Early Christianity and Classical Culture: Comparative Studies in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe

By Abraham Johannes Malherbe | Go to book overview

PAUL AND HIS PREDECESSORS IN THE DIASPORA
SOME REFLECTIONS ON ETHNIC IDENTITY IN THE
FRAGMENTARY HELLENISTIC JEWISH AUTHORS

Carl R. Holladay


Before Philo and Josephus

It has long been known that Philo and Josephus stand not at the beginning but at the end of a long tradition of Second Temple Jewish writers who seriously interacted with the Hellenistic-Roman world. Philo is often thought to embody the intriguing tensions and possibilities that come with living in the Diaspora. The sheer volume of his writings, to say nothing of his level of engagement with Hellenistic tradition, makes it impossible to ignore him as a major voice speaking from the Jewish Diaspora. To what extent he was typical of Diaspora Jews has long been debated. Josephus, by contrast, spoke from Palestine, at least initially, and while Greek was his second language, his equally voluminous writings have been preserved largely in Greek. For this reason, he belongs among the company of Hellenistic Jewish writers.

If Philo is a voice speaking primarily from the Diaspora and Josephus is in the first instance a Palestinian voice that nevertheless speaks from the Diaspora back to the homeland, each had his own predecessors. Many of the writings traceable to this period survive more or less in tact; at least, they survive as entire documents. Others were less fortunate, surviving only in scattered quotations in later writers, such as the first century BCE pagan writer Alexander Polyhistor and later Christian writers, mainly Clement and Eusebius. They have acquired the equally unfortunate designation “Fragmentary Hellenistic Jewish Authors.”1 Their brevity and the scattered nature of the quotations make it difficult to generalize about them, but also to place and date them. Those most likely to have a Palestinian provenance are Eupole

1 For texts and translations, see C. R. Holladay, Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors (4 vols.; SBLTT; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1983–96). English translations are available in J. H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985) 2.775–918. German translations are available in Jüdische Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer zeil (Gütersloh: Mohn 1980–83) 1, 2; 3, 2; 4, 3.

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