conventional Roman fashion by
the setting up of altars within the city. How pleased Jews might be
about this it is impossible to say, but they would certainly distinguish
it quite clearly from the conversion of Romans to Judaism.
As for the expulsion of AD 19, it has already been noted that nei-
ther Tacitus not Josephus gave missionary activity as an explanation
(see p. 98). The suggestion that Josephus might be prepared to hide
the truth is somewhat implausible: if the Jews missionary activity
was well known, Josephus would have been better advised to try to
justify such behaviour than to try to pretend it did not happen. It
seems to me better to explain the motive for the expulsion, which
is rst found in a fragment of Cassius Dios history preserved not in
the manuscript traditions but in a solitary quotation (not necessarily
verbatim?) by the seventh-century Christian writer John of Antioch,
in terms of a new Roman awareness of the possibility of proselytism
since the end of the rst century, and perhaps as evidence for a real
proselytizing mission in his day, the third century AD (see p. 114).
On examination, then, the evidence for an active mission by
rst-century Jews to win proselytes is very weak. I think that it is
possible to go further and to suggest that there are positive reasons to
deny the existence of such a mission. Unlike all other contemporary
religions before Christianity, Judaism was a way of life, which could
even be cited in contrast to living like a Greek (W.C. Smith 1978:
72). Conversion to such a new life and to the new social group
which went with it was a major undertaking. One would expect
much negative comment about such proselytizing in the anti-Semitic
literature which survives, but it is not to be found before the end of
the rst century AD (cf. Goodman 1989b). One would also expect
riots and expulsions from the other great centres of Jewish life,
giving proselytizing as justication, but, again, only in the city of
Rome is this said to have happened, and even there the evidence
seems doubtful. One would expect a great deal to be said about
110 cn.r+rn rion+
such a mission in the works of Philo and Josephus if Jews wished
all Gentiles to take so momentous a step. But in fact these authors
have little about proselytes and nothing about a mission to win them.
Indeed, Josephus is explicit that those outsiders who only irt with
Judaism will not be accepted as proselytes (Against Apion II 28 (210)).
A full commitment was needed, and if this diminished the number
of conversions no contemporary Jewish author expressed any regret.
It should be recognized that the suggestion that Josephus deliberately
hid the fact that Jews believed that they had a mission to convert
the world (e.g. Delling 1970: 51) is a major, and most implausible
claim. How could he hope to escape undetected with such a lie?
Furthermore, the ambiguous status of proselytes in the eyes of
Jews is itself evidence that the winning of more was not seen as
a religious duty. That the Jews were remarkable in espousing the
whole notion of permitting converts to enter the body politic has
been noted above (see p. 92), but this should not prevent awareness
of the limitations in the openness to outsiders thus expressed. If
Jewish attitudes to proselytes are compared not to those of contem-
porary pagans but to those of the early Church, those limitations
will rapidly become clear.
In the early Church, a convert to Christ was in essence equal to
his or her fellows. There is no evidence of prejudice against those
who had formerly been in darkness, except in so far as they needed
to heed the teachings of the more enlightened. In the early years, of
course, all Christians had been converts. By contrast, a proselyte to
Judaism became in religious terms a member of a clearly dened,
separate and, in a few cases mostly concerned with marriage, less
privileged group within the Jewish commonwealth. That this was
so was doubtless due to the dual function of conversion as entry
into a political and social as well as into a religious entity, but it
is signicant that the distinct denition of proselytes as a particular
sort of Jew was retained throughout antiquity. It was even possible
to describe the descendants of the Idumaeans who had converted to
Judaism as half-Jews ( Josephus, Antiquities XIV 15, 2 (403)).
It would be wrong to suggest that a negative attitude towards
proselytes predominated in the Jewish texts of the rst centuryin
so far as converts were discussed at all, it was usually with sympa-
thy and sometimes with admiration. But even the possibility of such
ambivalent attitudes is enough to show how unlikely the picture is
of a Jewish mission to win converts. If Gentiles wished to come to
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 111
( proserchesthai ) Israel, the commandments and God, they were wel-
come, but the etymology of the word proselyte implies movement
by the Gentile concerned, from darkness into light, not the changing
of the Gentiles nature as simple repentance might be termed, and
not a bringing in by the body of the Jews as the model of mission
would require. The role of the Jews was simply passively to bear
witness through their existence and piety; how the Gentiles reacted
to such witness was up to them.
Jrvisn A++i+trrs +o Grx+irrs
This laissez-faire attitude was much facilitated by the general variety
and frequent tolerance of Jewish attitudes in this period towards those
Gentiles who had not converted. For a truly missionary philosophy
it is necessary to believe that the unenlightened are in some way
damned. It is not easy to nd clear evidence of rst-century Jews
asserting that those who do not become proselytes will suer such
a fate.
14
Speculation by Jews about the fate of Gentiles either immediately
after death or at the expected end of the world was very varied.
Some texts implied apocalyptic destruction (2 Baruch 82:3)perhaps
only for unrighteous Gentiles (2 Baruch 72:4); others implied even-
tual subjugation to a redeemed Israel; yet others expected Gentiles
to participate in the kingdom. Most Jewish texts had nothing to say
on the matter: in a period of great trauma for Israel the status of
non-Jews was hardly a pressing matter. But enough can be culled
from the evidence to show that the notion that only by conversion
could Gentiles be removed from the multitude of the damned would
not often have received the assent of rst-century Jews.
It is true enough that Philo wrote that the proselyte who had left
the country of idolatry had come to his true homeland in Judaism
(On the Special Laws IV 34 (178)), implying perhaps that all other
pagans are in exile (or perhaps, more sophisticatedly, that proselytes
must in some sense have been born as potential Jews (cf. bShabbath
146a)). It is also true that the tendency of many Jews in this period
14
See discussion by Sanders 1976: 1144. On Jewish expectations of the fate
of Gentiles in the messianic period, contrast Sanders 1985: 1820 to Fredriksen
1988: 149., 166.
112 cn.r+rn rion+
was to shy away from social contact with the Gentile world; it is
a tendency that seems to me to have been based more on instinct
than on theology or religious law, as can be seen from the symbolic
extension of food taboos to exclude more and more non-Jewish food
from the kosher diet, but it was justied in religious terms by the
(correct) feeling that Gentiles were always prone to idolatry, from
which Jews were so strongly excluded by their law. But Jews in the
rst century did not even agree among themselves whether life after
death was possible for Jews, so the idea that they should have had
any clear notion on the availability of such post-mortem existence
for Gentiles seems implausible.
From those Jews who did refer to the expected fate of Gentiles
there is plenty to suggest that the future of at least some unconverted
Gentiles was deemed to be safe enough. At places Philo described
the achievement of wise and virtuous Gentiles with approval (On the
Special Laws II 1213 (448)). Quite what a Gentile was reckoned to
have to do in order to be deemed wise and virtuous was perhaps
debated. The Jewish texts in Greek discussed above (see p. 95)
urged a general morality: sexual continence (especially avoidance
of homosexuality), charity, hospitality and so on. The most com-
mon theological demand was a recognition by Gentiles that there
is only one God, but this could usually be achieved with singularly
little action by the Gentile concerned simply by the avowal that the
divinities he worshipped were all aspects of the single divine nature
(cf. Ps.-Aristeas 16, 189). Some Jewish texts encouraged further wor-
ship specically at the Jewish shrine (e.g. Sibylline Oracles III 565) but
this was rarely felt to be incompatible for Gentiles with continued
pagan practices: thus the Septuagint version of Exodus 22:27 urged
Jews not to revile the gods of others, an attitude echoed both by
Josephus (Antiquities IV 8, 10 (207); Against Apion II 33 (237)) and by
Philo (Moses II 38 (205); On the Special Laws I 9 (53); Questions and
Answers on Exodus II (5)). Josephus urged that everyone should be
allowed to reverence the god according to his own inclination (Life
23 (113)). Artapanus, an Egyptian Jewish author of the mid-second
century BC, could even commend the utility of pagan cults (Eusebius,
Preparation of the Gospel IX 27, 4).
This Jewish attitude was not just a question of theory. The Jewish
merchant Ananias who taught the royal family in Charax Spasinou
and Adiabene to revere the god (without converting to Judaism)
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 113
presumably thought this would be pleasing to God and of advantage
to them ( Josephus, Antiquities XX 2, 3 (345), 4 (41)). The same
must surely be true of the Jewish treatment of the pagan priestess
in Phrygia, a certain Julia Severa, who, also in the rst century,
was granted an honoured position in a synagogue without becoming
Jewish. The evidence for a formally recognized group of Gentiles
designated as God-fearers does not predate the third century AD,
but the theological preconceptions which were then to encourage
the emergence of such a dened status for honoured non-Jews were
already established in the rst century. That theology was of great
simplicity. Gentiles stood outside the special covenant made between
God and Israel. They had none of the burdens of the covenant.
They might win divine favour by freely oering worship, but such
worship was not required of them. Their only duty, in the eyes of
Jews, was a general morality.
Cnnis+i.xi+v .xr Jrvisn A++i+trrs +o Missiox
Jews thus lacked an incentive for proselytizing, and it could be argued
that in theological logic arguments against winning converts could
even have been brought forward. If many Jews believed at this time
that the imminent arrival of the last days could best be facilitated
by the righteous behaviour of Jews (cf. bSanhedrin 97a), it might
seems a retrograde step to produce more Jews who, through human
nature and the diculties inherent in full observance of the Jewish
way of life, were liable to add to the number of Jewish sinners. But
such arguments are found only in later periods and even then have
an air of justication after the eventno one seems to have urged
the corollary, that producing children should also be avoided.
The lack of a proselytizing movement in rst-century Judaism
seems to me all the more striking when it is contrasted not just
with the early Church but with developments within Judaism later
in antiquity. At some time in the second or third century some Jews
seem to have begun looking for converts in just the way they were
apparently not doing in the rst century. The evidence, which is
extensive but oblique, has been discussed by me in detail elsewhere
(Goodman 1989a), but presentation of one strand here may usefully
bring out the new mood among some rabbis. In Sifre to Deuteronomy
114 cn.r+rn rion+
313 (on Deuteronomy 32:10), a rabbinic text probably compiled in
the late second or early third century AD, the patriarch Abraham
was described as being so good a missionary that he caused God
to be known as king of earth as well as heaven, and this prowess
in winning proselytes was one of the main features of the career
of Abraham singled out for praise in later rabbinic writings. By
contrast, it was Abrahams piety as a convert, not a converter, that
was stressed by Philo, Josephus and other writers of earlier periods.
15

What might appear to be an exception on closer inspection proves
the rule. Josephus wrote that Abraham went to Egypt intending, if
he found their doctrine more excellent than his own, to conform to
it, or else to rearrange them to a better mind should his own beliefs
prove superior (Antiquities I 8, 1 (161)). But what he taught was not,
it seems, Judaism, or anything like it. The burden of his teaching
emerges unexpectedly as arithmetic and astronomy (Antiquities I 8, 2
(167)), while the Jew Artapanus in the second century BC envisaged
Abraham, as the bearer of culture, teaching the Egyptian Pharaoh
astrology (Eusebius, Preparation of the Gospel IX 18, 1).
The missionary hero in search of converts for Judaism is a phe-
nomenon rst attested well after the start of the Christian mission,
not before it. There is no good reason to suppose that any Jew
would have seen value in seeking proselytes in the rst century with
an enthusiasm like that of the Christian apostles. The origins of the
missionary impulse within the Church should be sought elsewhere.
Binrioon.rnv
Allen, W.C. (1894) On the meaning of proslutow in the Septuagint, Expositor
(series 4) 10: 26475.
(2nd edn, 1907) A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of S. Matthew
(International Critical Commentary), Edinburgh.
Baumgarten, A. (1983) The Name of the Pharisees, Journal of Biblical Literature
102/3: 41128.
Cohen, S.J.D. (1987) Respect for Judaism by Gentiles According to Josephus,
Harvard Theological Review 80: 40930.
Collins, J.J. (1983) Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora,
New York.
15
Philo, On Abraham 1314 (607); Philo, On the Virtues 39 (21219); Josephus,
Antiquities I 7, 1 (1547).
rvisn rnosrrv+izixo ix +nr rins+ crx+tnv 115
(1985) A Symbol of Otherness: Circumcision and Salvation in the First
Century, in J. Neusner and E.S. Frerichs (eds.) To See Ourselves as Others See Us:
Christians. Jews, Others in Late Antiquity, Chico, Calif.
Dalbert, P. (1954) Die Theologie der Hellenistich-Jdischen Missionsliteratur unter Ausschluss
von Philo und Josephus, Hamburg.
Daniel, S. (ed.) (1975) Philo, De Specialibus Legibus, Paris.
Delling, G. (1970) Studien zum Neuen Testament und zum hellenistischen Judentum,
Gttingen.
Edwards, J.R. (1987) The use of prosrxesyai in the Gospel of Matthew, Journal
of Biblical Literature, 106: 6574.
Feldman, L.H. (1950) Jewish Sympathisers in Classical Literature and Inscriptions,
Transactions of the American Philological Association 81: 2008.
(1986) The Omnipresence of the God-fearers, Biblical Archaeology Review 12,
5: 5863.
Fredriksen, P. (1988) From Jesus to Christ: the Origins of the New Testament Images of
Jesus, New Haven, Conn.
Garland, D.E. (1979) The Intention of Matthew 23 (Supplement to Novum Testamentum
52), Leiden.
Georgi, D. (1987) The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians, Edinburgh.
Goodman, M.D. (1987) The Ruling Class of Judaea: the Origins of the Jewish Revolt against
Rome, AD 6670, Cambridge.
(1989a) Proselytising in Rabbinic Judaism, Journal of Jewish Studies 38:
17585.
(1989b) Nerva, the scus Judaicus and Jewish Identity, Journal of Roman Studies
79: 404.
Jeremias, J. (1958) Jesus Promise to the Nations, trans. S.H. Hooke, London.
Kasher, A. (1988) Jews, Idumaeans and Ancient Arabs: Relations of the Jews in Eretz-Israel
with the Nations of the Frontier and the Desert, Tbingen.
Lane, E.N. (1979) Sabazius and the Jews in Valerius Maximus: a Re-examination,
Journal of Roman Studies 69: 358.
McEleney, N.J. (1974) Conversion, Circumcision and the Law, New Testament
Studies 20: 31941.
Meek, Th. J. (1930) The Translation of Gr in the Hexateuch and its Bearing on
the Documentary Hypothesis, Journal of Biblical Literature 49: 17280.
Mendels, D. (1987) The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature:
Resource to History in Second Century BC Claims to the Holy Land, Tbingen.
Munck, J. (1959) Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, trans. F. Clarke, London.
Nolland, J. (1979) Proselytism or Politics in Horace, Satires I, 4, 138143?, Vigiliae
Christianae 33: 34755.
(1981) Uncircumcised Proselytes?, Journal for the Study of Judaism 12, 2:
17394.
Sanders, E.P. (1976) The Covenant as a Soteriological Category and the Nature of
Salvation in Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism, in R. Hamerton-Kelly and R.
Scroggs (eds) Jews, Greeks and Christians: Religious Cultures in Late Antiquity, Leiden.
(1986) Paul, the Law and the Jewish People, London.
Schrer, E. (1986) The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol. III.
1, ed. G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Goodman, Edinburgh.
Smith, M. (1978) Rome and the Maccabean Conversionsnotes on I Macc. 8, in
E. Bammel, C.K. Barrett and W.D. Davies (eds.) Donum Gentilicium: New Testament
studies in honour of David Daube, Oxford.
(1987) Palestinian Parties that Shaped the Old Testament, London.
Smith, W.C. (1978) The Meaning and End of Religion, London.
Stern, M. (1974) Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, Vol. I, Jerusalem.
(1980) Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, Vol. 2, Jerusalem.
Tcherikover, V.A. (1956) Jewish Apologetic Literature Reconsidered, Eos 48:
16993.
Tcherikover, V.A. and Fuks, A. (1960) Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, Vol. II,
Cambridge, Mass.
Towler, R. (1974) Homo Religiosus: Sociological Problems in the Study of Religion,
London.
116 cn.r+rn rion+
CHAPTER NINE
A NOTE ON JOSEPHUS, THE PHARISEES AND
ANCESTRAL TRADITION*
There has been for many years an intense debate over the inuence
of the Pharisees in late Second Temple Judaism. Scholars are divided
into those who view them as a small pious group uninvolved in
wider Judaean aairsthus dismissing the statement of Josephus at
A.J. 13.298 that the Pharisees have the masses as their ally and his
assertion that all prayers and sacred rites were performed according
to their exegesis (A.J. 18.15)and those who view them as the main
leaders of the Jewsthus ignoring the singular absence of Pharisees
qua Pharisees from the narrative of the political history of Judaea
in the rst century CE provided by Josephus both in B.J. and in
A.J. and the absence of Pharisees from the description of Jewish
religion provided by Josephus in C. Apionem.
1
It is the purpose of
this note to suggest that both extremes are wrong and that a better
understanding of the role of the Pharisees can be gained by further
study of Josephus statements about the attitude of the Pharisees to
ancestral custom.
Much has been written about the Pharisaic paradosis,
2
but this
phrase is not found in any ancient text. Instead, what Josephus
described was the pride of the Pharisees in keeping accurately the
ancestral [customs?] and laws in which the Deity rejoices (A.J. 17.41),
* A version of this note was presented at the Congress of the European Association
for Jewish Studies held in Toledo in July 1998. I am grateful to the participants
for their comments.
1
See the useful summaries by D. Goodblatt, The Place of Pharisees in First-
Century Judaism: The State of the Debate, JSJ 20 (1989), pp. 1230; S. Mason,
Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees (1991); D.S. Williams, Morton Smith on the Pharisees
in Josephus, JQR 84.1 (1993), pp. 2942. Most contributions over the past ten
years have dealt with the relationship of Josephus account to his source material
in the writings of Nicolaus of Damascus. I here accept the arguments based on
stylometry of D.S. Williams, Josephus or Nicolaus on the Pharisees?, REJ 156
(1997), pp. 4358, that Josephus did not copy his source blindly and that his words
should therefore be taken seriously.
2
A.I. Baumgarten, The Pharisaic Paradosis, HTR 80 (1987), pp. 6377.
118 cn.r+rn xixr
their introduction of regulations according to ancestral tradition
(A.J. 13.408) and their transmission of certain rules received from
the ancestors (A.J. 13.297). The main characteristic specied about
these traditions is that they were not written down in the laws of
Moses and that for this reason the Sadducean group reject them,
saying that one should consider as rules [only] those which have
been written down, and that it is not necessary to keep the regula-
tions handed down from the ancestors (A.J. 13.297).
There has been, so far as I can tell, a quasi-unanimous assump-
tion among scholars that such unwritten ancestral traditions must
have been transmitted orally, and most discussion has focused on
whether, and how, such traditions should be identied with the Oral
Torah to which reference is made in later rabbinic texts.
3
Josephus,
however, does not mention oral transmission at all, and it seems to
me more likely that he had in mind traditional behaviour rather than
traditional teachings. For most individuals in most societies religion
is caught, through imitation of parental customs, rather than taught,
whether through writings or verbal instruction. This was precisely
the distinction Philo had in mind in his contrast between written
words and ancient customs as unwritten laws in his commentary on
Deut. 19:4:
Another commandment of general value is Thou shalt not remove thy
neighbours landmarks which thy forerunners have set up. Now this
law, we may consider, applies not merely to allotments and boundaries
of land in order to eliminate covetousness but also to the safeguard-
ing of ancient customs. For customs are unwritten laws, the decisions
approved by men of old, not inscribed on monuments nor on leaves
of paper which the moth destroys, but on the souls of those who are
partners in the same citizenship. For children ought to inherit from
3
See E.P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah: Five Studies (1990), chap-
ter 2; Mason, Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees, pp. 23045. J.M. Baumgarten, The
Unwritten Law in the Pre-Rabbinic Period, JSJ 3 (1972), pp. 729, simply takes
for granted that oral transmission was standard for Pharisees. Cf. the comment by
L.H. Feldman, Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1984), p. 567: If not written, they
must be oral. A.I. Baumgarten, Pharisaic Paradosis, pp. 6667, is unusual in his
reference to the importance of behaviour. The discussion of ancestral laws, in B.
Schrder, Die Vterlichen Gesetze: Flavius Josephus aus Vermittler von Halachah an Griechen
und Rmer (1996), shows that Josephus did not have any technical meaning for the
term. The interesting suggestion by Daniel Schwartz (SCI 17 (1998), pp. 25152)
that patrios may mean of the fatherland rather than of the fathers does not aect
the present argument.
osrrnts, +nr rn.nisrrs .xr .xcrs+n.r +n.ri+iox 119
their parents, besides their property, ancestral customs which they were
reared in and have lived with even from the cradle, and not despise
them because they have been handed down without written record.
Praise cannot be duly given to one who obeys the written laws, since
he acts under the admonition of restraint and the fear of punishment.
But he who faithfully observes the unwritten deserves commendation,
since the virtue which he displays is freely willed.
(De Spec. Leg. 4.14950, Loeb translation)
4
Pharisees encouraged ordinary Jews to keep ancestral customs com-
mon to all Jews (except for those like Sadducees, who opted out, or
those like Essenes, who followed their own quasi-sectarian practices).
Hippolytus, in his excursus on the nature of the Pharisees, charac-
terised them simply as followers of ancient tradition (Hippolytus, Ref.
9.28.3). It may thus seem that Pharisees were essentially conservative
in behaviour (and, incidentally, the Sadducean rejection of normal
custom far more radical than it is usually portrayed).
5
Nonetheless it is clear that Pharisees did more than simply accept
the status quo. At the least there must be some reason why they were
a distinctive group within Judaean Judaism: since both Josephus and
St Paul used the term pharisaios about themselves, the name seems
to have been a self-description adopted with pride by those who
belonged to the hairesis.
6
If Josephus is to be believed, they had dis-
tinctive theological ideas, not least about life after death (B.J. 2.1623;
A.J. 18.1214). They supported each other as part of their group; as
Josephus put it, they were philallloi (B.J. 2.166). They also espoused
a special lifestyle: they avoided luxury (A.J. 18.12) and, according
to the Gospel of Matthew, wore recognisably distinct clothing with
ostentatiously broad tellin and long fringes on the corners of their
garments (Matt. 23:5).
But when Pharisees gave instruction to the general population,
it seems that what they taught was not their distinctive doctrine
4
See the discussion by Naomi G. Cohen, Philo Judaeus: His Universe of Discourse
(1993), pp. 24247, 277 (but ibid., p. 281, she still assumes that Philo refers to the
oral law).
5
On Sadducees as conservative, see e.g. E. Schrer, rev. and ed. G. Vermes et al.,
The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, vol. 2 (1979), p. 411.
6
On Pharisee as a self-designation, see Jos. Vita 12; Philippians 3:5. Cf. A.I.
Baumgarten, The Name of the Pharisees, JBL 102 (1983), pp. 41128. On the
meaning of hairesis, see A.I. Baumgarten, The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean
Era: An Interpretation (1997), p. 3.
120 cn.r+rn xixr
but ancestral custom. Josephus wrote in the context of the struggle
between the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Hasmonean period as
if the Pharisees were responsible for establishing and introducing
as well as transmitting such customs (A.J. 13.296, 297, 408), but
the customs themselves cannot have been specically Pharisaic if
they could be characterised in these same passages as ancestral.
Similarly, although in Matt. 23:4 Jesus was portrayed as attacking
the Pharisees because they bind heavy burdens . . . and lay them on
mens shoulders, the burdens in question cannot comprise specically
Pharisaic doctrine since in the preceding verse (23:3) Jesus is quoted
as instructing the multitude and his disciples to observe whatever
the scribes and Pharisees say; Jesus objection here is quite explicitly
not to the teachings of the Pharisees but to their alleged hypocritical
failure to conform to their own advice (cf. also 23:28). The accusation
against Jesus disciples recorded in Mark 7:15 and Matthew 15:13
was not their failure to follow Pharisaic tradition in washing hands
before mealssince they were not Pharisees, they had no reason to
behave in Pharisaic fashionbut their failure to live according to
the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:5; Matt. 15:2).
Thus Pharisees did have their own distinctive doctrines but what
they taught the people more generally was correct behaviour in
accordance with ancestral customs. Since they had a reputation for
extraordinary accuracy in interpretation of the Torah (A.J. 17.41; B.J.
1.110; 2.162; Vita 191), and since accuracy was a slogan much in
vogue among Jews in this period,
7
and since above all the behaviour
thus validated by the Pharisees was in any case what people did
because their ancestors had always done it, it is unsurprising that the
Pharisees had the support of the masses, although in any particular
case it might be hard to know whether a custom was carried out
by ordinary Jews because it was customary, or because it had the
approval of the Pharisees, or for both reasons.
It is true that Josephus stated explicitly (A.J. 18.15), that the
Pharisees inuence was caused by the admiration shown by the
Jews towards their theological notions, such as life after death, but
I suggest that the role of the Pharisees as teachers of conservative
behaviour explains more fully their ambiguous position. This was
7
On accuracy as a slogan, see Baumgarten, Flourishing of Jewish Sects, pp. 56,
133.
osrrnts, +nr rn.nisrrs .xr .xcrs+n.r +n.ri+iox 121
a distinctive group of ostentatious religious pietists (cf. B.J. 1.110),
devoted to particular doctrines of their own (A.J. 18.12) but suciently
integrated into the wider Jewish community to permit individuals
such as Gamaliel and his son Simon to participate in political life
(although not necessarily by virtue of their status as Pharisees).
8
Their
endorsement of ancestral tradition gave them great popularity among
members of the wider population who valued the approval of such
conspicuously pious and accurate interpreters of the Torah.
8
On their public careers, see Acts 5:3440 (Gamaliel); Jos. Vita 19091 (Simon
b. Gamaliel).
CHAPTER TEN
THE PLACE OF THE SADDUCEES IN FIRST-CENTURY
JUDAISM
Traditional scholarship has long portrayed the Sadducees in rst-
century Judaea as wealthy aristocrats, primarily of priestly origins,
whose lifestyle was more secular and hellenized than that of other
Jews.
1
We are told that their political stance was more in sympathy
with the Romans than that of other Jews,
2
but that their theology
was more conservative.
3
Their strong links to the priesthood, and
especially the high priests,
4
is said to have given them authority in
rst-century Jerusalem,
5
and is said to explain their disappearance
from the historical record after the destruction of the Jerusalem
temple in 70 CE.
6
Such is the standard picture. In the course of his
classic studies of late Second Temple Judaism, Jewish Law from Jesus
to the Mishnah and Judaism: practice and belief, Ed Sanders queried in
a number of dierent places aspects of this picture.
7
But, despite his
skepticism, the picture has remained up to now more or less intact,
with only occasional hints of dissent to be found in the secondary
literature.
8
It is the purpose of the present study to take further the
1
For one among many basic discussions, see Emil Schrer, The History of the
Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (3 vols. in 4 parts; rev. and ed. Geza Vermes,;
Edinburgh et al.: T & T Clark, 197387), 2:40414.
2
See the views summarized by A.C. Sundberg, Sadduccees, in IDB, vol. 4 (ed.
George A. Buttrick et al.; New York/Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 4:162.
3
Gerhard Kittel, TDNT (10 vols; trans. Georey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 196476), 7:49.
4
Schrer, History of the Jewish People, 2: 4134.
5
F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, eds., ODCC (3rd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1997), 1439.
6
L.H. Schiman, From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic
Judaism (Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav, 1991), 119.
7
E.P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah: Five Studies (London: SCM
Press, 1990), 1002, 1078; E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE66 CE
(London: SCM Press, 1992), 31740.
8
It would be inappropriate to provide a full bibliography here, but it is worth
pointing out two studies of particular importance: J. Le Moyne, Les Sadducens (Paris:
tudes Bibliques, 1972) and G.G. Porton, Sadducees, in ABD, vol. 5 (ed. D.N.
Freedman; New York: Doubleday, 1992), 8925.
124 cn.r+rn +rx
task of demolition and to suggest that every aspect of the traditional
view requires re-evaluation and, in many cases, rejection.
The evidence about the Sadducees is not particularly extensive if,
as I suggest one should, one takes a minimalist approach and uses
only the evidence which is certainly applicable to them.
9
Beyond
the references in the Gospels and Acts, the only Greek references
of any value are those in the writings of Josephus, since all later
Christian commentators seem to have derived their material either
from him or from the New Testament.
10
Apart from these Greek
texts, references in early (i.e. Tannaitic) rabbinic texts to tsadukim
can be used with some condence in those passages where tsadukim
and perushim are found in dispute with each other.
11
It is possible in
theory that stories about arguments between tsadukim and perushim
in the Hebrew texts might not be related to stories in the Greek
texts which refer to arguments between pharisaioi and saddoukaioi, but
such a coincidence of names seems exceptionally unlikely: Josephus
specically described the nature of Sadducee doctrine as in opposi-
tion to the Pharisees (A.J. 13.293).
Beyond such texts it is unsafe to go (although scholars often do).
12

References in rabbinic texts to individual Sadducees may be mislead-
ing: since later rabbis used the term tsaduki as a generic term for
9
For a justication of this minimalist approach, see M. Goodman, Josephus
and Variety in First-Century Judaism, in Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences
and Humanities, vol. 7.6 (2000), 20113 [Chapter 3 above].
10
The main passages by Josephus are B.J. 2 1646; A.J. 13.173, 2978; 18.1617;
20.199; Vita 1011. See E. Main, Les Sadducens vus par Flavius Josphe, RB 97,
no. 2 (1990): 161206, who notes that Josephus depiction of the Sadducees should
be treated with some caution because he generally discussed them in relation to
the Pharisees with whom he aligned himself. The extended discussion of haireseis by
Josephus in B.J. 2.11966 constitutes a peculiar excursus in the context of Josephus
history of the Jewish war, and it is not unlikely that Josephus originally composed
the passage for a dierent purpose, but I nd it hard to imagine that so learned a
Jew could have taken over from a non-Jewish author a description of contemporary
Judaism which he himself knew to be false, particularly since in three places in
the Antiquities (A.J. 13.173, 298, 18.11) Josephus referred his readers back to the
specic passage in B.J. where the haireseis were described.
11
E.g. m. Yad. 4.67. See J. Lightstone, Sadducees Versus Pharisees: The
Tannaitic Sources, Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults: Studies for Morton
Smith at Sixty, vol. 3 (ed. J. Neusner; Leiden: Brill, 1975), 20617.
12
The most common extrapolation is from the word Manasseh in Pesher Nahum
from Qumran; see especially D. David Flusser, Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes
in Pesher Nahum, in Essays in Jewish History and Philology in Memory of Gedalyahu
Alon (eds. M. Dorman, et al.; Tel Aviv, 1970), 159.
+nr s.rrtcrrs ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 125
heretics, including Karaites, it is all too probable that the manu-
scripts of Tannaitic texts, copied by later scribes, may have been
corrupted by this later usage. References to other groups which had
something in common with some Sadducees, such as the Baetusin
(Boethusians) referred to in some early rabbinic writings, cannot
responsibly be used as evidence for the Sadducees themselves.
13
The
most valid conclusion to be drawn from the remarkable discovery that
the sectarian author of the Qumran text 4QMMT agreed in some
aspects of halakha with the tsadukim as portrayed in the Tannaitic
texts is not, as some have suggested, that the Qumran sectarians
were a type of Sadducee but that Jews with greatly dierent religious
orientations could nonetheless agree on specic aspects of halakah.
14

In any case, as I have argued elsewhere,
15
in the study of Jewish
groups from the late Second Temple period it seems to me good
practice, and intellectually justiable, to follow the general principle
that it is wrong to conate evidence about groups which are prima
facie distinct, except in those cases where the reasons to conate are
overwhelming.
Tnr N.vr or +nr S.rrtcrrs
It is almost certain that the name saddoukaios in Greek was a self-
designation of which an individual could be proud, since Josephus
portrayed himself as having thoroughly investigated at the age of
sixteen the hairesis of Sadducees (Vita 1011).
16
The meaning of the
name has been much debated, with opinion divided between those,
including some early Christian writers, who view it as derived from
tzaddik (righteous) and those who connect it to Zadok, the high
priest at the time of David and Solomon.
17
Neither derivation is
without philological problems, and both would t into the rhetoric
13
See L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period (London: Routledge,
2000), 199.
14
See especially Y. Sussmann, The History of Halacha and the Dead Sea
Scrolls: Preliminary Observations on Miqsat Ma"ase Ha-Torah (4QMMT), Tarbiz 59
(1989): 1176.
15
See Goodman, Josephus and Variety.
16
How trustworthy this claim is cannot be precisely ascertained; see Tessa Rajak,
Josephus: The Historian and His Society (2nd ed.; London: Duckworth, 2002), 349.
17
For discussion of the etymology of the name, see Le Moyne, Les Sadducens,
15763.
126 cn.r+rn +rx
of Second Temple Jews; the attractions of describing yourself as
righteous are obvious and the sons of Zadok were ascribed a
special role by the Dead Sea sectarians, so Zadok was evidently
a name to conjure with.
18
But in fact the name Sadducee may well have been ambiguous
and allusive already in its original use. Both the Dead Sea sect and
the rabbis were accustomed to refer to important individuals and
groups by allusive description rather than by name: for instance, the
Wicked Priest and the Seekers of Smooth Things in the Dead
Sea scrolls, and the rabbinic references to Simon bar Kosiba, leader
of the revolt of 132135 CE, as either Bar Kochba or Bar Koziba.
19

But in any case, the original derivation of their name may say little
about the nature of the Sadducees by the rst century CE.
E.nrv His+onv
The same argument applies to the early history of the Sadducees:
whatever they were like in the second and rst centuries BCE, it
is entirely possible that they may have changed entirely by the rst
century CE. A comparison with the changing membership, ideology,
and structure of political parties which retain the same name over
centuries should make the point.
20
Reference to Sadducees is in fact rst made in the early
Hasmonaean period, and many have therefore surmised that this is
where they originated.
21
This is of course possible, but by no means
necessary, since our ignorance of the third century BCE is profound
for the good reason that the ignorance of our prime source for the
period, Josephus, seems also to have been profound.
22
One can of
course imagine good reasons why Sadducees might have emerged in
18
On sons of Zadok at Qumran, see, e.g., Geza Verms, The Leadership of
the Qumran Community: Sons of Zadok-Priests-Congregation, in Geschichte-Tradition-
Reexion: Festschrift fr Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburtstag, vol. 1 (eds. H. Cancik, et al.;
Tubingen; Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 1:37584.
19
On the real name of Bar Kochba, see Schrer, History of the Jewish People,
1:543.
20
This point was made by Arnaldo Momigliano in his Grineld Lectures in
Oxford on the Septuagint in the late 1970s.
21
Al Baumgarten, Flourishing of Jewish Sects.
22
See in general Fergus Millar, The Background to the Maccabean Revolution,
JJS 29 (1978): 121.
+nr s.rrtcrrs ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 127
the traumatic events of the Maccabean crisis in the second century
BCE, but any hypothesis should allow for the possibility that they
had in fact existed as a group for much longer. Certainly there is no
rm warrant to try to understand the Sadducees of the rst century
CE in the light of the Maccabean crisis;
23
this is not a link made
by any ancient source.
Soci.r S+.+ts
More of a problem is why Sadducees are so often characterised as
wealthy aristocrats.
24
Two texts are responsible. First, Josephus stated
in A.J. 18.17 that the Sadducees doctrine came to only few men,
but that these are protoi tois axiomasi. The standard translation of
this phrase is rst in rank, and there are indeed many examples
of axiomata with the meaning rank in Josephus writings,
25
but
elsewhere in Josephus corpus axioma can also mean prestige or
reputation,
26
and in the context of A.J. 18.17 the axiomata (repu-
tation) of the Sadducees could be for their doctrines, or even their
practice of arguing with their teachers, which has just been described
by Josephus, rather than their social standing.
Secondly, in A.J. 13.298 Josephus stated that, in the political
struggles of the Hasmonean period, the Sadducees persuaded the
euporoi, who are here contrasted to the demotikon and plthos, or popu-
lace. The term euporoi must here mean wealthy, or at least well
o, but the fact that Sadducees persuaded the wealthy does not
amount to stating that the Sadducees in the rst century CE were
themselves rich, just that their philosophy was more likely to prove
acceptable to the wealthy than the masses. In his descriptions of
the Jewish philosophies in B.J., A.J. and Vita,
27
Josephus makes no
suggestion that any of the philosophies was restricted to any particular
social group. He describes the doctrine of the Sadducees as avail-
able for any Jew, of any class, to adopt (as, according to Vita 10,
he himself had briey done). It is quite true that we never read of
23
So Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 82.
24
Schrer, History of the Jewish People, 2:404.
25
E.g., B.J. 7.416, 439.
26
E.g., A.J. 1.221 (about Abraam); A.J. 2.193 (about Joseph).
27
See the passages listed in n. 10 above.
128 cn.r+rn +rx
a Sadducee who is poor, but an argument from silence should not
be attempted in this case: hardly any individual Sadducees of any
kind are identied in the surviving evidence, and in those rare cases
when ancient authors identied specic individuals in their writings
for any reason, they tended to be rich.
Pnirs+rv Onioixs
More of a puzzle is why Sadducees should be thought to have priestly
origins.
28
Even if the name of the group was derived from the name
of the High Priest Zadok, the adoption of a priestly name need
not imply descent within the priestly caste. As it happens, neither
Josephus nor the rabbinic sources suggest any link at all between
Sadducees and the priesthood. This silence is very unlikely to be
without signicance, since Josephus was himself a priest
29
(and insisted
in Contra Apionem that priests are the expert teachers of the law)
30

and the early rabbis had a great deal to say about the importance
of priests, not just as ociants in the temple but also as recipients
of tithes. As for the further assumption that most high priests were
Sadducees, the evidence could in fact suggest the contrary. Josephus
specically stated, when narrating the trial of James the brother of
Jesus, that Ananus b. Ananus, the high priest responsible for the trial
and execution, was a Sadducee and, hence more savage than all the
Jews in matters concerning trials (A.J. 20.199). One interpretation of
this statement might be that the condemnation of James, the brother
of Jesus, and some others was so odd that it needed explaining to
gentile readers by pointing out that Ananus behavior came about
only because high priests, being Sadducees, followed a particularly
harsh interpretation of the law,
31
but it is hard to see why this par-
ticular type of apologetic was needed here if it was normal for high
priests to be Sadducees, nor why the particular case of James was
illuminated for gentile, non-Christian readers by the addition of this
28
See the careful discussion in Le Moyne, Les Sadducens.
29
Vita 12.
30
C. Ap. 2.193194.
31
On the trial of James, see R.J. Bauckham, For What Oence Was James Put
to Death? in James the Just and Christian Origins (eds. B. Chilton and C.A. Evans;
Leiden: Brill, 1999), 199232.
+nr s.rrtcrrs ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 129
detailed information. It seems to me, rather, that such a statement
presupposes that the Sadducaean aliations of a high priest could
not be taken for granted.
Since Josephus also stated that prayers and sacrices were carried
out in accordance with the teachings of the Pharisees (A.J. 18.15),
life must have been uncomfortable for those high priests who were
Sadducees, since they were required to carry out their duties in a
way that they themselves believed invalid. Indeed, Josephus implies
precisely that: whenever they come to oce, they agree, albeit
unwillingly and under compulsion, with what the Pharisees say,
because otherwise they would become intolerable to the masses
(A.J. 18.17).
The origins of the widespread belief that high priests and their
entourages were generally Sadducees lies in unwarranted generali-
sation from two texts in the New Testament, both to be found in
Acts and, according to the commentary of Boismard and Lamouille,
ad loc., probably a doublet. The Synoptic Gospels make reference to
Sadducees in various contexts, but never suggest that they were priests
or that the high priest was a Sadducee, while the Gospel of John
remarkably includes no mention of Sadducees at all, so the alleged
high-priestly origins of the Sadducees thus rest entirely on two pas-
sages in Acts (Acts 4:17 and 5:17). Leaving on one side questions
about the reliability of Acts as a historical source, closer examination
of these passages suggests that they cannot take such a weight.
The rst passage, Acts 4:17, reads as follows:
1. And as they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of
the Temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them [Peter and John],
2. being grieved that they taught the people, and preached in Jesus
the resurrection from the dead. 3. And they laid hands on them, and
put them in guard to the next day, for it was already evening. 4. But
many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of men
was about ve thousand. 5. It happened next day that their rulers
and elders and scribes 6. and Annas the High Priest and Caiaphas
and John and Alexander, and as many as were from the high-priestly
family, were gathered together to Jerusalem. 7. And when they had set
them in the middle, they asked, By what power, or by what name,
have you done this?
The passage dierentiates in verse 1 between the priests, the captain
of the temple, and the Sadducees: on the face of it, the Sadducees
are portrayed therefore as separate from the priests. Nothing sug-
gests that the priests, or the captain of the temple, or the rulers,
130 cn.r+rn +rx
elders and scribes (verse 5), or Annas, Caiaphas and their relations
(verse 6) were Sadducees. The objections to Peter and John voiced
by all these participants was not to the notion of resurrection from
the dead (preaching resurrection hardly deserved arrestPharisees
preached resurrection, after all), but to preaching that resurrection
came through Jesus (verses 2 and 7). It appears that in this drama
Sadducees were just one group alongside the priests.
The second passage, Acts 5:1718, dealing with a later arrest of
Peter and John, reads as follows:
17. Then the High Priest rose up, and all who were with himwhich
is the hairesis of the Sadducees (or [Lake and Cadbury] the local school
of the Sadducees)were lled with indignation, 18. and laid their
hands on the apostles, and put them into the common prison.
This passage much more directly identies those with the high
priest as Sadducees and is undoubtedly the key text from which
the standard view of the Sadducees as related to the high priest
derives, but what it says does not in fact imply anything so general.
All it suggests is that those who accompanied the high priest on this
occasion were Sadducees. It neither states that the high priest himself
was a Sadducee, nor that his entourage was made up of Sadducees
on other occasions.
Ctr+tn.r .xr Pori+ic.r S+.xcr
It is hard to see why anyone should ever have suggested that
Sadducees were particularly imbued with Greek culture,
32
except as
a by-product of their alleged social originsthe notion that richer
Jews were more likely to adopt elements of fashionable Greek culture
is plausible enough, but it has been seen that you did not have to
be rich to be a Sadducee.
A similar reason lies behind the common assumption that Sad-
ducees would be naturally inclined to support Roman rule and to
be supported by Romans,
33
since the Romans preferred to control
32
See, e.g., M. Mansoor, Sadducees, in EncJud, vol. 14 (ed. C. Roth; Jerusalem:
Keter, 1971), 622.
33
On Sadducees as the ruling class, see Schrer, History of the Jewish People,
2:404.
+nr s.rrtcrrs ix rins+-crx+tnv tr.isv 131
provincial societies through wealthy local elites.
34
It is however cer-
tain that being a Sadducee was not reckoned to rule out opposition
to Rome, since the commander-in-chief of the Judaean rebels from
October 66 CE, the former High Priest Ananus b. Ananus (B.J.
4.31921), was known to be a Sadducee (A.J. 20.199), a fact which
evidently did not undermine his authority.
There is slightly more justication in the portrayal of Sadducees
as more secular than other Jews, since Josephus asserted repeatedly
that one of their distinctive characteristics was the belief that humans
have control over their own destinies (B.J. 2.1646; A.J. 13.173). In
one passage (B.J. 2.164) he attributes to the Sadducees the almost
Epicurean notion that they place God outside doing or seeing
anything bad, with the implication that God does not intervene in
human aairs. Josephus seems to have had the same thing in mind
when he states that the Sadducees totally do away with fate, saying
that men have complete free will, since elsewhere in his writings he
described in very similar terms (but in this case, with explicit disap-
proval) the doctrines of the Epicureans, who exclude pronoia from
life and do not believe that God governs aairs (A.J. 10.278).
It is easy to see how such a philosophy could lead to behavior
which might to the outsider look like atheism (as happened to
Epicureans)if the gods do not intervene in human life, for practi-
cal purposes their existence is irrelevant. However, the case of the
Sadducees is dierent, since according to Josephus own testimony
(as well as that of others), they had strong views on how God should
be worshipped and on all aspects of the keeping of the Torah
(see below). It is evident that their theology was in some respects
inconsistent, but this should not altogether surprise: the claim of the
Pharisees as described by Josephus in A.J. 18.13, that everything is
brought about by fate but nonetheless humans have free will, is also
inconsistent, although in his version of Pharisaic philosophy in A.J.
13.172, Josephus attributes to the Pharisees the more tenable doctrine
that Some things, but not all, are the work of fate.
35
34
Goodman, Ruling Class of Judaea.
35
Emphasis added.
132 cn.r+rn +rx
Doc+nixr
Josephus described Sadducaism as one of the philosophies any reli-
gious Jew might espouse. Modern scholars routinely describe that
philosophy as conservative,
36
even though the strong views of the
Sadducees just described on the unimportance of fate might already
seem to throw such a characterisation into doubt. In fact, it is wholly
inappropriate, since the Sadducees took particular care to deny the
validity of ancestral traditions.
According to Josephus (A.J. 13.297), the Sadducees diered from
the Pharisees in their insistence on relying on the written laws alone
and their refusal to follow traditions handed down through the gen-
erations. The issue which divided the parties was not that Sadducees
did not accept Pharisaic tradition, which would be obvious, but that
they said that there was no need to keep those laws from the
transmission of the fathers, that is, any ancestral customs.
37
As Ed Sanders has argued, despite their claim to rely only on
the written laws, Sadducees must in practice have developed tradi-
tions about how to interpret them, since all written legal texts need
interpretations if they are to be useful.
38
Records of some of their
interpretative traditions were indeed preserved in the early rabbinic
writings for polemical purposes, such as the Sadducee method for
counting the omer (m. Menah. 10:3) or for carrying out the red heifer
ritual (m. Parah 3:7). The dierence between Pharisees and Sadducees
thus lay less in what the groups actually did than in what they said
they were doing. Sadducees had strong views on purity and Sabbath
laws just as Pharisees did (m. Yad. 4:6; m. 'Erub. 6:1). To the author
of the Gospel of Matthew, Sadducees were essentially just another
group of Jewish leaders alongside Pharisees (Matt 3:7), distinguished
only by their rejection of the notion of resurrection (Matt 22:2333).
The notion of resurrection seems to have been the crucial issue also
for the author of Acts 23: 78, which states that the Sadducees
say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit: disbelief
in angels is not ascribed to the Sadducees by any other source, and
36
Schrer, History of the Jewish People, 2:411; Kittel, TNDT 7:49; Mansoor,
Sadducees, 621.
37
M. Goodman, A Note on Josephus, the Pharisees and Ancestral Tradition,
JJS 50 (1999): 1720 [Chapter 9 above].
38
E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 3336.
osrrnts, +nr rn.nisrrs .xr .xcrs+n.r +n.ri+iox 133
the wording of Acts (the Pharisees confess both, not all three)
suggests that neither angel nor spirit refers to types of resurrection,
not separate doctrines to be added to resurrection.
39
The Pharisees were willing to justify their interpretations of biblical
laws by pointing to what Jews in practice did (and, it was assumed,
always had done).
40
By contrast, the Sadducees refused to accept the
validity of any ancestral custom that could not be explicitly justied
from a biblical text. In so doing, they rejected customs which may
have been universally accepted over centuries. Far from being con-
servatives (as the Pharisees were), Sadducees were radical biblical
fundamentalists.
It is dicult to be a pure fundamentalist. When Sadducees refused
to express belief in resurrection (Acts 23:78) and rejected the non-
biblical custom of the 'erub (m. 'Erub. 6:2), they could point to the fact
that these concepts do not appear in Scripture, but when it came
to knotty issues of purity law, the claim to be biblically based may
often have been little more than an assertion. It is easy to see why
a philosophy which claimed authority from the text alone encour-
aged disputes between its practitioners (B.J. 2.166; A.J. 18.16), and
why there were so few Jews prepared to devote themselves to the
constant questioning of the text required by their austere approach
(A.J. 18.17). To be a Sadducee, you would have to be an intellectual:
perhaps this explains why they were rst in honors (A.J. 18.17).
Ixrrtrxcr
It is not hard to imagine the probable attitude of ordinary Jews
to radical biblical fundamentalists who rejected wholesale much in
Judaism to which they held dear. Josephus is explicit: the Sadducees
achieved nothing when in oce, because otherwise the masses would
not tolerate them (A.J. 18.17). This must, of course, be an exaggera-
tionthe one Sadducee explicitly attested by Josephus as a holder
of political authority was the High Priest Ananus b. Ananus (A.J.
39
On the Gospel depictions, see (e.g.) A. J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees
in Palestinian Society (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 14473. On Acts, see David
Daube, On Acts 23: Sadducees and Angels, JBL 109 (1990): 4937; E. Main,
Les Sadducens et la resurrection des morts: comparison entre Mc 12, 1827 et
Lc 20, 2738, RB 103 (1996): 41132.
40
See Goodman, A Note on Josephus.
134 cn.r+rn +rx
20.199), who became commander-in-chief of the rebels in October
66 CE (B.J. 2.563) and certainly achieved a great deal politically
(B.J. 4.31921), but not (so far as can be seen from Josephus nar-
rative) in the imposition of Sadducaic law and ritual. Certainly, the
notion that Sadducees ran the temple
41
is explicitly contradicted by
Josephus statement that with regard to prayer and sacrices the
ordinary Jews followed the teachings not of the Sadducees but of the
Pharisees (A.J. 18.15). The evidence may perhaps be best explained
by suggesting that Sadducees might be admired as intellectuals but
that their advice would not therefore necessarily be taken seriously
in practice any more than is that of university professors in con-
temporary society.
S.rrtcrrs Ar+rn 70 CE
The textbooks assert that the Sadducees disappeared after 70 CE,
42

basing their assertion on the belief that the Sadducees were high
priests (and hence had no role once the temple was destroyed) or,
more simply, on an alleged lack of evidence for Sadducees after that
date, but this argument is not strong, as I have discussed in more
detail elsewhere.
43
It is not in fact the case that references to Sadducaism as a living
philosophy ended after 70 CE. Most notably, Josephus himself wrote
about Sadducaism as a type of contemporary Judaismhe wrote
in the present tenseas late as the Vita, published in or after 93
CE. Later sources are indeed more or less silent, but no deduction
about the state of Sadducees can be safely based on their silence. If
rabbinic literature has little to say about Sadducees, this need not
imply their non-existence, just the solipsistic interest of the rabbinic
texts in what is required for one to be a pious adult male rabbinic
Jew:
44
instead of dierentiating other types of Judaism, the rabbis
lumped together all those they considered deviant, labelling them
41
See, e.g., Mansoor, Sadducees, 620.
42
Schiman, From Text to Tradition, 119.
43
M. Goodman, Sadducees and Essenes After 70 CE, in Crossing the Boundaries:
Festschrift for Michael Goulder (eds. S.E. Porter, et al.; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 34756
[Chapter 13 below].
44
See S. Stern, Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (Leiden: Brill, 1994).
osrrnts, +nr rn.nisrrs .xr .xcrs+n.r +n.ri+iox 135
as minim, heretics.
45
It is not at all unlikely that on occasion the
minut attacked was that of Sadducees (particularly when minim are
said to deny resurrection).
46
The apparent silence about Sadducees
in Greek Jewish literature after Josephus is equally easy to explain,
since no such literature was preservednot because it was not writ-
ten, but because the Christians who preserved earlier Greek Jewish
writings lost interest in Jewish literature once they were creating
their own.
47
If, as I have argued above, it was not necessary to be a priest to
be a Sadducee, Sadducees had no need of the temple to continue
to hold their philosophy. They did not even need each other: theirs
was an individualist creed, and they did not need to create a group
around them as the Essenes didindeed, they were positively unpleas-
ant to each other (B.J. 2.166), so creating a group must have been
quite dicult at any time.
When at the end of the rst millennium CE, the rabbis were con-
fronted by Karaites who claimed to go back to biblical fundamentals,
rejecting rabbinic Judaism, the rabbis characterised them sometimes as
Sadducees, a label some of the Karaites seem to have in part willingly
accepted.
48
In terms of genealogical connection, the medieval rabbis
were wrong, but in terms of ideology, they were right. The lack of
a temple is no hindrance to adoption of Sadducaism. It would still
be quite possible for a pious Jew to become a Sadducee now.
45
M. Goodman, The Function of Minim in Early Rabbinic Judaism, in
Geschichte-Tradition-Reexion: Festschrift Fr Martin Hengel Zum 70. Geburtstag, vol. 1 (eds.
H. Cancik, et al.; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 1:50110 [Chapter 14 below].
46
Goodman, Function of Minim, 5045.
47
Goodman, Sadducees and Essenes, 355.
48
L. Nemoy, Karaites, in EncJud, vol. 10 (ed. C. Roth; Jerusalem: Keter,
1971), 10:765.
CHAPTER ELEVEN
A NOTE ON THE QUMRAN SECTARIANS,
THE ESSENES AND JOSEPHUS
It is undoubtedly rash for one of Geza Vermess pupils who has not
specialized in the interpretation of the Dead Sea scrolls to oer in
his honour a suggestion about the origins of the Qumran community
directly opposed to the view that Geza himself has championed for
most of his scholarly career.
1
I do so primarily because I believe
that the question should be resolved not by considering afresh the
scrolls themselves but by a dierent appreciation of the writings of
Josephus.
2
As a result of this reconsideration, I shall suggest that the
Essene hypothesis of Qumran origins is much less probable than is
usually proposed.
The basis of the Essenes hypothesis lies in the similarities between
the communal life laid down in the sectarian rules and the com-
munal life ascribed to the Essenes by some of the Greek and Latin
authors who referred to them.
3
The site of Qumran can also be
made, more or less, to correspond to the location of the Essenes
1
I am grateful to Emanuel Tov and especially to Geza Vermes for their help-
ful, if skeptical, comments on this short paper. I have kept references to modern
discussions to a minimum, in the belief that extensive bibliographical information
will not be needed for readers of this Journal, since the wise editorial policy of
Geza Vermes over many years has ensured that new scholarship on the Dead Sea
scrolls has frequently featured on its pages.
2
Most discussions of the relationship of Josephus writings to the Qumran scrolls
take for granted that the sectarians were Essenes. Cf., for example, T.S. Beall,
Josephus Description of the Essenes illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (1988). Many of the
points that I am making in this brief study have been raised before as a possibility
by scholars ever since Louis Ginzberg, An Unknown Jewish Sect (original German edn.
1922; rev. English edn. 1976). The case seems to me to be worth restating because
even those scholars most acutely aware of the dangers of parallelomania in other
elds, such as the comparison of the New Testament to rabbinic literature, seem to
drop their guard when they come to consider the identity of the Dead Sea sect.
3
The comparison is laid out most clearly in E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish
People in the Age of Jesus Christ, ed. G. Vermes et al., vol. II (1979), pp. 5835.
138 cn.r+rn rrr\rx
asserted by Pliny,
4
and one period of occupation of the site coincides
with the eorescence of Essenes in the late Second Temple period.
5

Acknowledged discrepancies, such as the emphasis on common own-
ership of property and on celibacy, which rank high in some of the
classical descriptions of the Essenes but are not found in every group
depicted in the scrolls, can be explained away by a number of plau-
sible strategies: the dierences may reect dierent groups of Essenes,
or dierent stages of the development of the sect, or the diering
viewpoints of insider compared to outsider accounts.
6
Above all, it
is averred, the Essene theory is to be preferred to theories linking
Qumran with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Judaeo-Christians,
not to mention the medieval Karaites.
7
It is not my intention to dispute the plausibility of any of this
hypothesis as it stands, but simply to draw attention to one crucial
pre -supposition which underlies it. Arguments about which of the
Jewish groups known from the extant literary sources to have existed
in late Second Temple Judaea should be identied with the Qumran
sectarians take for granted that the extant sources provide, between
them, a full list of such groups. If that were so, it would indeed be
the task of scholarship to adjudicate between the claims of dierent
groups to be identied with the Qumran sectarians. But it seems to
me demonstrably unlikely that such a full list survives.
It is easy to show that all the extant literary sources apart from
Josephus provide only a partial picture of rst-century Judaism. If
only the New Testament and the rabbinic tradition survived, mod-
ern scholars would know about Pharisees and Sadducees but not
Essenes; since at least one amoraic rabbi asserted that there were
no fewer than twenty-four groups of heretics within Judaism before
70 CE, that rabbi, if he thought at all about the implications of
his assertion, must have assumed that most such groups had names
which later Jews no longer recalled.
8
If only the voluminous writ-
4
Pliny, Natural History 5.17, 4 (73). On the possible meanings of infra hos Engada,
there is a large literature. Cf. R. De Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1973),
pp. 1338.
5
Cf. G. Vermes and M. Goodman, The Essenes According to the Classical Sources
(1989), p. 14.
6
G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective (1977), pp. 12730.
7
Schrer, History, vol. II, p. 585.
8
Cf. ySanh. 29c: R. Yohanan said, Israel did not go into exile until there had
been made twenty-four sects of minim. I do not suggest that this tradition should
be taken as a serious reection of Second-Temple times, since the number 24 is
+nr tvn.x src+.ni.xs, +nr rssrxrs .xr osrrnts 139
ings of Philo survived, modern scholars would know about Essenes
but not Pharisees or Sadducees. If scholars had to rely on the tes-
timony of the non-Jewish pagan authors who referred to the Jews,
they would learn many bizarre myths about Judaism, but nothing
at all about the existence of various groups within Judaism: in none
of the writings of these authors does any reference to Pharisees or
Sadducees survive, and Pliny and Dio Chrysostom, who did refer
to Essenes, did not describe them as a type of Jew.
9
The reason for
the inadequacy of all these sources lies not in censorship, nor even
necessarily in ignorance (although that best explains the vagaries of
some of the non-Jewish accounts), but in the interests of the authors
and of the Christian and rabbinic traditions which preserved their
texts. Rabbis were not interested in non-rabbinic Jews except in so
far as disputes with them generated new halakha;
10
early Christians
were primarily interested either in ancient Israel or in those types of
Jews with whom Jesus and his earliest followers came into contact
and sometimes conict, not in Judaism for its own sake.
11
The only ancient author to mention Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots
and Judaeo-Christians as well as Essenes, was Josephus. The ques-
tion to be addressed is therefore whether Josephus, who came from
rst-century Judaea, and had a deep interest in religious questions,
attempted in his writings to produce a full picture of the dierent
religious groups within his society.
Curiously, in the one work where Josephus explicitly claimed to
be describing Judaism as it was, the Contra Apionem, he denied the
existence of variety within Judaism altogether. According to C.Ap.
2.1798, all Jews agree on everything about the nature of the divine
and about the correct way to worship and obey the command-
ments; this admirable harmony (C.Ap. 2.179) under the tutelage of
the priests (C.Ap. 2.1857) marks them o from other peoples, and
probably symbolic and the correlation between division within Israel and Israels
exile was a standard rabbinic motif.
9
See the sources collected in M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and
Judaism, 3 vols. (197486).
10
See my arguments in Sadducees and Essenes after 70 CE, in S.E. Porter,
P. Joyce and D.E. Orton (eds.), Crossing the Boundaries (Festshrift for Michael Goulder)
(1994), pp. 34756 [Chapter 13 below]. See also S. Stern, Jewish Identity in Early
Rabbinic Writings (1994).
11
See now M. Taylor, Anti-Judaism and Early Christian Identity: A Critique of the
Scholarly Consensus (1995).
140 cn.r+rn rrr\rx
especially from Greeks. Doubtless Josephus picture was idealized, but
the innocent reader of Contra Apionem, assumed by Josephus to be a
gentile in need of instruction about the nature of Judaism, would
be quite unaware of religious divisions within Jewish society.
12
If he
or she was suciently curious to follow up Josephus references in
Contra Apionem to his earlier works (C.Ap. 1.4756), the discrepancies
might have seemed rather startling.
In all three of those earlier works Josephus wrote, as is notorious,
about the three haireseis (schools of thought) within Judaism (B.J.
2.119; A.J. 13.171; 18.11; Vita 10); in B.J. 2.119, the three groups are
described as types of philosophy. The description of these philosophies
was evidently a set-piece, originally composed either by Josephus or
by someone else. At A.J. 18.11 Josephus referred the reader to his
account in B.J. 2.11966, and a similar account, perhaps derived
indirectly from Josephus, survives in the writings of Hippolytus of
Rome (Refutation of all Heresies 9.1828).
13
This is the closest that
Josephus came to claiming to produce a list of the dierent groups
or tendencies within Judaism. Was it intended to be complete?
The question, once asked, is instantly answered. Josephus entire
reason for inserting a description of the three philosophies into the
narrative at B.J. 2.11966 and A.J. 18.1122 was to introduce a
fourth philosophy, entirely novel in 6 CE and dedicated to the anar-
chist doctrine that Jews should call no-one their leader and master
apart from God (B.J. 2.108; A.J. 18.23). It is not my purpose here
to rehearse the problems of the inconsistencies in Josephus accounts
of this philosophy, nor the much-debated question of its inuence on
either sicarii or zealots.
14
My intention is only to discuss Josephus
literary purpose.
Josephus described the three old philosophies in order to claim
that a fourth group had made a major historical impact on rst-cen-
tury Judaea. The whole point of the passages in B.J. 2.11966 and
12
Cf. Jos., C.Ap. 2.1936 (Jews have one Temple and one God).
13
See M. Black, The account of the Essenes in Hippolytus and Josephus, in
C.H. Dodd Festschrift (1956), pp. 1725; M. Smith, The description of the Essenes
in Josephus and the Philosophoumena, HUCA 29 (1958), pp. 273313.
14
See esp. M. Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in
the Period from Herod I until 70 AD (1989). The incomplete nature of Josephus account
of Jewish groups has often been noted (e.g. P.S. Alexander, Rabbinic Judaism
and the New Testament, ZNW 74 (1983), p. 425, n. 11), but scholars seem oddly
unwilling to face the implications of this fact.
+nr tvn.x src+.ni.xs, +nr rssrxrs .xr osrrnts 141
A.J. 18.1122 was to assert that there were four types of Judaism.
Yet when Josephus described his own upbringing at Vita 1011, he
reverted to the enumeration of the Jewish philosophies as three: at
about the age of sixteen I wished to get experience of the schools of
thought to be found among us. There are three of thesePharisees
the rst, Sadducees the second, Essenes the thirdas we have often
remarked. Thus he managed to combine his own assertion that
there were four Jewish haireseis with the continuing assumption that
there were really only three.
Quite apart from the Fourth Philosophy, Josephus was of course
aware of numerous other types of Judaism. In Vita 12, immediately
after his reference to the three, he described the ascetic Judaism
of Bannus. In A.J. 18.259 he described Philo as not inexpert in
philosophy. He referred elsewhere to the religious teachings of John
the Baptist, Jesus and numerous mavericks: not all won his approval,
but all were assumed by him to be teaching some distinctive kind of
Judaism. It seems certain that Josephus did not intend to encompass
all varieties of contemporary Judaism in his set-piece description of
the three haireseis.
If this appraisal of Josephus intentions is correct, the Essene
hypothesis of Qumran origins will come to seem rather less compel-
ling. It is undoubtedly true that the information about the lives of
the sectarians in IQS is closer to the description of the Essenes in
the classical sources than to that of any other group described by
those writers, but when new evidence turned up by chance in the
Judaean Desert, scholars should not have been looking for a direct
correlation between the new material and what was already known.
It was always more plausible that the new evidence would tell them
about a type or types of Judaism previously undiscovered. It is a
truism that most information about late Second Temple Judaism is
now irretrievably lost, since the same is true about every aspect of
the ancient world. It would be remarkable if the new evidence hap-
pened to t precisely with the partial literary record.
Thus, it is up to proponents of the Essene hypothesis to make their
case. None of the published documents from Qumran refers to the
sectarians as Essenes or by any Semitic word of similar derivation
or meaning. This fact can of course be explained away by adherents
of the Essene hypothesismembers of a group may never use in
insider literature the collective name for themselves which they use
when presenting themselves to the rest of the worldbut it does put
142 cn.r+rn rrr\rx
the onus of persuasion on those who advocate the Essene identity
of the Qumran sect.
15
I have left to the end the arguments from archaeology. Here I
must begin by stating that, in the light of the archaeological evidence
alone, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the site at Qumran was
used by ascetic Jews. Apart from the curious choice of location for
a settlement, the strongest argument lies in the insistence of the
inhabitants on producing their own pottery in an area where fuel
supplies for the kiln were very hard to obtain: such expenditure of
eort to ensure control over the production, and hence the purity,
of vessels for food makes most sense in the light of notions about
kashrut derived from Leviticus.
16
Pliny and Dio Chrysostom both located a settlement of Essenes
somewhere in the region of Qumran.
17
That in itself makes identi-
cation possible, but no more. Arguments from silence about archaeo-
logical data are perhaps the most dubious of all. More investigation
may always turn up something new. It is not even true that Qumran
was the only settlement of its type near the Dead Sea: the site of
En el-Ghuweir, discovered in the 1970s, is similar.
18
Numerous other
sites could emerge at any time in areas still insuciently explored.
Archaeologists do not even know exactly what they are looking for.
Pliny unhelpfully described the Essenes as at a distance (unspecied)
from the shore of the Dead Sea, but with the company of palm
trees; Dio Chrysostom described them as an entire and prosperous
city which, if true, would suggest somewhere rather more substantial
than the Qumran remains reveal.
19
It is salutary to recognise that
the interpretation of a site through the perspective of literary texts
belongs to a tradition of biblical archaeology that archaeologists in
other areas of both Jewish and Roman history have been at pains
to avoid over the past decades.
15
A similar point is made on the simple grounds of general scholarly skepticism
by S. Talmon, The community of the Renewed Covenant: Between Judaism and
Christianity, in E. Ulrich and J. Vanderkam (eds.), The Community of the Renewed
Covenant (1994), pp. 510.
16
See, most conveniently, R. De Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls
(1973).
17
On the text in Pliny, see above, n. 4. Dio Chrysostom, in Synesius of Cyrene,
Dio 3, 2, locates the Essenes near the Dead Sea, in the centre of Palestine, not
far from Sodom.
18
See P. Bar-Adon, Another Settlement of the Judaean Desert Sect at En el-
Ghuweir on the Shores of the Dead Sea, BASOR 277 (1977), pp. 125.
19
There is no extant parallel to the reference in Dio to a city of Essenes.
+nr tvn.x src+.ni.xs, +nr rssrxrs .xr osrrnts 143
The implications of my essentially negative remarks are in fact
quite positive. I suggest that the logical response of scholars to the
chance discovery of texts in the Judaean Desert should not have
been to try to t the information from them into what was already
known through the texts preserved by Jews and Christians by regu-
lar copying since antiquity. Rather, the new evidence has revealed
aspects of Judaism previously unknown. The Dead Sea sectarians had
many important preoccupations in common with other contemporary
Jews such as biblical interpretation, eschatology, halakha and purity;
the similarities should not surprise, since all forms of rst-century
Judaism derived ultimately from the Torah and were subjected to
similar cultural and social inuences. The details which have most
impressed adherents of the Essene hypothesiscommon ownership
and the celibacy of some members of the sectare in fact found
only in one of the Qumran documents, the Community Rule.
20
It
is notorious in studies of other societies that to sectarians themselves
the dierences which seem to the outsider least signicant may often
appear the most important factor in their self-denition.
21
In sum,
the details which have led scholars to identify the Qumran sectarians
with other Jewish groups can be most plausibly explained by the
common origin of all such groups in rst-century Judaism.
The message of the scrolls, if they were not composed by Essenes,
is thus evident. It is that the extent of variety within rst-century
Judaism was even greater than anyone could have known before the
scrolls were found. The importance of this insight for the history of
Judaism and the origins of Christianity should not require elabora-
tion. The scrolls have provided a unique opportunity to counteract
the weight of later traditions, to discover just some elements of the
Judaism of the rst century which both rabbis and Christians were
to forget.
22
20
Cf. Vermes and Goodman, Essenes According to Classical Sources, pp. 78.
21
I owe this observation, which is backed by many studies of modern sects, to Al
Baumgarten, from whom I have learned much about the nature of sectarianism.
22
This is also the main contention of Talmon, Community of the Renewed
Covenant, pp. 323.
CHAPTER TWELVE
THE PERSECUTION OF PAUL BY DIASPORA JEWS
The question addressed in this paper is limited in scope but has,
I believe, quite wide ramications. It is simply this: Why was Paul
subjected by some of the Jews he met to judicial punishments? The
problem is an issue above all for Jewish rather than Christian history,
since the aim is to discover the motivation of the persecutors, not
the explanations given for their suering by the persecuted.
Some distinctions will be useful at the outset. From the point of
view of the persecutors, judicial punishments require quite a dierent
attitude than less formal types of persecution. Thus judicial punish-
ments should be distinguished from passive approval of punishments
carried out by others, as in the support apparently expressed by
the Jews for the execution of James, the brother of John, and the
arrest of Peter, by Agrippa (Acts 12:119). They are also to be
distinguished from mob action engendered by zealous enthusiasm,
such as (probably) the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:5160),
1
or the
expulsion of Christians from synagogues (e.g. John 9:22),
2
or verbal
attacks, from sophisticated religious polemics to formal cursing.
3
All
such informal violence may have been just as terrible to undergo
as judicial punishment, but those responsible will not have needed
to think so much about their hostile actions. By contrast, judicial
punishments are by denition deliberate.
4
A second distinction must be between, rst, the explanation of
persecution given by the victims, who will naturally have wanted to
1
Cf. J. Munck, The Acts of the Apostles, Garden City 1967, p. 68; E. Haenchen,
The Acts of the Apostles, Philadelphia 1971, p. 296.
2
Cf. R. Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, London 1971, p. 250.
3
On polemics and the birkat haminim, see most conveniently J.T. Sanders.
Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissidents, Deviants: The First One Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian
Relations, London 1993, pp. 5861.
4
For a survey of the varied measures taken against Christians by Jews, see
E. Bammel, Jewish Activity against Christians in Palestine According to Acts,
R. Bauckham (ed.), The Book of Acts in its Palestinian Setting, Grand Rapids, MI 1995,
pp. 357364.
146 cn.r+rn +vrr\r
make sense of, and ascribe some meaning to, their suering; sec-
ond, the judicial charges brought, which may have been trumped
up in particular cases, but whose existence as potential charges was
nonetheless clearly essential if a case was to stick; and thirdmy
topic herethe reasons for electing to bring such charges, since the
existence on the statute book of laws against particular behavior
does not in itself necessitate in any legal system action to enforce
those laws, and this will have been all the more true in ancient
societies, which lacked any state prosecution service and therefore
relied on private initiative for accusations to be brought. My theme
will therefore be the incentives which impelled some Jews to bring
charges against some early Christians, in the full expectation that
such reasons may have diered in every case.
The investigation is not without problems. Most obvious is one
of method: almost all the accounts of persecution come from the
Christians who were persecuted, and since martyrdom early became a
potent theme in Christian literature, as in Acts 5:40, which refers to
suering for Jesus name,
5
it will be hard to nd reliable evidence
of the views of the Jewish persecutors concerned: the issue raises
in a particularly acute form the problem that references to Jews in
Christian texts relate only obliquely to references to Christians in
Jewish texts, a disjunction which should not really surprise.
The problem for the historian of Judaism grappling with the per-
secution of early Christians is the abundant evidence of the pluralism
tolerated within Jewish society in this period. The variety of coexist-
ing Judaisms has been, if anything, conrmed by the discovery of
the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially if the evidence of the scrolls is not
robbed of its value by unnecessary identication of the sectarians
who produced them with one of the numerous groups already known
from literary sources.
6
Disputes between such groups are of course
well attested in late Second Temple times, but although Pharisees and
Sadducees indulged in political struggle under the Hasmoneans
7
and
5
See W.H.C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of Conict
from the Maccabees to Donatus, Grand Rapids 1965.
6
See M. Goodman, A Note on the Qumran Sectarians, the Essenes and Jose-
phus, JJS, 46 (1995), pp. 161166 [Chapter 11 above].
7
E.g. Ant. 13.296298; cf. E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of
Jesus Christ, rev. G. Vermes et al., II, Edinburgh 1979, pp. 381414.
+nr rrnsrct+iox or r.tr nv ri.sron. rvs 147
sometimes unruly demonstrative actions to support their views about
the correct conduct of such Temple rituals as the sacrice of the red
heifer,
8
none of this involved any judicial charge, despite theological
dierences which could be quite acute. In the same wayto anticipate
some of the conclusions of this paperit must be signicant that for
many years after its foundation the Jerusalem Church is said to have
prospered in peace (Acts 2:4647); in other words, the theological
views adopted by Jewish Christians did not always automatically lead
to violent opposition by their fellow Jews.
The reasons for the judicial actions taken by the authorities in
Judea against Jesus and some of his followers have long been argued
to be essentially political, and I shall not rehearse the arguments
again here. It will suce to note that, whatever the charges brought
against Jesus before the High Priest and his supporters,
9
the reason
for their concern to deal with him is likely to have lain in the vola-
tile politics of the Judean elite as it strove to maintain its position
with the Roman governor;
10
the closest parallel, notoriously, was the
beating incurred by the strange prophet named Jesus son of Ananias,
whose (correct) prediction of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem
was oered so continuously that the authorities deemed it a threat
to good order and tried, not surprisingly, to silence him by beatings
(B.J. 6.300309).
11
It is just as plausible that a need to keep order lay
behind the arrest of Stephen on a charge, brought to the Jerusalem
council by diaspora Jews, of speaking blasphemous words against
the Temple and the Torah (Acts 6:914); if the charge is correctly
reported by the author of Acts, it is worth noting that it seems to
have borne little relation to the reasons for the eventual stoning
to which Stephen was subjected. Political explanations are also as
good as any for the persecution of the Church by Saul before his
conversion (Acts 26:1011) and the execution of James, the brother
of Jesus, by the Sadducaean High Priest, Ananus, son of Ananus
(Ant. 20.200a); it is worthwhile noting that Josephus description of
the latter episode falls squarely in the middle of his narrative of the
8
Cf. M. Parah 3:7; cf. M. Goodman, Mission and Conversion, Oxford 1994, pp.
171172.
9
See, e.g., P. Winter, On the Trial of Jesus, Berlin 1974
2
.
10
Cf. M. Goodman, The Ruling Class of Judaea, Cambridge 1987, pp. 27133.
11
See the discussion in E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, Philadelphia 1985, pp.
302303.
148 cn.r+rn +vrr\r
faction struggles within the Judean ruling class which ravaged the
city in the sixties CE.
12
More dicult to explain, and my main concern here, is the willing-
ness of the Jewish authorities in the diaspora to take judicial action
against Christians. The earlier cases, such as the self-imposed mission
of Saul to bring any Jewish Christians he might nd in Damascus
to Jerusalem for punishment (Acts 9:12), are less problematic, since
the need for the Judean ruling elite to prevent trouble in areas sur-
rounding Judea itself can be understood purely in terms of Judean
politics: just as the outbreak of revolt in Jerusalem in 66 CE aected
the Jewish communities in the cities of the Decapolis as far north as
Damascus (B.J. 2.457498, 559561), so too the Jerusalem uprising
itself was sparked o by events which began in tensions between
Jews and gentiles in the mixed city of Caesarea (B.J. 2.284296),
and it would make sense for the High Priest to stamp out talk by
Jews in Damascus of the imminent arrival of the End of Days in
the volatile atmosphere in Jerusalem during the last years of the
governorship of Pontius Pilate.
13
But such a Judean explanation is much less plausible for the
actions taken against Paul later in his career, and it is to this topic
that the rest of this paper is devoted. At 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul
boasted that his devotion to the propagation of the Christian mes-
sage was proved by his suerings at the hands of the Jews: By the
Jews ve times I received forty [stripes] save one. The emphasis
on the precise number suggests that the punishment to which Paul
alluded must have been formal lashing at the hands of an ocial of a
Jewish court rather than an informal lynching, and it is a reasonable
hypothesis that the beatings took place in the diaspora, where Paul
undertook most of his mission, rather than Judea, not least because
a vefold repetition of so serious a punishment is hard to envisage
within the comparatively short period of Pauls known residence in
Jerusalem after his conversion.
14
At any rate the punishment must
have been voluntarily accepted by Paul, since at any time he could
12
See Goodman, Ruling Class, pp. 138151.
13
Ant. 18.5562, 8589; cf. Schrer, History (n. 7 above), I, pp. 383387. See
P. Fredriksen, Judaism, the Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope:
Another look at Galatians 1 and 2, JTS, 42 (1991), pp. 532564.
14
For the suggestion that the beatings might have taken place in Judea, see
Sanders, Schismatics (n. 3 above), pp. 56, 9, 203204.
+nr rrnsrct+iox or r.tr nv ri.sron. rvs 149
have removed himself from the jurisdiction of the Jewish court by
denying his continued adherence to the Jewish community: that
some Jews could simply divorce themselves from their Jewish origins
in this way is clear from the career of Tiberius Julius Alexander,
the nephew of Philo and eventual Prefect of Egypt,
15
and it seems
wrong to assert that the coherence of Jewish communal life made
it dicult for those who wished to opt out to do so.
16
Punishment
implies inclusion
17
and its recognition both by Paul and by the Jews
who punished him, especially if the statement in Acts is accepted
that Paul was a Roman citizen who could thus at any time have
stopped the beatings by stating the fact (cf. Acts 22:2526).
Pauls motive in insisting on his Jewishness is not hard to discern,
since his claim to be a Hebrew and an Israelite (2 Cor. 11:22), cir-
cumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of
Benjamin (Phil. 3:5), and so on was evidently intended to impress
his fellow Jewish Christians with his credentials. But why should
the synagogue leaders have accepted Pauls self-evaluation? It might
have seemed easier simply to expel him from the community. Some
empathy with their predicament is necessary. If Paul could have
accused them of abusing a Roman citizen they ran great risks both
to their own persons and for their communities. Thirty nine stripes
was a ogging heavy enough for a man to die. Their reasons for
invoking Jewish lawwhich law, and on what charge, is not really
importantmust have been very potent.
So, what was Paul doing to provoke some of his fellow Jews into
so rash a reaction? The suggestions made in commentaries and in
earlier studies of the question seem to be pure guesses.
18
It needs to
be kept in mind that the issue is not the charge or charges brought
by his accusers, but the reason why someone dared to bring a charge
of any kind. My suggestion is that the behavior which so oended
the Diaspora Jewish authorities was precisely the behavior to which
15
V.A. Burr, Tiberius Julius Alexander, Bonn 1955.
16
But note A.E. Harvey, Forty Strokes Save One: Social Aspects of Judaizing
and Apostasy, idem (ed.), Alternative Approaches to New Testament Study, London 1985,
pp. 7982, who emphasizes the diculties involved in changing allegiances.
17
The phrase is from E.P. Sanders, Paul, the Law and the Jewish People, Philadelphia
1983, p. 192.
18
See, for example, Harvey, Forty Strokes, p. 84, with the suggestion that
Pauls crime was his lax practice of the law caused by consorting with gentile
Christians.
150 cn.r+rn +vrr\r
he devoted himself according to his own extant letters, his mission
to the gentiles.
Paul devoted himself to persuading gentiles to join not the existing
Jewish synagogues but his new Christian communities.
19
Such behavior
should not in itself have caused any upset to Jews, who were quite
accustomed both to gentiles as God-fearers on the fringes of their
communities (cf. B.J. 7.45 about such hangers-on in Antioch) and to
gentiles as full converts to Judaism (cf. the narrative of the conversion
of the royal family of Adiabene as described in Ant. 20.1796). In
any case, if Pauls converts joined separate communities the Jewish
authorities need not ever have come across them. The problem for
Pauls fellow Jews lay in the hostile reaction to the conversion of
gentiles to Christianity to be expected from unconverted gentiles, in
particular the civic and Roman authorities, and the possibility that,
because Paul portrayed himself as a Jew, they as Jews might be
blamed for his behavior.
I have argued elsewhere that Paul was the rst Jew known not
just to have accepted but actively to have sought the conversion of
gentiles.
20
Such behavior was oensive to gentiles not because of
the positive practices which Paul enjoined on his new ockpagans
were generally quite tolerant in this period of the spread of new
religious ritesbut because of his insistence that they should give
up their pagan cults. This insistence is found consistently both in
Pauls epistles and in Acts: hence the complaint of the silversmiths
in Ephesus that Pauls mission would ruin their trade and the wor-
ship of Diana (Acts 19:2427). Christianity, like Judaism, was from
the start a religion which, at least in theory, excluded other forms
of worship, an attitude which distinguished them completely from
all other cults in the ancient world.
21
From the point of view of pagan polytheists this attitude was
incomprehensible, oensive, dangerous in so far as it might alienate
the traditional deities, and disloyal in so far as Christians failed to
petition those deities for aid to their society. Atheism was one of
the regular charges brought against Christians, to the extent that
Christians arrested by the state could be forgiven their earlier alle-
19
So, e.g., Sanders, Paul, p. 176.
20
Goodman, Mission and Conversion (n. 8 above), pp. 105106.
21
Cf. Ibid., pp. 9798.
+nr rrnsrct+iox or r.tr nv ri.sron. rvs 151
giance if they showed themselves willing to worship the gods in the
future.
22
The concern of the pagan authorities was simply that the
altars should continue to smoke and the benevolence of the gods be
ensured (cf. Pliny the Younger 10.96).
The security of Jewish communities in diaspora cities depended
above all on Jews not interfering in the civic life, not least the reli-
gious civic life, of the gentile majority. It would be wrong to see
Jewish-gentile relations in such cities as constantly fraught. On the
contrary, Jews will only have been permitted to settle in such cit-
ies if the indigenous inhabitants were at worst neutral, and if some
members of the Jewish communities were proselytes they will have
had relatives within the majority community. Josephus wrote that in
66 CE the inhabitants of Damascus were unwilling to take action
against the local Jews because their wives had become attracted to
Judaism (B.J. 2.559561) and that the people of Gerasa protected their
Jews even at a time when massacres were occurring in neighboring
cities (B.J. 2.480), but it was all too easy for such amicable relations
to break down into pogroms, as in Alexandria in the thirties CE
23

and in many places close to Judea in 66 CE.
24
The determination
of diaspora Jews to preserve the privileges which protected them
in dossiers like those cited by Josephus in books 14 and 16 of his
Antiquities
25
is testimony to their concern that their delicate position
might be undermined.
The actions of Paul threatened precisely such undermining. The
gentile Christian mission was not in itself any concern to Jews, and
indeed in later years Jews were rarely involved in the martyrdoms
to which Christians were sometimes put; the only two exceptions to
the rule after New Testament times, the martyrdoms of Polycarp and
Pionios, both in Smyrna, may doubtless be explained in terms of
local community relations in each case, but the precise circumstances
are impossible to discover from the highly colored Christian narra-
tives which survive.
26
It will not do simply to assert with Harnack
22
See G.E.M. de St. Croix, Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted? M.I.
Finley (ed.), Studies in Ancient Society, London and Boston 1974, pp. 210249.
23
See E.M. Smallwood, The Jews under Roman Rule, Leiden 1976, pp. 224255.
24
B.J. 2.457480.
25
Cf. T. Rajak, Was There a Roman Charter for the Jews? JRS, 74 (1984),
pp. 107123.
26
For the narratives, see H.A. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, Oxford
1972, pp. 221, 136167. Discussion in, e.g., R. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians,
152 cn.r+rn +vrr\r
that though apparently it was no concern of theirs Jews elected to
oppose gentile Christianity when they did by a sort of instinct;
27
this is to substitute abuse for argument. The punishments meted out
to Paul had a precise purpose. As Paul wrote, the Jews persecute
us . . . forbidding us to speak to the gentiles that they might be saved
(1 Thess. 2:1516).
Punishment was intended to prevent Paul from going round
Diaspora cities incurring odium for local Jews from gentiles by urging
those gentiles to cease their ancestral worship. He was to be prevented
either by persuading him to stop his behavior or by forcing him to
stop presenting himself as a Jew. It was a dangerous ploy: when the
Jews accused Paul before the Roman governor Gallio, saying that
he persuades men (surely gentiles at least in part, cf. Acts 18:6) to
worship God contrary to the law (Acts 18:1213), Gallio dismissed
the charge, choosing arbitrarily to interpret the word law (nomos)
as Jewish law rather than Roman law, which was presumably what
the Jews had in mind (cf. Acts 16:21, where Roman law must be at
stake), and Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, was beaten up by
all in front of the governors tribunal without Gallio bothering to
intervene (Acts 18:17). Nonetheless, the tactic may be seen in some
ways eventually to have worked, for not even those pagan authors
such as Tacitus most hostile to Jews and Christians ever described
Christianity as a type of Judaism, even though the foundation of the
new religion in Judea was well known.
28
To sum up, I have suggested that although there may well have
been all sorts of theological reasons for Jewish hostility to early
Christians, theology alone can never explain the risks taken by syna-
gogue authorities in imposing violent discipline on the Christian Jews
such as Paul in their midst. In the case of Paul I have suggested
that the political factor which impelled diaspora Jewish leaders to
persecute him was the need to live a quiet life untroubled by the
hostility of pagan neighbors resentful that a Jew should try to lure
them away from the ancestral worship on which, in their eyes, their
security depended.
New York 1987, pp. 460492; L. Robert, rev. and ed. by G.W. Bowersock and
C.P. Jones, Le Martyre de Pionios, prtre de Smyrne, Washington, D.C. 1994.
27
A. von Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity, New York 1908, I,
p. 58.
28
See most conveniently M. Whittaker, Jews and Christians: Graeco-Roman Views,
Cambridge 1984; R.L. Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, New Haven
1984.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
SADDUCEES AND ESSENES AFTER 70 CE
Among students of Jewish history it is a commonplace that Judaism
in the land of Israel after 70 CE was radically transformed by the
traumatic experience of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Although estimates of the pace and nature of that transformation
vary,
1
almost all scholars seem to agree that the great variety known
to have existed in Judaean Judaism before 70 came to an end in
the next few generations, and, specically, that self-aware religious
groups like the Sadducees and Essenes were within a few years no
longer to be found.
2
It is this latter view that I shall question in this
paper, not by presenting new evidence but by challenging the way
that the evidence is usually interpreted.
I start with two basic facts. First, the emergence of distinctive
religious parties was one of the most striking developments of post-
biblical Judaism.
3
Second, no ancient source refers to their disap-
pearance after 70 despite their prominence in pre-70 Judaea. The
rst explicit statement in the extant evidence that groups such as the
Sadducees and Essenes are no longer to be found is in the fourth-
century heresiologist Epiphanius, but even he did not state when
he believed this new situation to have begun: he stated explicitly
only that the seven (sic) Jewish haireseis to be found in Jerusalem
continued after 70 until in time (kata kairon kai kata chronon) they
were scattered abroad and destroyed (Pan. 19:5:67). All references
before Epiphanius to the Jewish parties, whether found in patristic or
1
See e.g. G. Alon, The Jews in their land in the Talmudic Age, 70640 CE (vol. I;
Jerusalem: Magnes, 1980), pp. 10714; B.M. Bokser, The Wall Separating God
and Israel, JQR 73 (1983), p. 371.
2
See the explicit assertion by S.J.D. Cohen, The Signicance of Yavneh, HUCA
55 (1984), pp. 2836, a study to which I am much indebted, as will become clear.
See also E. Main, Les Sadducens vus par Flavius Josphe, RB 97 (1990), p. 204.
I have omitted all discussion of the continuation of Pharisaism in order to avoid the
complex problem of the relation between Pharisaic and rabbinic Judaism.
3
See e.g. L.H. Schiman, From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and
Rabbinic Judaism (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1991).
154 cn.r+rn +nin+rrx
rabbinic texts, are couchedwhen they do not refer quite clearly to
the period before 70in a present tense which could quite well be
intended to describe contemporary life (though, of course, it could
also be timeless).
4
The standard assumption that these Jewish groups disappeared
soon after 70 is therefore no more than an assumption. Furthermore,
the presuppositions which have encouraged the assumption are so
theologically loaded that historians suspicions should be instinctive.
Both Jews and Christians are inclined to accept that these Jewish
groups just rolled over and died: Jews, because later rabbinic tradi-
tion claimed that Yohanan ben Zakkai and his colleagues saved and
reconstructed Judaism at Yavneh;
5
Christians, because the Church
asserted that all forms of Judaism were irrelevant once the (now
destroyed) Temple cult had been replaced as an instrument for atone-
ment by faith in Christ, so that positive evidence for all continuing
forms of Judaism after 70 was played down, and lack of evidence
gratefully interpreted as evidence of non-existence.
6
In the light of the standard assumption, it is worth noting that
some of the extant literature in fact appears to assume the continued
existence of self-aware Jewish religious groups like the Sadducees and
Essenes after 70. Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (5:17:4(73))
described the Essenes as an eternal race, precisely emphasizing their
continued existence (which he considered remarkable because they
did not procreate), and dating his observations to after 70 by his
note that Jerusalem and En Gedi had recently been destroyed. Pliny
may have been credulous and ignorantalthough he was not usually
notable for credulity
7
but neither charge can plausibly be laid against
Josephus, who self-consciously described the three (or sometimes four)
4
Discussion of the rabbinic texts in J. Lightstone, Sadducees v. Pharisees in
Tannaitic Sources, in J. Neusner (ed.), Christianity, Judaism and other Greco-Roman
Cults (Smith Festschrift) (Leiden: Brill, 1975), vol. III, pp. 20617; patristic texts in
M. Simon, Les sects juives daprs les tmoignages patristiques, Studia Patristica
1 (1957), pp. 52639; M. Black, The Patristic Accounts of Jewish Sectarianism,
BJRL 41 (195859), pp. 285303.
5
See, for example, E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus
Christ, vol. 1, rev. G. Vermes and F. Millar (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973),
p. 524.
6
Cf. M. Simon, Verus Israel (ET; Oxford: Littman Library, 1986).
7
See now M. Beagon, Roman Nature: The Thought of Pliny the Elder (Oxford:
Clarendon, 1992).
s.rrtcrrs .xr rssrxrs .r+rn o cr 155
philosophies of the Jews in three publications, completed between
the late seventies and the mid-nineties CE.
8
Josephus did not hint
for a moment in any of his writings that two of the main haireseis
of the Jews, through which he himself claimed to have passed, had
ceased or were ceasing to exist.
In the mid-second century Justin Martyr similarly assumed that
various dierent groups existed within Judaism in his own day,
although he did not name Sadducees or Essenes. Most of the names
he gave them in his Dialogue with Trypho (80:45) mean little to us
now, and, if correctly transmitted, may be his designation rather
than the names they gave themselves: Genistai, Meristai, Galilaioi,
Hellenianoi, Pharisaioi, Baptistai. Justins characterization of these
groups as heresies which Trypho, as an orthodox Jew, might
be expected to exclude from true Judaism may owe more to his
Christian perspective in an era of explicit self-denition within the
Church than to any shift in that direction within Judaism,
9
but his
argument would be peculiar if no non-standard varieties of Judaism
of any kind were believed to exist at least somewhere in the Jewish
world. In the mid-fourth century Epiphanius wrote that the Jewish
sects of the Nasaraeans and Ossaeans were still to be found, albeit
not in great numbers (Pan. 20:3:12); in this matter he is likely to
be trustworthy, since he explicitly contrasted the surviving groups to
those, including the Sadducees, who he stated had disappeared by
his time, although whether by Ossaeans he meant Essenes, as
some have argued,
10
is more dubious.
Similar scraps of evidence which might suggest the survival of
sects like Essenes and Sadducees after 70 can be found in some
rabbinic texts. According to m. Nidd. 4:2, R. Yose in the mid-second
century dealt leniently with a problem concerning the purity of the
daughters of the Sadducees by asserting that they may be trusted
unless they separate themselves and follow after the ways of their
fathers; according to t. Nidd. 5:3 and b. Nidd. 33b, R. Yose felt able
to make this lenient ruling because he knew Sadducean women bet-
ter than anyone else, and hence he knew that they all followed the
advice of the sages in respect to niddahexcept for one Sadducee
8
Jos. Bell. 2:119166; Ant. 18:1122; Vita 1012.
9
So Simon, Les secte juives, p. 538.
10
Cf. J.M. Lieu, Epiphanius on the Scribes and Pharisees (Pan. 15.116.4),
JTS 39 (1988), p. 511.
156 cn.r+rn +nin+rrx
woman (according to the text in the Babylonian Talmud, a woman
who lived in R. Yoses neighbourhood), who did not follow the
sages rulings, and who died. A story in b. Shabb. 108a concerning
a dierent rabbi, R. Joshua haGarsi, of the same generation as R.
Yose, narrates conversation between R. Joshua and a Boethusian
as to whether tellin can be written upon the skin of an unclean
animal. From the end of the third century comes a story preserved
in b. Sanh. 91a, that a heretic (mina) asked R. Ammi how he could
believe that physical resurrection is possible (Can dust come to
life?); the only Jews in antiquity known specically to have denied
life after death were the Sadducees.
This is hardly a huge amount of evidence (although other hints
could be added),
11
but it is not nothing. If such stories and descrip-
tions were confronted by a clear statement in any source that the
pre-70 religious groups in the land of Israel had disappeared soon
after 70, it would be reasonable to try explaining such references
away (as, with a little ingenuity, can certainly be done): to quote
Shaye Cohens inuential study which attempts precisely that, the
standard picture cannot be upset by a lone baraita and by an elusive
passage of Justin,
12
and it is quite possible to imagine that Justin
was confused and R. Yose was discussing the historic past.
But since in fact no clear statement positively asserting the standard
picture of the disappearance of pre-70 groups exists, it must be rec-
ognized that the standard argument rests entirely on the claim that
the sources are consistently silent about Jewish groups continuing to
exist after 70, and that the standard argument is therefore unsafe on
two grounds. First, consistency alone is no evidence of truth, if the
information derives only from a limited number of sources. Second,
the argument from consistency fails as soon as there is an exception
(and in this case a number of possible exceptions have been noted).
Arguments from silence are particularly valueless once the silence
has been broken, however faint the sound.
Once the standard view has been questioned, many factors come to
mind that might be thought to have made likely the continuation of
separate religious groups like the Sadducees and Essenes after 70.
11
E.g. Justinian, Novella 146, with reference to Jewish heretics who deny resur-
rection.
12
Cohen, Signicance of Yavneh, p. 36.
s.rrtcrrs .xr rssrxrs .r+rn o cr 157
First, the Sadducees at least seem to have relied for their party label
on particular ideaswhether theological or halakhicrather than
organizational structures or buildingsJosephus specically stressed
that Sadducees did not have good relations with each otherand
ideas are hard to wipe out by military action.
13
If Josephus picture
is correct, the lives of Essenes relied more heavily on the existence
of Essene communities,
14
but you would not need more than a
minyan for an Essenic common meal. Even if the Dead Sea scrolls
be identied as Essenic and ascribed to a group of Essenes from
Qumran, the undoubted fact that those responsible for the deposit of
the scrolls in the caves were unable to remove them for continued
use by no means shows that all Essene communities everywhere
were wiped out.
15
Secondly, none of the characteristics of any of the dierent types of
Judaism was dependent on the existence of the Jerusalem Temple. It
is plausible enough to argue that many sectarian dierences originally
arose from disputes about the cult, but the cessation of sacrices would
hardly heal the splits. The Qumran sectarians could claim that the
Temples destruction vindicated their view that the priests had been
wicked, since it proved divine displeasure. The rabbinic sages could
indulge, as we know they did, in theoretical discussions about how
the Temple should have been run. Nor were the Sadducees bereft
of a raison dtre. Like the rabbinic sages they had every reason to
preserve and develop their own ideas about the conduct of sacrices,
cherishing their views about the cult through the second and third
centuries. Neither they nor anyone else could possibly know that
the Temple was not to be rebuilt, for such rebuilding of destroyed
sanctuaries was standard in the Roman world, and their desire to
control the cult will not have disappeared during what they believed
to be its temporary cessation. Disputes between groups about the cult
will have been altered by the destruction of the Temple only to the
extent that such disagreement could be much less public.
13
Cf. Jos. Bell. 2:166; J. Le Moyne, Les Sadducens (Paris: Lecore, 1972).
14
Jos. Bell. 2:119161; Ant. 18:1822.
15
Cf. H. Stegemann, The Qumran EssenesLocal Members of the Main Jewish
Union in Late Second Temple Times, in J. Barrera and L. Montaner (eds.), The
Madrid Qumran Congress Volume (Leiden: Brill, 1992), vol. I, pp. 83166. On the
continuing debate over the Essene origins of the Scrolls, see N. Golb, The Dead
Sea Scrolls: A New Perspective, American Scholar 58.2 (1989), pp. 177207.
158 cn.r+rn +nin+rrx
Third may be added a general argument about the way individuals
can be expected to react to disaster. If you believe that you have
discovered and are following the divine will, it is easy within Judaism
to explain mishaps as the result of the sins of Israel, whether they be
yours or those of other Jews. The destruction of the Temple could
be attributed, as it was by Josephus, not to Gods impotence but
to his desire to punish Israel and help Rome.
16
Neither in 2 Baruch
nor in 4 Ezra is there any evidence that the despondent stance of
the authors was particularly motivated by concern at their inability
now to worship through the sacricial cult.
17
The halakhic rulings
of, for example, Eliezer ben Hyrcanus suggest that he presupposed
that life could go on pretty much as it had in the past.
18
For most
Jews, Judaism did not need to be reconstructed, because it was
not shattered. Hence the striking lack of references in Josephus
writings, including the theological summary in Contra Apionem, to a
need for a new Judaism. There is a similar silence in Mishnah and
Tosefta, despite their long discussions of how the Temple should
have been.
Fourthly, any change that might have come about as a result of
disappointment in 70 CE might be expected to be in the direction of
greater variety, as Jews hunted for dierent explanations of disaster.
Fifthly, and nally, it is hard to see how rabbis in Yavneh or
after 135 in Galilee could impose on other Jews their own views of
how Judaism should cope with change without the benet either of
mass communications or of state authority, for neither of which, in
my view, is there any good evidence before the nasi received the
backing of the Roman state in the late fourth century. Most Jews,
in the land of Israel as elsewhere, must have been left to come to
terms with the world without the benet of rabbinic guidance.
19
I am going to suggest a dierent approach to the whole subject,
but rst I should make clear with which elements of the traditional
16
Jos. Bell. 6:99110; on the rationalization of religious disappointment in general,
see M. Hazani, When Prophecy Fails: Leaders Die, Followers Persevere, Genetic,
Social and General Psychology Monographs 112 (1986), pp. 24771.
17
Cf. M.E. Stone, Reactions to Destructions of the Second Temple, JSJ 12.2
(1981), pp. 195204; Cohen, Signicance of Yavneh, p. 28.
18
Cf. J. Neusner, Eliezer ben Hycarnus: The Tradition and the Man (Leiden: Brill,
1973), vol. II, p. 300.
19
M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, AD 132212 (Totowa: Rowman
& Allanheld, 1983), ch. 7; idem, The Roman State and the Jewish Patriarch in the
Third Century, in L.I. Levine (ed.), The Galilee in Late Antiquity (New York: Jewish
Theological Seminary, 1992), pp. 12739.
s.rrtcrrs .xr rssrxrs .r+rn o cr 159
picture I have no quarrel. I do not doubt that most Jews grieved
for the loss of the Temple, nor that some marked their sorrow by
ascetic practices or found solace in apocalyptic visions of a better
future, although I see no reason to think that such practices supplanted
older theologies rather than supplementing them. Nor do I doubt
that rabbinic teachings which helped Jews to compensate for their
inability to worship through sacrices were an important element in
the eventual ability of the rabbis to establish their type of Judaism
as normative, although the date to be assigned to that event is much
more dicult to ascertain. Nor do I doubt that after 70 many Jews
in the Roman empire were forced to reevaluate their commitment to
Judaism, although I would see as the main agent of this change not
theological reection but the impact of the scus judaicus, which, at
least after 96 in my view, fell on ethnic Jews only if they continued
to practise Judaism.
20
Finally, I am happy to accept Shaye Cohens
observation that the sages at Yavneh and down to the end of the
tannaitic period showed little interest in excluding or attacking other
types of Judaism,
21
although I am not persuaded by him that the
motive for this eirenic stance was a catholic desire to include all
groups in a common stream rather than, more introspectively and
passively, a lack of interest in other groups which did not share
their concerns.
It is from this last point that I should like to suggest a dierent
approach. It is along lines which, so far as I know, have only been
raised in print by Shaye Cohen himself,
22
only to be dismissed by
him, in my view over-hastily. The issue in essence is whether the
sages views about what they would like to be the case in fact cor-
responded to reality, in this instance as in others. If the rabbis did
not talk about, or to, Sadducees in their own times, that may indi-
cate not that the Sadducees had disappeared or were unimportant
in Jewish society, but that the rabbis were not interested in them.
The structure of the Mishnah as a long series of unresolved disputes
shows that the tannaitic rabbis were willing to tolerate consider-
able variety within one system, but not that they were prepared to
20
M. Goodman, Nerva, the Fiscus Judaicus and Jewish Identity, JRS 79 (1989),
pp. 4044.
21
Cohen, The Signicance of Yavneh.
22
S.J.D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Philadelphia: Westminster,
1987), pp. 22426.
160 cn.r+rn +nin+rrx
tolerate indenite variety. On the contrary, non-rabbinic Jews were
dismissively ignored and rejected as minim, a largely undierentiated
category for heretics about whose precise beliefs it seems that the
rabbis usually lacked interest to inquire. In many rabbinic texts the
tradition so radically lacks interest in the real beliefs and customs
of other Jewish groups that minim, like Roman emperors, are made
to talk like deviant rabbis, arguing with the sages from within the
sages own world of discourse.
23
It takes two to pick a ght. There is much evidence in the New
Testament and patristic sources that many Christians in the rst two
centuries attacked Judaism as part of the process of the self-denition
of the Church, but tannaitic sources for the most part ignore Christ-
ianity.
24
Clearly, the argument that silence proves non-existence will
not do. It would be unsurprising if the sages after 70 decided that
there were more important things to do than to attack other Jews
for faulty halakha on matters of Temple ritual or mistaken theology
about resurrection.
If the hypothesis is correct that the sages after 70 just chose to
ignore other Jewish groups, Sadducees and Essenes after 70 may
have ourished just as much as the sages did, each group turning
in on itself, unconcerned about the others. I do not see that anything
prevented such groups continuing to exist in the land of Israel or
elsewhere until the end of the second century, or even the third,
until the time when Epiphanius in the fourth century explicitly
declared them a phenomenon of the past. In the intervening cen-
turies, Sadducees and Essenes will have cropped up in the world
of the rabbis only intermittently, to be classied under the general
heading of minim (as I suggested above may have been the case in
b. Sanh. 91a). Christian writers will have ignored them because
outsiders to any institution generally tend to miss divisions which
may be obvious to insiders, and because they were interested in
Jews only in the context of biblical Israel, or the life of Jesus, or
23
For texts on minim, see R.T. Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (London:
1903; repr. New York: Ktav, 1975).
24
Such evidence as there is collected by L.H. Schiman, Who Was a Jew?
(Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1985). It amounts to very little. On patristic attitudes to Jews
as part of Christian self-denition, see M. Taylor, The Jews in the Writings of
the Early Church Fathers (150312): Men of Straw or Formidable Rivals?, D.Phil.
thesis (Oxford, 1992).
s.rrtcrrs .xr rssrxrs .r+rn o cr 161
the continual problem of the role of Jewish practices in the Church;
in any case, it is worth recalling that most early Christian literature
came from outside the land of Israel, and that since even a Jewish
writer from the pre-70 diaspora like Philo showed no knowledge of
either Sadducees or Pharisees despite the volume of his outpourings
on Judaism, patristic ignorance should not surprise.
Let me put my suggestion clearly but crudely. My hypothesis is
that groups and philosophies known from pre-70 Judaism continued
for years, perhaps centuries, after the destruction of the Temple.
This is a stronger suggestion than the continuity of isolated legal
traditions posited by those who note similarities between the halakha
and theology ascribed by rabbis to Sadducees and those found in
some Qumran texts and in Karaism.
25
But unlike their arguments,
my hypothesis is essentially negative. I do not believe that the scraps
of evidence I have presented, that some writers in the second and
third centuries may have talked about Sadducees in the present
tense, add up to proof of the continued existence of Sadducees in
their time. I am indeed highly suspicious of scholarly constructs of
religious groups based on only fragmentary references in polemical
texts. But Sadducees and Essenes are well attested up to 70, so the
existence of such groups at some time is undisputed, and the onus is
on those who claim that they disappeared to justify their claim.
It is obvious that the existence of Essenes and Sadducees in late-
Roman Judaea must remain an unproven hypothesis unless and
until more evidence is unearthed. For the present, I simply want
to stressnot for the rst timethe extraordinary selectivity of the
survival of evidence about Judaism in the land of Israel after 70.
Only texts approved by the rabbinic tradition survived, because after
about 100 CE Christians lost interest in the preservation of Jewish
writings which they saw as alien. Since most of what Jews did and
thought after 70 is thus irretrievably lost to us, I suggest that a
plausible explanation of the scarcity of references in rabbinic texts
to Jewish groups like the Sadducees and the Essenes after 70 is not
25
N. Wieder, The Judaean Scrolls and Karaism (London: East and West Library,
1962); Y. Sussmann, The History of halakha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tarbiz 59
(198990), pp. 1176 (Heb.); M. Broshi, Anti-Qumran Polemics in the Talmud,
in J. Barrera and L. Montaner (eds.), Madrid Qumran Congress Volume (Leiden: Brill,
1992), vol. II, pp. 589600.
162 cn.r+rn +nin+rrx
that the rabbis repressed such groups, nor that they included them
in a wider coalition, but that they simply ignored their continued
existence.
If the view I have presented is accepted, or at least the standard
view is seen to be as shakily based as I have suggested, it will have
implications for those New Testament scholars who routinely date
and explain New Testament texts on the assumption that after 70
only Pharisees survived to represent Palestinian Judaism. When I
rst considered presenting a paper on this topic in a volume in
honour of Michael Goulder, I thought that I might try exploring
such implications. But on reection I realize that it would be wiser
and much more interesting to leave such an attempt to him.
It is with warm aection that I oer this study to Michael Goulder.
The informal, friendly and immensely learned biblical seminar which
he organized on many evenings in the 1970s and 1980s gave me
my rst glimpse of the complexity of New Testament studies, an
opportunity for which I am very grateful.
This essay was written while I was a Fellow of the Institute for
Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the spring
and summer of 1993, and it was presented to the World Congress of
Jewish Studies in June of that year. I am grateful to all those who
oered comments at or after the Congress, especially Al Baumgarten,
Shaye Cohen, Moshe David Herr and Danny Schwartz.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN
THE FUNCTION OF MINIM IN EARLY
RABBINIC JUDAISM
In the fateful years after 70 CE when Yohanan ben Zakkai and a
small group of rabbinic sages in Yavneh began to formulate a new
theology in reaction to the destruction of the Temple, another pious
Jew of similar background, Flavius Josephus, composed a passionate
tract in which he tried to dene the essential character of Judaism.
1

Among the prime characteristics singled out by Josephus for praise
in the Contra Apionem was the remarkable unanimity of Jews in their
ideas about the nature of God and the correct way to worship him
(C.Ap. 2.17981):
To this cause above all we owe our admirable harmony. Unity and
identity of religious belief, perfect uniformity in habits and customs,
produce a very beautiful concord in human character. Among us alone
will be heard no contradictory statements about God, such as are com-
mon among other nations, not only on the lips of ordinary individuals
under the impulse of some passing mood, but even boldly propounded
by philosophers; some putting forward crushing arguments against the
very existence of God, others depriving Him of His providential care
for mankind. Among us alone will be seen no dierence in the con-
duct of our lives. With us all act alike, all profess the same doctrine
about God, one which is in harmony with our Law and arms that
all things are under His eye. Even our womenfolk and dependants
would tell you that piety must be the motive of all our occupations
in life. (Loeb translation).
Doubtless Josephus exaggerated for the sake of his argument, for he
asserted in C.Ap. that one of the signs that Jewish religious tradi-
tions were superior to Greek was the confusing variety of the latter,
2

and he could aord to idealise Judaism because he does not seem
1
For studies on Josephus, Contra Apionem, see J.G. Mueller, Des Flavius
Josephus Schrift gegen des Apion (1877); L. Troiani, Commento Storico al Contra
Apione di Giuseppe (1977); K. Keeble, A Critical Study of Flavius Josephus
Contra Apionem (1991).
2
C.Ap. 2. 164, 172, 2504.
164 cn.r+rn rotn+rrx
to have envisaged any Jewish readers of this work who might have
contradicted him.
3
But precisely the importance of this claim in
Josephus apologetic makes implausible any suggestion that it lacked
foundation altogether.
Josephus assertion of the theological unanimity of the Jews is all
the more striking because of his willing confession in each of his
three other published works (the War, the Antiquities and the Life) that
Judaism embraced at least three distinctive philosophies or tendencies
(Pharisaism, Sadduceeism and Essenism), which diered both with
regard to practice (i.e. halakha) and belief (e.g. about divine interven-
tion in human aairs and life after death).
4
Josephus referred to two
of these earlier writings in a number of places in Contra Apionem, so
he was presumably prepared for his readers to compare his appar-
ently contradictory evaluations of variety within Judaism.
5
It is thus
reasonable to assume that he did not himself see his dierent accounts
as contradictory: in some sense, the Jews of these dierent haireseis all
agreed on the theological principles fundamental to Judaism. Thus
Josephus himself, despite his profession of adherence to the views of
the Pharisees in his public life, could write with admiration about
other types of Judaism, most notably the Essenes.
6
Josephus tolerance of variety within Judaism left only a little space
for the concept of heresy. In his eyes there might be bad Jews, like
Tiberius Julius Alexander, who lacked piety towards God in so far
as he did not stand by ancestral customs,
7
and there might be odd
Jews, like Bannus, who espoused distinctive views,
8
but although
he wrote critically about the harshness of the Sadducees in their
interpretation of the law,
9
he did not condemn them altogether, and
although he criticised false prophets for their misleading messages, he
did not suggest that their theology of prophecy was itself at fault.
10
The closest he came to condemning one type of Judaism as heresy
3
On the readers at whom C. Apionem was aimed, see P. Bilde, Flavius Josephus
(1988), pp. 1201.
4
B.J. 2.11966; A.J. 18.1122; Vita 1012.
5
Cf. C.Ap. 1.1, 4756.
6
See G. Vermes and M. Goodman, The Essenes according to the Classical
Sources (1989), pp. 3459.
7
A.J. 20.100.
8
Vita 11.
9
A.J. 20.199.
10
See, e.g., R. Gray, Prophetic Figures (1993).
MINIM ix r.nrv n.nnixic tr.isv 165
was in his description of the so-called Fourth Philosophy, known
only from Josephus writings and condemned by him as responsible
for the outbreak of the disastrous revolt of 6670.
11
The question I want to tackle in this paper is why some of Josephus
contemporaries in the nascent rabbinic schools of the land of Israel
failed to take the same liberal stance as, in general, he did. I shall try
to show that the concept of heresy was assumed by tannaitic rabbis.
I shall then discuss the function of this concept in the construction
of rabbinic self-identity in this crucial period. Finally I shall suggest
possible explanations of the rabbis attitudes.
It will be best to start by saying what I mean by a concept of
heresy. The paradigm is the use of the term by Christians from early
patristic times to refer to a theological opinion held in opposition
to what those Christians considered to be the mainstream Church.
Adoption of the concept presupposes both that a mainstream exists
and that separation from the mainstream in certain ways is inherently
wicked. A heretic is dierentiated from an apostate by his claim to
present another, better version of a theological system than that found
in the mainstream. By contrast, an apostate may simply reject the
system, oering nothing else in its place. If Judaism is categorised
as a system of covenantal nomism, the distinction between types of
sinner should be clear.
12
All Jews are bound by the covenant between
God and Israel. Ordinary sinners are those who try to observe the
covenant but do so badly; apostates are those who deny the covenant
explicitly; heretics are those who (in the eyes of others) break the
covenant by wilful misinterpretation of its meaning.
The need to establish that the tannaim had a notion of heresy
arises particularly in the light of an inuential and important article
published by Shaye Cohen rather more than ten years ago.
13
Cohen
argued there that the tolerance of variety which I have ascribed
to Josephus was in fact found rst among rabbis in Yavneh. The
signicance of Yavneh, according to this eirenic view, lay in the
non-partisan stance of the tannaim, who did not portray themselves as
11
B.J. 2.118; A.J. 18.410. Cf. M. Hengel, Die Zeloten, 2nd ed., 1976, still the
most inuential study of this subject since its rst publication in 1961.
12
On Judaism as a system of convenantal nomism, see E.P. Sanders, Paul and
Palestinian Judaism (1977).
13
S.J.D. Cohen, The signicance of Yavneh, Hebrew Union College Annual
55 (1984), pp. 2836.
166 cn.r+rn rotn+rrx
one party (the Pharisees) triumphant over others but rather subsumed
variety within one united movement, tolerantly permitting dierences
on matters of halakha to remain unresolved in the open-ended dis-
cussions characteristic of the Mishnah. It will become apparent in
the rest of this article that it seems to me that Cohen was right to
assert the signicance of the non-polemical style of early rabbinic
literature, but wrong to suggest that it precluded a rabbinic notion
of heresy which must be excluded from their generally welcoming
embrace.
The evidence for a rabbinic notion of heresy lies primarily in
references to minim and minuth in tannaitic texts.
14
The term min in
reference to a deviant Jew is not found often in tannaitic writings,
but the contexts in which it is found are suciently dissimilar and
integral to the argument in each place to make it very unlikely that
all such uses are later interpolations.
15
That the terms were signicant
to the tannaim seems fairly certain. Thus, the fact that the tannaim
chose to use a new word of any kind to describe deviants, since
the Bible has plenty of Hebrew words for wicked Jews, as did the
sectarians at Qumran, demands explanation. Even more striking
is the coinage of the term minuth, heresy,
16
since the creation of
an abstract noun to denote a religious tendency was not otherwise
common in tannaitic texts (for example, there was no abstract noun
in Hebrew for Pharisaism or Sadducaism).
That these minim were reckoned by the tannaim to be wicked is
clear enough from every reference to them, like the chilling remark
of R. Shimon b. Eliezer that one must not repent of a curse, since
it was from the repentance of Aaron and Moses that the minim sepa-
rated (t. Meg. 3 (4):37 (Lieb.)). However, it must be admitted that the
precise meaning of the word min is far from sure. The derivation of
14
Scholarly discussion of these terms has mostly concerned the birkat haminim.
On the terms themselves surprisingly little has been written. Cf. D. Sperber, in
Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 12, pp. 13; F. Dexinger, Die Sektenproblematik in
Judentum, Kairos 21 (1979), pp. 27387.
15
The term min with this meaning is found in the following tannaitic texts:
m. Ber. 9:5; m. R. Sh. 2:1; m. Sanh. 4:5; m. Hull. 2:9; t. Ber. 3:25; 6(7):21 (Lieb.);
t. Shab. 13(14):5 (Lieb.); t. Meg. 3(4):37 (Lieb.); t. B. M. 2:33 (Zuck.); t. Sanh. 8:7;
13:5 (Zuck.); t. Hull. 1:1; 2:20, 24 (in one ms.) (Zuck.); t. Parah 3:3 (Zuck.).
16
The term minuth is used in m. Meg. 4:89; m. Sot. 9:15 (a post-tannaitic
interpolation (see below)); t. Hull. 2:24.
MINIM ix r.nrv n.nnixic tr.isv 167
the term is uncertain,
17
and the most plausible derivation (from the
identical word meaning kind or species) is unhelpful. As with
all words, meaning must be deduced from context. In this case the
examples to be considered will show that more than one variety of
wicked Jew can come within the category of min.
The contexts in which references to minim are found in tannaitic
compilations are rather limited. This is so even when the net is
widened from examination solely of minim to include those passages
in which the manuscripts now have terms other than min to denote
a religious deviant. It is desirable to allow for terminological variety
mainly because many variant readings can be found both in the
manuscripts and in printed editions, often because of self-censorship
by the editors, with the term cuthi (Samaritan) or saddouki (Sadducee)
or apikoros (Epicurean) sometimes substituted for min.
18
What, then, were minim said by the tannaim to do and say? They
were portrayed as healers and miracle workers, as in the story
in t. Hullin 2:223 of the attempt by Jacob of Cfar Sima to cure
R. Eleazar b. Dima of snake bite in the name of Yeshua ben
Pantera.
19
They were said to follow a liturgy close to that of the rabbis
but dierent from it in crucial respects, wearing tellin and blessing
the Jewish God, but doing both in the wrong way, for example,
with the tellin on the palm of the hand, not the forearm (m. Meg.
4:89). They have books which look like kosher books and include
the divine name (t. Shabb. 13 (14):5 (Lieb.)), and they produce meat
by a process similar enough to rabbinic shechita to risk confusion (t.
Hull. 1:1; one of their more suspect habits was the collection of the
blood of a slaughtered animal in a hole in the ground (m. Hull 2:9)).
Finally, they might espouse deviant theological views in various uncon-
nected areas: they might imply that there are two powers in heaven
(m. Meg. 4:9), by saying we give thanks twice in prayer, or that
there is no world to come (m. Ber. 9: 5; t. Ber. 6 (7):21 (Lieb.)), or
that man had some part in the creation of the world alongside God
(t. Sanh. 8:7).
17
On possible derivations of the word min, see R.T. Herford, Christianity in
the Talmud and Midrash (1903), pp. 3625; G.F. Moore, Judaism in the First
Centuries, Vol. 3 (1930), pp. 689.
18
Cf. Sperber, in Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 12, p. 1.
19
For the reference here to minuth, see t. Hull. 2:24.
168 cn.r+rn rotn+rrx
The method proposed by tannaitic rabbis to deal with minuth was
essentially avoidance of contact.
20
Stories about contacts between
tannaim and heretics presuppose that heresy might be attractive
to rabbis, as in the story about R. Eliezer, who was arrested by a
Roman governor on a charge of minuth and concluded after heart-
searching that he must have suered because in Sepphoris I once
found Jacob, a man of Cfar Sakhnin, and he said a word of minuth
in the name of Yeshua ben Pantiri and it pleased me (t. Hullin
2:24). Hence rabbis urged Jews to avoid the books, food and houses
of the minim (t. Hullin 2:20).
Now, if such avoidance was wholly successful, one would expect
heresies to have had no eect on the tannaim at all. But injunctions
to avoid contact are only needed when contact would otherwise be
probable, and we have no evidence that rabbis in the Yavnean period
had the power to prevent such contacts, or, indeed, to impose any
of their views outside their immediate circle.
21
Thus the tannaitic
texts do record a few changes to rabbinic behaviour in reaction to
heresy. According to m. Megillah 4:8 there were a few areas of liturgy
in which rabbinic Jews were urged to change, or at least control, the
precise words used in prayer to avoid the danger of heresy:
If one say (presumably, from the context, in prayer), The good
(pl.) will bless you, behold, this is the way of minuth . . . ( if he said)
Thy mercies reach to the nest of a bird or May your name be
remembered for the good or We thank, we thank, they put him
to silence (m. Megillah 4:9).
The last of these prohibitions is probably related to the heretical
belief found elsewhere in the presence of more than one divine power
in heaven,
22
but the reason for the other prohibitions is unclear.
According to m. R.Sh. 2:1, the rules about taking evidence from
witnesses of the appearance of the new moon, an essential element
in the xing of the calendar, were changed since the minim acted
perversely, so that they should not receive evidence except from
such as are known. This last reaction to the fear of heresy makes
explicit what elsewhere is left implicit. The assumption which lies
20
I owe this point to Richard Kalmin, to whom I am grateful for sending me
a copy of his study before publication.
21
For my view on these matters, see M.D. Goodman, State and Society in
Roman Galilee, AD 132212 (1983), pp. 93118.
22
See especially A.F. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven (1977).
MINIM ix r.nrv n.nnixic tr.isv 169
behind the prohibition in t. Hullin 2:20 of the meat, wine and sacred
books of the minim is that conscientious rabbinic Jews would check
not just the actions but also the theological views of the butcher and
grocer from whom they purchased foodstus and the scribe from
whom they purchased scrolls of the Torah: in other words, no such
purchases should be made except from such as are known. It may
be worth wondering what attitude tannaitic rabbis would have taken
to the biblical scrolls in Qumran.
I can see no evidence that in the tannaitic period (i.e. before
c. 200 CE) the rabbinic reaction to heresy went beyond such attempts
by rabbis to protect themselves from quasi-infection. If this is so,
and the eect on rabbis of their belief that they were confronted
by heretics in the tannaitic period was therefore limited, it is worth
asking why this was so. In the history of early Christianity, theol-
ogy and practice both developed to a large extent through polemic
against deviants.
23
St. Paul and heresiologists like Irenaeus advised
their ocks on correct action and belief through highly eective
rhetoric against specic heresies. Similarly specic polemic can be
found among some Jewish sectarians in the Second Temple period,
most obviously in the recently published Miqsat Maasei haTorah from
Qumran, in which is recorded the views of one side in a dispute of
two unnamed groups over the correct procedures to be followed by
the priests in the Jerusalem temple.
24
In the accounts in tannaitic
texts of the clashes between Pharisees and Sadducees before 70, the
motivation for action by the Pharisees is specically stated on occa-
sion to have been the desire to confound the other side: for instance,
during the red heifer ceremony, the priest was rendered unclean so
that the Sadducees should not be able to claim that the ceremony
must be carried out only by those on whom the sun has set, i.e.
the ritually pure (m. Parah 3:7).
25
By contrast, tannaitic rabbis do not seem to have been concerned
much of the time either to analyse the precise constituents of minuth
23
See, for example, E.P. Sanders et al., Jewish and Christian Self-Denition
(198082). One of the corollaries of the present study is that transfer of the same
assumptions to self-denition by rabbinic Jews may be mistaken.
24
E. Qimron and J. Strugnell, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vol. 10
(1994).
25
For a discussion of the possible motivation behind these actions by the Pharisees,
see M.D. Goodman, Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in the religious history
of the Roman Empire (1994), pp. 1712.
170 cn.r+rn rotn+rrx
or to dene their own views in contrast to heresies. It is notorious
that in the Babylonian Talmud the minim disparaged by rabbis seem
sometimes to have been gentiles, and specically gentile Christians,
rather than deviant Jews.
26
The same is also true of the assertion in
m. Sotah 9:15 that when the Messiah comes . . . the empire will fall
into minuth, which seems so transparent a reference to the Roman
empire after Constantine that it must surely be a post-tannaitic inter-
polation. It is probably a mistake to indulge with the many ingenious
scholars who have hunted for a precise referent for each rabbinic
text in which heretics were attacked: the very fact that minim have
been identied, in dierent passages, with Jewish Christians, Gnostics,
Hellenistic Jews, Sadducees and others constitutes evidence that the
rabbis who compiled these rabbinic documents used the term in a
vague way.
27
The contrast to the prurient details in the writings of
Christian heresiologists is striking. Despite their general interest in the
classication of phenomena in the world about them the rabbis do
not seem from the extant evidence to have been concerned to dene
minim or minuth; it was enough that the general category existed.
It should be clear that I do not believe that the attitudes of the
rabbis can be explained, as it was by Shaye Cohen, in terms of the
liberal outlook of the tannaim, because the rabbis were not liberal
(unlike Josephus), just vague about the content of the heresies they
condemned. Rabbis could be horrible to each other (as in disputes
over the calendar, in which opposition might be publicly crushed by,
for instance, R. Joshua ben Hananiah being made to appear before
Rabban Gamaliel carrying his sta and purse on what he ( Joshua)
believed to be the Day of Atonement).
28
What looks like a liberal
attitude by the rabbis of the Mishnah in apparently leaving halakhic
disputes open may simply reect the genesis of the Mishnah as a
compilation of the views of jurists rather than a law code.
29
26
Cf. b. Pesahim 87b. See J. Neusner, Judaism and Christianity in the Age of
Constantine (1987).
27
See, for example, R.T. Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, pp.
3658; W. Horbury, The Benediction of the Minim, Journal of Theological Studies
(1982), pp. 1961.
28
M. R.Sh. 2:89. Cf. also the excommunication of R. Eliezer b. Hycarnus.
29
On dierent theories about the purpose of the Mishnah, see now G. Stemberger,
Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch, 8th ed. (1992), pp. 11352.
MINIM ix r.nrv n.nnixic tr.isv 171
It may be that a better explanation for the tannaitic attitude to
minim lies in what Sacha Stern has described, perhaps unfairly, as the
solipsism of the rabbis, the tendency to think about their Jewishness
almost entirely in terms of the life of an adult male rabbinic Jew.
30

Rather than attack heretical Jews, the tannaim preached that heretics
should be ignored. It may simply be that to a considerable extent
they practised what they preached. Thus I have argued elsewhere
that, for all we know, Sadducees and Essenes may have ourished
long into the amoraic period; the fact that rabbis hardly talked
about them does not imply their non-existence.
31
An examination of
the nonsense enshrined in the comments of early rabbis about con-
temporary pagan cultic practices will show how little attention they
paid to the world around them: the ourishing paganism revealed
by inscriptions and archaeological excavation in the Decapolis and
coastal cities apparently hardly impinged on the rabbis who produced
the Mishnah and Tosefta in neighbouring Galilee in the second and
third centuries.
32
What, then, was the function of the concept of minuth in early
rabbinic Judaism? There is no evidence that it served to hound out
of the fold particular deviants whose continued presence was believed
to threaten the health of the body politic of Judaism. Nor is there
evidence that it served to dene correct behaviour for rabbinic Jews
by clarifying what was forbidden in thought or deed. The categories
of Israel excluded from a share in the life to come according to
m. Sanhedrin 10:13 (where minim are not mentioned) were impracti-
cably vague: one category, for instance, was of those who read the
outside books, but the Mishnah neither denes such books nor
states how much they must be perused for an otherwise good Jew
to forfeit the world to come.
It is hardly likely that a solution to the problem will easily emerge;
it may be enough simply to have shown that the problem exists. It
may be that the vagueness of rabbinic references to minim results
30
S. Stern, Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (1994), pp. 21523.
31
M.D. Goodman, Sadducees and Essenes after 70 CE, in S.E. Porter,
P. Joyce and D.E. Orton, eds., Crossing the Boundaries. Festschrift Goulder (1994),
pp. 34756 [Chapter 13 above].
32
For a compilation of their statements, see M. Hadas-Lebel, Le paganisme
travers les sources rabbiniques des II
e
et III
e
sicles: contribution ltude de syn-
crtisme dans lempire romain, ANRW II. 19.2 (1979), pp. 397485.
172 cn.r+rn rotn+rrx
simply from the loss of much of the tannaitic tradition. It is entirely
possible, for example, but unprovable, that a tannaitic tractate entitled
Minim once existed within a much wider literature but failed to be
preserved. In that case, vague allusions elsewhere in tannaitic texts
will once have been claried in the tractate dedicated to the subject.
Alternatively, the vagueness of terminology may show not a lack of
rabbinic interest in minim but simply the scarcity of rabbinic com-
ment: the rabbis may have known exactly what they meant but just
happened not to tell us.
Hence my own preferred explanation of the vagueness of the
rabbinic conception of heresy is only a possibility: I do not know
that it can be shown to be more plausible than other explanations,
but it is, I think, no less possible, and it has the advantage that it
coincides with the standard concerns of rabbinic discourse.
I suggest that the concept of minuth may have stemmed originally
not from the practical need to deal with heretics but from a theoreti-
cal consideration of the impact on rabbinic thought of a category of
Jews whose theology or behaviour placed them outside the covenant
between God and Israel. For the rabbis, the minim will therefore
have been an intellectual counterpart to the tumtum or androgynos.
33

What interested the rabbis was the way that contact between such
minim and rabbinic Jews might aect the lives of rabbinic Jews. In
this respect, rabbinic concerns about the minim ran parallel to their
exploration of the impact of women of dierent statuses on the adult
male rabbinic Jew.
34
The main dierence was that the rabbis could
not avoid contact with women, and the result was the whole order
Nashim of the Mishnah, Tosefta and Talmuds. It was much easier
in practice to avoid heretics, and that is precisely what the tannaim
tried to do. That, I suggest, may be sucient to explain the minimal
halacha about minim in the rabbinic texts which survive. The best way
to deal with a potential problem is often simply to ignore it.
33
On the tumtum, see Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 2, p. 949 (s.v. androgynos).
It is characteristic of rabbinic discourse that all minim were treated by the tan-
naim as male.
34
See J.R. Wegner, Chattel or Person? The status of women in the Mishnah
(1988).
MINIM ix r.nrv n.nnixic tr.isv 173
Binrioon.rnv
Bilde, P., Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome: his life, his works, and
their importance. ( Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supp. Ser. 2).
Sheeld, 1988.
Cohen S.J.D., The signicance of Yavneh, HUCA 55 (1984), pp. 2836.
Dexinger, F., Die Sektenproblematik im Judentum, Kairos 21 (1979), pp. 273
87.
Goodman, M.D., State and Society in Roman Galilee, AD 132212. (Totowa,
N.J. 1983).
, Sadducees and Essenes after 70 CE, in S.E. Porter, P. Joyce and D.E.
Orton, eds., Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour
of Michael D. Goulder (Leiden, 1994), pp. 34756.
, Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in the religious history of the Roman
Empire. Oxford, 1994.
Gray, R. Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine: the evidence
from Josephus. New York and Oxford, 1993.
Hadas-Lebel, M., Le paganisme travers les sources rabbiniques des II
e
et III
e

sicles: contribution ltude de syncrtisme dans lempire romain, ANRW
II.19.2 (1979), pp. 397485.
Hengel, M., Die Zeloten. Untersuchungen zur jdischen Freiheitsbewegung in der
Zeit von Herodes I. bis 70 n. Chr. 2nd ed., Leiden, 1976.
Herford, R.T., Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, London, 1903.
Horbury, W., The Benediction of the Minim, Journal of Theological Studies, 33
(1982), pp. 1961.
Keeble, K., A Critical Study of Flavius Josephus Contra Apionem. Oxford,
M. Phil. thesis, 1991.
Moore, G.F., Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: the age of the
Tannaim. 3 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 192730.
Mueller, J.G., Des Flavius Josephus Schrift gegen des Apion. Text und Erklrung. Ed.
C.J. Riggenbach and C. von Orelli. Basel, 1877.
Neusner, J., Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah,
Israel, and the initial confrontation. Chicago, 1987.
Qimron, E. and Strugnell, J., Discoveries in the Judaean Desert. Vol. 10: Qumran
Cave 4: V Miqsat Ma"ase ha-Torah. Oxford, 1994.
Sanders, E.P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism: a comparison of patterns of religion.
Philadelphia, 1977.
Sanders, E.P. et al., Jewish and Christian Self-Denition. 3 vols. London, 1980
82.
Segal, A.F., Two Powers in Heaven: Early rabbinic reports about Christianity and
Gnosticism. Leiden, 1977.
Sperber, D., Min in Encylopaedia Judaica, vol. 12 ( Jerusalem, 1971), pp. 13.
Stemberger, G., Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch. 8th ed., Tbingen, 1992.
Stern, S., Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings. Leiden, 1994.
Troiani, L., Commento Storico al Contra Apione di Giuseppe. Pisa, 1977.
Vermes, G. and Goodman, M., The Essenes according to the Classical Sources.
Sheeld, 1989.
Wegner, J.R., Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah. New
York and Oxford, 1988.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN
MODELING THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
Much of the disagreement in modern scholarship about when, how,
why, and indeed whether, the ways of Judaism and Christianity
parted in antiquity derives from confusion about dierences of
perspective. The relationship of one group to another may be seen
quite dierently by members of the two groups, and dierently again
by the modern observer. Thus, for instance, someone considered
Jewish by a Christian might not consider himself or herself Jewish,
and might or might not be considered as a Jew by non-Christian
Jews. It is unreasonable to expect ancient authors always to have
made the clear distinctions which historians now seek to discover:
the relationship between Jews and Christians may generally have
been important for Christians as part of their self-denition, but it
was much less crucial for Jews, who could ignore for much of Late
Antiquity what Christians thought and did.
1
At the same time, occa-
sional contact and conict between members of distinct groups, and
their sharing of theological notions or liturgical practices, need not
imply any lack of clarity for the ancient participants of each group
about the dierences between them: if modern scholars nd it hard
to decide whether the author or intended readers of a particular text
were Jews or Christians, it does not follow that those who produced
and used the text in antiquity were similarly in doubt.
In illustrations of these varieties of perspective I drew up, for the
last of the seminars held in Oxford before the Princeton colloquium,
a series of schematic diagrams for the seminar participants to rene.
Crude copies of the revised diagrams were distributed at the start
of the Princeton meeting, where they were subjected to further
alteration. They were amended yet again in the light of comments
1
See further M. Goodman, The Function of Minim in Early Rabbinic Judaism,
in Geschichte TraditionReexion, Festschrift fr Martin Hengel zum 70, vol. 1, Judentum,
ed. P. Schfer (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 50110 [Chapter 14 above];
S. Stern, Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (Leiden: Brill, 1994).
176 cn.r+rn rir+rrx
by a group in Cambridge and in reaction to the alternative models
proposed by the student leaders of the seminar held in Oxford after
our return from Princeton. The nal versions presented here are
thus very much the product of joint endeavor.
All models are inexact representations of an elusive reality. In the
course of discussing these diagrams many useful suggestions were made
of what might better represent the complex relationships between
Judaism and Christianity on which all are agreed. There was much
enthusiasm, for instance, for a three-dimensional model, which might
give greater prominence to synchronic variation in religious practice
and belief in dierent places and to the varying signicance of the
dierent streamsthe idea is attractive, but hard to represent on
the page. A water-lled construction to represent the wave model,
based on language formation, as proposed by Daniel Boyarin in this
volume, is similarly impractical for mass distribution.
If no image is perfect, some images are more useful than others.
In any case, models should only be used as heuristic devices for
nding out more about the import of the ancient evidence. It is in
that minimal spirit that the diagrams are reproduced here, expertly
transformed from my incompetent artistic eorts through Jeremy
Boccabellos expertise in computer design.
vorrrixo +nr r.n+ixo or +nr v.vs 177
F
i
g
.

1


T
h
e

P
a
r
t
i
n
g

o
f

t
h
e

W
a
y
s


i
s

u
s
u
a
l
l
y

s
e
e
n

a
s

t
h
e

e
m
e
r
g
e
n
c
e

o
f

t
w
o

d
i
s
t
i
n
c
t

r
e
l
i
g
i
o
n
s

o
u
t

o
f

a

c
o
m
m
o
n

s
o
u
r
c
e

i
n

p
r
e
-
7
0

J
u
d
a
i
s
m
.
P
h
a
r
i
s
e
e
s
J
e
w
i
s
h

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
R
a
b
b
i
s
C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
C
o
n
t
a
c
t
C
o
n

i
c
t
C
o
m
p
e
t
i
t
i
o
n
V
a
r
i
e
t
i
e
s

o
f

P
a
g
a
n
i
s
m
V
a
r
i
e
t
i
e
s

o
f

P
a
g
a
n
i
s
m
4
0
0

C
E
7
0

C
E
V a r i e t i e s o f J u d a i s m
C
u
l
t
u
r
a
l

A
s
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n
s

o
f

t
h
e

G
r
a
e
c
o
-
R
o
m
a
n

W
o
r
l
d
C
u
l
t
u
r
a
l

A
s
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n
s

o
f

t
h
e

G
r
a
e
c
o
-
R
o
m
a
n

W
o
r
l
d
S
t
a
n
d
a
r
d

v
i
e
w

o
f

t
h
e

P
a
r
t
i
n
g

o
f

t
h
e

W
a
y
s

178 cn.r+rn rir+rrx


F
i
g
.

2


T
h
e
r
e

h
a
s

b
e
e
n

m
u
c
h

d
i
s
p
u
t
e

a
b
o
u
t

t
h
e

p
r
e
c
i
s
e

d
a
t
e

w
h
e
n

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y

b
e
c
a
m
e

s
e
p
a
r
a
t
e

r
e
l
i
g
i
o
n
s
.

T
h
e

d
e
c
i
s
i
v
e

m
o
m
e
n
t

i
s

s
o
m
e
t
i
m
e
s

p
r
e
s
u
m
e
d

t
o

b
e

a
n

e
v
e
n
t

w
i
t
h
i
n

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n

c
i
r
c
l
e
s
,

s
o
m
e
t
i
m
e
s

a

p
o
l
i
t
i
c
a
l

e
v
e
n
t

t
h
a
t

a
f
f
e
c
t
e
d

J
e
w
s

m
o
r
e

w
i
d
e
l
y
.
1

C
E
3
0

C
E
7
0

C
E
1
3
5

C
E
3
1
2

C
E
J
E
W
S
C
H
R
I
S
T
I
A
N
S
J e s u s
P a u l
D e s t r u c t i o n o f
S e c o n d T e m p l e
B a r K o c h b a
D
i

e
r
e
n
t

d
a
t
i
n
g
s

o
f

t
h
e

P
a
r
t
i
n
g

o
f

t
h
e

W
a
y
s

vorrrixo +nr r.n+ixo or +nr v.vs 179


F
i
g
.

3


M
o
s
t

o
f

w
h
a
t

i
s

r
e
p
o
r
t
e
d

a
b
o
u
t

p
a
g
a
n

v
i
e
w
s

o
n

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y

h
a
s

b
e
e
n

u
n
r
e
l
i
a
b
l
y

m
e
d
i
-
a
t
e
d

t
h
r
o
u
g
h

J
e
w
i
s
h

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n

s
o
u
r
c
e
s
.

P
a
g
a
n
s

a
p
p
e
a
r

t
o

h
a
v
e

b
e
e
n

u
n
a
w
a
r
e

t
h
a
t

w
i
t
h
i
n

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

t
h
e
r
e

w
e
r
e

m
a
n
y

v
a
r
i
e
t
i
e
s
.

T
h
e

N
e
w

T
e
s
t
a
m
e
n
t

s
u
g
g
e
s
t
s

t
h
a
t

p
a
g
a
n
s

c
o
u
l
d

g
e
t

J
e
w
s

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s

c
o
n
f
u
s
e
d
,

b
u
t

i
f

o
n
l
y

t
h
e

s
u
r
v
i
v
i
n
g

p
a
g
a
n

t
e
x
t
s

a
r
e

t
a
k
e
n

i
n
t
o

a
c
c
o
u
n
t
,

i
t

w
o
u
l
d

a
p
p
e
a
r

t
h
a
t
,

a
t

l
e
a
s
t

f
r
o
m

t
h
e

e
a
r
l
y

s
e
c
o
n
d

c
e
n
t
u
r
y
,

p
a
g
a
n
s

v
i
e
w
e
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y

a
s

a

w
h
o
l
l
y

s
e
p
a
r
a
t
e

r
e
l
i
g
i
o
n
,

w
h
i
c
h

h
a
p
p
e
n
e
d

t
o

h
a
v
e

s
t
a
r
t
e
d

i
n

J
u
d
a
e
a
.

C
e
l
s
u
s

s
a
w

t
h
e

s
e
p
a
r
a
t
i
o
n

o
f

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s

f
r
o
m

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

a
s

t
h
e

p
r
o
d
u
c
t

o
f

v
i
o
l
e
n
t

r
e
v
o
l
t
.
3
0

C
E
C
h
r
i
s
t
J
e
w
s
C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
J
e
w
s

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s

a
s

s
e
e
n

b
y

p
a
g
a
n
s

i
n

a
n
t
i
q
u
i
t
y
180 cn.r+rn rir+rrx
F
i
g
.

4


T
h
i
s

r
e
c
o
n
s
t
r
u
c
t
i
o
n

o
f

r
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

v
i
e
w
s

i
s

d
e
r
i
v
e
d

f
r
o
m

a

s
m
a
l
l

n
u
m
b
e
r

o
f

s
c
a
t
t
e
r
e
d

s
o
u
r
c
e
s
.

R
a
b
b
i
s

s
h
o
w
e
d

l
i
t
t
l
e

i
n
t
e
r
e
s
t

i
n

m
i
n
i
m

(

h
e
r
e
t
i
c
s

)

o
f

a
n
y

k
i
n
d
.

S
o
m
e

s
c
h
o
l
a
r
s

a
s
s
e
r
t

t
h
a
t

r
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

s
i
l
e
n
c
e

a
b
o
u
t

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y

w
a
s

p
o
l
e
m
i
c
a
l
,

b
u
t

t
h
i
s

i
s

i
m
p
o
s
s
i
b
l
e

t
o

d
e
m
o
n
s
t
r
a
t
e
.

R
a
b
b
i
s

r
e
f
e
r

o
n
l
y

r
a
r
e
l
y

t
o

a
n
y

l
i
n
k

b
e
t
w
e
e
n

J
e
w
i
s
h

a
n
d

G
e
n
t
i
l
e

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y
.
M
o
s
e
s
A
v
o
d
a

Z
a
r
a
G
e
n
t
i
l
e

W
o
r
l
d
A
v
o
d
a

Z
a
r
a
G
e
n
t
i
l
e

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y
T
a
l
m
u
d
M
i
s
h
n
a
h
m
i
n
i
m

(
u
n
s
p
e
c
i

e
d
)
7
0

C
E
2
4

k
i
n
d
s

o
f

m
i
n
i
m
m
i
n
i
m

(
u
n
s
p
e
c
i

e
d
)
J
e
w
i
s
h

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
R
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

v
i
e
w

o
f

t
h
e

P
a
r
t
i
n
g

o
f

t
h
e

W
a
y
s

vorrrixo +nr r.n+ixo or +nr v.vs 181


F
i
g
.

5


T
h
e

i
m
a
g
e
s

o
f

t
h
e

J
e
w
i
s
h

p
a
s
t

t
o

b
e

f
o
u
n
d

i
n

E
u
s
e
b
i
u
s


v
o
l
u
m
i
n
o
u
s

w
r
i
t
i
n
g
s

a
r
e

n
o
t

w
h
o
l
l
y

c
o
n
s
i
s
t
e
n
t
.

T
h
i
s

p
i
c
t
u
r
e

r
e

e
c
t
s

m
o
s
t

c
l
o
s
e
l
y

w
h
a
t

i
s

f
o
u
n
d

i
n

t
h
e

E
c
c
l
e
s
i
a
s
t
i
c
a
l

H
i
s
t
o
r
y
.

O
t
h
e
r

f
o
u
r
t
h
-
c
e
n
t
u
r
y

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
,

s
u
c
h

a
s

E
p
i
p
h
a
n
i
u
s
,

h
a
d

a

q
u
i
t
e

d
i

e
r
e
n
t

p
i
c
t
u
r
e
.
E
u
s
e
b
i
u
s


v
i
e
w

o
f

t
h
e

P
a
r
t
i
n
g

o
f

t
h
e

W
a
y
s

C
o
n

i
c
t
/
D
i
a
l
o
g
u
e
C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y
/
t
h
e

T
r
u
e

I
s
r
a
e
l

J
u
d
a
i
z
i
n
g
h
e
r
e
s
i
e
s
O
t
h
e
r
h
e
r
e
s
i
e
s
J
u
d
a
i
s
m

(
r
e
j
e
c
t
e
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
)
C
h
r
i
s
t
I
s
r
a
e
l
M
o
s
e
s
182 cn.r+rn rir+rrx
F
i
g
.

6


T
h
e

p
a
t
t
e
r
n

o
f

s
o
c
i
a
l

r
e
l
a
t
i
o
n
s
h
i
p
s

d
e
p
i
c
t
e
d

i
n

t
h
i
s

d
i
a
g
r
a
m

i
s

l
a
r
g
e
l
y

b
a
s
e
d

o
n

g
u
e
s
s
w
o
r
k
.

I
t

i
l
l
u
s
t
r
a
t
e
s

t
h
e

d
i

c
u
l
t
i
e
s

f
a
c
e
d

b
y

m
o
d
e
r
n

e
x
e
g
e
t
e
s

i
n

e
s
t
a
b
l
i
s
h
i
n
g

s
o
c
i
a
l

r
e
a
l
i
t
i
e
s

f
r
o
m

l
i
t
e
r
a
r
y

t
e
x
t
s
.

F
o
r

e
x
a
m
p
l
e
,

r
e
f
e
r
e
n
c
e
s

i
n

g
e
n
t
i
l
e

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n

t
e
x
t
s

t
o

c
o
n
t
e
m
p
o
r
a
r
y

J
e
w
s

m
a
y

h
a
v
e

i
n

m
i
n
d

J
e
w
i
s
h

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
,

r
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

J
e
w
s
,

n
o
n
-
r
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

(
b
u
t

n
o
n
-
C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
)

J
e
w
s
,

o
r

J
u
d
a
i
z
i
n
g


C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s

w
h
o

m
i
g
h
t

n
o
t

h
a
v
e

t
h
o
u
g
h
t

o
f

t
h
e
m
s
e
l
v
e
s

a
s

J
e
w
s

a
t

a
l
l
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
v a r i e t i e s o f g e n t i l e v a r i e t i e s o f J e w
3
0

C
E
7
0

C
E
4
0
0

C
E
R
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

J
e
w
s
o
t
h
e
r

J
e
w
s
J
e
w
i
s
h

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
g
e
n
t
i
l
e

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
S
o
c
i
a
l

r
e
l
a
t
i
o
n
s
h
i
p
s
:

J
e
w
s

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
vorrrixo +nr r.n+ixo or +nr v.vs 183
F
i
g
.

7


I
t

i
s

l
i
k
e
l
y

t
h
a
t

v
a
r
i
e
t
i
e
s

o
f

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

c
o
n
t
i
n
u
e
d

t
o

e
x
i
s
t

f
o
r

m
a
n
y

y
e
a
r
s

a
f
t
e
r

7
0

C
E
,

a
n
d

i
t

i
s

c
e
r
t
a
i
n

t
h
a
t

m
a
n
y

d
i

e
r
e
n
t

g
r
o
u
p
s

d
e
s
c
r
i
b
e
d

t
h
e
m
s
e
l
v
e
s

a
s

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
.

A
l
l

t
y
p
e
s

o
f

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

s
h
a
r
e
d

s
o
m
e

c
o
m
m
o
n

c
h
a
r
a
c
t
e
r
i
s
t
i
c
s
,

a
s

d
i
d

a
l
l

t
y
p
e
s

o
f

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y
.

I
t

w
a
s

p
o
s
s
i
b
l
e

t
o

b
e

b
o
t
h

J
e
w
i
s
h

a
n
d

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
,

b
u
t

s
o
m
e

f
o
r
m
s

o
f

J
u
d
a
i
s
m

h
a
d

n
o
t
h
i
n
g

i
n

c
o
m
m
o
n

w
i
t
h

s
o
m
e

f
o
r
m
s

o
f

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y
.

I
t

w
a
s

n
o
t

n
e
c
e
s
s
a
r
i
l
y

t
h
e

c
a
s
e

t
h
a
t

t
h
e

c
o
m
m
o
n

c
o
r
e


o
f

e
i
t
h
e
r

r
e
l
i
g
i
o
n

w
a
s

w
h
a
t

m
a
t
t
e
r
e
d

m
o
s
t

t
o

t
h
e

a
d
h
e
r
e
n
t
s

o
f

t
h
a
t

r
e
l
i
g
i
o
n
.
T
O
R
A
H
a
n
d

b
e
l
i
e
f

t
h
a
t
J
e
w
i
s
h

h
i
s
t
o
r
y

i
s
o
n
e

s

o
w
n

h
i
s
t
o
r
y
C
H
R
I
S
T
a
n
d

s
o
m
e
C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n

t
e
x
t
S
e
l
f
-
p
e
r
c
e
p
t
i
o
n
s
184 cn.r+rn rir+rrx
F
i
g
.

8

P
r
o
t
o
-
o
r
t
h
o
d
o
x


C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s

w
e
n
t

t
o

g
r
e
a
t

l
e
n
g
t
h
s

t
o

d
e

n
e

t
h
e

b
o
u
n
d
a
r
i
e
s

o
f

a
c
c
e
p
t
a
b
i
l
i
t
y

b
y

d
e
s
c
r
i
b
i
n
g

d
i

e
r
e
n
t

h
e
r
e
s
i
e
s
.

B
y

c
o
n
t
r
a
s
t
,

r
a
b
b
i
n
i
c

s
e
l
f
-
d
e

n
i
t
i
o
n

w
a
s

i
n
w
a
r
d

l
o
o
k
i
n
g

a
n
d

r
a
b
b
i
s

a
l
l
o
w
e
d

t
h
e

d
e

n
i
t
i
o
n

o
f

m
i
n
i
m

t
o

r
e
m
a
i
n

v
a
g
u
e
.

P
r
o
t
o

O
r
t
h
o
d
o
x

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
m
i
n
i
m
R
a
b
b
i
s
m
i
n
i
m
m
i
n
i
m
g
n
o
s
t
i
c

g
r
o
u
p
s
M
a
r
c
i
o
n
A
t
t
i
t
u
d
e
s

t
o

b
o
u
n
d
a
r
i
e
s
vorrrixo +nr r.n+ixo or +nr v.vs 185
F
i
g
.

9


T
h
e

r
e
l
a
t
i
o
n
s
h
i
p
s

b
e
t
w
e
e
n

J
u
d
a
i
s
m
,

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y
,

a
n
d

t
h
e

s
u
r
r
o
u
n
d
i
n
g

c
u
l
t
u
r
e

w
a
s

c
o
m
p
l
e
x
.

T
h
e

d
e
s
i
g
n
a
-
t
i
o
n

o
f

e
a
c
h

g
r
o
u
p

i
n

t
h
i
s

d
i
a
g
r
a
m

i
s

t
h
a
t

u
s
e
d

b
y

m
o
d
e
r
n

s
c
h
o
l
a
r
s

r
a
t
h
e
r

t
h
a
n

t
h
a
t

u
s
e
d

b
y

i
n
s
i
d
e
r
s
:

n
o

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n

g
r
o
u
p

e
v
e
r

d
e
s
c
r
i
b
e
d

i
t
s
e
l
f

a
s

a

h
e
r
e
s
y
.


T
h
e

s
i
g
n
i

c
a
n
c
e

o
f

c
o
n
v
e
r
g
e
n
c
e

b
e
t
w
e
e
n

g
r
o
u
p
s

i
s

t
h
a
t

p
a
r
t
i
c
u
l
a
r

g
r
o
u
p
s

h
a
d

i
d
e
a
s

o
r

p
r
a
c
t
i
c
e
s

c
l
o
s
e

t
o

t
h
o
s
e

o
f

o
t
h
e
r

g
r
o
u
p
s
:

i
t

s
h
o
u
l
d

n
o
t

b
e

c
o
n
c
l
u
d
e
d

t
h
a
t

c
l
o
s
e
n
e
s
s

o
f

i
d
e
a
s

p
r
o
m
o
t
e
d

c
o
o
p
e
r
a
t
i
o
n

o
r

e
v
e
n

s
o
c
i
a
l

c
o
n
t
a
c
t
.

G
r
o
u
p
s

m
a
y

r
e
s
e
r
v
e

t
h
e
i
r

g
r
e
a
t
e
s
t

h
o
s
t
i
l
i
t
y

f
o
r

s
i
m
i
l
a
r

e
n
t
h
u
s
i
a
s
t
s

w
h
o

h
a
p
p
e
n

t
o

d
i
v
e
r
g
e

f
r
o
m

t
h
e
m

i
n

s
o
m
e

s
m
a
l
l

b
u
t

(
i
n

t
h
e
i
r

e
y
e
s
)

i
m
m
e
n
s
e
l
y

s
i
g
n
i

c
a
n
t

d
e
t
a
i
l
.
C
U
L
T
U
R
E

O
F

G
R
A
E
C
O
-
R
O
M
A
N

W
O
R
L
D
V
a
r
i
e
t
i
e
s

o
f

P
a
g
a
n
i
s
m
1
0
0

C
E
0
4
0
0

C
E
E
s
s
e
n
e
s
?
S
a
d
d
u
c
e
e
s
?
T
a
l
m
i
d
e
i

H
a
k
h
a
m
i
m

J
u
d
a
i
z
i
n
g

G
n
o
s
t
i
c
s
P
L
A
T
O
N
I
S
M

J
e
w
i
s
h

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
M
A
G
I
C

P
r
o
t
o
-
O
r
t
h
o
d
o
x


C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
i
t
y

H
e
r
e
s
i
e
s


+
+
G
n
o
s
t
i
c
s

e
t
c
.

M
a
r
c
i
o
n
i
t
e
s
P
L
A
T
O
N
I
S
M
C
H
R
I
S
T
I
A
N
I
T
I
E
S
S
E
C
O
N
D

T
E
M
P
L
E

J
U
D
A
I
S
M
S
P
L
A
T
O
N
I
S
M
M
A
G
I
C
M
A
G
I
C
P
O
S
T
-
7
0
J
U
D
A
I
S
M
S
E
b
i
o
n
i
t
e
s
C
H
R
I
S
T
I
A
N
I
T
I
E
S

J
u
d
a
i
z
i
n
g

C
h
r
i
s
t
i
a
n
s
V
i
e
w
e
d

f
r
o
m

o
u
t
s
i
d
e

(

r
s
t

t
o

f
o
u
r
t
h

c
e
n
t
u
r
y
)
CHAPTER SIXTEEN
KOSHER OLIVE OIL IN ANTIQUITY
I hope that it may be thought appropriate to offer to Geza Vermes, who
has dedicated much of his scholarly life to the elucidation of the varied
nature of Judaism and the attitudes of Jews towards their tradition in
late antiquity, a study of a religious development which both originated
and came to an end in this period.
The problem to be tackled may be stated quite succinctly. In the hel-
lenistic period some Jews objected to using oil produced by non-Jews.
Some time in the third century CE the rabbinic patriarch and his court
decreed that the ban on gentile oil was no longer to be enforced, and
their decision seems to have been generally followed, if not immediately
then at least within a few generations. No ancient text gives an adequate
explanation either of the original prohibition or of the later relaxation.
My purpose is to investigate the underlying religious attitudes which
might account for both developments.
1
Olive oil was an item of considerable importance in the economy of
the land of Israel. Oil was one of the three staple products of the land
(Deut. 11.14; 2 Kings 18.32). Of the many varieties of oil, olive oil was
among the most expensive, but it was widely used for cosmetics (Eccl.
9.78), for medicine (Isa. 1.6), and as a fuel for lamps (cf. R. Tarfon in
m. Shabb. 2.2, on the Sabbath lights). It was of course a ubiquitous ingredi-
ent in food. Josephus made special mention of the productivity of olive
trees in the hills of Galilee (B.J. 2.592). The concern of the inhabitants
to ensure their supply of olive oil is illustrated by nds of oil presses
on Mount Hermon some way above the height at which olive trees
ourish.
2
Whether olives actually grew at such a height in antiquity or
were transported raw to the upland settlements for processing is unclear.
In either case the importance attributed to the product is striking.
3
1
The only work specically devoted to this topic is S.B. Hoenig, Oil and Pagan
Delement, JQR 61 (1970/71), pp. 6375.
2
Cf. S. Dar, The History of the Hermon Settlements, PEQ 120 (1988), p. 37.
3
Apart from the greater ease in the transport of olives rather than oil, it may be that
people preferred to process their own oil to prevent adulteration by inferior olives or
other substances.
188 chapter sixteen
In this reliance on olive oil the Jews of Palestine shared in the general
culture of the Mediterranean region. By the time of the early Roman
empire olive cultivation was almost universally found in lowland coastal
regions, and the long-distance trade in high quality luxury oil was
equalled in bulk and distribution only by the trade in wine.
4
When Jews decided in the Hellenistic and early Roman imperial pe-
riod not to use gentile olive oil, they were, then, deliberately turning
their backs on some of the more widely traded goods in their society.
But it may be that by the time such trade had fully evolved in the last
centuries BCE, Jews could already justify the taboo to themselves by
claiming reliance on ancient tradition, for the rst evidence for a prohi-
bition on the use of gentile oil may date back to before 281 BCE.
According to Josephus (Ant. 12.119120), Seleucus Nicator, who ruled
from 312 to 281 BCE, gave special privileges to the Jews as follows.
xo yop 2riruxo o Nixtep rv oi rxtior aoiroiv rv tp `Ao xo tp xte
2up xo rv outp tp gtpoaoiri `Avtior aoiitro outo \eor xo
toi rvoixioOrioiv iootou oargvr Moxroooiv xo 'Eiigoiv, e t[v
aoiitrov toutgv rti xo vuv oiorvriv trx\piov or touto to `Iouooou
[ ouiorvou oiioui rio p[oOoi iovriv epiorvov ti aopo
tev yuvooipev ri rioou ti[v opyupiov rxriruorv o tou o\ou tev`
Avtiorev rv t vuv aoir iuooi apooipourvou, Mouxiovo [yrev ev
totr t[ 2upo rt\pgorv.
Seleucus Nicator granted them citizenship in the cities which he founded
in Asia and Lower Syria and in his capital, Antioch, itself, and declared
them to have equal privileges with the Macedonians and Greeks who were
settled in these cities, so that this citizenship of theirs remains to this day;
and the proof of this is the fact that he gave orders that those Jews who
were unwilling to use foreign oil should receive a xed sum of money
from the gymnasiarchs to pay for their own kind of oil; and, when in
the present war the people of Antioch proposed to revoke this privilege,
Mucianus, who was then governor of Syria, maintained it.
If Josephus is to be trusted, at least some Jews in Asia Minor and/or
Syria were unwilling to use foreign oil before 281 BCE. How many
4
On the olive trade of the early Roman empire, see in general D.P.S. Peacock and
D.F. Williams, Amphorae and the Roman Economy: an Introductory Guide, London and New
York, 1986. For the economic importance of this trade, see D.J. Mattingly, Oil for
Export? A Comparison of Libyan, Spanish and Tunisian Olive Oil Production in the
Roman Empire, JRA 1 (1988), 3356, but note that there has been more study of the
trade in this period in the Western Mediterranean than in the Levant. For olive oil
production in Roman Palestine, see the articles and bibliographies in M. Heltzer and
D. Eitam, eds., Olive Oil in Antiquity: Israel and Neighbouring Countries from the Neolithic to the
Early Arab Period, Haifa, 1987.
kosher olive oil in antiquity 189
Jews followed this line is not clear: to `Iouooou [ ouiorvou may
mean the Jews who did not want or, more probably, those Jewsi.e.
only somewho did not want. It is quite likely on general grounds
that Josephus ascribed the grant of this privilege to an earlier period
than was the case, and that in fact a later Seleucid monarch, such as
Antiochus III, who ruled from 223 to 187 BCE, was responsible,
5
but
in any case it seems certain that the custom was well established in the
Hellenistic period.
Whenever the taboo started, two things about it are established from
this passage. First, Jews kept up the habit in the late sixties CE during
the First Revolt, when Mucianus as governor of Syria permitted them
to maintain their privilege. Second, the complaint expressed about un-
kosher oil was that it was foreign, allophulon, and Josephus could take
it for granted that the reasonableness of this objection was sufciently
self-evident not to need spelling out to his readers, most of whom would
be gentile.
Josephus reason for taking the taboo so much for granted was prob-
ably simply that it was part of his own lifestyle, for the only other con-
text in which the ban on gentile oil is mentioned in his writings involved
an incident in his own career. The incident was described by Josephus
twice, with interesting divergences between the two accounts.
First, at BJ 2.591592, Josephus included the following passage in his
attack on his long-standing rival, John of Gischala.
rarito ouvOr oxgv[v aovoupyottgv, e opo uittoivto avtr oi xoto
t[v 2upov `Iouooioi rio p[oOoi [ oi` oouiev ryxrripiorv, arariv
outoi ra rOopov rpt\ooto. ouvevourvo or tou Tupou voooto,
o trooopo `Attixo ouvotoi, trooopo oopri, t[ out[ raapooxrv
ti[ [ioopiov. ouog or t[ Ioiiioo rioioopou iioto xo totr
ruopgxuo, ri oaovovto rioaraev aoi xo ovo oaripov ti ai[Oo
ouv[yrv pgtev, oi ruOre rp[to xoto tou t[v rpyooov aopooovto.
He next contrived to play a very crafty trick: with the avowed object of
protecting all the Jews of Syria from the use of oil not supplied by their
own countrymen, he sought and obtained permission to deliver it to them
at the frontier. He then bought up that commodity, paying Tyrian coin of
the value of four Attic drachms for four amphorae and proceeded to sell
half an amphora at the same price. As Galilee is a special home of the
olive and the crop had been plentiful, John, enjoying a monopoly, by send-
ing large quantities to districts in want of it, amassed an immense sum of
5
See R. Marcus, ed., Josephus: Works, vol. VII, Appendix c, The early Seleucid Rul-
ers and the Jews, Cambridge, Mass., 1943, repr. 1966, pp. 73742.
190 chapter sixteen
money, which he forthwith employed against the man who had brought
him his gains.
However tendentious and exaggerated the attack, Josephus must have
assumed that it would at least sound plausible to Jewish readers. The
oil supplied [ oi` oouiev in this passage is the equivalent of the
oiiouiov rioiov in the passage from Antiquities rst quoted.
When Josephus returned to the same incident in his later account in
the Vita (746), he gave a slightly different version of the same events.
xo orutrpov `Ievvg rariorrprv aovoupyov rg yop `Iouooou to
t[v 4iiaaou Koiopriov xotoixouvto, ouyxrxiriorvou xoto apootoy[v
tou ooiire uao Mooou tou t[v ouvootrov oioixouvto, araorvoi apo
outov aopoxoiouvto, rario[ oux rouoiv rioiov poovtoi xoOopov,
aoigorvov apovoiov ruaopov outoi toutou aopooriv, [ oi` ovyxgv
Eiigvix pervoi to voio aopooveoiv. touto o` ou ua` ruorro
riryrv `Ievg, oi` oiopoxrporiov or ovrpettgv. yiveoxev yop aopo rv
rxrvoi xoto t[v Koiopriov to ouo roto opo[ io aeiourvou,
rv or toi Iioioi to oyoo\xovto roto opoev troopev, aov to
rioiov oov \v rxri oiraroto, ioev rouoov xo aop` rou to ooxriv
ou yop rxev rartpraov, oiio oio oov tov oao tou ai\Oou, [ xeiuev
xotoiruoOrgv ua` outev. ouyep\oovto ouv ou airotev pgtev o
`Ievvg rx t[ xoxoupyo toutg ruaopgor.
This knavish trick John followed up with a second. He stated that the
Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea Philippi, having, by the kings order, been
shut up by Modius, his viceroy, and having no pure oil with which to
anoint themselves, had sent a request to him to see that they were sup-
plied with this commodity, lest they should be driven to violate their legal
ordinances by resort to Grecian oil. Johns motive in making this assertion
was not piety, but proteering of the most barefaced description; for he
knew that at Caesarea two pints were sold for one drachm, whereas at
Gischala eighty pints could be had for four drachms. So he sent off all
the oil in the place, having ostensibly obtained my authority to do so. My
permission I gave reluctantly, from fear of being stoned by the mob if I
withheld it. Thus, having gained my consent, John by this sharp practice
made an enormous prot.
The story as a whole is more plausible in this version. Only the Jews
of Caesarea Philippi are involved, and it is easier to imagine economic
interchange of this sort in the middle of a war if it took place between
the rebels in Galilee and the subjects of the Jewish, if pro-Roman, king
Agrippa II, than to credit the claim in B.J. that John traded with all the
Jews in Syria, a province rmly controlled by the Roman enemy. In
this case the kosher oil, described as pure (xoOopov), is contrasted to a
specic form of gentile oil, namely Grecian oil (riigvixov). It is asserted
kosher olive oil in antiquity 191
that the concern of the Jews in Caesarea Philippi was over the use of
such oil for anointing themselves (if, as I think preferable, the minority
manuscript reading poovtoi is read rather than p\oovtoi). Again,
it is signicant that Josephus took it for granted that his readers would
appreciate the issues at stakeunlike his earlier works, Josephus Vita
was aimed primarily at a Jewish audience. For such readers the state-
ment that Jews using Grecian oil would transgress the laws (to voio
aopooveoiv) would sound like a straightforward statement that such
behaviour involved breaking the Torah.
If such an attitude was so standard among Jews at the end of the
rst century CE, some explanation needs to be found for the remark-
able statement dropped into the Mishnah tractate Abodah Zarah (2.6),
redacted a little over a century later.






These things of gentiles are forbidden, but it is not prohibited to derive
any benet from them: milk that a gentile milked but no Israelite watched
him, and their bread and their oilRabbi and his court permitted the
oilboiled or preserved vegetables into which it is their custom to put
wine or vinegar, and hashed, pickled sh, and brine in which no sh is
distinguishable (with no sticklebacks oating in it), and the nless sh, and
drops of asafoetida, and lumpy salt. Behold, these are forbidden, but it is
not prohibited to have any benet from them.
Rabbi and his court permitted the oil. The clause looks like a later
insertion into a list of the forbidden food of idolaters. It does not t its
present context either in its meaning or in its grammar. In the Babylo-
nian Talmud (b. Abodah Zarah 37a) it is in one place assumed that it was
not R. Judah I but his grandson, R. Judah Nesiah, who took the lenient
decision described. Since the Mishnah was compiled by R. Judah I, the
lack of editing to incorporate the words into the surrounding texts ts
well into the tradition that the reform took place two generations after
his time. However, both Talmuds also referred the reform at other places
to R. Judah I.
6
Perhaps in the case of a controversial decision which re-
6
See b. Abodah Zarah 36a and y. Abodah Zarah 2.8, 41d, both cited below. H. Albeck,
Shisha Sidrei Mishnah, Seder Nezikin, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 1953, p. 331, asserts simply
that the Mishnah refers to R. Judah Nesiah.
192 chapter sixteen
lied on the authority of the issuing court and which elicited opposition
(as the gemara attests [see below]), both patriarchs felt impelled to issue
decrees, just as Roman emperors sometimes reissued laws when they
were not widely observed.
The Mishnah text itself gave absolutely no explanation either for the
original ban or for its lifting. This is not unusual for halakhic decisions
recorded in tannaitic texts, but this particular case rather puzzled the
amoraim, as can be seen from an examination of the discussion of the
point in the Babylonian Talmud. The most relevant part of the text, to
be found at b. Abodah Zarah 35b36a, reads as follows.
1


2








3






4




5






. . .
Section 1: And their oil. As regards oil Rab said: Daniel decreed against
its use; but Samuel said: The residue from their unclean vessels renders it
kosher olive oil in antiquity 193
prohibited. Is this to say that people generally are concerned to eat their
food in a state of ritual purity!Rather the residue from their prohibited
vessels renders it prohibited.
Section 2: Samuel said to Rab: According to my explanation that the
residue from their prohibited vessels renders it prohibited, it is quite right
that when R. Isaac b. Samuel b. Martha came he related that R. Sim-
lai expounded in Nisibis: As regards oil R. Judah and his Court took a
vote and declared it permitted, holding the opinion that [when the for-
bidden element] imparts a worsened avour [the mixture] is permitted.
But according to your statement that Daniel decreed against it, [can it be
thought that] Daniel made a decree and R. Judah the Prince then came
and annulled it? For have we not learned: A Court is unable to annul the
decisions of another Court, unless it is superior to it in wisdom and nu-
merical strength!
Section 3: Rab replied to him: You quote Simlai of Lud; but the inhabit-
ants of Lud are different because they are neglectful. [Samuel] said to
him: Shall I send for him? [Rab] thereupon grew alarmed and said: If [R.
Judah and his Court] have not made proper research, shall we not do so?
Surely it is written, But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not
dele himself with the kings meat nor with the wine of his drinkingthe
verse speaks of two drinkings, the drinking of wine and the drinking of
oil! Rab was of the opinion that Daniel purposed in his own heart and
decided similarly for all Israel; whereas Samuel was of the opinion that he
purposed in his own heart but did not decide similarly for all Israel.
Section 4: But did Daniel decree against oil? Behold Bali declared that
Abimi the Nabatean said in the name of Rab: Their bread, oil, wine and
daughters are all included in the eighteen things! Should you argue that
Daniel came and made the decree but it was not accepted, and then the
disciples of Hillel and Shammai came and made the decree and it was
accepted; in that case what was the purpose of Rabs testimony?But
Daniel decreed against the use of the oil in a city, and [the disciples] came
and decreed against its use even in a eld.
Section 5: How, then, was it possible for R. Judah the Prince to permit
[what was forbidden by] the ordinance of the disciples of Shammai and
Hillel, seeing that we have learned: A court is unable to annul the deci-
sions of another Court, unless it is superior to it in wisdom and numeri-
cal strength! Furthermore, Rabbah b. Bar Hanah has said in the name
of R. Johanan: In all matters a Court can annul the decisions of another
Court except the eighteen things, for even were Elijah and his Court to
come we must not listen to him!R. Mesharsheya said: The reason is be-
cause their prohibition has spread among the large majority of Israelites,
but the prohibition concerning oil did not so spread.
The amoraim were concerned to establish whether the original in-
terdiction was a precaution against contamination by vessels rendered
194 chapter sixteen
unkosher by other ingredients or was the result of a decree issued either
by Daniel (relying on the pleonastic wine of his drinking in Daniel
1.8, which they took to include oil as a second forbidden beverage after
wine) or by the Houses of Hillel and Shammai as one of the eighteen
decisions of the disciples at the start of the great revolt against Rome.
The main rabbis cited, Samuel and Rab, taught in the second quarter
of the third century or later and, since they appear to respond to it, pre-
sumably after the lifting of the ban by R. Judah Nesiah. Two reasons are
given in this passage for that lifting. According to R. Simlai, as quoted
by R. Isaac b. Samuel b. Martha, R. Judah held that the forbidden ele-
ment in the oil imparts a worse avour, and therefore the oil is permit-
ted. The second opinion is put forward in the name of R. Mesharsheya,
that the ban was in any case not in general accepted by Jews.
Discussion of the various opinions put forward by the sages in this
passage may be further complicated by noting a variant reading of line
3, which is to be found in the early commentaries.
7
These texts, which
read instead of , imply in the light of
t. Abodah Zarah 4(5).8 that Samuels opinion was that it was not the dis-
charge of the impure or forbidden vessels in which oil was stored that
made it unt, but that they were deled through the gentile habit of
sprinkling olives with wine or vinegar to facilitate the removal of the
pits. This understanding of the Mishnahs prohibition brings the ban on
oil into the same category as the vegetables which are mentioned next
in the text, since they too are prohibited because sprinkled with wine or
vinegar. However, no reference is made to such sprinkling in the ban on
gentile milk and bread, which appear immediately before the ban on oil
in the Mishnah text.
Reference to the discussion of the same Mishnah in the Yerushalmi
( y. Abodah Zarah 2.9, 41d) produces more opinions but no greater clarity
on any of these issues.
1

2



7
For the rest of this paragraph, see Z.A. Steinfeld, Concerning the Prohibition
against Gentile Oil, Tarbiz 49 (1980), pp. 26477.
kosher olive oil in antiquity 195
3


4


5






6


7



1: Who forbade the oil? Rab Judah said, Daniel forbade it: And Daniel
resolved, etc.
2: And who permitted it? Rabbi and his court. In three settings R. Judah
the patriarch is referred to as our rabbi, in the context of writs of di-
vorce, oil, and [producing an abortion in the shape of a] sandal. In con-
sequence they referred to his court as the court that permitted anointing
[with oil]. Any court that gave a lenient ruling in three matters is called a
permissive court.
3: Said R. Judan, Rabbis court differed from him in the matter of the
writ of divorce. What is [the issue]? That [the woman] is permitted to
[re]marry. R. Haggai said, She is permitted to marry. R. Yose said, She
is forbidden to marry.
4: R. Aha, R. Tanhum bar Hiyya in the name of R. Haninah, and some
say it in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: Because they were going up to the
Royal Mountain and being put to death on it.
5: Isaac bar Samuel bar Marta went down to Nisibis. He found Simlai,
the southerner, sitting and expounding: Rabbi and his court permitted
oil. He said [the rule before] Samuel, but Rab did not accept the rule for
himself or eat. He said to him, Samuel ate. If you do not do the same,
I shall decree concerning you that you are a rebellious elder. [Rab]
replied to him, When I was still there [in the Land], I know that Simlai,
196 chapter sixteen
the southerner, rejected. [Samuel] said to him, Did [Simlai] say this in
his own name? Did he not say it in the name of R. Judah Nesiah? Samuel
nagged him about the matter until he too ate.
6: R. Yohanan raised the question: And have we not learned in the Mish-
nah that a court has not got the power to nullify the opinion of another
court unless it is greater than it in wisdom and in numbers? Now how is it
possible that Rabbi and his court should permit what Daniel and his col-
leagues had prohibited?
7: R. Yohanan is consistent with his opinion expressed elsewhere. For
R. Yohanan said, I have received it as a tradition from R. Eleazar of
the school of R. Sadoq that any decree a court should issue, and which
the majority of the community should not accept upon itself, is no de-
cree. They looked into the matter and found in the decree against oil and
they did not nd that the majority of the community had accepted upon
itself.
The view ascribed in the Babylonian Talmud to Rab, that the ban was
initiated by Daniel, was here attributed to his pupil R. Judah bar Ezekiel
( . end of third century). No mention was made of any discussion by the
Houses of Hillel and Shammai. Some modern scholars have assumed
that the obscure statement given by R. Aha and (?) R. Tanhum bar
Hiyya in the name of R. Haninah or R. Joshua b. Levi, the last named
being an amora contemporary with R. Judah Nesiah, that something
happened because they were going up to the Mountain of the King
and being killed (on this account? on the mountain?) was given as an
explanation of the acceptance of Daniels prohibition, on the grounds
that Jews thus avoided the gentiles who inhabited the mountain.
8
But
this is not the only possible interpretation of the phrase, for other schol-
ars have supposed that, on the contrary, it was intended to explain the
lifting of the ban, on the grounds that the mountain was farmed by Jews
and was therefore the best place to get pure oil.
9
It also seems to me pos-
sible that neither of these hypotheses is correct and that the statement
8
Cf. J. Neusner, The Talmud of the Land of Israel: a Preliminary Translation and Explanation,
vol. 33, Abodah Zarah, Chicago, 1982, p. 99. In favor of this interpretation, note that in
the parallel version of this passage in y. Shabb. 1.5, 3d section 4 is placed immediately
after section 1.
9
Cf. A. Oppenheimer, The Am Ha-aretz: a Study in the Social History of the Jewish Peo-
ple in the Hellenistic-Roman Period, trans. I.H. Levine, Leiden, 1977, p. 65. G. Alon, The
Jews in their Land in their Talmudic Age (70640 CE), trans. G. Levi, vol. II, Jerusalem,
1984, p. 736, also understood the text in this way and suggested that the enthusiasm of
R. Simlai of Lod for the lifting of the ban was occasioned by the greater threat to safety
in the south than in Galilee, since the royal mountain is to be located in the Judaean
hill country.
kosher olive oil in antiquity 197
may have referred not to oil at all, but to the issue raised in the imme-
diately preceding discussion in the talmudic text, which concerned the
remarriage of a widow whose husband had given her a writ of divorce
to become valid if he did not return within twelve months but had died
within that period.
These diverse explanations by the amoraim of the ban on gentile oil
seem to me irreconcilable and the distinction proposed anonymously in
the Babylonian Talmud passage (Section 4) between decrees valid in a
city and those valid in a eld strikes me as a counsel of desperation by an
editor or editors determined to resolve discord whenever possible. Such
irreconcilability is not altogether uncommon in rabbinic texts. More
signicant is the weakness of each of the amoraic opinions when they
are examined individually. Such weakness can only be demonstrated by
looking at each opinion in some detail.
Following the order in the Babylonian Talmud, I shall start with the
views of Rab, who ascribed the ban both to Daniel and to the eighteen
decisions of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai. Neither notion is very
convincing. Rabs exegesis of Daniel 1.8 was hardly the obvious reading
of the biblical text and seems to have been unknown to earlier commen-
tators on the passage. Thus Josephus described Daniel and his friends as
determined to stay vegetarian but prepared to eat any non-animal food
provided to them (AJ 10.190194).
As for the ascription of the decree to the eighteen decisions of the
Houses in 66 CE, the link was not mentioned in the discussion of oil
in the Jerusalem Talmud or in the earliest extant rabbinic lists of the
components of the decrees. In the Mishnah (m. Shabb. 1.4) the precise
contents of the decrees were not spelled out and the whole discussion in
b. Shabb. 13b17b presupposes great uncertainty as to what they were.
In y. Shabb. 1.5, 3c, the list of eighteen things ascribed to R. Shimon bar
Yohai ( . mid second century) did not include oil, although oil was in-
cluded in an anonymous baraita in the same passage.
10
But in any case
it is hard to reconcile an origin of the custom in 66 with Josephus
assertion that the taboo was already long-standing in Antioch by that
time, and it can be reckoned most unlikely that Josephus would have
mentioned the custom with apparent approval if it had originated in a
10
On the decrees, see the recent discussion of the tradition in I. Ben-Shalom, The
Shammai School and its Place in the Political and Social History of Eretz Israel in the
First Century AD, Ph.D. thesis Tel Aviv, 1980, pp. 56298 (in Heb.).
198 chapter sixteen
t of anti-Roman zealotry. It is worth noting that the Jews of Syria and/
or Caesarea Philippi who observed the taboos in 67 CE were presum-
ably not strongly anti-Roman since they had not gone south to join their
compatriots in revolt. ( Josephus stated [Vita 74] that the Jews had been
shut up in Caesarea Philippi by Modius, Agrippa IIs viceroy, but if John
of Gischalas kosher oil could get in, presumably Jews could get out.)
Attempts have been made in the past to circumvent this problem of
an apparent conict between the evidence in Josephus and the evidence
in the Talmud by distinguishing the ban described by Josephus from
that ascribed to the Houses.
11
Thus, as Hoenig pointed out, the prohibi-
tion to which Josephus referred was observed in the diaspora and is not
explicitly attested in Judaea, where the Houses issued their decree. Hoe-
nig claimed that this is best explained if the diaspora ban was observed
only as a way of avoiding idolatry, and the xenophobic decree of the
Houses was therefore something new and specically Judaean. The idea
is not impossible but, although oil was indeed one ingredient in pagan
ritual, this fact is not given as a reason for avoiding gentile oil in any an-
cient text. It may be added in support of Hoenig that Josephus seems to
have envisaged a taboo on the use of gentile oil as an ointment whereas
the rabbinic texts include oil in the list of forbidden foods but, again, I
am not sure how much can be made of this. It may be assumed that any
substance considered unt as ointment was a fortiori reckoned unsuitable
as food. (The only reason I can nd to doubt this is the testimony of
Josephus [B.J. 2.123], that Essenes, who may well have used oil of some
kind in their food, refused to put any oil on their bodies, reckoning it as
a delement [x\iioo]. But the case was not strictly parallel, for Essenes
simply wished to keep their skin dry.) In any case the contrast betwen
oil as food and oil as ointment may be spurious, for the word used to
designate oil in one place (Section 2) in the Jerusalem Talmud passage
quoted above was , i.e. anointing.
Rather more convincing than Rabs ascription of the ban to a de-
cree at one time or another is the explanation for the ban put forward
according to the Babylonian Talmud by Mar Samuel, that the oil was
in some way contaminated by gentiles additives. This view ts in with
11
Hoenig, Oil, passim. G. Alon, Jews, Judaism and the Classical World, trans. I. Abra-
hams, Jerusalem, 1977, pp. 15657, suggested that the eighteen decrees (including the
ban on oil) were a reinforcement of non-biblical halakhot about gentile food which were
not sufciently observed in some circles. This is possible, but there is no rst-century
evidence for such failure to observe the taboo on oil.
kosher olive oil in antiquity 199
Josephus description of Jewish oil as pure (Vita 74), and, as Samuel
is made to point out in the Talmudic passage (Section 2), it did at least
make sense of the reason for lifting the ban attributed to R. Judah by
R. Simlai, that when the forbidden element in a mixture imparts a wors-
ened avour the mixture is permitted.
But that reason itself has an air of improvization. The residue or
sprinkling believed to make oil forbidden consisted probably of gentile
wine suspected of use in libations, although it cannot be shown that
other contaminants were not also envisaged. If residue is read, it is
possible that an amphora or other container once used for wine and re-
used for oil might impart a taste to the oil; if it was resinated wine, the
taste of the oil might be rather unpleasant, so that the alleged reason
for lifting the ban would also make sense. However, there is not much
evidence for such re-use of amphorae or other vessels, for reasons which
are clear enough: if the wine residue made the oil taste worse, gen-
tiles will only have re-used vessels when no more appropriate container
was available. Since the quantity of pottery produced throughout the
Roman empire was vast, this was surely a rare occurrence, and it is hard
to imagine that suspicion of such delement was the main reason for
the banning of gentile oil. Similar arguments apply to the sprinkling of
olives with wine or vinegar by gentiles, if is read rather than (see
above). The practice certainly occurred, for it is explicitly described at
t. Abodah Zarah 4(5).8. But it can surely be assumed that, unless the gen-
tiles concerned were very foolish, the custom was not believed to impart
a worse taste to the oil.
It seems to me best to stop looking for biblical proof texts or specic
occasions for the ban and to accept instead that the confusion of the
amoraic sources may have reected a genuine lack of considered rea-
sons for the prohibition. That is to say, the widespread custom among
Jews of avoiding gentile oil may have been based neither on biblical exe-
gesis nor on a decision by an accepted authority but on a pervasive reli-
gious instinct which was all the more powerful for its lack of rationale.
The instinct to avoid gentile foodstuffs of various common kinds was
a novel phenomenon among Jews of the late Persian or early Hellenistic
period. It had no explicit connection with a concern for levitical purity.
Since it occurred after the composition of most of the holy books even-
tually reckoned canonical, the phenomenon was hardly attested in bib-
lical texts which could be used as justication for the custom. The late
books in which the practice is assumed (e.g. Judith 10.5; 12.14; Tobit
1.1011) were not included in sacred scripture, apart from the book of
200 chapter sixteen
Daniel.
12
It is a plausible hypothesis (which by its very nature can neither
be proved nor disproved) that this extension of food taboos to separate
not just holy from profane but, more specically, Jew from gentile, is
best explained by social and cultural changes in the lives of Jews in this
period rather than the development of novel religious theories.
If this is correct, it may be misleading to describe intertestamental
Judaism as did the amoraim, as if it consisted essentially in a number
of competing systems of halakhah which differed either because of the
decrees of competing religious authorities or because of their divergent
methods of interpreting the Bible. Biblical interpretation was undoubt-
edly one generating force in religious innovation. But in many cases
where a biblical text was cited in support of particular behaviour, the
impetus for that behaviour was already present in the form of custom or
instinctive attitude. Whether such custom counted as part of the Torah
for any set of Jews was perhaps only a matter of terminology. It might
also depend on the audience addressed: some of the unexpected items
in Josephus list of the Jewish laws in C. Ap. 2.190219, such as the Jew-
ish ban on taking spoils from the corpses of their enemies (212), might
be seen by some Jews as custom rather than law, but it suited Josephus
apologetic when writing for gentiles to include such philanthropic be-
haviour within the law.
13
If the taboo depended on instinct rather than biblical interpretation
or a religious authority, why and how was it successfully abolished? It
cannot be said that the reasons given in the rabbinic sources themselves
for the decision by R. Judah and his court are very convincing. The view
attributed to R. Judah by R. Simlai, that mixture with a forbidden sub-
stance did not invalidate oil because it left a bad taste, has been discussed
above and found not impossible but rather implausible. Little can be
achieved by expatiating on the strange reference, also discussed above,
to death on the Kings Mountain. It is hard to know how much credence
to give to the claim of R. Mesharsheya that the ban was easily lifted be-
cause it was not observed by the majority of Israel; since Mesharsheya
spoke in the name R. Samuel b. Abba, who in turn quoted R. Yohanan,
the younger contemporary of R. Judah Nesiah, he himself probably
taught a considerable time after R. Judah and may not have preserved
12
Note that among the gentile foodstuffs avoided by Judith was gentile oil ( Judith
10.5).
13
See G. Vermes, A Summary of the Law by Flavius Josephus, NT 24 (1982), pp.
289303.
kosher olive oil in antiquity 201
accurate traditions about religious attitudes which prevailed long before
his birth. It is difcult to explain why Jews should have dropped the
traditional aversion to gentile oil which had apparently been so keenly
felt in Josephus day. It may be worth pointing out that, according to the
Jerusalem Talmud passage quoted above (Section 7), Yohanan taught
not that the nasis lifting of the ban was justied but that it was unnec-
essary, because any decree which the majority of Jews ignore is not a
decree, and this was the case with Daniels prohibition of gentile oil.
If adoption of any one of the amoraic opinions is not satisfactory,
the only way to account both for R. Judahs action and for the diver-
sity of rabbinic opinion about it is to construct a plausible model into
which the disparate evidence can be seen to t. Various more or less
fanciful pictures can be imagined. It is not impossible, for example, that
R. Judah issued a deliberate challenge to his contemporaries deep re-
ligious feelings in order to demonstrate his authority by imposing his
will; some evidence survives of a power struggle between the nasi and
the sages in his day and the issue of gentile oil might have been a trial of
strength.
14
More plausible is an economic motive, although quite what
it would be is hard to envisage: the Jews in Galilee for whom R. Judah
Nesiah is most likely to have legislated in the mid-third century inhab-
ited one of the more favoured olive producing regions of the Near East
and, whatever other goods they may have lacked, it is implausible that
Jewish olive oil was a scarce commodity. If there were other, more com-
plex, economic reasons for lifting the ban, no evidence of their nature
survives.
15
It seems to me that a more plausible model may be constructed by
trying to explain rabbinic legislation about gentile oil against the back-
ground of a general picture of the development of Jewish law in the
Hellenistic and early Roman periods. There are good reasons to sup-
pose that much of the law enshrined in the Mishnah was not originally
14
On the relationship of the nasi to the rabbis, see L.I. Levine, The Jewish Patriarch
(Nasi) in Third Century Palestine, ANRW II (Principat) 19, part 2 (1979), pp. 67880.
15
Cf. M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, AD 132212, Totowa, NJ, 1983,
p. 276, with a brief discussion of other possible (but hypothetical) economic arguments,
such as the possibility that high quality Galilean oil might be exported at a sufciently
high price to pay for imports of low grade foreign (gentile) oil, while leaving a surplus for
other purchases. S. Applebaum, Judea as a Roman province: the countryside as a politi-
cal and economic factor, ANRW II (Principal) 8 (1977), p. 373 n. 84, puts forward an
ingenious argument that the ban was lifted to benet middlemen who purchased olives
for resale. The Jews who would benet most might be those in the Diaspora, but there
no evidence that a third-century nasi would legislate with them primarily in mind.
202 chapter sixteen
enacted by rabbis but existed before 70 CE in the form of customary
law. Thus the marriage, divorce and contract law in use in the early sec-
ond century in the Dead Sea area had much in common with the law
presupposed by the Mishnah.
16
This does not require (though it does
not preclude) the origin of that law having been in rabbinical schools
but it is more likely that the Mishnah consists to a large extent of the
rationalization of an existing legal system. Such rationalization involved
deduction following a series of rules, some of which were at some time
codied as the thirteen middoth of R. Ishmael (Sifra Lev. 1). Whenever
possible a rule was to be derived from an existing rule or directly from
a biblical text.
In most cases a rationale of current behaviour could be found but not
all existing custom could pass the rabbis logical test. The hypothesis I
wish to propose is that R. Judah could nd no such valid arguments for
the ban on gentile olive oil, and that he therefore decided that it should
be abolished.
How plausible is this reconstruction of events? It cannot of course
be proved, but the curious data from Josephus and the rabbinic texts
discussed in this paper can all, I think, be accounted for more or less
satisfactorily if it is taken as correct. It may be assumed that the tradi-
tion mooted after R. Judahs decision by Rab, that the ban was one of
the eighteen decisions of the Houses in 66 CE, was not accepted by (or
known to?) the patriarch since, as Rabbah b. Bar Hanah stated in the
name of R. Yohanan in the Babylonian Talmud passage (Section 5),
it was not permitted to overthrow such decisions and R. Judah would
therefore have been courting unnecessary trouble by doing so. It may
further be assumed that, if he was aware of Rabs other suggestion that
the prohibition derived from Daniel 1.8, he found it unreasonably far-
fetchedaccording to Rab in the extract quoted above from the Baby-
lonian Talmud (Section 3), of course, he was ignorant of the Daniel
proof text because he had failed to undertake proper research.
To sum up. What I suggest is that, since no reason for the ban could
be found by extension of existing halakhah or by biblical exegesis,
R. Judah was forced to surmise an explanation of the taboo. All he
could come up with was the supposition that contamination from the
vessels or gentile sprinkling habits must have been the issue. But such
16
See P. Benoit, J.T. Milik and R. de Vaux, Les Grottes de Murabba{at (Discoveries in the
Judaean Desert, vol. II), Oxford, 1960.
kosher olive oil in antiquity 203
an explanation seemed to him patently unsatisfactory. His only possible
reaction was to lift the ban.
If this hypothesis is accepted, the whole saga may bear a lesson of
somewhat wider signicance. Codication may sometimes have implied
leniency. If so, the general picture derived both from the rabbinic tra-
dition itself and from the hostile depiction of Judaism in some early
Christian texts may usefully be adjusted. According to that picture, hal-
akhah was a system that constantly increased the burden of the law by
seeking new ramications for its effective imposition. But in some cases
at the start of rabbinic codication in the tannaitic and early amoraic
period the same processes of legalism may have had an opposite effect.
If my suggestion is correct, it was precisely the rationalization of the
halakhah that eventually abolished the concept of gentile olive oil as
unkosher. At any rate, since soon after the time of R. Judah Nesiah, all
Jews, it seems, have used such oil with a good conscience.
17
17
I am grateful to participants at the Symposium on Jewish Food, held in Yarnton
in June 1989, and to the members of the regular Yarnton discussion group in October
1989, for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
THE JEWISH IMAGE OF GOD IN LATE ANTIQUITY*
The signicance of the depiction of the sun god as the central gure
of the zodiac mosaics found in many Palestinian synagogues of late
antiquity has been long debated. The most artistically sophisticated
of these depictions, that found in the Hammat Tiberias mosaic, vari-
ously dated between the beginning and the end of the fourth century
CE,
1
was only one example of a common motif which appears also
in a less impressive form at Naaran and in near-caricature in the
sixth-century synagogue at Beth Alpha, while the synagogue mosaic
at Sepphoris simply illustrated the shining sun.
2
Both inscriptions and
the distinctively Jewish iconography of the other mosaic oors in
the synagogues demonstrate that the buildings in question served a
religious purpose for Jews.
3
So what, in the mind of the artist ( Jew
or gentile) or the commissioning patron or patrons or community,
was the function of the apparently pagan image situated so as to
confront Jews at their feet as they worshipped?
Over the years various suggestions have been made. An early
hypothesis that the synagogue decoration reected the taste of non-
Jewish, perhaps imperial, patrons has come to seem less attractive
* I am grateful for comments on this paper from Jas Elsner and the editors of
this volume, and to participants in seminars on this subject in Oxford, London and
Southampton as well as in New York.
1
M. Dothan, Hammat Tiberias: Early Synagogues and the Hellenistic and Roman Remains
( Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1983). On the date, see M. Goodman, The
Roman State and the Jewish Patriarch in the Third Century, in Galilee in Late
Antiquity (ed. L.I. Levine; Jerusalem and New York: Jewish Theological Seminary,
1992), 130, n. 11, and J. Magness, Archaeological Testimonies: Helios and the
Zodiac Cycle in Ancient Palestinian Synagogues, in Symbiosis, Symbolism and the Power
of the Past (Albright Centennial Volume) (ed. W.G. Dever and S. Gitin; Winona
Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 36389.
2
Z. Weiss and E. Netzer, Promise and Redemption: A Synagogue Mosaic from Sepphoris
( Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 1996).
3
For the inscriptions from Hammat Tiberias, see Dothan, Hammat Tiberias, 5262;
on the common Jewish symbols (lulavim, shofar, etc.) found in the other mosaics,
see E.R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Graeco-Roman Period (13 vols.; New York:
Pantheon Books, 19531968).
206 cn.r+rn sr\rx+rrx
as the wide extent of the phenomenon has come to be realized.
4

Nor does the ascription of such motifs to deviant, non-rabbinic Jews
carry much weight since the discovery that the Hammat Tiberias
mosaic was dedicated by, among others, a member of the household
of the patriarch.
5
Claims that the zodiacs were primarily intended
as calendrical reminders of the passing months are possible in the
general sense that they may celebrate the order inherent in Gods
universe,
6
but as strict calendars their use is questionable in the
light of the inaccuracies of the Beth Alpha mosaicist, who failed to
correlate the signs correctly with the seasons;
7
but in any case, the
hypothesis fails to explain the depiction of the sun god in human
form, presumably a deliberate choice at Hammat Tiberias, Naaran
and Beth Alpha since the Sepphoris mosaicist took a dierent path
and showed the sun as a shining orb.
8
The assertion by Morton
Smith that the sun god depicted a great angel, important for the
liturgy,
9
based on the image of Helios as a celestial gure in the
mystical treatise Sefer Harazim, has the merit of connecting the visual
to the literary remains from late antiquity but raises the dicult
question, so far unanswered, of the reason why Jews might depict
this angel as so central a gure in their iconography.
My suggestion in this paper is that all previous discussions of these
mosaics have shied away unnecessarily from the interpretation that the
divine gure depicted in the center of a Jewish place of worship may
have been intended to represent the God of the Jews. In the context
4
See the discussion in E.L. Sukenik, Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece
(London: Milford, 1934), 6263.
5
For this argument, see Goodenough, Jewish Symbols; on the inscription by Severus,
see Dothan, Hammat Tiberias, 5760. The view that the mosaic is non-rabbinic
is also proposed by L.I. Levine, The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity
( Jerusalem and New York: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and Jewish Theological Seminary,
1989), 17881.
6
Calendrical argument in Dothan, Hammat Tiberias, 49; S. Fine, This Holy Place:
On the Sanctity of the Synagogue during the Graeco-Roman Period (Christianity and Judaism
in Antiquity Series 11; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 124,
2001 (with extensive bibliography). For the more general interpretation and wide
discussion, see G. Foerster, Representations of the Zodiac in Ancient Synagogues,
ErIsr 18 (1985): 38091; idem, The Zodiac in the Ancient Synagogue and its Place
in Jewish Thought and Literature, ErIsr 19 (1987): 22534 (both in Hebrew).
7
Cf. G. Stemberger, Die Bedeutung des Tierkreises auf Mosaikbden sptantiker
Synagogen, Kairos 17 (1975): 2356.
8
Weiss and Netzer, Promise and Redemption, 3536.
9
M. Smith, Helios in Palestine, ErIsr 16 (1982): 199*214*, esp. p. 210*.
+nr rvisn iv.or or oor ix r.+r .x+iti+v 207
of any other religious cult place in the Roman world archaeologists
would have taken for granted that the god depicted in a shrine was
likely to be the (or a) god worshipped in that shrine. My intention
in this study is not to give a full interpretation of the images of the
sun god in synagogues, which can be achieved only by analyzing
their role within the zodiacs and the role of the zodiacs themselves,
but to elucidate one possible way that Jews in late antiquity might
have understood them when confronted by them as they prayed.
Standard interpretations of the sun god image in synagogues
derive their timidity from the ambiguous and contradictory Jewish
traditions as to whether God has any form and, if so, whether
that form is anthropomorphic.
10
The contradictions go back to the
Bible, where Pentateuchal passages which presumed that God can
be seen by humans, including the Revelation on Mt. Sinai (Exod.
24: 910; cf. 33:1723), co-existed with assertions that God has
no form that humans can see or imagine (Deut. 4:1224) without
any attempt having been made in the biblical period to conate or
clarify these conicting images.
11
Nonetheless, among those biblical
passages which do presuppose a specic divine form, the predomi-
nant image is anthropomorphic on the basis of the statement in
Genesis 1:2628 that God made man in his likeness; most vivid of
these in the imagination of later interpreters of the biblical text was
the human gure on a chariot which appeared to Ezekiel as the
appearance of the semblance of the presence of the Lord (Ezekiel
1:26). On the other hand, signicant for the present discussion is
10
For general bibliography on this topic, see A. Marmorstein, The Old Rabbinic
Doctrine of God (2 vols., London: Oxford University Press, 19271937); M. Smith,
The Image of God, BJRL 40 (1958): 473512; idem, On the Shape of God,
in Religions in Antiquity. Essays in Memory of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough (ed. J. Neusner,
Leiden: Brill, 1968), 31526; C.C. Rowland, The Visions of God in Apocalyptic
Literature, JSJ 10 (1979) 13754; J. Neusner, The Incarnation of God: The Character of
Divinity in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988); P. Schfer, The Hidden
and Manifest God (transl. A. Pomerance; Albany: State University of New York Press,
1992); H. Eilberg-Schwartz, ed., People of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied
Perspective (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992); D. Stern, Imitatio
Hominis: Anthropomorphism and the Character(s) of God in Rabbinic Literature,
Prooftexts 12 (1992): 15174; A. Goshen-Gottstein, The Body as Image of God in
Rabbinic Literature, HTR 87 (1994): 17195; E.R. Wolfson, Through a Speculum that
Shines (Princeton: Princeton University Press: 1994), chap. 1; S.D. Moore, Gigantic
God; Yahwehs Body, JSOT 70 (1996): 87115; D.H. Aaron, Shedding Light on
Gods Body in Rabbinic Midrashim, HTR 90 (1997): 299314.
11
Cf. J. Barr, The Image of God, BJRL 51 (19681969): 1126.
208 cn.r+rn sr\rx+rrx
the evidence that some Jews, with or without the approval of their
brethren, thought of the divine form as being like the sun (cf. 2
Kgs 23:11; Ezek 8:16),
12
and of God as subsisting in re (Exod 3:2;
Deut 4:1112, 14; Dan 7:9).
If the biblical text permitted varied and contradictory views on
this issue, there are good grounds to expect similar variety and
contradiction in post-biblical Judaism, both because all later Judaism
was based to a greater or lesser extent on biblical interpretation and
this is particularly likely to be true of a theological issue such as the
imagining of the divine form, and because post-biblical Judaism was
particularly variegated at least up to the destruction of the Temple in
70 CE and probably far beyond.
13
In addition, extensive speculation,
for which there is much evidence, about the surroundings of God in
the heavenly realm, and especially about the roles and hierarchies
of angels,
14
may have encouraged the speculation about the divine
gure at its centre to be found eventually in the Shiur Komah texts.
Some Jewish writers in late antiquity reasserted the notion that
God has no image of any kind. In the rst century CE Josephus
claimed that it is impious to conjecture the form and magnitude
of God, which cannot be described, depicted or imagined (C.Ap.
2.1902), having stated (not wholly plausibly) in the passage immedi-
ately preceding that all Jews agree about the nature of God (2.181).
This extreme view was found also in the rather hamsted eorts of
Aristobulus in the second century BCE to use allegory to demon-
strate that it is not necessary to take literally the biblical references
to the hands, arms, face and feet of God (ap. Eusebius, Praep. ev.
8.10) and in the arguments of Philo in the rst century CE that
because God is unlike anything else he must be without body or
12
Cf. J.G. Taylor, Yahweh and the Sun (Sheeld: JSOT Press, 1993), with critique
by S. A. Wiggins, JSOT 71 (1996): 86106, with reply by Taylor.
13
On the extent of variety in late Second Temple Judaism, see M. Goodman,
Josephus and Variety in First-Century Judaism, in Israel Academy of Sciences and
Humanities. Proceedings; Volume VII, No; 6 ( Jerusalem: 2000) 20113 [Chapter 3
above]; on continued variety after 70 CE, M. Goodman, Sadducees and Essenes
after 70 CE, in Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of
Michael D. Goulder (ed. S.E. Porter, P. Joyce and D. Orton; Leiden: Brill, 1994),
34756 [Chapter 13 above].
14
Cf. I Enoch 82:1420; C.A. Newsom, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrice (Atlanta:
Scholars Press, 1985); M.J. Davidson, Angels at Qumran (Sheeld: JSOT Press,
1992); 3 Enoch 18.
+nr rvisn iv.or or oor ix r.+r .x+iti+v 209
form (Philo, Spec. 2.176).
15
In later antiquity rabbinic texts generally
used periphrases such as divine presence to refer to God
16
and in
particular the targumim applied circumlocutions to avoid translating
some of the blatant anthropomorphisms in the biblical texts from
which they derived.
17
On the other hand, the embarrassment about anthropomorphisms
sometimes displayed by the targumists was by no means consistent,
18
and sometimes Jews talked freely about God as having a human
form. One of the accusations made by Justin Martyr against the
teachers of the Jew Trypho was, according to the Dialogue he pub-
lished, their penchant for taking the human image of God literally
(Dial. 114). Justins claim was doubtless polemical, but there is also
evidence in early rabbinic literature for such literalness.
19
Attempts
have been made to distinguish anthropomorphic schools and their
opponents within early rabbinic texts, but without clear results:
20
a
great variety of human images of God were adopted in rabbinic
literature of all kinds.
21
At some time in the Hellenistic period Ezekiel
the Tragedian had envisaged God as an impressive king seated
on a throne (ed. Jacobson, lines 6872), a picture reected also in
I Enoch 14:1822, but according to y. Yoma 5:2 end, R. Abbahu
interpreted as God the old man dressed in white whom the High
Priest Simon the Just used to see in the Holy of Holies. Most refer-
ences to the human form of God are vague about gender, but there
is no doubt that he is generally envisaged as male,
22
and speculation
on his physique reaches its peak in the images of a bearded youth
of unimaginable proportions and strength on which dwell the Shiur
15
Cf. H.A. Wolfson, Philo (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1947), 2:97.
16
Cf. Marmorstein, The Old Rabbinic Doctrine, 1:54107; M.E. Lodahl, Shekhinah/
Spirit: Divine Presence in Jewish and Christian Religion (New York: Paulist Press, 1992).
17
C. McCarthy, The Treatment of Biblical Anthropomorphisms in the
Pentateuchal Targums, in Back to the Sources (ed. K.J. Cathcart and J.F. Healey;
Dublin: Glendale, 1989), 4566.
18
See the arguments of M.L. Klein, Anthropomorphisms and Anthropopathisms in the
Targumim of the Pentateuch ( Jerusalem: Makor, 1982).
19
Cf. Marmorstein, Old Rabbinic Doctrine, 2:4856.
20
See Goshen-Gottstein, Body as Image, 17172.
21
See Marmorstein, Old Rabbinic Doctrine, 2:2393 on anthropomorphism in the
Aggadah.
22
On the texts as vague in this respect, cf. H. Eilberg-Schwartz, Gods Phallus
and Other Problems for Men and Monotheism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994); on the male
image, cf. 'Abot R. Nat. A, 12 (God as circumcised); Neusner, Incarnation, 168.
210 cn.r+rn sr\rx+rrx
Komah texts, from 3 Enoch 48A to the medieval recensions of these
texts preserved by the mystics.
23
At the same time the biblical notion that the divine form subsists
in re ourished throughout the late Second Temple period down
into late antiquity. Thus 1 Enoch 14:1822 described the surrounds
of the divine throne as like the shining sun, with rivers of burning
re owing from beneath it, and the raiment of God as brighter
than the sun. According to Sif. Deut. 49, because God is re, it
is impossible to go up to the heavens to join him.
24
On the basis
of such passages it seems hard to avoid concluding that Josephuss
strange depiction of the Essenes as oering prayers to the sun was
not as peculiar to ordinary Jews as is sometimes imagined. According
to Josephus, B.J. 2.128129, before the sun is up, [the Essenes] oer
to him certain prayers . . . as though entreating him to rise. That
they are meant to be treating the sun as divine seems reinforced by
a slightly later passage (2.14849), which describes how the Essenes
cover their excrement to avoid oending the rays of the deity.
The claim that these Essenes were deviant Jews like those opposed
in Deut 4:1524; 17:3; I Kgs 21:3; Jer 8:2, 19:13, and elsewhere
founders on the strong approval of them as pious Jews voiced by
Josephus.
25
Morton Smiths suggestion that they revered the sun
like an angel, not God encounters the simple objection that the
sun is described by Josephus at B.J. 2.148 not as an angel but as
the godit is true that angels are sometimes called gods in the
Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but such ambiguity is not likely
in Josephuss Greek.
Enough has been said to show that Jews in late antiquity were
quite capable of imagining God both in human form and as the
sun, but it is quite another step to demonstrate that any Jews might
23
For these texts, see M.S. Cohen, Shiur Qomah: Texts and Recensions (TSAJ 9;
Tbingen: Mohr, 1985). Discussions of date and signicance in M.S. Cohen, Shi"ur
Qomah: Liturgy and Theurgy in Pre-Kabbalistic Jewish Mysticism (Lanham: University
Press of America, 1983), 6667; D.J. Halperin, The Face of the Chariot (TSAJ 16;
Tbingen: Mohr, 1988), 362; Schfer, Hidden and Manifest God, 78. In general,
see J. Maier, Die Sonne im religisen Denken des antiken Judentums, ANRW
2:19/1 (1979): 346412.
24
Cf. Wolfson, Through a Speculum, 4344, on the Shekhina as light; Goshen-
Gottstein, Body as Image, passim; D.H. Aaron, Shedding Light, 31213
(despite numerous disagreements with Goshen-Gottstein, no question that within
the vast array of rabbinic materials one can nd imagery that posits Gods body
as light).
25
So Smith, Helios in Palestine, 204*.
+nr rvisn iv.or or oor ix r.+r .x+iti+v 211
produce a physical object to illustrate such images. The prohibition
on making images of God of any kind had a strong biblical base (cf.
Exod 20:23; Lev 19:4; Deut 27:15, etc.) and was evidently generally
observed by Jews both in biblical times
26
and down to the end of
the Second Temple period, when Josephus asserted that all mate-
rial is unworthy for an image of Him, however expensive, and all
artistic skill is useless for thinking about his representation (C.Ap.
2.191). In so far as any physical object could be said to embody the
divinity it was the scroll of the Torah, which was carried in Tituss
triumph through the streets of Rome at the end of the procession
of cult objects from the Temple as a symbol of the Jewish God
( Josephus, B.J. 7.150). That Jews had no physical image of their
God was well known to pagans, who generally viewed it as a bizarre
trait (Hecataeus, ap. Diodorus 40.3.4; Livy, ap. Scholia in Lucanum
2.593; Strabo, Geog. 16.2.35; Cassius Dio 37.17.2), but occasionally
as admirable (Varro, ap. Augustine, Civ. 4.31), and they interpreted
Jewish reverence for Torah scrolls as equivalent to their own piety
towards their own cult statues.
27
However, Jewish reluctance to depict the divine in any physical
medium was in part a product of a general reluctance to use physi-
cal images of almost any kind: Josephus explained the uprising in
Jerusalem in 4 BCE when Herod set up an eagle image above the
entrance to the Temple by stating that it was contrary to ancestral
laws, because it is unlawful to have in the sanctuary an image or
bust of any living thing ( Josephus, B.J. 1.64855), and he claims
to have persuaded the people of Tiberias to destroy the palace of
Herod Antipas on the grounds that it contained gures of living
creatures (Vita 65). This attitude evidently changed during the follow-
ing centuries, when two-dimensional representations of human and
animal gures became common in Jewish buildings, both in mosaics
like those under discussion here and in the rather earlier complex
narrative pictures of Bible stories found in the Dura Europos syna-
gogue of the mid third century CE.
28
The simultaneous avoidance
26
See R.S. Hendel, The Social Origins of the Aniconic Tradition in Early
Israel, CBQ 50 (1988): 36582.
27
See M. Goodman, Sacred Scripture and Deling the Hands, JTS 41 (1990):
99107 [Chapter 6 above].
28
For the Dura paintings, see C.H. Kraeling, The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final
Report VIII, Part I. The Synagogue (New Haven and London: Yale University Press
and Oxford University Press, 1956).
212 cn.r+rn sr\rx+rrx
of three-dimensional art is almost certainly signicant, demonstrating
an ability among Jews as among Christians to distinguish between
images made for worship and those made for decoration.
29
Once Jews accepted in principle the notion that they could depict
some images in two dimensions, could they envisage depicting God?
The answer is equivocal. In a number of narrative pictures from Dura
Europos and in some of the mosaic depictions of the binding of Isaac
the right hand of God can be clearly seen emerging from the sky.
30

Here is a physical equivalent to the literary depictions of the divine
as anthropomorphic, even if the size of the divine handsmuch
larger than those of humansare (not surprisingly) not as gigantic
as the dimensions of Gods hands should have been according to
the Shiur Komah texts, but the restriction of the representation to the
divine hand may have been intended precisely to avoid depiction of
the rest of the divine image.
So who was the sun god on the synagogue mosaics meant to
represent? An image of God as a human gure and as a bright
sun-like re pervades Jewish literature both in the period when the
mosaics were commissioned and before. God on his chariot would
bring to the mind of any late-antique Jew the intensely mystical and
powerful images in the rst chapter of Ezekiel.
31
It was standard in
rabbinic parlance to refer to God by his location in the heavens
when making vows, oerings, prayers and oaths.
32
Pagans sometimes
thought that the Jewish God was to be identied with the heavens
(Hecateus, ap Diodorus 40.3.4; Strabo, Geog. 16.2.35),
33
although at
other times they might suggest that he was really Jupiter (Varro,
ap. Augustine, Cons. 1.22.30 [Werhrich])a sky god, of courseor,
as the third century antiquarian Cornelius Labeo asserted from the
Clarian Oracle of Apollo (ap. Macrobius, Sat. 1.18.1920), the name
29
See S. Stern, Figurative Art and Halakha in the MishnaicTalmudic Period,
Zion 61 (1996): 397419 (Hebrew); idem, Pagan Images in Late Antique Palestinian
Synagogues, in Ethnicity and Culture in Late Antiquity (eds. S. Mitchell, and G. Greatrex;
London and Swansea: Duckworth and Classical Press of Wales, 2000), 24152.
30
Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, 1:2468; 10:107; 1804; examples in 3: gs. 602,
638, 1039.
31
Cf. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot, passim.
32
So Marmorstein, Old Rabbinic Doctrine, 2:1057.
33
Cf. M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (3 vols.; Jerusalem:
Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 19741984), ad loc.
+nr rvisn iv.or or oor ix r.+r .x+iti+v 213
Iao (often ascribed to the Jewish God) is actually to be identied
with Liber (i.e. Dionysus), Hades, and Zeus, and all of them in turn
are to be identied with the sun.
I do not for a moment wish to leave an impression that the prob-
lem is simply solved by all this. After all, other pagan texts in the
second and third centuries CE reveal their awareness of the Jewish
belief that their God has no image at all (Numenius of Apamaea,
ap. Origen, Cels. 1.15; Cassius Dio 37.17.2). There is good rabbinic
evidence that too literal a worship of the sun as divine would incur
the hostility of at least some fellow Jews: according to t. Ber. 6 (7):6,
if one says a blessing over the sun, this is heterodoxy (another
way). Much is to be said for the seeming paradox that Jews could
indulge boldly in human and solar images of the divine precisely
because they took it as axiomatic that God does not in fact possess
a physical form of any kind.
34
If the images on the mosaics were
reminders of the God worshipped in the synagogues, rather than cult
objects for worship in themselves, it would be unsurprising if a Jew
could walk over the mosaic without scruples. There is no evidence
that any pagan polytheists who depicted Olympian or other gods on
a mosaic oor, a common practice, ever felt concerned about sacri-
lege. It is unlikely that these mosaics were ever the central focus in
liturgy, since nothing suggests that worshippers looked down at their
feet when praying, so the depiction of the sun-god as a much smaller
gure in the synagogue mosaics than in contemporary pagan zodiacs
is irrelevant for determining the meaning of the gure depicted for
either the artist or the commissioning patron.
Up to now I have tried to explain these images to be found in
the later Roman synagogues in terms of internal developments within
Judaism, but it would be quite wrong to ignore the impact of the
wider religious changes in the contemporary world which encouraged
the owering of this specic iconography at this specic time. The
image of the sun at Hammat Tiberias is quite clearly the image of
Sol Invictus and Helios as found widespread in imperial religious
propaganda in the third and fourth centuries CE.
35
That the sun
34
Cf. Stern, Anthropomorphism and the Character(s) of God, 152: all anthro-
pomorphic statements are to be understood guratively precisely because it is
assumed as axiomatic that the Rabbis could never have believed that God actually
possesses a human, let alone a corporeal, form.
35
So Dothan, Hammat Tiberias, 42. These imperial images, found especially on
214 cn.r+rn sr\rx+rrx
became the symbol of monotheism within late-antique paganism of
the fourth century is well attested, most coherently in the emperor
Julians Hymn to King Helios,
36
but what has been less often noted
until recently is the way that Christians certainly, and Jews prob-
ably, latched on to this identication to give legitimacy to their own
forms of monotheism.
In a useful article on the cult of the highest god Theos Hypsistos,
Stephen Mitchell has suggested how pagan worshippers of this divinity
identied him (or very occasionally her) with the God of the Jews,
and later the Christians.
37
Mitchell argues that this identication
was accepted by many Jews: Philo used the term Hypsistos to denote
the Jewish God (Legat. 278), as did Josephus when quoting a decree
by Augustus in favor of the Jews ( Josephus, A.J. 16.163). Closer to
the time of the Hammat Tiberias mosaic, according to John Lydus,
De Mens. 4.53, the emperor Julian still described the Temple to be
rebuilt in Jerusalem as the shrine of Theos Hypsistos. Any Jew who
recognised pagan worshippers of the highest god as god fearers could
very easily adopt some of the religious mentality of these pagan
monotheists.
38
One characteristic of the cult of Theos Hypsistos was its lack
of iconography: references to the god tend to abstractions, and
anthropomorphic images are strikingly rare in the context of stan-
dard Graeco-Roman customs.
39
Also highly unusual was the mode
of worship by devotees, who used prayer rather than sacrice and
practised their cult in open sanctuaries facing the east, gazing up at
heaven and the sun. The essence of the divinity was encapsulated in
an oracle of Apollo of which a copy was engraved in an inscription
at Oenoanda in Asia Minor:
Born of itself, untaught, without a mother, unshakeable, not contained
in a name, known by many names, dwelling in re, this is god . . . Aether
coins, are much closer to the images found in the synagogues than the images of
local solar deities in Syria for which, despite Tacitus, Hist. 3.245, there is much
less evidence than is often supposed, cf. H. Seyrig, Le culte du Soleil en Syrie
lpoque romaine, Syria 48 (1971): 33773; F. Millar, The Roman Near East, 31
BCAD 337 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 522.
36
See P. Athanassiadi and M. Frede, eds., Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1999), 1819.
37
S. Mitchell, The Cult of Theos Hypsistos, in Athanassiadi and Frede, Pagan
Monotheism, 81148.
38
Mitchell, Theos Hypsistos, 11015.
39
Mitchell, Theos Hypsistos, 101.
+nr rvisn iv.or or oor ix r.+r .x+iti+v 215
40
Text cited from Mitchell, Theos Hypsistos, 86.
41
Mitchell, Theos Hypsistos, 120.
42
Text cited from Mitchell, Theos Hypsistos, 95.
43
On Constantine and the sun-god, see M. Wallra, Christus Verus Sol: Sonnenverehrung
und Christentum in der Sptantike ( JAC Erg. Bd. 32; Mnster, Aschendor, 2001).
44
P.C. Finney, The Invisible God: the Earliest Christians on Art (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1994).
45
Finney, Invisible God, 279.
46
D.T. Rice, The Beginnings of Christian Art (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957),
26.
is god who sees all, on whom you should gaze and pray at dawn,
looking towards the sunrise.
40
This, so Mitchell argues, is the cult adopted by the father whose
decision to worship nothing but the clouds and the spirit of heaven
would, according to Juvenal (Sat. 14.96106), in time lead to his
son becoming Jewish.
41
Crucial for present purposes is the extensive
evidence from both literary descriptions and from inscriptions of
prayers to the rising and setting sun, and the major role in worship
of lamps and re. The best source from the fourth century comes
from Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 18.5, in the funeral oration for his
father: writing about his fathers early errors he stated of the group
to which he belonged in his youth that
its followers reject the idols and sacrices of the former [i.e. pagans]
and worship re and lamplight; they revere the Sabbath and are
scrupulous not to touch certain foods, but have nothing to do with
circumcision. To the humble they are called Hypsistarians, and the
Pantokrator is the only god they worship.
42
Here the connection between the Pantokrator and re seems clear.
But in any case the identication of solar worship with monothe-
istic belief was so widespread in the fourth century as to need little
demonstration to anyone at the time. It can be plausibly argued that
Constantines notorious continued adherence to the sun-god after his
conversion to Christianity is best understood as his identication of
the sun-god with the Highest God worshipped by Christians.
43
At the same time the commonly expressed reluctance of Christians
in the rst three centuries to depict God
44
a reluctance which
coexisted (as with Jews) with many visual metaphors of the divine in
literary texts,
45
some of them also apparently portrayed physically in
images of the good shepherd and such like
46
gave way during the
216 cn.r+rn sr\rx+rrx
fourth century to a new iconography. In this iconography, Christ was
portrayed no longer only as a human gure within a depiction of a
Gospel narrative
47
but at times as a grand image of an enthroned
monarch.
48
This occurred precisely during the period of armation,
after the Counsel of Nicaea, that the Christ portrayed was to be
treated not as human but as an integral element in the three-fold
divinity worshipped by Christians.
Christians adopted much of their iconography from pagan types,
to some of which they gave new meaning, while some seems to have
been treated simply as decoration.
49
So, for instance, the mausoleum
of Constantines daughter, built in the 320s, combined originally
Dionysiac imagery with sacred scenes from both Old and New
Testaments.
50
But treating the image of the sun as purely decorative
rather than signicant does not seem to have been an option.
At least by 427 CE some Christians seem to have come to state
openly that some of their pictures were images of the divine, for
a law of that year (Cod. Just. 1.8) forbade the placing of Christs
image on the ground because it was seen as sacrilege. The issue of
the same law reveals, of course, that oor mosaics depicting Christ
must have existed. It seems likely that this is precisely what is to be
found in the late fourth-century mosaic from Hinton St. Mary in
Dorset, in which a head almost certainly of Christ, embellished with
the Chi-Rho, was depicted alongside some strikingly pagan scenes.
51

The emperors in 427 CE may not have approved of the practice,
but other Christians must have found reasonable the notion of put-
ting an image of the divine on the oor of a sacred building.
So too, I suggest, did the Jews of Tiberias. At a time when the
identication of the Highest God with the sun was made by both
47
Finney, Invisible God, 221, on depictions of Jesus as a magus; but note (293)
that one of the most striking characteristics of early Christian art is the rarity of
even such images of Jesus.
48
R. Milburn, Early Christian Art and Architecture (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1988),
217 (St. Pudenziana); 224 (St. George at Salonika). This view, once unquestioned,
has been strongly contested by T. Mathews, The Clash of Gods (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1993), but still seems to me broadly correct; see the review of
Matthews by Peter Brown in Art Bulletin 77 (1995): 499502.
49
Finney, Invisible God, chapter 6.
50
See H. Stern, Les mosaques de lglise de Sainte-Constance Rome, DOP
12 (1958): 159218.
51
See J.M.C. Toynbee, A New Roman Mosaic Pavement found in Dorset,
JRS 54 (1964): 714.
+nr rvisn iv.or or oor ix r.+r .x+iti+v 217
pagans and Christians, the notion that the Jews who chose to com-
mission the same image for their synagogue at Hammat Tiberias
can have done so without awareness of its iconographie import is
deeply implausible. It seems to me much more likely that their
choice demonstrated their condent conviction that the God to
whom both pagans and Christians paid greatest observance was the
God of Israel.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
SACRED SPACE IN DIASPORA JUDAISM
Many if not all diaspora Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman periods
shared the reverence felt by their Palestinian co-religionists for the
Temple in Jerusalem.
1
It is highly likely, though not strictly provable,
that they also espoused explicitly or implicitly the belief to be found
in a variety of Palestinian Jewish texts that the world is divided into a
series of concentric circles in which the sanctity of places diminished
with distance from the Temple. The most sacred place on earth
according to this view was the Holy of Holies, into which no-one
could enter except the High Priest, whose own access was permitted
only once a year after elaborate precautions to avoid sacrilegious
pollution. Next in sanctity came the court of the priests, then the
courts of Israel, of women, and of gentiles. Even less sacred than
any of these courts were the regions of Jerusalem which lay outside
the Temple precincts. Jerusalem, the holy city, was more sacred
than the rest of the land of Israel, but Israel had greater sanctity
than the diaspora.
2
The theological explanation of this preeminence
of the Jerusalem Temple as sacred place was straightforward. It was
in the Holy of Holies that the divinity specially dwelt: the emptiness
of the innermost shrine signied not the absence of the deity but
the inability of humans to portray him. When the Romans suc-
ceeded in capturing the Temple they did so only because its divine
resident left the building to its fate. A voice was heard in the sky
above Jerusalem proclaiming We are departing from this place
( Jos. B.J. 6.300).
Whether diaspora Jews who espoused such notions might be
expected to feel constantly or even occasionally concerned at their
1
See E.P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah (1990), 283308.
2
See J.N. Lightstone, Society, the Sacred and Scripture in Ancient Judaism: a sociology
of knowledge (1988), 36. On the protection of sacred space from pollution, note Acts
21.2829 and CIJ II 1400 on the prevention of gentiles penetrating too far into
the Temple.
220 cn.r+rn rion+rrx
distance from the centre of holiness is dubious,
3
but it does seem hard
to imagine such Jews positing with conviction that any place in their
own vicinity could be holy in the same way that the Temple was. I
intend in this paper to discuss how it came about that, despite this
strong disincentive, some Jews in some places at some times appar-
ently came to see their synagogues in precisely this way.
4
The main function of synagogues in antiquity was as a meeting
place where Jews could be taught the Torah: as Philo put it (Leg.
156), Jews have houses of prayer for training themselves on the
sabbath in their ancestral philosophy. Josephus believed that regular
weekly reading of the Law was so integral a part of Judaism that it
must have been instituted by Moses (C.Ap. 2.175). But neither writer
implied that such a role rendered the site of this activity sacred.
The Torah could be read almost anywhere. So, for example, Ezras
legendary public reading of the Law to all the people is said by
Nehemiah to have taken place in the street before the water-gate
(Nehemiah 8.12).
The second main function of synagogues, as the site of communal
prayer, might seem more likely to cast a holy aura upon the build-
ing or place where it occurred. That such communal worship was a
central feature of synagogue ritual, at least in parts of the diaspora,
seems fairly certain from the standard term proseuche used for syna-
gogues in Egypt in the Hellenistic period. But in Israel certainly,
and in the diaspora probably, prayer did not require a designated
building to be ecacious, so there was no reason for such a building
when it existed to be reckoned sacred.
5
Rather less directly, the permanent presence in synagogues of
Torah scrolls might perhaps be expected to import a special aura
into such buildings if I am right to argue, as I have done elsewhere,
that Jews sometimes treated such scrolls as sacred objects analogous
to pagan idols.
6
Pagans could certainly treat Jews scrolls in this
3
Sanders, Jewish Law, 258271.
4
For a more extensive treatment of other aspects of the notion of sanctity in
diaspora Judaism, see the interesting study by J.N. Lightstone, The Commerce of the
Sacred (1984).
5
See M. Hengel, Proseuche und Synagoge, in Tradition und Glaube: Festgabe
fr K.G. Kuhn (1971), 157184. Cf. the term eujion in CPJ 432. On liturgy, see
J. Heinemann, Prayer in the Talmud (1977).
6
M. Goodman, Sacred scripture and deling the hands , Journal of Theological
Studies 41 (1990), 99107 [Chapter 6 above].
s.cnrr sr.cr ix ri.sron. tr.isv 221
way: thus the soldier who deliberately destroyed a scroll in Judaea
in the fties CE was publicly executed by the Roman governor
Cumanus for the sacrilege ( Jos. B.J. 2.228231), and the author of
the Letter of Aristeas (which narrated in romantic form the origin of
the Septuagint) invented for his readers a striking vignette in which
Ptolemy Philadelphus greeted the arrival of the scrolls and translators
from Jerusalem by bowing down seven times before the copies of the
Torah. Similar Jewish attitudes are harder to documentunsurpris-
ingly given Jewish aversion to anything smacking of idolatrybut it
seems to me possible that the strange notion in rabbinic texts that
scrolls of scripture when correctly written on parchment dele the
hands reects the same attitude (cf. m. Yadaim 4:6). In the late fourth
century John Chrysostom, bishop of Antioch, was aware of, but did
not share the notion that sacred books might sanctify the building
that housed them. He told a story in one of his bitter sermons
against the Jews about a Christian woman who had been forced
into a synagogue by another Christian in order to take a business
oath; John remarked grumpily that some Christians assumed wrongly
that synagogues are appropriate places for such proceedings because
of the presence of sacred books (Adv. Judaeos 1.3.3). Nothing quite
so explicit can be found in Jewish sources although various rabbinic
texts do imply that it is indeed from the scrolls that sanctity ows
(e.g. m. Megillah 3.1).
If, despite the centrality in their world-view of the Jerusalem
Temple, sanctity thus could be ascribed to synagogue buildings by
diaspora Jews, that need not imply that sanctity was so ascribed. I
intend in the pages which follow to examine the evidence for such
ascriptions. Since it is reasonable to expect that the destruction of
the Temple in Jerusalem might have made some dierence in this
regard, I have chosen to present rst the evidence for the period
before 70 CE and then the material for late antiquity, although in
fact far less dierence emerges than might be predicted. Only when
the evidence has been weighed will I turn to discuss the dicult
issue of why diaspora Jews espoused the attitudes revealed.
From the period before 70 CE there is good evidence of impres-
sive synagogue structures and ne decoration in diaspora synagogues.
So, according to a reference by the second-century tanna R. Judah
to a building apparently no longer extant, the great synagogue in
Alexandria, which was shaped in the form of a double stoa like a
basilica was a glory to Israel (t. Sukkah 4.6). According to Philo
222 cn.r+rn rion+rrx
(Leg. 133) synagogues in the same city were hung with shields, gilded
crowns and inscriptions. In the main Antioch synagogue, according
to Josephus (B.J. 7.45), costly oerings were similarly displayed. Such
expenditure on buildings need not imply a belief that the building
itself is sacred, but at least in the case of the Antioch synagogue
such an attitude was explicit, for Josephus (ibid.) described the place
as a hieron, a term usually applied only to temples such as that in
Jerusalem. This terminology was not just a quirk of Josephus Greek,
for Philo also at times implied the sanctity of synagogues by simi-
lar terms: in his description of the Essenes, Philo wrote that when
they gather they come together to sacred places which are called
synagogues (Q.o.p. 81).
Such terminology suggests that the distinction between the sanctity
of the Jerusalem Temple and that of synagogues was not always
precisely observed by Jews. Josephus (A.J. 14.260) told of the grant-
ing of a request by the city of Sardis to the local Jews in the rst
century BCE after the Jews had asked to be permitted to continue
to carry out sacrices (thusias) in their specially designated place in
the city; it is possible that this reference to sacricial cult reected
a misunderstanding of Jewish religious practice by the city authori-
ties, but, if so, it is worth noting that Josephus was not suciently
taken aback to comment. Nor did the Jewish historian comment on
the claim by Onias in the second century BCE that the building of
a new Temple for the Jews in Leontopolis in Egypt was desirable
because the multiplicity of hiera (temples) in Egypt was contrary to
Jewish customs and it was better to build just one naos (shrine) for
them; it is hard to see what the hiera to which he referred could have
been if they were not synagogues ( Jos. A.J. 13.667). Jews set up
inscriptions in their proseuchai in Egypt in which the buildings might
be designated as places of asylum (CIJ II 1449) and when gentiles
tried to set up statues in Egyptian synagogues this was treated by
Jews as sacrilege (Philo, Leg. 134).
All of which might seem to show beyond much doubt that some
Jews even before 70 CE saw their synagogues as sacred places. But a
story about an event in Caesarea Maritima in 66 CE may encourage
caution in jumping to such a conclusion. For this purpose Caesarea
may count as part of the diaspora, since the problem which arose
came from the position of Jews as a minority in a gentile commu-
nity in a fashion comparable to that in more strictly diaspora cities.
According to Josephus (B.J. 2.28591), the Jews of Caesarea tried
s.cnrr sr.cr ix ri.sron. tr.isv 223
to buy land near the synagogue. The gentile owner of the land
refused and some local youths compounded the Jews discomture
by sacricing a cock in the alleyway in front of the building in
mockery. Josephus recorded that this act was seen by the Jews as
a pollution (miasma) of the place, but their consequent actions were
curious. Rather than defend their holy site, as they did so bravely
in the Jerusalem Temple four years later, the Caesarean Jews took
up their scroll of the Torah and retreated with it to a safe place
some distance away. Their actions implied that for them it was not
to the place but to the object of public liturgy that prime sanctity
should be ascribed.
The evidence for the period after 70 CE is more extensive but
diers little in its ambiguous import. A straightforward attribution to
synagogues of the sanctity that the now defunct Jerusalem Temple
had once had might have been possible but does not seem to have
happened despite the celebrated comparison of synagogues to the
small sanctuary of Ezekiel 11.16 found in b. Megillah 29a. Some
rites previously conned to the Temple, such as the priestly blessing,
were now practised outside the Jerusalem sanctuary, but the rab-
binic texts which report this transfer do not presuppose any special
building or place for such practices.
7
The most important elements
of the Temple liturgy, libation and sacrice, ceased altogether. It is
worth recalling that Jewish hopes that the Temple would be rebuilt
were by no means unreasonable before Constantine. Restoration of
destroyed sanctuaries was normal custom in the pagan world and it
was quite possible that later emperors might drop the special hostility
to the Jewish cult which had been adopted by the Flavian dynasty
for the purposes of Roman political propaganda.
Thus rabbinic texts are ambivalent about the sanctity of syna-
gogues. On the one hand synagogues are denitely not templesso,
for instance, there is no evidence that there was ever a dedication
ceremony to mark the erection of new synagogue buildings. On the
other hand there are preserved in the Tosefta (t. Megillah 3(2):7) quite
strict rules for correct conduct in synagogues, and Mishnaic injunc-
tions in the names of R. Meir and R. Judah about the permitted
uses of money raised by selling a synagogue site presupposed that
such sites are at any rate special (m. Megillah 3:23); but it is of
7
See J. Neusner, A Life of Yohanan ben Zakkai, 2nd ed. (1970), 205210.
224 cn.r+rn rion+rrx
course signicant that such a site could be sold. Such texts might in
theory apply only to rabbinic attitudes in the land of Israel, but the
anonymous baraita preserved in b. Shabbat 72b was presumably felt
relevant by the Mesopotamian sages who redacted the Babylonian
Talmud. According to this baraita, a Jew who bows down before
a pagan shrine in the mistaken belief that it is a synagogue is not
committing a sin. The signicant fact here is that paying such respect
to synagogues was apparently taken for granted.
Examination of the architectural forms of extant remains of
diaspora synagogues provides no clearer indication of the sacred or
profane status of such buildings in the eyes of local Jews who may or
may not have shared the attitudes to be found in rabbinic texts. The
most striking fact about such styles is their variety.
8
The hypothesis
that common elements, such as the Torah shrine and the meeting
hall, were the Jewish equivalents of the inner shrine and pronaos of a
pagan temple is plausible but unprovable.
9
Whether the huge basilica
in Sardis would have looked to a contemporary observer like a reli-
gious building depends somewhat on the date of the observation. If
Helga Botermann is right to suggest that it might have become a
synagogue only in the mid fourth century,
10
this transformation of
a secular building will have coincided with the establishment of the
basilica form as the most appropriate style of religious architecture
for Christian churches.
11
Alternatively, large basilica-type buildings
may have been found as meeting-places for Jews long before they
were adopted by Christians if the tradition that this was the shape
of the great Alexandrian synagogue was correctly transmitted in the
Tosefta (t. Sukkah 4:6; see above).
The clearest evidence that some Jews treated synagogues as sacred
space comes not from rabbinic discussions nor from the architecture
of the synagogue buildings, but from the inscriptions found within
those buildings. The adjective hagiotatos, most holy, was applied
to synagogues so regularly in inscriptions from the second or third
centuries CE and after that it appears to have become a clich.
8
See A.T. Kraabel, The diaspora synagogue: archaeological and epigraphic
evidence since Sukenik, ANRW II 19 (1979), 477510.
9
See G. Foerster in L.I. Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed (1981), 48.
10
H. Botermann, Die Synagoge von Sardes: Eine Synagoge aus dem 4. Jahr-
hundert?, Zeitschrift fr die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 81 (1990), 103121.
11
J.B. Ward-Perkins, Constantine and the origins of the Christian basilica, Papers
of the British School in Rome 22 (1954), 6990.
s.cnrr sr.cr ix ri.sron. tr.isv 225
The usage is geographically widespread: it is found in Macedonia
(Stobi), Asia Minor (Philadelphia and Hyllarima) and southern
Palestine (Gaza).
12
How literally to take such ascriptions of sanctity
is not entirely obvious from the Greek word alone. The meaning
of many solemn words was debased in the late-Roman world, and
hagios could be used as a polite epithet for bishops and even, in the
medieval period, for emperors.
13
However, a fth-century inscription
from the Decapolis city of Gerasa lends support to a more literal
reading. From this place comes an inscription on two pillars which
reads agio[tt] tp. Amn. Sel. Ernh t sunagvg (Lifshitz, no.
78). The inscription provides a useful link with a large number of
Aramaic texts from nearby synagogue sites in the land of Israel.
In these inscriptions the term atra kadisha appears as a standard
clich.
14
It is asking too much of coincidence not to see the Greek
hagiotatos topos as a direct equivalent. In that case it is likely that the
Greek term was intended on these inscriptions to convey the force
of the Aramaic kadisha, which retained its strong sense throughout
antiquity.
What emerges from all this is that synagogues sites could be treated
by diaspora Jews as holy but that attitudes varied. It seems clear
that rabbinic sages lacked any coherent rationale for their attitudes;
similarly and all the more so, it may be surmised, non-rabbinic Jews;
thus whatever prompted the reverence revealed in the inscriptions
was probably not legislation by any central authority. There is more
evidence of attributions of sanctity in the period after 70 CE than
in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods, but that may reect
only the greater survival of diaspora inscriptions from the later era
than from the earlier; thus it may be unwarranted to try to explain
Jewish attitudes as a reaction to the destruction of the Jerusalem
Temple. The causes of the phenomena I have described are likely
to lie elsewhere, in more general, ill-dened religious instincts which
by their very nature allowed for the ambiguity I have noted but
also, precisely because such instincts often remained unstated, can-
not be proven.
12
B. Lifshitz, Donateurs et Fondateurs dans les Synagogues Juives (Cahiers de la Revue
Biblique, 7) (1967), nos. 10, 28, 32, 73a.
13
E.A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (1990), s.v.
giow.
14
J. Naveh, On Stone and Mosaic: the Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions from ancient
synagogues (1978), nos. 16, 26, 46, 60, 64, 65 (in Hebrew).
226 cn.r+rn rion+rrx
A number of such religious instincts, such as a human desire to
designate as sacred some place close enough to the locus of secular
activity for ordinary people to feel that sanctity is accessible to them,
can reasonably be postulated. But in this paper I want to pursue
just one of these possible explanations, both because it is generally
overlooked and because, if I am right, the type of explanation oered
may throw some light on the history of other aspects of diaspora
Judaism. The factor on which I shall concentrate is the likely eect
on diaspora Jews of the attitude to their synagogues espoused by
their gentile neighbours.
Comments about synagogues in extant Greek and Latin pagan
writings are rather sparsea fact which, as will become clear, I think
may be signicant.
15
Pagans were fascinated by such Jewish peculiari-
ties as the Sabbath and dietary laws, but Jewish houses of worship
apparently did not strike them as anything out of the ordinary. In
some cases this may have been because synagogues were just seen
as meeting places: Augustus decree on behalf of the Jews of Asia
protected the scrolls and money they kept in their sabbateion but not
the building itself ( Jos. A.J. 16.164). But more often the reason was
that synagogues looked to pagans like a Jewish equivalent of pagan
shrines. In the Hellenistic period the Seleucid kings donated gifts
to hang on the walls of the Antioch synagogue ( Jos. B.J. 7.44) and
the Ptolemaic kings awarded to at least one synagogue in Egypt the
right of asylum (CIJ II 1449). In a legal deposition of 218 BCE by
a gentile woman whose cloak had been stolen, the guardian of the
Jewish prayer-house ( proseuche) was described as a nakoros, a title usu-
ally reserved for the warden of a religious sanctuary (CPJ 129). In
the rst century CE anti-Jewish rioters in Alexandria attacked the
synagogues (Philo, Flacc. 413), an action which gentiles could see
as equivalent to desecration of a sanctuary: according to Josephus
(A.J. 19.3003, 305), when gentile youths in the land of Israel put
a statue of Gaius in the synagogue of Dora, the Roman senator
Petronius complained that by their behaviour they had prevented
the synagogue from existing, since the emperors statue would be
15
For a collection of the evidence and many interesting suggestions, see S.J.D.
Cohen, Pagan and Christian evidence on the ancient synagogue, in L.I. Levine,
ed., The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (1987), pp. 159181. My arguments were formu-
lated separately, but they may be seen as following on logically from the ideas on
pages 163165 of his article.
s.cnrr sr.cr ix ri.sron. tr.isv 227
better in his own shrine (naos) than in someone elses. When in the
early second century CE Tacitus wrote that Jews have no images in
their cities, nedum templis (Tac. Hist. 5.5.4), he may have intended to
refer to synagogues by the plural templa. The right of asylum granted
to an Egyptian synagogue by the Ptolemies (CIJ II 1449; see above)
was conrmed according to an addendum in Latin by a king and
queen (rex et regina); it is likely that the monarchs in question were
either the rulers of Palmyra in the mid third century CE or the last
Ptolemaic dynasts in the rst century BCE.
Christian writers from the third century onwards sometimes made
similar assumptions. Tertullian in the early third century wrote that
Jews pray by the sea shore on fast days, templis omissis (De Jejuniis 16,
PL II 1028). John Chrysostom described how Christians took oaths
in synagogues (see above) and how they sometimes slept overnight in
the synagogue of Matrona at Daphne in their search for health cures
(Adversus Iudaeos) 1.3, PG XL 8478.
16
In the sixth century Procopius
described how the ancient shrine (neos) of the Jews of Boreon in
North Africa was changed into a church by Justinian (De Aed. 6.2).
In accordance with this attitude Christian writers sometimes
assumed that synagogues were administered by priests like pagan
sanctuaries. Thus Epiphanius in the 370s told a story about events
under Con stantine in which it was presupposed that synagogues
were under the immediate control of archisynagogoi, priests (hiereis),
elders and hazzanim (Pan. 30.11.4). A similar assumption is found in
an imperial enactment of 330 CE by which Constantine released
from munera the hiereos and archisynagogos and all those others who
administer the synagogues (C.Th. 16.8.4). It is possible that these
priests were simply cohanim whose public prominence was ensured
simply by their role in the priestly blessing, but it is hard to see
why such a minor function would merit tax exemption. It seems to
me more likely that this is another aspect of Roman treatment of
synagogues as temples.
The same attitude explains the belief of emperors from the fth
century onwards that synagogue buildings could easily be converted
into churches. Thus Theodosius II laid down in 423 CE that Jewish
communities should be granted compensation when their synagogues
had been seized or ecclesiis vindicatae or indeed consecrated to the
16
See R.L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews (1983), 7980.
228 cn.r+rn rion+rrx
venerable mysteries (C.Th. 16.8.25). In 535 CE, in less liberal times,
Justinian decreed that we do not grant that their synagogues should
stand, but we wish them ad ecclesiarum guram . . . reformari (Novella 37);
the use of the word reformari suggests that some architectural changes
were deemed necessary.
In such legal stipulations by the state gentile attitudes to syna-
gogues are seen at their clearest. Thus in about 370 CE the emper-
ors Valentinian and Valens told the Master of the Oces that he
should warn soldiers who occupied synagogues of the Jewish law in
their search for lodging (hospitium) that they were required to vacate
such premises. The emperors argued that such hospitality should be
enjoyed in the houses of private people, not in places of religions
(religionum loca). This law, found in the Theodosian Code (C.Th. 7.8.2)
but repeated, therefore presumably still reckoned valid, in the sixth-
century Justinianic Code (C.J. 1.9.4), presupposed that the state had
a duty to protect synagogues as places sacred to Jews.
17
Evidence of
intermittent state hostility to synagogues, from the instructions issued
by Theodosius II to the patriarch Gamaliel to destroy all synagogues
in unoccupied places (C.Th. 16.8.22) to Justinians demand that all
synagogues be changed into churches (see above), does not show
that this assumption was not genuinely held, only that Christian
emperors wavered in their willingness to appease or provoke Jewish
religious susceptibilities.
The attitude of gentiles in the Roman empire to Jewish religious
buildings revealed a tendency I have noted elsewhere to understand
other societies and cultures in terms of their own.
18
Sacred space
was a concept of great power and importance in the religious life
of most inhabitants of the Roman world. The landscape was lit-
tered with altars to divinities. Each altar was reckoned more or less
sacrosanct and most public religious activity consisted in processions
to a sacred place or a dramatic ritual by a priest at such a place.
Gentiles who came to Jerusalem found it quite natural to oer
sacrices to the Jewish God in the Temple, and the obvious way to
express respect for Judaism in Rome in 139 BCE was, according to
17
On this text see A.M. Rabello, The legal condition of the Jews in the Roman
empire, ANRW II 13 (1980), 723; A. Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation
(1987), no. 14.
18
M. Goodman, The Ruling Class of Judaea: the origins of the Jewish revolt against
Rome, AD 6670 (1987), 35.
s.cnrr sr.cr ix ri.sron. tr.isv 229
19
See E. Bickerman, The altars of gentiles, in Studies in Jewish and Christian
History, Vol. II (1980), 324346. Note the story reported in y. Megillah 1.13, 72b
about the Roman emperor Antoninus being helped by R. Judah haNasi to build
an altar.
20
Apart from the Jewish uses of the collocation hagios topos, the phrase appears very
occasionally in Christian inscriptions in reference to a church (e.g. R. Merkelbach,
ed., Die Inschriften von Assos (1976), number 33), but nowhere (so far as I can dis-
cover) in pagan inscriptions. But note the use of the phrase in the story recounted
by Plutarch (Camillus 31.3.7) about the attempts made by Roman senators to mol-
lify the people by pointing out the chorion hieron kai topon hagion which Romulus or
Numa had consecrated.
Valerius Maximus (1.3.2), to set up altars in honour of the foreign
deity.
19
For gentiles thus predisposed, synagogue ritual might seem
to t neatly into the standard pattern of temple rites, with chanting
by crowds of worshippers in a ne ornamented building, an object
extracted from an inner sanctum and carried in procession to a vis-
ible spot for a ritual act to be undertaken before it was returned to
its sanctum. Synagogues diered only in that the object concerned
was a scroll not an idol, and the act performed was a reading, not
a sacrice or libation. The term hagios topos, although not used in
the inscriptions set up in their shrines in the same formulaic way
it was used by Jews in synagogues, was quite intelligible to such
pagans, and bore the clear implication that the place in question
was sacred space.
20
For pagan polytheists respect for the sacred places of the cults of
other people was instinctive. The behaviour of Pliny the Younger
when governor of Bithynia and Pontus may illustrate. When the
inhabitants of a Bithynian city wanted to build on the site of a
temple of the Phrygian Great Mother, Pliny (Epp. 10.50) wrote to the
emperor Trajan to enquire whether he should prevent them. Trajan
replied that there was no restriction on such building in Roman
law, but what is signicant is the fact that Pliny felt it necessary
to ask. Polytheists knew that infringing the rights of any divinity is
a dangerous game. The ambivalence of Christian legislation about
synagogues was a product of the conict between this instinctive
pagan liberalism and the theologically motivated anti-Judaism which
pervades much of the rhetoric of the legislation by Roman emperors
of the fourth to sixth centuries CE.
A useful parallel to pagan attitudes to synagogues may be found in
pagan attitudes to Christian churches in the rst four centuries CE.
230 cn.r+rn rion+rrx
Christian liturgy in the early years did not require special sacred
places for its performance. Christians, much like Jews, met together
to eat in company, hear readings from the scriptures and listen to
sermons. For this purpose private houses suced. As congregations
grew such houses might be adapted, with enlarged interior rooms
or the erection of a platform for the clergy, and the house of the
Christians might become an impressive hall and a local landmark,
but before Constantine there was felt no need for a specically
religious architecture which might mark o churches from the secu-
lar world.
21
One result of this fact was a scarcity of comments in
pagan authors about churches, as about synagogues.
22
Nonetheless
the pagan philosopher Porphyry in the mid third century could refer
scornfully to the great buildings of the Christians which imitate
the construction of temples (Adv. Christianos, frag. 76). When the
pagan Roman aristocracy, led by the emperor, began from the time
of Constantine onwards to demonstrate, without much theological
understanding, their adhesion to the imperially favoured cult of
Christianity, they imported such pagan presuppositions into their
disposition of their wealth in favour of the new religion. Instead of
the erection of large public temples by which they had previously
demonstrated their allegiance to the pagan gods, Roman aristocrats
began to build the grand monumental basilica churches which
quite rapidly because common despite the inappropriateness of this
architectural form for Christian liturgy. Eusebius description of the
new church dedicated in Tyre by the young rich bishop Paulinus in
317 CE explicitly compared the building to the Jerusalem Temple
in the days of Zerubbabel (Eus. H.E. 10.4.336): this was Gods
house on earth (H.E. 10.4.12) and, like that of pagan temples, its
completion was celebrated with a great festival of dedication (H.E.
10.3.1). In 431 CE the emperor Theodosius, granting to churches
rights of sanctuary, unselfconsciously referred to them as temples
of the Great God (C.Th. 9.45.4).
23
21
See now L.M. White, Building Gods House in the Roman World: architectural adapta-
tion among pagans, Jews and Christians (1990).
22
On pagan views of Christianity in general, see R.L. Wilken, The Christians as
the Romans Saw Them (1984).
23
See now White, Building Gods House, chapter 2 and passim. White argues
(p. 136) that the church at Tyre was not a basilica but an elaborate hall with
basilica-type features.
s.cnrr sr.cr ix ri.sron. tr.isv 231
At this crucial stage in the argument, when I want to suggest
the possible eect of such gentile perceptions of synagogues on the
attitudes to their religious buildings of Jews themselves, I must con-
fess that evidence fails. Nonetheless, some connection may plausibly
be posited. It is quite possible that Jews rst elected to imitate the
customs and architecture of others and to see their buildings as holy,
and that only then did pagans come to ascribe sanctity to Jewish
synagogues. But it seems to me no less conceivable that the line of
causation went in the opposite direction. If gentiles tended to assume
that synagogues were sacred places, Jews might feel it wise to concur:
on the most cynical level, this pagan attitude evidently helped to
protect the synagogue site and to win exemption from liturgies for
synagogue ocials. More insidiously, if gentile neighbours treated the
synagogue building as sacred it might become natural for Jews to
copy their reverence even when they did not have any formal, legal
reason within the Jewish religious system for such an attitude.
If there is any truth in this, it may be worth pondering simi-
lar factors in other aspects of Jewish history in the diaspora. It is
inherently unlikely that diaspora Jews developed social or religious
institu tions entirely regardless of comments made by their gentile
compatriots. But, since it is also inherently unlikely that Jews would
explicitly ascribe changes in their society to their reactions to such
comments, the demonstration of the causal link between the develop-
ment of diaspora Jewish customs and outsiders views about those
customs will always be formidable.
CHAPTER NINETEEN
JEWS AND JUDAISM IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
DIASPORA IN THE LATE
-
ROMAN PERIOD:
THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIDENCE
Modern interpretations of the nature of Judaism in the Mediterranean
diaspora in the late-Roman period have been based mainly on the
evaluation of archeological and epigraphic data. Such interpreta-
tions are mostly quite possible, but all involve eisegesis and (often
undeclared) assumptions which are here systematically questioned.
In particular, evidence customarily used to reconstruct a picture of
a liberal diaspora Judaism is scrutinized to see how much of it in
fact may have been produced by pagan polytheists who revered the
Jewish God. The evidence from Sardis is treated as a test case. In
the nal section a decrease in the variety within Judaism, and a
decline in the numbers of pagan polytheists worshipping the Jewish
God, are postulated for the period after 388 CE, when Roman
emperors began to attack pagan shrines and to give state support
to the Jewish patriarchs.
No one doubts that the population of the Mediterranean core of
the Roman Empire at its height, from the rst to the fth century
CE, contained a large proportion of Jews. Estimates of their number
vary quite widely,
1
but that they constituted a group of sucient
size to exercise considerable inuence over Mediterranean society is
generally agreed. What elicits much less agreement is the nature of
their Judaism in the centuries which followed the destruction of the
Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.
It will be evident from the title of this article that I believe it to
be helpful to study diaspora Judaism in this period separately from
the religion of Jews in the land of Israel. This separation is desirable
despite the similar geographical and economic constraints on Jewish
communities in all parts of the Mediterranean world, despite the
1
Cf. S.W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd ed. (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1952) vol. 1, 167171, 370372.
234 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
comparative ease of transport between such communities in the rst
century CE because of the pax Romana and extensive inter-regional
trade,
2
and despite the common obeisance of all Mediterranean
Jews to the same Torah by which God bound Israel in covenant
on Mount Sinai.
3
Despite all this, the special role of Israel as a holy
land necessarily inuenced religious behaviour, and may well have
caused the religious outlook of Jews who lived there to be dierent
from that of diaspora Jews. In Jews religious geography, the centre
of the world, the core of purity, lay in the Holy of Holies in the
Temple in Jerusalem. The rest of the world was relegated to spheres
of decreasing purity in a series of concentric circles, from the Temple
to the city of Jerusalem to the boundaries of the land of Israel and
thence to the diaspora.
4
The probability that diaspora Judaism in the Mediterranean world
diered from that of Jews in the homeland is strengthened by the fact
that most evidence about Judaism in this period happens to derive
either from the land of Israel or from the Jews of Mesopotamia
who, since they lived outside the Roman empire, had little contact
with the western diaspora. This same fact means that disagreement
about the nature of Judaism in the Mediterranean diaspora begins
from uncertainty about how much, if at all, to rely on the rabbinic
evidence from late antiquity: some scholars assume that all Jews fol-
lowed rabbinic norms until proved otherwise, others that none did
until shown to have done so.
5
Both views are possible, but I should confess that my own preference
is for skepticism about the applicability of rabbinic evidence outside
the immediate circles for which it was composed.
6
The preservation
2
Cf. K. Hopkins, Taxes and trade in the Roman Empire (200 BCAD 400),
Journal of Roman Studies 70 (1980) 101125.
3
E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: a Comparison of Patterns of Religion,
(London: SCM, 1977); Idem, Judaism: Practice and Belief: 63 BCE66 CE (London:
SCM, 1992).
4
Cf. M. Goodman, The Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against
Rome, AD 6670 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) 106.
5
Contrast the assumption by Schiman, Who was a Jew? (New York: Ktav, 1985),
that rabbinic discussions in the land of Israel were capable of bringing about the
split between Judaism and Christianity to the assertion by Kraabel, Impact of
the Discovery of the Sardis Synagogue in Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times, ed.
G.M.A. Hanfmann (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) 178193,
that rabbis had no inuence at all in Asia Minor.
6
Cf. M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, AD 132212 (Totowa, N.J.:
Rowman and Allanheld, 1983) 514.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 235
of so much rabbinic literature by Jews of later generations encour-
ages the impression that the rabbis predominated in Jewish society
of the time when the literature was composed, but it is in principle
not justied to take the survival of material as evidence of its origi-
nal importance. Rabbinic texts from late antiquity are extant only
because their contents interested enough Jews through the medieval
to the early modern period for them to be continuously copied
and eventually printed. In contrast, Jewish texts written in Greek
were totally ignored by the later rabbinic tradition, which operated
primarily in Hebrew and Aramaic. Thus it is entirely possible that
diaspora Jews composed just as many literary works in Greek after 70
CE as before that date, but that all such literature has disappeared
simply because the religious traditions which eventually triumphed
had no interest in their preservation: on the one hand, the rabbis,
who only preserved writing in Semitic languages, and on the other,
the Christian Church, which treasured and appropriated Jewish texts
written in Greek before c. 100 CE but which treated later Jewish
compositions as the product of an alien faith.
7
The possibility of a misleading bias in the preservation of the
evidence is not the only factor which complicates the use of rabbinic
texts. The rabbis took it for granted that their view of the world
was normative for all Israel, but such a view can quite well persist
regardless of reality. It is entirely possible, even if in the nal analysis
unprovable, that, even within the communities in which they oper-
ated, the rabbis were sometimes met with indierence.
8
If rabbinic
literature can be used only with care to reconstruct the religious
outlook of Jews in the land of Israel where it was composed, it
will be all the more dicult to use it to understand the Judaism of
Alexandria, Antioch, Sardis, Rome.
For some scholars the non-rabbinic nature of (some) diaspora
Judaism in late antiquity is simply taken for granted,
9
and over the
past few decades many attempts have been made to construct a pic-
ture of an alternative Judaism based on dierent kinds of evidence.
10

7
Cf. G. Vermes and M. Goodman, La literature juive intertestamentaire
la lumire dun sicle de recherches et de dcouvertes in Etudes sur le Judaisme
Hellnistique, eds. R. Kuntzmann and J. Schlosser (Paris: Editions du CERF, 1984)
1939.
8
M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, 93111.
9
E.g. A.T. Kraabel, Impact of the Discovery of the Sardis Synagogue, 178.
10
E.g. E.R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, 13 vols.
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 19531968); Kraabel, idem, 18890.
236 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
Such attempts are encouraged by the abundance of non-rabbinic
material found in the diaspora. So, for instance, in the corpus of
Jewish inscriptions from the diaspora the proportional increase in
documents dated after 70 CE is quite striking,
11
and not simply part
of any general increase in epigraphic evidence in the late-Roman
period. Archeological evidence is similarly much more abundant than
in earlier times, especially from excavations of buildings at Dura-
Europos, Sardis and elsewhere, and from investigation of Jewish
catacombs at Rome.
12
These material remains are supplemented by
a considerable corpus of comments about Jews by pagan and (more
especially) Christian writers.
13
Of these, the most illuminating are
often the Roman laws about Jews, which repay close study.
14
This non-rabbinic evidence has been used in the past to produce
dramatically disparate pictures of diaspora Judaism. In earlier genera-
tions the standard stereotype, molded perhaps by a Christian per-
spective and the assumption that right-thinking Jews ought really to
have joined the Church, portrayed diaspora Judaism as the religion
of small, embattled groups who adopted syncretistic ideas in order to
ingratiate themselves with their gentile neighbours.
15
A more recent
stereotype reverses many of these judgments. It is now commonly
claimed that diaspora Judaism was the religion of prosperous, self-
condent, outgoing people, who were fully accepted as Jews by their
gentile neighbours, unconcerned by surrounding idolatry, uninclined
to syncretise, and keen to proselytise.
16
It is worth stressing that this revised picture is almost entirely, and
quite overtly, dependent on analysis of archeological evidence and
11
J.B. Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Judaicarum (vol. 1, rev. New York: Ktav, 1975;
vol. 2 Rome: Pontico Istituto di archaeologia christiana, 1936).
12
E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, vol. 3.1, rev.
and eds. G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Goodman (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark,
1986) 1176.
13
M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, 3 vols. ( Jerusalem: Israel
Academy of the Sciences, 197486); J. Juster, Les Juifs dans lEmpire romain: leur condi-
tion juridique, conomique et sociale, 2 vols. (Paris: Geuthner, 1914) 1: 4376.
14
A. Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation (Detroit: Wayne State University,
1987).
15
Cf. the critique in A.T. Kraabel, The Disappearance of the God-Fearer,
Numen 28: 113126 (1982).
16
P.R. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991).
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 237
inscriptions, and especially the material from Sardis.
17
It is claimed,
for instance, that the size of the Sardis synagogue, its position at
the centre of the city, and the presence in it of inscriptions set up
by gentile Godworshippers show the important role of Jews in the
civic community and the acceptance of that role by their gentile
neighbours.
18
Such an interpretation is of course possible, but it
is hardly necessary. The great synagogue of Alexandria was also
huge, according to Tosefta Sukkah 4:6, but this fact can hardly
have signied good relations with the local Greeks since the Jews
and Greeks of Alexandria were more or less openly hostile to each
other throughout the rst and early second centuries CE.
19
It is quite
possible that in both Alexandria and Sardis the erection of a large,
prominent synagogue may have signied bravado by an embattled
minority in a hostile environment. Similarly, gentile Godworshippers
who gave money to Jewish institutions may have done so for a vari-
ety of reasons, without approving of either Judaism or Jews: so, for
instance, if Jews were indeed rich and powerful, it might have seemed
sensible for a gentile politician to donate money to their synagogue,
regardless of his real view about them or their religion.
20
From the
point of view of a polytheist, the term theosebes (God-worshipper)
was suciently anodyne for any pagan to accept it as a title.
I raise these other possible interpretations not to advocate them
but simply to show the vulnerability of archeological and epigraphic
material of this kind to imaginative exegesis. In the rest of this
paper I intend to sketch more fully the limitations of the evidence
for Judaism in the Mediterranean diaspora in the period, with an
epilogue to suggest why and how the radical uncertainty which I
shall advocate in interpreting the remains from earlier periods may
be inappropriate in the fth century CE and after.
Radical uncertainty in interpreting Jewish-type material down to
c. 390 CE is based on two factors which in principle bear no rela-
tion to each other. First, there may have been much variety within
17
Kraabel, The Disappearance of the God-Fearer ; Idem, Impact of the
Discovery of the Sardis Synagogue.
18
Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, 57.
19
V.A. Tcherikover, A. Fuks and M. Stern, Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, 3 vols.
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 195764) 1: 4893.
20
J. Murphy-OConnor, Lots of God-Fearers? Theosebeis in the Aphrodisias
Inscription, Revue Biblique 99/2 (1992) 418424.
238 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
diaspora Judaism, to the extent that it may be more accurate to
talk of Judaisms in the plural.
21
Second, and even allowing for great
variety and for dierent denitions of who was a Jew, some material
commonly ascribed to Jews and Judaism may not reect Jews of
any kind, by any denition in antiquity or today. The rst issue has
been much discussed, and I shall consider it here only briey. The
second issue, which I believe is undeservedly overlooked in much of
the scholarly literature, I shall tackle at greater length.
V.nir+v ix Di.sron. Jtr.isv
Any individual type of Judaism consists of a single religious system,
encompassing most aspects of life. Unlike most other ancient cults,
Judaism could be contrasted in antiquity not just to other religions
but to other cultures in the broad sense: the rst use of the term
ioudaismos (2 Macc. 2:21) specically compared Judaism to Hellenism,
and both gentile and Jewish Greek writers sometimes described the
Jewish way of life as a philosophy.
22
Thus, when they viewed their
own lifestyles from within their systems, Jewish writers tended to
assume that there was only one Judaism. So, for example, to the
rabbis Jewish identity was dened in rabbinic terms, in what Sacha
Stern has described as a solipsistic sense of Jewishness, to the extent
that only adult male rabbinic Jews were thought of as fully part of
Israel, and the Judaism of women and children, let alone proselytes
and slaves, was left ill-dened.
23
It is notoriously unwise to rely on a groups self-depiction to
produce an accurate picture of that group, but in the study of the
late-antique diaspora the non-Jewish evidence, plentiful though it is,
is not entirely helpful in balancing out the picture. Greek and Latin
pagans after the early second century CE seem largely to have fallen
into literary clichs when writing about Jews,
24
and little that they
21
Cf. for the rst century, J. Neusner, W.S. Green and E.S. Frerichs, Judaisms
and their Messiahs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
22
J.G. Gager, The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Towards Judaism in Pagan and
Christian Antiquity (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983).
23
Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings, Unpublished D. Phil. Thesis,
Oxford University.
24
Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism; idem, The Jews in Greek
and Latin Literature in The Jewish People in the First Century, eds. S. Safrai and M.
Stern (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1976) vol. 2, 11011159.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 239
wrote sheds any light on the Jews of their own day; in any case,
they lacked any interest in dierentiating between one sort of Jew
and another, simply lumping them all together as one despicable
superstitio.
25
The evidence of Christian authors about Jews is almost equally
unsatisfactory, but for rather dierent reasons.
26
In the early Church
the term Jew was generally applied to one of three groups: either
to the Israel of the Old Testament (usually on occasions when they
disobeyed divine commands, since the positive aspects of Israels
heritage were appropriated by the Christians themselves);
27
or to the
Pharisees who opposed Jesus according to the Gospels narrative,
with whom Jews as a whole were often identied;
28
or to Christian
literalists, since in the internal debate within the early Church about
the correct way to interpret the Old Testament, those who took
the biblical commands to apply to themselves were readily attacked
by their opponents as Jews.
29
Since in all these cases the terms
Jews and Judaism were more or less terms of abuse, there was
no incentive to distinguish between one kind of Jew and another.
Those Christians like Hippolytus (c. 170c. 236 CE) who referred
to the dierent sects of Judaism culled their information from earlier
sources, which normally described the Judaism of the land of Israel
before 70 CE.
30
But despite this lack of direct evidence for diversity in the Judaism
of the late-Roman diaspora, there remain good grounds for believing
variety to be probable. First is the direct evidence of Josephus that
one and the same individual could claim the perfect unity of Judaism
25
Cf. Tacitus, Hist. 5.8.23; Ann. 2.85.
26
Cf. in general M. Taylor, The Jews in the Writings of the Early Church
Fathers (150312): Men of Straw or Formidable Rivals? Unpublished D. Phil.
Thesis, Oxford University, 1992.
27
Cf. M. Simon, Verus Israel: A Study of the Relations Between Christians and Jews in
the Roman Empire (135425) (Oxford: Littman Library, 1986).
28
R. Reuther, Faith and Fratricide: the theological roots of anti-semitism (New York:
Seabury Press, 1974).
29
D.P. Efroymson, Tertullians Anti-Judaism and its role in his theology,
Unpublished PhD Thesis, Temple University, 1976.
30
Miriam Taylor, The Jews in the Writings of the Early Church Fathers
(150312), points out that Simon, Verus Israel, may be wrong to assume that
because Christian writers came up against real Jews, they therefore described them
as they really were. It is almost as easy to impose a stereotype on real people as
on imaginary ones.
240 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
while also being aware of considerable variety. Thus Josephus wrote
in Contra Apionem 2.179180, a work composed in Rome in the nine-
ties CE, that one remarkable fact about Jews was their unity on all
matters of theology and worship: one God, one Law, one Temple.
Nor was this a passing remark, since Jewish unity constituted an
important element of his proof in Contra Apionem of the superiority
of Jews over Greeks, whose cults, myths and beliefs he characterized
as hopelessly jumbled. But the same Josephus could write in three
other works about the three (or sometimes four) distinctive philoso-
phies of the Jews (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and the Fourth
Philosophy), whose tenets he was at pains to delineate.
31
It appears
that for Josephus these two opinions, which he proered as part
of two dierent arguments, were quite easily correlated. Variety
within Judaism presumably lay in his eyes on a dierent level from
its unity: all Jews accepted the one Torah, even if they disagreed
about its signicance.
If someone like Josephus could write about diversity within Judaism
in his histories of the land of Israel before 70 CE, it is clearly at
least possible that such diversity continued in the late-Roman dias-
pora. When Josephus was writing he was living in the diaspora in
Rome and after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, but he
wrote about the varied philosophies of Judaism not as a past but as
a present fact. The factors which had encouraged a diaspora Jew in
the mid-rst century like Philo of Alexandria to evolve his curious
blend of Platonic philosophy and allegorical exegesis of the Bible
32
were just as potent after the destruction of the Temple as before;
indeed, since Philonic types of theology were to become popular
among some Christians during the late-Roman period, it was evidently
possible for Jews also to continue thinking in such ways.
So far as is known, no authority existed within diaspora Judaism
to impose rules of practice and belief. Such a role has often been
claimed for the rabbinic patriarch (nasi ) in the land of Israel whose
formal jurisdiction under the auspices of the state over Jews through-
out the Roman empire I shall discuss in the epilogue (below).
33
But
31
B.J. 2.119166; A.J. 18.1125; Vita 1012.
32
Cf. S. Sandmel, Philo of Alexandria: An Introduction (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1979).
33
Cf. L.I. Levine, The Jewish Patriarch (Nasi ) in third century Palestine, Aufsteig
und Niedergang der rmischen Welt 19/2 (1979) 64988.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 241
I believe not only that the evidence that he had any such authority
before the late fourth century is not compelling,
34
but also that there
are positive reasons to deny that he had such a role at any earlier
date: rst, it was contrary to normal Roman practice in the high
empire for a single spokesman to be appointed or recognized either
for an ethnic group such as Spaniards or Gauls, or for a religious
movement such as Mithraists or Isiacs; secondly, the fact that the
third-century Christian writer Origen referred to the nasi by the title
ethnarch,
35
whereas fourth-century Roman sources consistently call
him patriarch, suggests that the nasi in his time was not a Roman
ocial at all, since the Roman state was normally very careful and
precise in the conferring of titles.
36
If there was no authority to impose uniformity, there was also no
incentive to suppress variety. Opinions might vary wildly between
one community and another on crucial questions of Jewish status
such as the validity of conversions and the status of the ospring
of mixed marriages,
37
let alone less public aspects of Judaism, from
domestic liturgy and behaviour to philosophical speculation on the
hidden meanings of Torah. After 70 CE there did not even exist any
more the Temple as the symbolic focus of unity to which all Jews
could show their solidarity by contributing their annual oerings, as
the Jews of Asia Minor had done in the mid rst century BCE.
38
Nor was there any more a high priest to act as ruler and leader of
the nation, as Josephus had claimed he should.
39
It would be reasonable to expect Judaism in the Mediterranean
diaspora to have become more varied after 70 CE, not less.
34
The only extant inscription from the diaspora which may show the rabbinic
patriarch exercising some authority in the diaspora is a text from Stobi in Macedonia,
of the second or third century CE. Cf. M. Hengel, Die Synagogeninschrift von
Stobi, Zeitschrift fr die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 57 (1966) 14583, but the huge
ne payable to the patriarch according to the inscription would have been unen-
forceable (cf. Schrer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, 3:67).
35
Ep. Ad Africanum 20 (14).
36
Cf. M. Goodman, The Roman State and the Jewish Patriarch in the Third
Century in Galilee in Late Antiquity, ed. L.I. Levine (New York: Jewish Theological
Seminary, 1992) 127139.
37
Cf. M. Goodman, Identity and Authority in Ancient Judaism Judaism 39
(1990) 192201 [Chapter 2 above].
38
Cf. Cicero. Flac. 66.
39
C.Ap. 2.193194; cf. A.J. 20.251.
242 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
Jrvs, xox-Jrvs .xr Jrvisn r\irrxcr
Whatever their divergences, one common denominator for all Jews
was that each thought of himself or herself as belonging within
a system dened as Judaism. Outsiders may have been uncertain
whether any particular individual should be considered a Jew, but
the individual himself would always know whether he was bound
by the covenant between God and Israel.
This was not just a matter of theological logic. I have argued in
detail elsewhere
40
that when the emperor Nerva in 96 CE reformed
the collection of the scus Judaicus, the special poll tax imposed by
the Roman state on all Jews within the empire after the Judean
revolt of 6670 CE, he exempted Jewish apostates, thereby ensuring
that the selection of those liable to the tax should be by religious
self-denition: those who professed Judaism (whether native-born
or proselytes) were required to pay two denarii a year towards the
temple of Jupiter on the Capitol in Rome. In return for this tax,
self-professed Jews were exempted from the normal requirement to
take part in the pagan ceremonials of the state.
If this theory is correct, in practice any Jew will have been
quite clear about the distinction between himself and the gentiles.
Conversely, non-Jews who were interested in worshipping the Jewish
God would be entirely clear that their devotion to this divinity did
not in itself make them into Jews unless they also wished to embrace
the (or a) whole system of Judaism (including exclusive monotheism)
and, as a corollary, to pay the scus Judaicus to Rome.
The best evidence up to now that some polytheistic gentiles
were indeed interested in worshipping the Jewish God has emerged
only comparatively recently, with the publication in 1987 of a long
inscription from Aphrodisias in Caria, in modern Turkey.
41
This
inscription, tentatively dated by its editors to the early third century
CE,
42
contains a long list of names of donors to a Jewish institution
whose precise nature is obscure. The names on side A and at the
40
M. Goodman, Nerva, the scus Judaicus and Jewish Identity Journal of Roman
Studies 79 (1989) 4044.
41
J. Reynolds and R. Tannenbaum, Jews and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias, Cambridge
Philological Society, supplementary volume, 7 (Cambridge: Cambridge Philological
Society, 1987).
42
Ibid., 1922.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 243
43
A, lines 13, 17, 22.
44
B, line 34.
45
B, lines 3438.
46
Cf. Reynolds and Tannenbaum, Jews and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias, 58.
47
A, line 1.
48
Cf. Acts of the Apostles 10:2, 22; 13:16, 26.
49
E.g. F. Siegert, Gottersfrchtigen und Sympathisanten, Journal for the Study
of Judaism 4 (1973) 10964.
50
Cf. critique by Kraabel, The Disappearance of the God-Fearer .
51
Reynolds and Tannenbaum, Jews and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias, 88.
top of side B of the list are most distinctively Jewish and include
three individuals specically designated as proselytos.
43
In contrast, on
side B, under a separate heading entitled and these [are] the god-
reverers,
44
are found fty-three non-Jewish names, of whom the rst
nine are described as bouleutes, city councillor.
45
It is clear that these latter individuals were gentiles honoured by
the Jewish community in Aphrodisias. It is likely that they were
polytheists, since all city councillors could normally expect to take
part in civic cults, unless, like Jews, they were specically exempt.
46
It
is also likely that the appearance of their names on the list reected
their interest in Judaism and not just in Jews in their locality: the
inscription starts with an invocation to the helping God (theos boethos),
47
and their designation as God-reverers (theosebeis) suggests that they
were devoted in some way to the Jewish God.
Over the past twenty years or so the problem of these pious
gentiles, usually designated as Godfearers
48
has attracted a huge
literature,
49
but I believe that more can and should be said. Most
scholars have been primarily interested in the role of Godfearers
in the Acts of the Apostles as the recipients of Christian mission
in the interlude between the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews
and the full-blooded mission to the gentiles.
50
The scholars who have
approached the topic primarily through the epigraphic evidence,
including the Aphrodisias inscription, have tended to portray such
gentiles from the Jewish point of view, describing them as on the
fringes of Judaism, of but not in.
51
I do not doubt that ancient Christians and Jews may indeed have
taken such a view of gentiles, but I wonder whether these depic-
tions also reect the self-perception of the gentiles themselves. City
councillors in Aphrodisias who became Godfearers did so voluntarily,
presumably because they found religious meaning in the act. They
244 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
could have become full proselytes and part of the covenant if they
had wanted to do so, as the open designation of individuals as pros-
elytes at Aphrodisias shows,
52
but since they chose not to, it may
be that worshipping the Jewish God as a gentile had a meaning for
them as polytheists quite dierent from that experienced by those
who entered the exclusive covenant of Judaism.
For a pagan polytheist there were many reasons to worship the
Jewish God. The main reasons, as with any deity, lay in his power:
he was the Lord of the Universe, the highest god (theos hypsistos).
53
A deitys power could be divined from his activity in the world: as
Josephus put it, in a curious reversal of the arguments of later theolo-
gians, only God could have created the irregularities of the heavenly
bodies.
54
The aura of the divinity was not necessarily diminished by
the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, for pagans could
presumably accept (if they wished to) the claim addressed to them
by Josephus that the outcome of the Jewish revolt had been Gods
will,
55
since it was through Gods support alone that the Romans
held their empire.
56
The lack of a single cult centre might even have
been a positive attraction to polytheists, who devoted themselves in
increasing numbers in the high Roman empire to divinities such as
Isis, Mithras or Jupiter Dolichenus, who had been displaced from
their actual or alleged place of origin;
57
it may be that lack of local
roots made more plausible each gods claims to universal signicance.
It is likely also that knowledge of the existence of Jewish commu-
nities throughout much of the Empire, full of initiates devoted to
God to such an extent that his laws shaped their entire lives, would
encourage interested polytheists to believe that this must be a divinity
worth cultivation. Large public temples dedicated by non-initiates to
divinities like Isis to whom initiates were also known to be devoted
are found in many cities in the Roman empire.
58
52
If there was indeed a prohibition by the Roman state on conversion to Judaism,
it seems to have been blatantly ignored by some, cf. ibid., 4344.
53
Cf. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, 12744, 16364.
54
A.J. 1.155156.
55
Cf. B.J. 6.250.
56
B.J. 2.390.
57
Cf. M.J. Vermaseren, Mithras, the Secret God (London: Chatto and Windus,
1963).
58
Cf. R.E. Witt, Isis in the Graeco-Roman World (London: Thames and Hudson,
1971).
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 245
How would such a polytheist convinced of Gods power normally
be expected to worship? It can be said immediately that it would
not be at all obvious to carry out part, but not all, of the lifestyle
of a full Jewish initiate, as in the standard picture of Godfearers as
gentiles who chose to follow an arbitrary selection of some of the
injunctions of the Torah.
59
Of course, a polytheist might behave in
such a way, perhaps keeping the sabbath but not the dietary laws
or the requirement to circumcise sons,
60
but if such behaviour was
intended to mark devotion to the Jewish God, rather than just
imitation of attractive Jewish customs, it suggests an individual on
the way to becoming a Jew
61
rather than a pagan polytheist simply
honouring a powerful divinity. At any rate, for most pagans there
might seem to be no religious advantage in listening to synagogue
services run by Jews: they might hope to derive some philosophical
insights from readings from the Bible,
62
but it would not be very
uplifting to listen to catalogues of legal injunctions which, as non-
Jews, they believed did not apply to them.
The standard way for ancient polytheists to worship a divinity
was through oerings on altars. This form of worship, hallowed
by antiquity, was still widespread and popular in the second and
third centuries CE, as numerous inscriptions attest.
63
Among such
inscriptions are some which are more plausibly ascribed to gentiles
devoted to the Jewish God. An inscription on a small altar from
Pamphylia dated to the rst or second century CE and published in
1992 reads: For the truthful god who is not made with hands (in
fulllment of ) a vow;
64
since the most striking aspect of the Jewish
God in the eyes of outsiders was the remarkable fact that he has
no image, it is most likely that the inscription was addressed to him.
Similarly, an altar of the second century CE from Pergamon, with
an inscription which reads at the top: God, Lord, who is One for
ever, and on the bottom: Zopyros [dedicated] to the Lord the
59
E.g. Siegert, Gottersfrchtigen und Sympathisanten; Reynolds and Tannen-
baum, Jews and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias, 65.
60
Cf. Juvenal, Satires 14.9699.
61
Cf. Juvenal, Satires 14.96106.
62
Cf. J.G. Gager, The Origins of Anti-Semitism, 7576.
63
R. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians in the Mediterranean World from the Second Century
AD to the Conversion of Constantine (Harmondsworth: Viking, 1986) 6972.
64
P.W. van der Horst, A New Altar of a Godfearer, JJS 43 (1992) 3237.
246 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
altar and the support with the lamp, is most plausibly ascribed to
a pagan worshipper of the Jewish God.
65
The general attitude of Jews to such gentiles worship can only
be suggested through the logic of a somewhat complex argument, as
follows. There is good evidence in Palestinian rabbinic texts, from
the Tosefta
66
and Sifra,
67
both probably redacted in the third century
CE, to the Jerusalem Talmud,
68
redacted probably in the late fourth
century, that some rabbis sometimes assumed that gentiles (unlike
Jews) were permitted to make oerings to God outside Jerusalem;
the debate in the Jerusalem Talmud text was only over whether Jews
should allow themselves to help gentiles to do this. Such approval
by rabbis quoted in these texts is particularly signicant because in
these same texts can also be found strong disapproval of gentiles
worship of other gods; the prohibition of alien worship (avodah zarah)
was a consistent element in the so-called Noachide laws considered
by the rabbis to be incumbent on all humans, gentiles as much as
Jews, and rst attested in the Tosefta.
69
Unlike these rabbis, some
Jews in the diaspora apparently did not object to the pagan practices
of gentile God-worshippers, for they honoured gentile city-council-
lors who almost certainly took part in civic cults,
70
so it will have
been comparatively easy for them to accept the much less obviously
objectionable practices of gentiles who made oerings not to idols
but to the Jewish God.
If gentiles did regularly make such oerings, what would one
expect the archeological evidence to look like from the buildings
in which they worshipped? First, and most obvious, there could be
no cult statue: pagans knew that what distinguished the Jewish God
from other deities was the lack of any image.
71
To indicate the
65
B. Lifshitz, Donateurs et fondateurs dans les synagogues juives, Cahiers de la Revue
Biblique, supplementary volume 7 (Paris: Gabalda, 1967) no. 12; cf. E. Bickerman,
The Altars of Gentiles in idem, Studies in Jewish and Christian History, part 2 (Leiden:
Brill, 1980) 34142.
66
Zevakhim 13:1, which refers even to Samaritans.
67
83c., ed. Weiss.
68
y. Megillah 1.13, 72b (ed. Krotoschin).
69
Avodah Zarah 8:4; cf. D. Novak, The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism: A Historical
and Constructive Study of the Noachide Laws (New York and Toronto: Edwin Mellen,
1983) 34, 10748.
70
See sup.
71
Cf. Varro, apud Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.31.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 247
Jewishness of the divinity, therefore, one might expect characteristic
Jewish iconography on mosaics or wall paintings: as the reliefs on
the Arch of Titus in Rome demonstrate, pagans were aware of such
Jewish images as the candelabrum (menorah) and incense shovels of the
Jerusalem Temple. One might also expect to nd in the shrines of
such gentiles fragments of Hebrew words and letters, since, regard-
less of its incomprehensibility, the divinitys special language might
be thought to have an intrinsic power, as can be seen from the use
of Hebrew in non-Jewish magical papyri. In all other respects the
building might be expected to look like any other pagan templea
fact, however, of dubious advantage in identication, since such
temples varied greatly in plan from one place to another and from
one shrine to another.
Such gentile worshippers would not necessarily have any collective
name for themselves, any more than (for example) worshippers of
Apollo or Jupiter Dolichenus did. Since they were not Jews (or, as
they might think of it, initiates of the Jewish God), their worship
of the divinity formed only one part of their religious lives, let alone
their political and social identity; Jews, Christians, Mithraists and
Isiaci were unusual in ancient religious history in their adoption of
a group name to describe themselves.
72
Nor did such gentiles neces-
sarily espouse common myths or uniform rituals: each shrine might
quite well follow its own local rules, as was common in ancient
paganism.
73
This variation and anonymity will, of course, make such gentiles
dicult to identify in the surviving evidence from late antiquity.
Nonetheless, it is not just an entirely theoretical hypothesis that such
people may have existed, nor that they may have set up altars and
special buildings.
In 407 CE the emperors Theodosius, Arcadius and Honorius
issued a law against a new crime of superstition, which has claimed
the unheard name of heaven-worshippers (caelicolae),
74
ordering that
72
Cf. J.A. North, The Development of Religious Pluralism in The Jews among
Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire, eds. J. Lieu, J. North and T. Rajak (London:
Routledge, 1992) 17493.
73
Cf. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians in the Mediterranean World, 64101.
74
The assertion by the emperor in each reference to the caelicolae that he has
never heard of them before (cf. Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation, 256)
may show only his ignorance or their adoption of a new name, and not necessarily
that they were a new religious phenomenon.
248 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
their buildings (aedicia), which contain meetings of some new dogma,
should be vindicated to the churches, i.e. conscated.
75
The evidence
about the caelicolae, found in this law, in another similar law issued
in 409 CE, and in a few remarks by Latin patristic writers,
76
is
strangely ignored in the standard modern discussions of Godfearers,
77
but it seems very likely that the term describes individuals of the
same type as those called theosebeis (God-worshippers) in Greek. In
the law of 409 CE the emperors moved straight from condemning
the caelicolae to condemning those who dare to convert Christians
to Judaism.
78
The caelicolae were included in the heading of a title
of the Theodosian Code along with Jews and Samaritans; despite
this link with Jews, they seem to have been pagan polytheists.
79
The
term caelicolae (heaven-worshippers) seems to be a direct analogue
to the Hebrew yir "ei shamayim (heaven-fearers) used in rabbinic texts
of the third to fth century CE to refer to gentiles who respect the
Jewish God.
80
At any rate, if the caelicolae were indeed pagans who
revered the Jewish God, the most signicant datum to emerge from
the Roman legal texts is the fact that they possessed buildings for
worship,
81
in which case modern scholars might be thought to have
every reason to hunt for evidence of such buildings in the archeo-
logical remains of the late-Roman period.
75
Codex Justinianus 1.9.12.
76
Cf. Juster, Les Juifs dans lEmpire romain, vol. 1, 175, n. 3.
77
E.g. Siebert, Gottersfrchtigen und Sympathisanten; contrast Linder, The Jews
in Roman Imperial Legislation.
78
Codex Theodosianus 16.8.19.
79
Linder (The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation I, 257) takes the caelicolae to be
Christian renegades, oddly translating nisi ad. . . . venerationem . . . Christianam conversi
fuerint as unless they return to . . . the Christian veneration. This interpretation
seems to go back to Juster (Les Juifs dans lEmpire romain, vol. 1, 175, n. 3). Juster
was (rightly) keen to counter claims by previous scholars that caelicolae were Jews,
but he did so by a misinterpretation of Codex Theodosianus 16.5.43. He took quamvis
Christianos esse se simulent (although they pretend that they are Christians) at the
end of that decree to refer to all previously mentioned groups, which included the
caelicolae. But this is not plausible, since another group mentioned previously in
the same law were the gentiles (pagans), who by denition did not claim to be
Christian. The words at the end of the decree (pretend to be Christians) most
obviously refer to the group mentioned in the nal sentence of the law, immediately
preceding this phrasethat is, the Donatists, who were indeed a Christian heresy.
The Christian writer Philastrius (Haer. 15, CSEL 38, 67) thought that the caelicolae
were Jews, who worshipped with sacrices the goddess Caelestis, who personied
the heavens.
80
Reynolds and Tannenbaum, Jews and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias, 5253.
81
Codex Theodosianus 16.8.19.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 249
It is time to make explicit the relevance of such questions to the
study of Jews and Judaism in the late-Roman diaspora. How much
evidence customarily ascribed by scholars to Jews and used to recon-
struct Judaisms might actually reect gentiles of this kind, who may
have worshipped the Jewish God without any contact at all with
Jews? I stress the word might. My aim is not to estimate the most
plausible explanation of the surviving archeological and epigraphic
evidence, but to illustrate the fragility of the scholarly assumptions
which lie behind attempts to describe diaspora Judaism in the Medi-
terranean region. I shall concentrate on just one, celebrated, case
study: the late-Roman synagogue at Sardis.
Possinrr Rr-ix+rnrnr+.+ioxs or +nr E\irrxcr
It will be recalled that the modern re-evaluation of diaspora, and
especially Asia Minor, Judaism has been based to a considerable extent
on the alleged implications of the huge building at Sardis which the
excavators identied as a synagogue (see above). The building is a
large basilica built originally in the early Roman period as part of
the gymnasium complex in the centre of the city. The basilica was
identied as a synagogue in its later phases on account of the dis-
covery of fragmentary Hebrew inscriptions and the iconography of its
decoration.
82
Numerous mosaic depictions of candelabra (menorot) were
discovered, and fragments of one actual, stone menorah. The mosaics
included pictures of a rams horn (shofar) and other objects which
have been discovered in a number of synagogue sites in the land of
Israel.
83
There were also two small fragments of Hebrew inscriptions,
one beyond clear decipherment, one reading shalom (peace).
Since the building has been rmly decreed by the excavators in
1962 to be a synagogue on the basis of these nds, when the rst
inscriptions came to be published in 1964 the framework was already
taken for granted.
84
The mosaic inscription of a certain Aurelius
82
Cf. D.G. Mitten, The Synagogue in Report of the Fifth Campaign at Sardis
(1962), Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 179 (1963) 40.
83
L.I. Levine, The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (Philadelphia: American Schools of
Oriental Research, 1987) 185.
84
L. Robert, Nouvelles inscriptions de Sardes (Paris: Librarie dAmrique et dOrient,
1964) 37.
250 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
Olympios from the tribe of the Leontii,
85
unique among Jewish
inscriptions according to its editor,
86
was nonetheless presumed to
be Jewish simply because is was known to come from what was
believe to be a synagogue. A rough grato incised on the neck of
a jar found in a shop outside the building to the south, with the
name Jacob and four other letters (prou), was reconstructed to
read Jacob the elder and ascribed to a councillor of the Jewish
community mainly because a Jewish community could be expected
to have such ocials and because a shop next to a prominent Jewish
public building was likely to be owned by a Jew.
87
All such interpretations may be entirely correct, but it may be
worthwhile to consider briey other, quite dierent, ways of explain-
ing the same evidence. What factors might encourage the belief
that the Sardis building might not have been a Jewish synagogue
at all, but might rather have housed a cult of gentile, polytheist
God-worshippers?
Negative reasons to suggest that the building might not have been
a synagogue are easily enumerated. First, it is many times bigger
than any other synagogue yet identied.
88
Secondly, its size might
seem to militate against its usefulness as a synagogue where the main
focus of ritual was to hear the Law read and explained: in a throng
of over a thousand people, the reader might sometimes be hard to
hear. Third, the plan of the building is unparalleled among ancient
synagogues.
89
Fourth, the huge marble table in the centre of the hall
is unique in Jewish buildings and the edice lacks the stone benches
standard in synagogues elsewhere.
90
Fifth, at least one donor to the
building came from outside Sardis (from nearby Hypaepa),
91
which
was odd for a communal synagogue intended for the use of Jews
who lived close enough to come regularly to hear the Law read.
Sixth, and in contrast to donors names in synagogues elsewhere, the
85
Ibid., no. 6.
86
Ibid., 46.
87
Ibid., 57, on no. 22.
88
A.R. Seager, The Synagogue and the Jewish Community: The Building
in Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times, ed. G.M.A. Hanfmann (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1983) 177.
89
Ibid.
90
Ibid.
91
Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, 46.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 251
mosaic inscriptions in Sardis do not apparently stress rank, honour
and prestige within the Jewish community; instead, they emphasize
civic status, and in particular, for those who could boast it, the rank
of bouleutes, city councillor.
92
None of the inscriptions refers to Jews,
Israel, Hebrews, synagogues, or anything else specically Jewish.
Positive reasons to suggest that the building might have been a
place for God-worshippers to reverence the Jewish God are rather less
numerous, but not negligible. First is the designation on the mosaics
of six donors as theosebeis, God-worshippers;
93
none has a Jewish
name and, in the light of the proximity of Sardis to Aphrodisias,
it is much more plausible that the theosebeis here, as at Aphrodisias,
were gentiles.
94
The Jewish iconography (such as the shofar) will then
have been taken over by these non-Jews as symbolic representations
of their cult of the Jewish God. Such appropriation of the images
of other faiths was common in late antiquity: Christians sometimes
used Jewish images,
95
just as Jews sometimes used pagan symbols,
96
so it should not surprise if the pagans who revered the Jewish God
borrowed Jewish motifs.
Whoever the worshippers were in the building in its last phase,
they seem to have kept a scroll of the law, or something similar,
in the formal niche designated by the archeologists as the Torah
shrine. The evidence lies in the discovery around the niche of a
marble inscription with the word nomophylakion (guarding-place of
[the] law?),
97
and in the probable depiction of Torah scrolls in the
form of two stylized spirals.
98
Such appurtenances of worship might
seem too obviously appropriate to Jewish synagogue liturgy for any
other explanation to be worth considering, but in fact even Torah
scrolls might have a function in pagan worship. There is good evi-
dence that non-Jews sometimes treated Jews veneration for their
scrolls as the direct equivalent of pagan veneration of idols:
99
when
92
Robert, Nouvelles inscriptions de Sardes, 5457.
93
Ibid., 3945; Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, 15859.
94
Cf. ibid., 159.
95
Cf. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, vol. 2, 13.
96
Ibid., passim.
97
Kraabel, Impact of the Discovery of the Sardis Synagogue, 189.
98
Y. Shiloh, Torah Scrolls and the Menorah Plaque from Sardis, Israel Exploration
Journal 18 (1968) 5457.
99
Cf. M. Goodman, Sacred Scripture and deling the hands , Journal of
Theological Studies 41 (1990) 99107 [Chapter 6 above].
252 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
a soldier burnt a Torah scroll in rst-century CE Judea, the Roman
governor had him publicly executed,
100
and in the triumph held by
Titus and Vespasian in Rome to celebrate the suppression of the
Jewish revolt, the procession of booty contained, after the impressive
loot from the Temple itself, a scroll of the Jewish law.
101
It would be
easy for pagans to imagine that the scroll of the law embodied the
divinityand for those who worshipped the divinity to keep, in a
wall oriented towards Jerusalem, a special copy of the scroll as the
central focus of their worship, even if they did not actually read it,
let alone understand the meaning of its contents.
Nor need the presence of a Hebrew inscription in the building
signify that this was a synagogue: a word like shalom
102
is just the
sort of word non-Jews enthusiastic about the Jewish God might
employ as a sort of talisman (see above).
If I push possibilities to their limit, I could even argue that the
presence among the inscriptions of two characteristically Jewish names
(out of thirty altogether), like a certain Samoe, priest and wise teacher
(sophodidaskalos),
103
does not necessarily bear any signicance for the
nature of the building as a whole. Jewish names appear in pagan
contexts elsewhere, like those in an ephebe list from a gymnasium
in Cyrene in the early rst century CE.
104
It would not be particu-
larly strange if some Jews (albeit, in the eyes of some rabbis, bad
ones)
105
decided to show public support for a pagan shrine erected in
honour of the Jewish God, just as some Jews nowadays will attend
Christian services, making mental reservations during elements of the
liturgy incompatible with Jewish theologyand just as some pagans
in ancient times made oerings in synagogues (see above).
It will be recalled that my aim in discussing the Sardis build-
ing was only to push the possible explanation of the evidence to
100
B.J. 2.229231.
101
Ibid., 7.150.
102
Seager, The Synagogue and the Jewish Community: The Building, 171.
103
G.M.A. Hanfmann and J.B. Bloom, Samoe, Priest and Teacher of Wisdom
Eretz-Israel 19 (1987) 10*14*.
104
G. Lderitz, Corpus jdischer Zeugnisse aus der Cyrenaika, Beihefte zum Tbinger
Atlas des vorderen Orients, Reihe B. nr. 53 (Weisbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert,
1983) no. 7; cf. T. Rajak, Jews and Christians as Groups in a Pagan World
in To See Ourselves as Others See Us: Christians, Jews, Others in Late Antiquity, eds.
J. Neusner and E.S. Frerichs (Chico: Scholars Press, 1985) 247261.
105
Cf. y. Megillah 1.13, 72b (ed. Krotoschin).
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 253
the limit of reasonablenessto see what might have been, and not
to suggest what is more plausible. To balance the picture, and to
avoid misleading readers, I should make it clear that the hypothesis
I have just outlined is no more probable than the traditional sug-
gestion that the building was a synagogue, and that some factors
are dicult to explain on this view just as they are if the traditional
view is taken.
So, for example, if the building was used by pagan polytheists, the
emphasis by many donors on their enjoyment of the citizenship of
Sardis
106
is strange since it might be thought an attribute local pagans
could take for granted. Again, the apparently deliberate hiding of
the image of other deities when an ancient stone on which images
of Cybele and Artemis were carved was re-used in the oor of the
forecourt would be an odd thing for polytheists to do.
107
If the latter
behaviour took place in the fth century, it could be argued that it
marked a change of use of the building from pagan shrine to Jewish
synagogue (below), along perhaps with the (undatable) decapitation
of the eagles that anked the marble table,
108
but I do not wish to
press the issue, since I hope that in any case the methodological
points I wish to make are suciently clear: the Sardis building, with
its distinctive iconography and large number of donor inscriptions,
might in the third and fourth century CE have housed a Jewish
synagogue, in which case the Judaism of those who worshipped there
may have been of a distinctive type, but it also might have housed a
cult of non-Jews who revered the Jewish God without any intention
of entering the fold of Judaism.
Explicitly Jewish identication in the epigraphical and archeological
material from the late-Roman Mediterranean diaspora is much rarer
than one would like. So, for instance, of the eighty-ve inscriptions
from the diaspora included in Lifshitzs collection of donors and
founders in synagogues,
109
only twenty-four contain any clearly Jewish
reference, such as Jew, synagogue, or Hebrew, although the
surmise that they were indeed set up by Jews is much stronger in
some cases than in others.
106
Robert, Nouvelles inscriptions de Sardes, 5556.
107
Seager, The Synagogue and the Jewish Community: The Building, 176.
108
Ibid., 170.
109
Lifshitz, Donateurs et fondateurs dans les synagogues juives.
254 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
In the light of all this, it is worth asking what, if historians totally
lacked the benet of evidence from literary texts, they would deduce
about Judaism from archeology and inscriptions. I doubt if they would
ever discover that Judaism was distinguished from most other ancient
religions by being a system, or a number of systems, with a complex
mythology based on the covenant and revelation on Mount Sinai. It
would be clear that there were indeed religious groups who identied
themselves as Jews and set up communal buildings and hierarchies,
110

but I suspect that few scholars would guess the sig nicance of this
fact: if they operated by analogy, I suspect that they would (probably
quite wrongly) interpret hierarchical titles as evidence of grades of
initiation like those in Mithraism, so that Father of the synagogue
could be seen as parallel to the Mithraic pater.
111
Not much else could be deduced about Judaism from the vast
majority of Jewish sites and inscriptions.
112
The nature of Jewish
religious beliefs would surely be totally obscure from the iconogra-
phy of menoroth, lions, incense shovels, birds, lulavim, and so on.
113
I
doubt if we would even be able to recognize lulavim (palm branches)
for what they are, or to distinguish the signicant elements of the
iconography (menoroth, lulavim) from the (probably) purely decorative
(lions and birds); only with literary knowledge can such distinctions
be made, and even then the signicance of incense shovels remains
obscure.
None of the archeological and epigraphic evidence gives any hint
of the really distinctive traits of Judaism as it appears in late-antique
Jewish and Christian sources: the centrality of a written scripture,
and its proclamation and explanation in public assemblies. To deduce
that, we would need more inscriptions arming the status of liturgical
readers, which are curiously rare. Nothing in the iconography would
give a clue to the main Jewish identity markers as we know them
from elsewhere: shabbat, kashrut (dietary laws), and circumcision.
110
Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, 3:87107.
111
Cf. Vermaseren, Mithras, the Secret God; Schrer, The History of the Jewish People
in the Age of Jesus Christ, 3:101, n. 51.
112
The great exception is the synagogue at Dura-Europos, with its remarkable
frescoes, to which there is no parallel elsewhere ( J. Gutmann, The Dura-Europos
Synagogue; a Re-evaluation [Chambersburg, PA: American Academy of Religion and
the Society of Biblical Literature, 1973]).
113
Cf. Levine, The Synagogue in Late Antiquity.
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 255
Inevitably, then, all interpretation of such archeological and epi-
graphic material carries with it a great burden of assumptions derived
from the literary evidence which survives from antiquity through the
Christian Church and rabbinic Judaism. The hope that archeological
evidence can act as an objective, untainted corrective to those literary
traditions is therefore in many cases over-optimistic.
Erirootr: Tnr Exr or Uxcrn+.ix+v
Even for the most skeptical historian, the radical uncertainty I have
been advocating in the study of Mediterranean Judaism will no longer
seem even marginally plausible by the medieval period. By (say) the
tenth century CE no one would seriously suggest that Jewish-type
evidence is likely to have derived from pagan God-worshippers, nor
that non-rabbinic Judaism was widespread in the region, apart from
among those Jews like the Karaites who self-consciously broke away
from the rabbinic mainstream. It is worth asking from what date,
and for what reason, this increased certainty in the interpretation
of Jewish-type material becomes overwhelmingly plausible. I suggest,
tentatively, a fairly precise date: the late fourth century CE. If that
date is correct, it will have been brought about by a specic agent,
the Roman state, and, as often in Jewish history, change will have
come about because of actions not by Jews, but by outsidersin this
case, the militantly Christian emperors of Rome and Constantinople
from the time of Theodosius the Great.
All Roman emperors were Christian from the conversion of
Constantine in 312 CE, with only a very brief interlude under Julian
the Apostate in 361363 CE, but the earliest Christian emperors,
whatever their personal predilections, made no attempt to impose
their faith upon their subjects. In the late 380s CE this liberal stance
was to change quite dramatically. Theodosius the Great, impelled
by personal conscience and zealous Christian clerics, began the sys-
tematic closure of pagan temples.
114
By the end of the century most
temples in the main cities of the Roman empire were either deserted
114
N.Q. King, The Emperor Theodosius and the Establishment of Christianity (Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1960).
256 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
or converted into churches, and paganism, though not eradicated,
was conned to the countryside.
115
Thus by the fth century it is very unlikely that a large public
building in a major city would be a pagan shrine, even to the Jewish
God, and whatever the Sardis building was in its earlier stages, it
is most likely that by the fth century the Jewish motifs found on
the mosaic oors do indeed show it to have been a synagogue. The
attitude of Theodosius and his successors to the erection, repair and
preservation of synagogues was not exactly favourable, but it was
much more ambivalent than their thoroughgoing hostility to pagan
temples.
116
Furthermore, if in the fth century the building was a synagogue,
it is likely that by that time the Jews who worshipped there had
come under the inuence of the rabbis of the land of Israel. There
is evidence in the Roman legal codes that from the 380s until at
least the 420s the Jewish nasi (patriarch) in Palestine was accorded by
the Roman state power and authority over the Jews throughout the
empire. By this period, Roman emperors took for granted the backing
of the Roman state for the patriarchs collection of funds from the
diaspora.
117
They assumed that he had the right to excommunicate
deviants from Jewish communities,
118
which presumably implied the
right to dene what is deviant. Finally, and of most signicance for
the Sardis building, they took for granted his power to found and
dismantle synagogues throughout the empire.
119
The patriarch by
no means represented all rabbis, since the talmudic sources reveal
conict between individual nesiim and individual rabbis over questions
of authority and halacha during many generations,
120
but he did at
least come from within the same type of Judaism that the rabbis
115
J. Gecken, The Last Days of Greco-Roman Paganism (Amsterdam and Oxford:
North-Holland, 1978).
116
B.S. Bachrach, The Jewish community of the Later Roman Empire as seen
in the Codex Theodosianus in To See Ourselves as Others See Us: Christians, Jews,
Others in Late Antiquity, 399421.
117
Cf. Codex Theodosianus 16.8.17.
118
Ibid., 16.8.8.
119
Cf. ibid., 16.8.22.
120
L.I. Levine, The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity ( Jerusalem and
New York: Yad Izhak ben Zvi and Jewish Theological Seminary, 1989).
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 257
espoused.
121
After all, the foundation document of rabbinic Judaism,
the Mishnah, had been codied by R. Judah ha-Nasi, patriarch at the
end of the second century CE and the beginning of the third, and
it was descent from him that gave later patriarchs their authority.
It is possible, then, to end on a reassuring note. Whatever the
nature of the building in Sardis in which gentile God-worshippers
dedicated their mosaic inscriptions in the mid-fourth century or
earlier, it seems likely that the individual called Samoe, priest and
wise teacher, whose name was inserted into the oor of the hall in
the late fth century
122
was a rabbinic Jew,
123
and that the building
which he honoured was a synagogue. There is, after all, something
that can be asserted about Jews and Judaism in the Mediterranean
diaspora in the late-Roman period.
Pos+scnir+
I am grateful to the editors of this volume and to the Mediterranean
Institute of the University of Malta for the opportunity to republish
here this article, which originally appeared in Journal of Mediterranean
Studies in 1994. The central thesis of the article, that students of the
religious history of late antiquity need to allow for the possibility that
Jewish iconography on archaeological remains may reect the activi-
ties not of Jews but of gentile worshippers of the Jewish God, has
been cast in a new light by more recent studies. As a result, I think
that the hypothesis presented so tentatively in the early 1990s can
reasonably be presented now with slightly more condence, although
I must stress that my purpose in elaborating the hypothesis is still
only to stimulate consideration of what might be possible rather than
to describe what was certainly the case.
In this brief discussion of relevant scholarship since 1994, two major
advances in the presentation of the primary epigraphic evidence take
121
Cf. I. Gafni, Sta and LegislatorOn New Types of Leadership in the
Talmudic Era in Palestine and Babylonia in Priesthood and Monarchy (In Hebrew)
eds. I. Gafni and G. Motzkin ( Jerusalem: Merkaz Shazar, 1987) 7992.
122
Hanfmann and Bloom, Samoe, Priest and Teacher of Wisdom.
123
Trebilco ( Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, 50) argued that the fact that Samoe
was not called a rabbi in the inscription may be evidence that he (and Jews in
Sardis in general) was not under rabbinic inuence, but I am not persuaded by
this argument from silence.
258 cn.r+rn xixr+rrx
pride of place. First is the full publication of the inscriptions from
the Sardis synagogue.
124
The helpful commentaries on the dossiers,
completed in 1994, reect the state of the debate in the early 1990s.
Second is the brilliant reconsideration of the Aphrodisias Godfearers
stele by Angelos Chaniotis,
125
in which he proposes a date in the
second half of the fourth century or in the fth century for the texts
on both the inscribed faces.
This redating of the Aphrodisias texts, from the early third century
to the mid fourth at earliest, coincides with a trend to redate on
archaeological grounds the alteration of the Sardis gymnasium basilica
into a religious building and the period of its use for that purpose:
126

the debate continues, but it is fair to say that all reinvestigation of
the archaeological record has so far pushed the date of the buildings
use well away from the second century date originally favoured into
the fourth century or later.
Other studies have mapped out a plausible historical context for the
interpenetration of religious iconography, ideas and memberships, in
which neutral religious phrases and ambiguous images were prudently
favoured by public gures in the way they presented themselves to
their fellow citizens and to the state.
127
Jas Elsner has emphasised the
use by both Jews and Christians of a common iconography shared
also with their pagan contemporaries, stressing that the dierences
between religious groups will generally have lain less in the images
they employed than in the meanings they gave to those images.
128

Some scholars have even claimed that religious boundaries were
so uid that Judaism and Christianity were indistinguishable as
124
J.H. Kroll, The Greek inscriptions of the Sardis Synagogue, HTR 94.1
(2001) 1127; Frank Moore Cross, The Hebrew Inscriptions from Sardis, HTR
95.1 (2002).
125
A. Chaniotis, The Jews of Aphrodisias: New Evidence and Old Problems,
Scripta Classica Israelica 22 (2002).
126
H. Botermann, Die Synagoge von Sardes, Zeitschrift fr Neutestamentliche Wissen-
schaft 81 (1990); M. Bonz, Diering Approaches to Religious Benefaction: the Late
Third-Century Acquisition of the Sardis Synagogue, HTR 86.2 (1993) 139.
127
For example, see R.R.R. Smith, The Statue Monument of Oecumenius:
A New Portrait of a Late Antique Governor From Aphrodisias, Journal of Roman
Studies 92 (2002).
128
J. Elsner, Archaeologies and Agendas: Reections on Late Antique Jewish
Art and Early Christian Art, Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003).
rvs .xr tr.isv ix +nr vrri+rnn.xr.x ri.sron. 259
separate religions until the fourth century,
129
a rather extreme view
which itself may not suciently distinguish between ancient attitudes
to group identity and the dierent issue of the problems faced by
modern scholars in assigning a text or artefact to one such group
or another.
130
What now seems generally agreed is the signicance
of the fourth century, after the edict of toleration of Christianity
in 313 CE, as a tolerant religious arena, in which it was possible
for an individual both to cross religious divides and to seek wider
ecumenical acceptability by adoption of ambiguous language.
131
Of particular importance for study of the use of Jewish symbols
has been the remarkable investigation by Stephen Mitchell of the
cult of theos hypsistos (the highest god).
132
Mitchell suggests that
the abundant epigraphic material referring to this god from all over
the eastern Mediterranean world in the Roman imperial period
should be attributed to a specic pagan cult, which he characterizes
as an aspect of pagan monotheism. Not all have been persuaded that
highest god should always be understood as designating the divinity
worshipped rather than as an adjective applied to another god,
133

but even a modied form of Mitchells thesis would render it plau-
sible both that Jews could easily identify their God with the divinity
worshipped by such pagans (cf. Ps. Aristeas 16) and (importantly for
the present study) that such pagans could identify their highest god
with the God of the Jews. The former possibility I have explored
at some length in a discussion of the image of the sun god in the
synagogue mosaics in late-Roman Palestine.
134
The latter possibility
would t well with the suggestion in the current study about the role
of the godfearers in the synagogue in late-Roman Sardis.
129
Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism
(Standford, CA: Standford University Press, 1999).
130
Martin Goodman, Modelling the Parting of the Ways, in The Ways that
Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages, eds. A.H. Becker
and A.Y. Reed (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 2003) 11929 [Chapter 15 above].
131
Cf. Chaniotis, The Jews of Aphrodisias, 218, 2245, 2312.
132
The Cult of Theos Hypsistos between Pagans, Jews and Christians, in Pagan
Monotheism in Late Antiquity, eds. P. Athanassiadi and M. Frede (Oxford: Clarendon
Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
133
Cf., for example, Chaniotis, The Jews of Aphrodisias, 224, n. 49.
134
Martin Goodman, The Jewish Image of God in Late Antiquity, in Jewish
Culture and Society Under the Christian Roman Empire, eds. Richard Kalmin and Seth
Schwartz (Leuven: Peeters, 2003) [Chapter 17 above].
Abbahu, R. 209
Abraham 114
Achior 94
Acts of the Apostles 45, 86, 101,
124, 129, 243
Adiabene 24, 95, 107
Conversion of royal family of
Adiabene 92, 150
Aelia Capitolina 55
Agrippa I 4849, 145
Agrippa II 66, 103, 190, 198
Aha, R. 195196
Akedah 212
Akiba, R. 77
Alexander Jannaeus 41
Alexander the Alabarch 64
Alexander the Great 16
Alexandria 28, 37, 48, 59, 151, 226,
235, 237
Alexandrian Jews 63, 235, 237
Synagogue in Alexandria 149, 152,
221
Allegro, John 10
Altars 53, 108, 151
Ammei ha-arez 23
Ammi, R. 156
Ammonite 94
Ananias 95, 112
Ananus b. Ananus 128, 133, 147
Androgynos 172
Angels 208, 210
Annas 130
Antioch 23, 30, 74, 92, 150, 188,
197, 235
Antiochene Jews 23, 97, 222, 226,
235
Antiochus Epiphanes 92
Antiochus III 189
Antoninus Pius 25
Aphrodisias 31, 242244, 251, 258
Apocrypha 9
Apollo 247
Aquila 77, 96
Arcadius 247
Arch of Titus 247
Aristobulus 96, 208
Artapanus 95, 112, 114
Artemis 61, 253
Asclepius 61
Asia Minor 11, 24, 52, 61, 63, 188,
214, 225
Jews of Asia Minor 226, 241, 249
Atheism 150
Augustus 54, 656, 214, 226
Aurelius Olympios 249
Babatha 8283
Babylonia 5253, 62, 101
Babylonian Jews 6264
Babylonian Talmud 14, 156, 170,
192, 196198, 202, 224
Bacchus, cult of 109
Bannus 35, 141, 164
Baptism 97, 107
Baptistai 155
Bar Kochba see Simon bar Kosiba
Bar Kochba war 4, 7, 25, 54, 82
Barr, James 13
Barton, John 7071
Batanaea 65
Baumgarten, Albert 162
Ben Sira 8688
Benjamin, tribe of 149
Beth Alpha 8, 11, 205206
Beth Shammai 33
Beth Shearim 8
Bickerman, Elias 16
Bithynia 229
Boccabello, Jeremy 176
Boethus 65
Boethusians 125, 156
Boreon 227
Botermann, Helga 224
Boyarin, Daniel 176
Bchler, Adolf 15
Caesarea Maritima 65, 97, 148,
222
Caesarean Jews 2223
Caesarea Philippi 190191, 198
Caiaphas 130
Cairo Geniza 6, 14, 82
Calendar 40, 50, 168, 170, 206
Cambridge 176
INDEX OF NAMES AND SUBJECTS
262 ixrrx or x.vrs .xr stnrc+s
Caria 31
Cassius Dio 98, 109
Celibacy 138, 143
Celsus 179
Cfar Sakhnin 168
Chaniotis, Angelos 258
Charax Spasinou 112
Charity 106, 112
Charles, R.H. 9
Chi-Rho 216
Christ, portrayal of 183, 212, 216
Christians 5556, 77, 139
Christianity 47, 69, 91
Circumcision 22, 25, 2829, 47,
9495, 97, 102108, 149, 215, 245,
255
Citizenship 27
Clarian Oracle of Apollo 212
Codex 77
Cohen, Shaye 156, 159, 162,
165166, 170
Community Rule 143
Constantine 18, 170, 215216, 223,
227, 230, 255
Constantinople 255
Cornelius Labeo 212
Council of Jamnia 70
Council of Nicaea 216
Cowley Lecturership in Post-biblical
Hebrew 2
Cowley, Sir Arthur 6
Creation 167
Cumanus 74, 221
Cybele 253
Cyprus 55
Cyrene 55, 252
Damascus 92, 151
Damascus Rule 6
Daniel, book of 69, 192197, 2002
Daphne 228
Dead Sea Scrolls 7, 910, 14, 34,
38, 46, 76, 126, 137, 146, 157, 161,
169, 210
Dead Sea sectarians 33, 38, 40, 50, 89,
100, 125126, 137143, 157, 166
Decapolis 148, 171, 225
Deeds of sale 43
Delement 198199
Deling of the hands 7073, 7577,
80, 82, 221
Demetrius the Chronographer 95, 106
Destruction of the Second
Temple 52, 84, 123, 147, 157159,
161, 163, 178, 208, 221, 233, 240,
244
Diana 150
Diaspora
Centrality of the Jerusalem Temple
in the world-view of diaspora
Jews 645, 221
Judaism in the Diaspora 48, 512,
56, 623, 65, 67, 93, 97, 1001,
14552, 219231, 23347
Dietary Laws 47, 112, 142, 167, 187,
189190, 194, 198, 203, 215, 226,
245, 255
Dio Chrysostom 35, 139, 142
Dionysius of Halicarnassus 37
Dionysus 213, 216
Divine Name, the 8182
Domitian 2729, 54
Dora 227
Driver, Sir Godfrey 10
Dura-Europos 8, 11, 74, 211212, 236
Ebionites 185
Ecclesiastes 6972
Edom 104
Egyptian Jews 25, 55, 63, 65, 112,
222, 227
Eleazar 95, 196
Eleazar b. Dima, R. 167
Elephantine 6
Eliezer, R. 168
Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, R. 158
Elijah 193
Elsner, Jas 258
En el-Ghuweir 142
En Gedi 63, 154
Enoch 9
Ephesus 85, 150
Ephraim 36
Epictetus 29, 97, 107
Epicureans 167
Epiphanius 36, 153, 155, 160, 181,
227
Eschatology 40
Essenes 9, 33, 35, 38, 50, 102, 119,
135, 137139, 141143, 153162,
164, 171, 185, 198, 210, 222, 240
Esther, book of 69, 71
Eupolemus 95
Eusebius 180181, 230
Expulsion of Christians from
synagogues 145
Expulsion of the Jews from Rome in
139 BCE 108
ixrrx or x.vrs .xr stnrc+s 263
Ezekiel 207, 212
Ezekiel the Tragedian 95, 209
Ezra 41, 73, 85, 105, 220
Family 105
Feldman, Louis 47
First Revolt 189
First-century Jerusalem 123
First-century Judaea 140
Fiscus Judaicus 2528, 30, 54, 159,
227, 242
Flavian dynasty 54, 223
Form criticism 15
Formal Assyrian characters 76
Fourth Philosophy, the 35, 37, 45,
140141, 165, 240
Frey, Jean-Baptiste 8
Fuks, Alexander 6
Gaius Caligula 37, 48, 52, 226
Galilee 23, 44, 48, 158, 171, 187,
189190
Jews in Galilee 1112, 103, 155, 201
Gallio 152
Gamaliel, R. 45, 121, 170, 228
Gaster, Moses 9
Gauls 241
Gaza 225
Gehinnom 99100
Genesis Rabba 14
Genistai 155
Ger 101102
Gerasa 151, 225
Gerim gerurim 24
Gibeah 81
Gnostics 170, 185
God-fearers 24, 3032, 102, 113,
150, 214, 237, 243, 245246, 248,
250251, 253, 257259
Goldsmid Professor of Hebrew 2
Goodenough, Erwin 1011
Gospels 8486, 124, 129
Gospel of John 129
Gospel of Matthew 99, 102, 119, 132
Goulder, Michael 162
Graetz, Heinrich 70
Grammatikos 84
Greek Jewish literature 135
Gregory of Nazianzus 215
Hades 213
Hadrian 25, 55
Haireseis 3537, 45, 119, 125, 141,
153, 164
Hakhamim 35, 3841, 4345
Half-Jews 23, 30, 110
Hamiram 39, 72
Hammat Tiberias 12, 206, 2134
Mosaic at Hammat Tiberias 205
Synagogue at Hammat
Tiberias 217
Hananel 65
Harnack, Adolf 151
Hasidism 44
Hasmonaeans 94, 103, 146
Hasmonaean High Priests 21
Hebrew University of Jerusalem 2, 162
Hecataeus 211212
Hekhalot 12
Helios 206, 213
Hellenianoi 155
Hellenism 16
Hellenistic Jews 170, 187
Hengel, Martin 1617
Herod 41, 47, 49, 51, 623, 6567,
94, 100, 104, 211
Herodian dynasty 94
Herod Antipas 211
Herr, Moshe David 162
High priests 50, 65, 84, 123,
128130, 134, 147148, 209, 219
Hillel 22, 41, 193
House of 39, 72, 194, 1967
Hinton St. Mary 216
Hippolytus 119, 140, 239
Hoenig, S. 198
Holy of Holies 209, 219, 234
Homosexuality 106, 112
Honorius 247
Hyllarima 225
Hypaepa 250
Hypsistarians 215
Hypsistos 214
Hyrcanus 65
Iao 213
Identity 2133
Idolatry 30, 103, 111, 180, 221, 236,
251
Idumaeans 2223, 94, 104, 110
Image of God 20517
Interpretation of the Torah 1201
Irenaeus 169
Ishmael, R. 72, 202
Isiaci 241, 247
Isis 244
Ituraeans 22, 94
Izates 95, 107
264 ixrrx or x.vrs .xr stnrc+s
Jacob 104
Jacob of Cfar Sima 167
Jacobs, Louis 15
James, the brother of Jesus 12847
James, the brother of John 145
Jeremias, Joachim 17, 84
Jerusalem 8, 52, 5963, 65, 67, 80,
154
The Jerusalem Church 147
Jerusalem Talmud 12, 14, 194, 201,
246
Jesus 83, 93, 99100, 120, 128130,
141, 147, 178
Jesus b. Ananias 147
Jesus b. Phiabi 65
Jewish Christians 33, 35, 38, 50, 93,
147149, 152, 170, 180, 182, 185
Jewish law 44
Jews College, London 4, 15
Jezreel 11
John Chrysostom 221, 227
John Hyrcanus 43
John of Antioch 109, 130
John of Gischala 189190, 198
John the Baptist 35, 141
Jonathan the Sadducee 43
Joseph and Asenath 95, 105
Josephus 22, 3339, 4142, 4548,
52, 55, 6061, 63, 66, 77, 80, 85,
89, 9293, 9798, 100101, 103,
107, 109110, 114, 117120, 124,
126128, 132135, 137141, 151,
154155, 157158, 163165, 170,
187191, 197202, 208, 210211,
220, 223, 226, 239241, 244
Joshua ben Hananiah, R. 170
Joshua haGarsi, R. 156
Josiah 42
Jubilees, book of 9, 104
Judaea 445, 48, 5155, 59, 6367,
74, 79, 117, 119, 123, 138, 139,
148, 151, 153
Judaean Desert documents 4344,
82
Judah, R. 71, 221, 223
Judah haNasi, R. 12, 191, 193, 195,
199202, 257
Judah, kingdom of 36, 104
Judah Nesiah, R. 191, 194, 196,
200201, 203
Judaizing Christians 185
Judaizing Gnostics 185
Judaizing heresies 181
Julia Severa 113
Julian 56, 214, 255
Hymn to King Helios 214
Julius Caesar 24
Julius Paris 108
Jupiter 212
Jupiter Capitolinus 54
Jupiter Dolichenus 244, 247
Jupiter Sabazius 108
Justin Martyr 11, 36, 155, 156, 209
Justinian 227228
Justinianic Code 228
Kabbalah 12
Kahle, Paul 1314
Karaites 125, 135, 138, 161, 255
Kenyon, Sir Frederick 13
Ketubah 82
Leiman, Sidney 70
Leontii 250
Leontopolis 22, 52, 63, 108, 222
Levites 51, 86
Leviticus 142
Lewis, David 6
Libations 74, 199
Liber 213
Life after death 40, 164, 167
Livy 211
Luke 99
Lulavim 254
M. Ulpius Traianus 55
Ma'amad system 63
Maccabees 16, 104, 127
Maccabees, Fourth book of 106
Macedonia 225
Macedonians 188
Macrobius 212
Magic 185
Maimonides 57
Mar Samuel 198
Marcion 184
Marcionites 185
Marmorstein, Arthur 15
Marriage 104105, 110, 197, 202,
241
Adultery 106
Divorce documents 43
Get 83
Marriage contracts 43
Marriage customs 44
Married couple 83
Martyrdom 146, 151
Masoretes 13
ixrrx or x.vrs .xr stnrc+s 265
Matthew 100101
Mecca 51, 60
Megillot 71
Meir, R. 223
Menasseh 36
Menorah 247, 249, 254
Meristai 155
Mesharsheya, R. 71, 193194, 200
Mesopotamia 55
Jews of Mesopotamia 55, 234
Messiah 56
Messianism 40
Metilius 108
Middle Judaism 1
Midrashic exegesis 16
Mikveh 40
Minim 46, 76, 135, 156, 160, 163
173, 180, 184
Minuth 18, 166, 168, 170172
Minyan 157
Miqsat Maasei haTorah 50, 169
Mishnah 12, 21, 22, 44, 4749, 56,
71, 84, 158159, 166, 171172, 180,
192, 194, 196197, 201202, 257
Mission 934, 100, 104, 243
Christian mission 91, 95, 100, 114,
148, 150
Jewish mission 98, 103, 107, 109
Mitchell, Stephen 214215, 259
Mithras 244
Mithraism 254
Mithraists 241, 247
Modius 190, 198
Momigliano, Arnaldo 18
Moore, George Foot 15
Mosaics 2113, 216, 247, 249, 251,
256
Moses 41, 81, 89, 180181, 220
Mount Hermon 187
Mount Sinai 31, 81, 254
Mucianus 188189
Muslims 57
Mysticism 123, 210
Naaran 205206
Nabataeans 83, 103
Nasaraeans 155
Nashim 172
Nehemiah 220
Nepotianus 108
Nero 53
Nerva 26, 28, 5455, 242
New Testament 35, 8386, 101, 124
Nicanor 49
Nicolaus of Damascus 66
Nicomedia 61
Niddah 155
Nisibis 193, 195
Noachide Laws 31, 246
Numenius of Apamaea 213
Oenoanda 214
Offerings on altars 245
Oil 187, 189203
Omer offering 40
On the Sublime 96
Onias 222
Oracle of Apollo 214
Oral law 118
Oral Torah 42, 75, 85, 118
Origen 213, 241
Orpheus 106
Ossaeans 155
Paganism 734, 113, 1501, 171
Palmyra 63, 227
Pamphylia 245
Pantokrator 215
Paradosis 42
Paroikos 101
Parthian territory 6263
Parting of the ways 18, 175186
Passover 50, 61
Paul 39, 100, 119, 145, 148152,
169, 178
Pauls epistles 150
Pauls sufferings 148
Paulinus 230
Pella 103
Pentateuch 73, 7576, 81
Pentateuch scroll 88
Pentecost 61
Pergamum 61, 245
Persecution of early Christians 146
Perspiration 52
Peter 130, 145
Petronius 226
Pharisees 9, 17, 35, 3740, 423,
45, 50, 72, 75, 8485, 98102,
117121, 124, 129133, 138139,
141, 146, 155, 161162, 164, 166,
169, 239240
Perushim 39, 124
Pharos 75
Philadelphia 225
Philo 8, 13, 28, 3435, 37, 42, 45,
48, 52, 61, 67, 75, 85, 89, 92,
9697, 101102, 108, 110112, 114,
266 ixrrx or x.vrs .xr stnrc+s
118, 139, 141, 149, 161, 208, 214,
220, 222, 240
Philo the Elder 95
Phocylides 106
Phrygia 113
Phrygian Great Mother 229
Pilgrimage 22, 5962, 65, 67
Pinchas 40
Pionios 151
Piyyut 56
Platonism 185, 240
Pliny the Elder 35, 61, 67, 1389,
142, 154
Pliny the Younger 229
Pogroms 151
Polybius 37
Polycarp 151
Pompey 51, 63
Pontius Pilate 148
Pontus 229
Porphyry 230
Procopius 227
Proselytes 24, 2732, 9299, 105, 107
111, 114, 151, 238, 242,
244
Proselytizing 91, 113, 236
Proselytos 1002, 243
Psalms 73
Psalms Scroll 13
Pseudepigrapha 9, 69, 76
Pseudo-Aristeas 95, 106, 221
Pseudo-Hecataeus 49, 95, 106
Ptolemies 64, 2267
Ptolemy Philadelphus 221
Purity 17, 40, 143
Qumran 67, 13, 50, 76, 84, 88,
137138, 141, 157
Rab 1928
Rabbinic Judaism 12, 44, 47, 69,
1712, 182, 238, 255, 257
Rabbinic Jews 12, 171172, 182,
238
Rabbinic texts 34, 197, 202, 235
Rabin, Chaim 10
Red heifer 40, 50, 132, 147, 169
Redaction criticism 15
Renunciations of claim 43
Resurrection 130, 132133
Rome
Jews in Rome 52
Judaism in Rome 235
Rebuilding of the city of Rome 66
Roth, Cecil 10
Rowley, H.H. 10
Sabbath 47, 88, 96, 106, 132, 187,
215, 220, 226, 245, 255
Sacrice 47, 49, 5052, 74, 129,
134, 147, 157158, 214, 222223,
228229
Sadducees 9, 33, 356, 38, 40, 42,
45, 50, 7172, 118120, 123135,
138139, 141, 146, 153, 155157,
159161, 164, 166167, 169171,
185, 240
Samaritans 9, 25, 167, 248
Samuel, R. 71, 192194, 199
Sanders, Ed 17, 85, 88, 123, 132
Sardis 8, 11, 224, 233, 235237, 249,
251, 253
Synagogue in Sardis 237, 249250,
252, 256259
Saul 147
Schechter, Solomon 6
Scholem, Gershom 12
Schrer, Emil 4, 17
Schwartz, Daniel 162
Scrolls of Torah 80
Second tithe money 64
Sefer Harazim 206
Seleucids 86, 226
Charter for Jerusalem 86
Seleucus Nicator 188
Sepphoris 168, 205206
Septuagint 13, 75, 77, 79, 81, 92, 96,
101102, 105, 112, 221
Severus 12
Shammai 41, 72, 193
House of 72, 194, 1967
Shelomzion 41
Shimon b. Eliezer, R. 166
Shimon b. Shetah 41
Shimon bar Yohai, R. 197
Shiur Komah 208210, 212
Shofar 249, 251
Sibylline Oracles 956, 106
Sicarii 140
Sifra 246
Simon b. Gamaliel 45, 121
Simon bar Kosiba 556, 126
Simon b. Menasia, R. 71
Simon the Maccabee 108
Slaves 105
Smith, Morton 206, 210
Smith, Sir George Adam 17
Smyrna 151
ixrrx or x.vrs .xr stnrc+s 267
Soferim 89
Sol Invictus 213
Solar worship 205217
Song of Songs 6971
Sosthenes 152
Sotah 83
Spaniards 241
Sptjudentum 1
Stephen 145, 147
Stern, Menahem 6, 34, 47
Stern, Sacha 171, 238
Stobi 225
Strabo 103
Suetonius 2728
Swete, H.B. 13
Synagogues 24, 74, 97, 113, 149,
150, 205, 207, 213, 2204, 22730,
2513
Gentile perceptions of
synagogues 230
Synagogue authorities 152
Synagogue services 73
Synoptic gospels 8485, 129
Syrian Jews 63, 188190, 198
Syria Palaestina 56
Tabernacles 61
Tacitus 35, 98, 109, 152, 227
Talmud 1, 5, 21, 172, 180, 198
Tannaim 39, 44, 56, 166, 168171
Tannaitic law 43
Tarfon, R. 187
Targumim 14, 89, 209
Tarsus 100
Tcherikover, Victor 6
Te llin 81, 119, 156, 167
Teicher, J.L. 10
Temple in Jerusalem 47, 53, 5960,
6165, 67, 7274, 86, 88, 128129,
134, 157, 211, 219220, 228, 230,
247, 252
Temple cult 52, 154
Temple income 64
Temple inscription 22
Temple of Jupiter 26, 242
Temple of Pax 54
Temple of Rome and Augustus 65
Tertullian 227
Terumah 70
Testament of Abraham 106
Theodosian Code 228, 248
Theodosius I 247, 2556
Theodosius II 227228, 230
Theos Hypsistos 214
Therapeutae 35
Thucydides 37
Tiberias, Jews of 211, 216
Tiberius Julius Alexander 28, 149,
164
Timagenes 103
Titus 54, 80, 211, 252
Torah 49, 74, 76, 80, 85, 100, 183,
200, 211, 223, 234, 245
Torah shrine 251
Tosefta 22, 30, 47, 158, 171172,
223224, 246
Trajan 55, 61, 229
Trypho 155, 209
Tsadukim 124125
Tumtum 172
Two Powers in heaven 167168
Tyre 230
Uzzah 81
Valens 228
Valentinian 228
Valerius Maximus 98, 108, 229
Varro 211212
Vermes, Geza 10, 18, 137, 187
Vespasian 2627, 5355, 80, 252
Vitellius 103
Wisdom of Solomon 95, 106
Wissenschaft des Judentums 2, 4, 12
Yadin, Yigael 7
Yavneh, rabbis in 52, 154, 158159,
163, 165
Yeshua ben Pantera 167168
Yohanan, R. 46, 196, 200202
Yohanan b. Zakkai 22, 39, 52, 154,
163
Yose, R. 155156
Zadok 40, 125, 126, 128
Zealots 33, 35, 38, 138140
Zerubbabel 230
Zeus 213
Zodiac 8, 11, 205207, 213
Acts of the Apostles 243
2:911 67
2:11 101
2:4647 147
4:17 129
5:17 129
5:40 146
6:5 92, 101
6:9 67
6:914 147
7:5160 145
9:12 148
12:119 145
13:43 101
16:21 152
18:6 152
18:1213 152
18:17 152
19:2427 150
19:35 85
22:2526 149
23:78 132133
26:1011 147
Arrx.xrrn Porvnis+on
On the Jews 106
Anni.x
Dissertations
2.9.20 29, 107
Atots+ixr
Civ.
4.31 211
Cons.
1.22.30 212
Babylonian Talmud
Abodah Zarah
35b36a 192
Berachot
55a 81
Megillah
29a 223
7a 71
Nidd.
33b 155
Pesahim
96a 97
Sanhedrin
56a 31
91a 156, 160
97a 113
Shabbat
104a 81
108a 156
13b17b 197
14a 70
146a 111
72b 224
Temurah
14b 84
Baruch
1:1014 62
2 Baruch 158
72:4 111
82:3 111
Ben Sira
38.2439.11 86
38.3439.3 87
Cassius Dio
37.17.2 211, 213
57.18, 5a 98
67.14.13 27
69.12.12 55
2 Chronicles
34.13 86
Cicrno
De Prov. Cons.
5.10 26
Pro Flacco
28.66 102
28.6669 52, 62
CIJ 1449 222, 226, 227
Cod. Just.
1.8 216
INDEX OF ANCIENT LITERATURE
Cod. Theod.
1.9.4 228
7.8.2 228
9.45.4 230
16.8.4 227
16.8.22 228
16.8.25 228
2 Corinthians
7:1214 104
11:22 149
11:24 148
CPJ 129 226
Daniel 1:8 193, 197, 202
7:9 208
Dead Sea Scrolls
4QMMT 40, 125
CD 9.1016 38
Pesher Nahum 36
Deuteronomy
4:1112, 14 208
4:1224 207
4:1524 210
11:14 187
12:13 103
14:26 60
16:16 59
17:3 210
24:14 83
27:15 211
Dioronts
40.3.4 2112
Eccl. 9:78 187
1 Enoch
14:1822 20910
3 Enoch
48A 210
Erirn.xits
Pan.
19.5.67 153
20.3.12 155
30.11.4 227
Etsrnits
H.E. 181
10.3.1 230
10.4.12 230
10.4.336 230
Praep. ev.
8.10 208
9.18.1 114
9.27.4 112
Exodus
3:2 208
20:23 211
22:20 102
22:27 112
23:17 59
24: 910 207
25.1022 81
33:1723 207
34.27 89
Ezekiel
1.26 207
3.13 81
8.16 208
11.16 223
44.18 52
Ezekiel the Tragedian
6872 209
4 Ezra 52, 158
Genesis
1:2628 207
17:1213 95
Gnroonv or N.zi.xzts
Or. 18.5 215
Hirrorv+ts
Refutation of all Heresies
9.1828 140
9.28.3 119
Hon.cr
Satires
I.4.1423 98102
Isaiah 1.6 187
Jeremiah
8:2 210
15.16 81
19:13 210
270 ixrrx or .xcirx+ ri+rn.+tnr
Jerusalem Talmud
Abodah Zarah
2.8, 41d 194
Sanhedrin
29c 46
Shabb.
1.5, 3c 197
Yoma
5:2 209
John 9:22 145
Jonx Cnnvsos+ov
Adversus Iudaeos
1.3 2 27
1.3.3 221
Jonx Lvrts
De Mens.
4.53 214
Josrrnts
Against Apion 55, 117, 139
40, 158, 163,
164
1.3741 80
1.424 80
1.4756 140
1.199 49
2.102109 48, 55
2.104 51
2.165 85
2.175 220
2.17581 80
2.17980 240
2.17981 139, 163
2.179210 36
2.181 208
2.1847 85
2.1857 139
2.1902 208
2.190219 200
2.191 211
2.193199 55
2.210 93, 110
2.237 112
Antiquities 25, 37, 127,
164, 190, 191
1.17 77
1.161 114
1.167 114
4.203 63
4.207 112
10.51 42
10.190194 197
10.278 131
12.119120 188
12.142 86
1318 37
13.6273 52
13.667 222
13.171 140
13.172 131
13.173 131
13.2578 94
13.293 124
13.296 43
13.296297 120
13.297 42, 118, 132
13.298 41, 117, 127
13.319 94, 103
13.397 103
13.408 42, 11820
13.408 11820
14 151
14.185267 62
14.260 222
14.403 23, 110
15.30216 67
15.380 66
15.38090 66
15.385 66
15.41020 48
15.42131 66
16 151
16.15055 66
16.16078 62
16.163 214
16.164 226
17.2931 65
17.41 43, 117, 120
17.415 100
17.42 41
17.162 66
17.214 61
17.31213 64
18 37
18.4 45
18.11 140
18.1122 141
18.12 119, 121
18.13 131
18.15 41, 100, 117,
120, 129, 134
18.16 133
18.17 127, 129, 133
18.23 45, 140
18.814 98
ixrrx or .xcirx+ ri+rn.+tnr 271
18.121 103
18.259 37, 141
19.294 49
19.3003 226
19.305 226
20.1753 24
20.1796 150
20.345 113
20.3442 95
20.3448 92
20.389 107
20.44 95
20.100 28
20.115 74, 80
20.139 94
20.1867 51
20.199 128, 131,
1334
20.200a 147
20.21922 66
Jewish War 37, 117, 127,
164
1.110 1201
1.64855 211
2 37
2.108 140
2.119 140
2.11966 140
2.119161 35
2.123 198
2.128129 210
2.142 102
2.148 210
2.148149 210
2.162 120
2.164 131
2.1646 131
2.166 119, 133, 135
2.224 61
2.228231 221
2.22931 74, 80
2.284296 148
2.2856 97
2.28591 222
2.413 53
2.454 108
2.457498 148
2.463 104
2.480 151
2.55061 92
2.559561 148, 151
2.563 134
2.591592 189
2.592 187
3.4950 59
3.252 85
4.31921 131, 134
5.184227 48
5.201206 64
5.210 49
5.21213 49
6.127 52
6.23866 54
6.268 53
6.300 219
6.300309 147
6.42027 50
6.425 61
7.41 23
7.44 226
7.445 74
7.45 97, 150, 222
7.150 80, 211
7.15862 54
7.218 26, 54
7.42032 52
7.42036 22
Life 37, 127, 164,
191
10 35, 127, 140
1011 125, 141
1012 45
12 141
65 211
74 1989
746 190
113 104, 112
134 80
191 43, 120
1968 85
418 80
Jubilees
30.14 51
Judith
10.5 199
12.14 199
14.10 94
Jts+ix M.n+vn
Dialogue with Trypho
80:45 155
Jts+ixi.x
Novella 228
272 ixrrx or .xcirx+ ri+rn.+tnr
Jt\rx.r
Satires
14.96106 215
14.97102 2930
1 Kings
21:3 210
23:11 208
2 Kings
18.32 187
22.313 85
Leviticus
19:4 211
2 Maccabees
2:21 238
9:17 92
M.ivoxirrs
Guide of the Perplexed
3.32, 46 57
Mark
1:22 84
7:15 120
7:5 120
11:11 60
Matthew
3:7 132
7:29 84
15:13 120
17:10 84
22:2333 132
23:34 120
23:5 119
23:15 9899,
102
23:28 120
Mishnah
Abodah Zarah
2.6 191
Abot
1 41
5:21 80
6:9 86
Ber.
9:5 167
Bikkurim
3:3 60
Eduy.
5:3 72
Erub.
6:1 132
6:2 133
Hull.
2:9 167
Kelim
15:6 72, 88
Ketubot
4:12 44
Megillah
3.1 221
3:23 223
4:8 168
4:89 167
4:9 1678
Menah.
10:3 132
Nedarim
9:2 83
Nidd.
4:2 155
Parah
3:7 50, 132, 169
R.Sh.
2:1 168
Sanhedrin
10:13 171
Shabbat
1:4 197
2:2 187
Sheqalim
2:1 65
2:4 65
Sotah
9:15 170
Tohorot
4:7 86
Yadaim
3:5 70, 82
4:5 76
4:6 39, 75, 132,
221
Yoma
3:10 49, 158
N.nv.xirrs
Commentary on Lev.
1.9 57
Nehemiah
8.12 220
12.1213 85
Numbers
5.1131 83
ixrrx or .xcirx+ ri+rn.+tnr 273
Oniorx
C. Celsum
1.15 213
Philippians
3:5 149
Pniro
De Spec. Leg.
4.14950 42, 118
Flacc.
413 226
Leg.
133 221222
134 222
156 220
278 214
On Provid.
2, 64 67
On the Migration of
Abraham
89 97
On the Special Laws
1.51 102
1.53 112
1.56 49
1.69 61
1.74 49
1.156 49
2.448 112
2.176 209
4.178 111
On the Virtues
35 (187) 92
Q.o.p.
81 222
Questions and Answers on
Exodus
II 2 97, 102
II 5 112
Vita Mosis
2.412 75, 81
2.44 13
2.205 112
2.232 93
Pinkri rr R. Erirzrn
21 81
Prixv +nr Errrn
Natural History
5.14 154
5.17 67
Prixv +nr Yotxorn
Epp.
10.3334 61
10.50 229
10.96 151
Ponrnvnv
Adv. Christianos
Frag. 76 230
Pnocorits
De Aed.
6.2 227
Psrtro-Anis+r.s
16 112, 259
83120 62
9295 51
189 112
Pseudo-Pniro
LAB
26 51
2 Samuel
6:7 81
Scholia in Lucanum
2.593 211
Sefer Harazim 206
Srxrc.
On Superstition 26
Sibylline Oracles
III 565 112
IV 164 97
Sifra Lev.
1 202
Sifre Deut.
49 210
313 1134
S+n.no
Geog.
16.2.35 2112
Str+oxits
Domitian
12.2 27
274 ixrrx or .xcirx+ ri+rn.+tnr
T.ci+ts
Histories
5.5 23, 2930,
93, 104
5.5.4 227
5.5.5 49
5.8.1 47
T.notv Jox.+n.x
Deut. 32:3 81
Trn+trri.x
De Jejuniis
16 227
1 Thess.
2:1516 152
Tobit
1.1011 199
Tosefta 158
Abodah Zarah
4(5).8 1949
8(9).4 30
Ber.
6(7):6 213
6(7):21 (Lieb.) 167
Hull.
1:1 167
2:20 1689
2:223 167
2:24 168
Kel.B.M.
5:8 73
Ma"aser Sheni
1:12 60
Megillah
3(2):7 223
3(4):37 (Lieb.) 166
Nidd.
5:3 155
Sanh.
8:7 167
Shabb.
13(14):5 (Lieb.) 167
Sheqalim
2:3 64
Sukkah
4:6 221, 224, 237
Yad.
2:12 75
2:13 76
2:14 71
4:6 71
Tnvrno
Dialogue
114 209
V.rrnits M.xivts
1.3.2 229
ixrrx or .xcirx+ ri+rn.+tnr 275