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The 300 years between the beginning of Maccabean resistance against Seleucid rule and the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt were formative for the development of Jewish identity in antiquity. The frequent political changes (from Seleucid to Hasmonean, Herodian and Roman rule) presented profound challenges to Jewish self-understanding. Political adjustments were coupled with internal reconfigurations. We witness the invention and reinterpretation of rituals, the emergence of new religious groups, and the use of scripture as argument. This volume brings together the perspectives of scholars of different background in order to make use of the multifaceted evidence. The interdisciplinary approach leads to a comprehensive picture of the interrelation between identity and politics in this crucial period of ancient Jewish history.

The first book of Maccabees gives a detailed account of the Hasmonean rise to power within the administrative structures of the declining Seleucid Empire. While this picture is altogether plausible as far as the Hasmoneans are concerned, there are obvious holes in the narrative when it comes to rival claims. All opponents are characterized as “lawless” and “impious men.” There are nevertheless some indications that other parties had similar access to Seleucid pretenders, and that the Hasmoneans constantly had to face opposition from groups quite similar to themselves. The article tries to identify some of these groups. It also considers the repercussions this rivalry had in the post-Seleucid Hasmonean state.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

The article responds to the challenge against the conventional understanding of ancient “synagogue” communities recently offered by Richard Last. While it is important to criticize the use of the term and some of its implications in modern scholarship, the argument that craft guilds worshipping the Judean deity among others should not be categorically distinguished from groups assembling only Ioudaioi and honoring only yhwh is shown to be based on a problematic understanding of several Greek inscriptions. It is precisely in the context of Graeco-Roman forms of social aggregation that this distinction is most pertinent.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

Abstract

It is often stated in handbooks that in 175 b.c.e., Judaea (or Jerusalem) was transformed from an ethnos to a polis. This statement is based on received opinions about Hellenistic (and especially Seleucid) administrative categories that can no longer be maintained. A re-examination of the relevant literary and epigraphic evidence shows that ethnos was not used as an antonym to polis in Hellenistic sources. The article then tries to explain the emergence of a scholarly paradigm that took ethnos to be precisely that: the designation for oriental, non-urbanized communities that were inferior in important regards to the Greek polis. The main influence is argued to have been Aristotle’s peculiar use of the two terms. The scholarly concept of an ethnos/polis-divide can be traced back to nineteenth-century scholarship and its “orientalist” conceptions. This is important for appreciating recent discussions of the nature of Jewish identity in antiquity (“people” or “religion”), and for an increased awareness in Jewish studies of the discourses that have shaped common knowledge about the Hellenistic Orient in general and Judaism in particular.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

Abstract

The Psalms of Solomon are an important source for reconstructing Jewish attitudes towards the major political shift that occurred in 63 BCE. The end of the Hasmonean dynasty and the beginning of Roman rule are often said to have pleased at least some contemporary Jewish groups because they perceived the Hasmoneans as illegitimate rulers. The analysis seeks to show that the only contemporary evidence for this view is PsSol 17:1-10, and that this part of the PsSol does not speak of Pompey, but of Herod the Great. Some attitudes towards the Hasmonean dynasty assumed to be contemporary by scholars have to be seen against the background of the Herodian, not the Hasmonean period.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
In: Jewish Identity and Politics between the Maccabees and Bar Kokhba
In: Jewish Identity and Politics between the Maccabees and Bar Kokhba
In: Jewish Identity and Politics between the Maccabees and Bar Kokhba