Hellenism in the Land of Israel

Article excerpt

edited by John J. Collins and Gregory E. Sterling. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. 343 pp. $45.00.

This book is volume 13 in the series Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity. It is a compilation of twelve essays under the rubric "Hellenism in the land of Israel," which is also the title of the book. Some of the essays, however, traverse the borders of the land of Israel and venture into places like Phoenicia and cities like Alexandria. This is inevitable, since Jews inhabited other parts of the Roman empire and not merely Palestine during the Second Temple period.

The book commences with an essay by Martin Hengel entitled "Judaism and Hellenism Revisited." In this essay he revisits (not revises!) his initial thesis formulated in the late sixties of the previous century, that the expression "Hellenistic Judaism" can be used to describe not only Judaism of the diaspora but Judaism in Palestine as well. There was according to him, no major difference between Judaism of the diaspora and Judaism at home since both were equally influenced by the Hellenistic culture.

When I read the other chapters it dawned on me that Hengel's presence looms everywhere. It is as if the book was planned as a Festschrift for Martin Hengel, but then I remembered the comments of Collins in the introduction: "The volume originated as papers at a conference on Hellenism in the Land of Israel" held in 1999 at the University of Notre Dame. The issue of Hengel's presence should be explained as follows: He is one of two scholars who contributed immensely to our knowledge about the influence of the Hellenistic culture on Judaism and the importance of this for our understanding of early Judaism, Rabbinism, the New Testament, and early Christianity. The other scholar is Elias Bickerman (1897-1981). His presence is also felt throughout the book, and Hengel pays homage to this great Jewish scholar of the Second Temple period. It was Bickerman -- Hengel confesses -- who taught him the historical method and whose book Der Gott der Makkabäer made an everlasting impression on him. …