Jewish Martyrdom in Antiquity

From the Books of Maccabees to the Babylonian Talmud


This volume offers a comprehensive discussion of all relevant sources concerning Jewish martyrdom in Antiquity. By viewing these narratives together, tracing their development and comparing them to other traditions, the authors seek to explore how Jewish is Jewish martyrdom? To this end, they analyse the impact of the changing social and religious-cultural circumstances and the interactions with Graeco-Roman and Christian traditions. This results in the identification of important continuities and discontinuities. Consequently, while political ideals that are prominent in 2 and 4 Maccabees are remarkably absent from rabbinic sources, the latter reveal a growing awareness of Christian motifs and discourse.

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Friedrich Avemarie, Ph.D. (1995) and Habilitation (2000), Tübingen University, Professor of New Testament and Ancient Judaism at the University of Marburg (2002-2012). He published several monographs on New Testament and rabbinic topics. His collected essays Neues Testament und frührabbinisches Judentum appeared posthumously (Mohr-Siebeck, 2013).

Jan Willem van Henten, Ph.D. (1986), Leiden University, is Emeritus Professor of Religion at the University of Amsterdam and Extra-Ordinary Professor of Old and New Testament at Stellenbosch University (South-Africa). He published widely on Jewish and Christian martyrdom, the Maccabean Books and Flavius Josephus, including Judean Antiquities 15. Translation and Commentary (Brill, 2014).

Yair Furstenberg, Ph.D. (2011), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is Associate Professor of Talmud and chair of the Department of Talmud and Halakha at the Hebrew University. His research focuses on the history of early rabbinic literature and law within its Graeco-Roman context. Among his publications is Purity and Identity in Ancient Judaism (Indiana University Press, forthcoming).

Part 1: Setting the Stage

1 Introduction
 1 The Problem of Jewish Martyrdom
 2 ‘Martyrdom’ and ‘Noble Death’: Definitions, Motifs and Technical Vocabulary
 3 History and Memory
 4 Book Plan

2 Between History and Memory
 1 Introduction
 2 Martyrdom and Persecution in the Maccabean Books
 3 ‘The Time of Persecution’ in Rabbinic Memory
 4 Conclusion

3 The Sanctification of God’s Name in Rabbinic Traditions
 1 ‘Sanctification of the Name’ in Early Martyrological Texts
 2 Early Non-Martyrological Material
 3 Shifts of Emphasis in the Amoraic Period

Part 2: Narratives

4 Martyrdom in Second and Fourth Maccabees
 1 Introduction
 2 2 Maccabees
 3 4 Maccabees
 4 Conclusion

5 Jewish Noble Death in Second Temple Literature
 1 Introduction
 2 The Book of Daniel
 3 1 Maccabees
 4 Philo
 5 Assumption of Moses
 6 New Testament
 7 Josephus
 8 Lives of the Prophets
 9 Conclusion

6 The Development of Rabbinic Martyr Traditions
 1 R. Akiva
 2 R. Hanina ben Teradion
 3 R. Yishmael and R. Shimon
 4 R. Yehuda ben Bava
 5 Other Rabbis Whose Death Is Not Reported in Talmudic Sources
 6 Conclusion

7 Non-Rabbinic Martyrs in Rabbinic Literature
 1 Pappus and Lulianus
 2 The Mother and the Seven Sons
 3 Anonymous Victims of the ‘Time of Persecution’
 4 Apostate and Gentile Martyrs: Those Who Acquire Their World in One Hour

Part 3: Themes

8 Religion and Politics: The Martyrs as Heroes of the Jewish People
 1 Introduction
 2 The Martyrs’ Motivations: Religion and Politics
 3 The Martyrs and Razis as Model Citizens of the Jewish State
 4 The Martyrs as Exemplary Figures Characterizing the Jewish People
 5 Defeating the King: The Triumph of the Jewish Way of Life
 6 Conclusion

9 Beneficial Death and Posthumous Reward in Second Temple Literature
 1 Beneficial Death
 2 Vindication
 3 Conclusion

10 The Justification of Violent Death in Rabbinic Literature: From Theodicy to Salvific Death
 1 The Problem of Theodicy
 2 Death as Atonement for One’s Own Sins
 3 Soteriological Perspectives in Early Martyr Legends
 4 The Atoning Effect of the Death of the Righteous
 5 Conclusion: Salvific Death in a Comparative Perspective

11 Rabbinic and Early Christian Perspectives on Martyrdom: Differences and Similarities
 1 Narratives
 2 Martyrdom as Testimony
 3 Theodicy and Eternal Reward
 4 Motivations
 5 An End to Itself?
 6 Social Ties
 7 Conclusion

Conclusion: The Transformation of Jewish Martyrdom within Changing Contexts
Institutes, academic libraries, scholars and post-graduate students in Jewish Studies, Biblical Studies, Ancient History, Religious Studies and Theology.
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