Ancient Judaism in Its Hellenistic Context

Ancient Judaism in Its Hellenistic Context

Ancient Judaism in Its Hellenistic Context

Ancient Judaism in Its Hellenistic Context


This volume explores the ways in which Jews lived within the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman contexts, how they negotiated their religious and social boundaries in their own distinctive manner. Scholars demonstrate how the Jewish encounter with Hellenism led not to a conscious struggle with alien forces but rather in many instances to an active re-tailoring and re-shaping of tradition in light of their material, ideological and philosophical surroundings. That is to say, the Jews, a minority people, maintained their identity by adapting the trappings, to varying degrees, of their milieu. These essays also reflect many issues that emerge when we study the development of several aspects of Jewish Civilization through the ages in light of broad socio-political, cultural and philosophical contexts.


I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it
with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion,
against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a
warrior’s sword.

Zechariah 9:13

Are we Greeks? Are we Jews? We live in the
difference between the Jew and the Greek, which
is perhaps the unity of what is called history.

Jacques Derrida,
Violence and Metaphysics

The encounter of Judaism and Hellenism has engaged the minds of some of the finest scholars of the ancient world over the last century. the names of Elias Bickerman, Victor Tcherikover and Martin Hengel come to mind. in recent years there has again been an upsurge of interest in this encounter, focusing especially on the issue of Jewish identity in the Hellenistic world. the problems that confronted Judaism in antiquity are hauntingly similar to those that confront it

Elias Bickerman, Der Gott der Makkabäer: Untersuchungen über Sinn und Ursprung der
makkäischen Erhebung
(Berlin: Schocken, 1937); English trans. by H. R. Moehring,
The God of the Maccabees: Studies on the Meaning and Origin of the Maccabean Revolt (Leiden:
E.J. Brill, 1979); Victor Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (reprinted ed.
Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999) and M. Hengel, Judentum und Hellenismus:
Studien zu ihrer Begegnung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Palästinas bis zur Mitte des 2 Jh.s.
(Tübingen: Mohr / Siebeck, 1973); English trans. by J. Bowden, Judaism and
Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine during the Early Hellenistic Period
(one vol.
ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981).

See, for example, Eric Gruen, Heritage and Hellenism: the Reinvention of Jewish Tradition
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), John J. Collins, Between Athens and
Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora
, (revised ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
2000), John J. Collins, and Greg E. Sterling, eds., Hellenism in the Land of Israel, (Notre
Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), John M. G. Barclay, Jews in the
Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 B.C.E.–117 C.E.)
(Edinburgh: Clark,
1996), Lee I. Levine, Judaism and Hellenism in Antiquity: Con fl ict or Con fl uence (Seattle,
Wash: University of Washington, 1998), James L. Kugel, ed., Shem in the Tents of
: Essays on the Encounter of Judaism and Hellenism (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002).

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