Sabbath, the Day of Delight

By Abraham E. Millgram | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE SABBATH IN JUDAEO-HELLENISTIC LITERATURE

THE problems of modern Jewish life are not altogether modern. The Jews of 2,000 years ago were already a dispersed people faced with problems arising from their minority status. True, they were a larger minority within the Roman Empire than are the Jews of today within any state. But their strength of numbers only aroused greater suspicions in those who saw in the Jews a large alien group determined to live in accordance with alien traditions and convictions. Many Gentiles suspected, feared, and hated this alien group, and the result was that "almost every note in the cacophony of medieval and modern anti-Semitism was sounded by the ancient writers."1

Equally disturbing was the problem arising from the process of Hellenization of Diaspora Jewry. The Jews not only spoke Greek as their native tongue but forgot their Hebrew to such an extent that the Bible had to be translated even for synagogue use. And so much were they influenced by Greek culture that they found it necessary to give the Bible the sanction of Greek philosophy.

These problems stimulated a number of literary men among the Jews to write in defense of their people and their culture. These writers sought to deepen the Jewish faith in God, to defend the Jews against their detractors, and to demonstrate the superiority of Judaism to paganism. Among the outstanding Judaeo-Hellenistic writers was

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