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History Of Judaism

The History of Judaism

A History of Judaism

Author:  Salo Wittmayer Baron: Professor of Jewish History, Literature, and Institutions, Columbia University, 193063. Author of A Social and Religious History of the Jews


It is history that provides the clue to an understanding of Judaism, for its primal affirmations appear in early historical narratives. Many contemporary scholars agree that although the biblical (Old Testament) tales report contemporary events and activities, they do so for essentially theological reasons. Such a distinction, however, would have been unacceptable to the authors, for their understanding of events was not superadded to but was contemporaneous with their experience or report of them. For them, it was primarily within history that the divine presence was encountered. God's presence was also experienced within the natural realm, but the more immediate or intimate disclosure occurred in human actions. Although other ancient communities saw a divine presence in history, this was taken up in its most consequent fashion within the ancient Israelite community and has remained, through many developments, the focus of its descendants' religious affirmations. It is this particular claim--to have experienced God's presence in human events--and its subsequent development that is the differentiating factor in Jewish thought. As ancient Israel believed itself through its history to be standing in a unique relationship to the divine, this basic belief affected and fashioned its life-style and mode of existence in a way markedly different from groups starting with a somewhat similar insight. The response of the people Israel to the divine presence in history was seen as crucial not only for itself but for all mankind. Further, God had--as person--in a particular encounter revealed the pattern and structure of communal and individual life to this people. Claiming sovereignty over the people because of his continuing action in history on its behalf, he had established a berit ("covenant") with it and had required from it obedience to his Torah (teaching). This obedience was a further means by which the divine presence was made manifest--expressed in concrete human existence. The corporate life of the chosen community was thus a summons to the rest of mankind to recognize God's presence, sovereignty, and purpose--the establishment of peace and well-being in the universe and in mankind.

History, moreover, disclosed not only God's purpose but also manifested man's inability to live in accord with it. Even the chosen community failed in its obligation and had, time and again, to be summoned back to its responsibility by divinely called spokesmen--the prophets--who warned of retribution within history and argued and reargued the case of affirmative human response. Israel's role in the divine economy and thus Israel's particular culpability were dominant themes sounded against the motif of fulfillment, the ultimate triumph of the divine purpose, and the establishment of divine sovereignty over all mankind.

General observations

Nature and characteristics
In nearly 4,000 years of historical development, the Jewish people and their religion have displayed both a remarkable adaptability and continuity. In their encounter with the great civilizations, from ancient Babylonia and Egypt down to Western Christendom and modern secular culture, they have assimilated foreign elements and integrated them into their own socioreligious system, thus maintaining an unbroken line of ethnic and religious tradition. Furthermore, each period of Jewish history has left behind it a specific element of a Judaic heritage that continued to influence subsequent developments, so that the total Jewish heritage at any time is a combination of all these successive elements along with whatever adjustments and accretions are imperative in each new age.

The fundamental teachings of Judaism have often been grouped around the concept of an ethical (or ethical-historical) monotheism. Belief in the one and only God of Israel has been adhered to by professing Jews of all ages and all shades of sectarian opinion. By its very nature monotheism ultimately postulated religious universalism, although it could be combined with a measure of particularism. In the case of ancient Israel (see below Biblical Judaism [20th-4th century BCE]), particularism took the shape of the doctrine of election; that is, of a people chosen by God as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" to set an example for all mankind. Such an arrangement presupposed a covenant between God and the people, the terms of which the chosen people had to live up to or be severely punished. As the 8th-century-BCE prophet Amos expressed it: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Further, it was a concept that combined with the messianic idea, according to which, at the advent of the Redeemer, all nations would see the light, give up war and strife, and follow the guidance of the Torah (divine guidance, teaching, or law) emanating from Zion (a hill in Jerusalem that has a special spiritual significance). With all its variations in detail, messianism has, in one form or another, permeated Jewish thinking throughout the ages and, under various guises, has coloured the outlook of many secular-minded Jews (see also eschatology).

Law became the major instrumentality by which Judaism was to bring about the reign of God on earth. In this case law meant not only what the Romans called jus (human law) but also fas, the divine or moral law that embraces practically all domains of life. The ideal, therefore, as expressed in the Ten Commandments, was a religioethical conduct that involved ritualistic observance as well as individual and social ethics, a liturgical-ethical way constantly expatiated on by the prophets and priests, rabbinic sages, and philosophers. Such conduct was to be placed in the service of God, as the transcendent and immanent Ruler of the universe, and as such the Creator and propelling force of the natural world, and also as the One giving guidance to history and thus helping man to overcome the potentially destructive and amoral forces of nature. According to Judaic belief, it is through the historical evolution of man, and particularly of the Jewish people, that the divine guidance of history constantly manifests itself and will ultimately culminate in the messianic age. Judaism, whether in its "normative" form or its sectarian deviations, never completely departed from this basic ethical-historical monotheism.

Periodization
The division of the millennia of Jewish history into periods--a procedure frequently dependent on individual preferences--has not been devoid of theological or scholarly presuppositions. The Christian world long believed that until the rise of Christianity the history of Judaism was but a "preparation for the Gospel" (preparatio evangelica) followed by the "manifestation of the Gospel" (demonstratio evangelica) as revealed by Christ and the Apostles. This formulation could be theologically reconciled with the assumption that Christianity had been preordained even before the creation of the world.

On the other hand, 19th-century biblical scholars moved the decisive division back into the period of the Babylonian Exile and restoration of the Jews to Judah (6th-5th centuries BCE). They asserted that after the first fall of Jerusalem (586 BCE) the ancient "Israelitic" religion gave way to a new form of the "Jewish" faith, or Judaism, as formulated by Ezra the Scribe and his school (5th century BCE). A German historian, Eduard Meyer, in 1896 published Die Entstehung des Judentums ("The Origin of Judaism"), in which he placed the origins of Judaism in the Persian period (see below Biblical Judaism [20th-4th century BCE]) or the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (5th century BCE) and actually attributed to Persian imperialism an important role in shaping the new emergent Judaism.

These theories have been discarded by most scholars, however, in the light of a more comprehensive knowledge of the ancient Middle East and the abandonment of a theory of gradual evolutionary development that was dominant at the beginning of the 20th century. Most Jews share a long-accepted notion that there never was a real break in continuity and that Mosaic-prophetic-priestly Judaism was continued, with but few modifications, in the work of the Pharisaic and rabbinic sages (see below Rabbinic Judaism [2nd-18th century]) well into the modern period. Even today the various Jewish groups, whether Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, all claim direct spiritual descent from the Pharisees and the rabbinic sages. In actual historical development, however, many deviations have occurred from so-called normative or rabbinic Judaism.

In any case, the history of Judaism here is viewed as falling into the following major periods of development: biblical Judaism (c. 20th-4th century BCE), Hellenistic Judaism (4th century BCE-2nd century CE), rabbinic Judaism (2nd-18th century CE), and modern Judaism (c. 1750 to the present).

The ancient Middle Eastern setting

Judaism: Important sites and regions of biblical Judaism.The family of the Hebrew patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is depicted in the Bible as having had its chief seat in the northern Mesopotamian town of Harran--then (mid-2nd millennium BCE) belonging to the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni. From there Abraham, the founder of the Hebrew people, is said to have migrated to Canaan (comprising roughly the region of modern Israel and Lebanon)--throughout the biblical period and later ages a vortex of west Asian, Egyptian, and east Mediterranean ethnoculture. Thence the Hebrew ancestors of the people of Israel (named after the patriarch Jacob, also called Israel) migrated to Egypt, where they lived in servitude, and a few generations later returned to occupy part of Canaan. The Hebrews were seminomadic herdsmen and occasionally farmers, ranging close to towns and living in houses as well as tents.

The initial level of Israelite culture resembled that of its surroundings; it was neither wholly original nor primitive. The tribal structure resembled that of West Semitic steppe dwellers known from the 18th-century-BCE tablets excavated at the north central Mesopotamian city of Mari; their family customs and law have parallels in Old Babylonian and Hurro-Semite law of the early and middle 2nd millennium. The conception of a messenger of God that underlies biblical prophecy was Amorite (West Semitic) and found in the tablets at Mari. Mesopotamian religious and cultural conceptions are reflected in biblical cosmogony, primeval history (including the Flood story in Gen. 6:9-8:22), and law collections. The Canaanite component of Israelite culture consisted of the Hebrew language and a rich literary heritage--whose Ugaritic form (which flourished in the northern Syrian city of Ugarit from the mid-15th century to about 1200 BCE) illuminates the Bible's poetry, style, mythological allusions, and religiocultic terms. Egypt provides many analogues for Hebrew hymnody and wisdom literature. All the cultures among which the patriarchs lived had cosmic gods who fashioned the world and preserved its order, including justice; all had a developed ethic expressed in law and moral admonitions; and all had sophisticated religious rites and myths.

Though plainer when compared with some of the learned literary creations of Mesopotamia, Canaan, and Egypt, the earliest biblical writings are so imbued with contemporary ancient Middle Eastern elements that the once-held assumption that Israelite religion began on a primitive level must be rejected. Late-born amid high civilizations, the Israelite religion had from the start that admixture of high and low features characteristic of all the known religions of the area. Implanted on the land bridge between Africa and Asia, it was exposed to crosscurrents of foreign thought throughout its history.

The pre-Mosaic period: the religion of the patriarchs
Israelite tradition identified YHWH (by scholarly convention pronounced Yahweh), the God of Israel, with the Creator of the world, who had been known to and worshipped by men from the beginning of time. Abraham (perhaps 19th or 18th-17th centuries BCE) did not discover this God, but entered into a new covenant relation with him, in which he was promised the land of Canaan and a numerous progeny. God fulfilled that promise through the actions of the 13th-century-BCE Hebrew leader Moses: he liberated the people of Israel from Egypt, imposed Covenant obligations on them at Mt. Sinai, and brought them to the promised land.

Historical and anthropological studies present formidable objections to the continuity of YHWH worship from Adam (the biblical first man) to Moses, and the Hebrew tradition itself, moreover, does not unanimously support even the more modest claim of the continuity of YHWH worship from Abraham to Moses. Against it is a statement in chapter 6, verse 3, of Exodus that God revealed himself to the patriarchs not as YHWH but as El Shaddai--an epithet (of unknown meaning) the distribution of which in patriarchal narratives and Job and other poetical works confirms its archaic and unspecifically Israelite character. Comparable is the distribution of the epithet El Elyon (God Most High). Neither of these epithets appears in postpatriarchal narratives (excepting the Book of Ruth). Other compounds with El are unique to Genesis: El Olam (God the Everlasting One), El Bethel (God Bethel), and El Ro'i (God of Vision). An additional peculiarity of the patriarchal stories is their use of the phrase "God of my [your, his] father." All of these epithets have been taken as evidence that patriarchal religion differed from the worship of YHWH that began with Moses. A relation to a patron god was defined by revelations starting with Abraham (who never refers to the God of his father) and continuing with a succession of "founders" of his worship. Attached to the founder and his family, as befits the patron of wanderers, this unnamed deity (if indeed he was one only) acquired various Canaanite epithets (El, Elyon, Olam, Bethel, qone eretz [possessor of the Land]) only after their immigration into Canaan. Whether the name of YHWH was known to the patriarchs is doubtful. It is significant that while the epithets Shaddai and El occur frequently in pre-Mosaic and Mosaic-age names, YHWH appears as an element only in the names of Yehoshua' (Joshua) and perhaps of Jochebed--persons who were closely associated with Moses.

The patriarchs are depicted as objects of God's blessing, protection, and providential care. Their response is loyalty and obedience and observance of a cult whose ordinary expression is sacrifice, vow, and prayer at an altar, stone pillar, or sacred tree. Circumcision was a distinctive mark of the cult community. The eschatology (doctrine of ultimate destiny) of their faith was God's promise of land and a great progeny. Any flagrant contradictions between patriarchal and later mores have presumably been censored; yet distinctive features of the post-Mosaic religion are absent. The God of the patriarchs shows nothing of YHWH's "jealousy"; no religious tension or contrast with their neighbours appears, and idolatry is scarcely an issue. The patriarchal covenant differed from the Mosaic Sinaitic Covenant in that it was modelled upon a royal grant to favourites and contained no obligations, the fulfillment of which was to be the condition of their happiness. Evidently not the same as the later religion of Israel, patriarchal religion prepared the way for it in its familial basis, its personal call by the deity, and its response of loyalty and obedience to him.

Little can be said of the relation of the religion of the patriarchs to the religions of Canaan. Known points of contact between the two are the divine epithets mentioned above. Like the God of the fathers, El, the head of the Ugaritic pantheon was depicted both as a judgmental and a compassionate deity. Baal (Lord), the aggressive young agricultural deity of Ugarit, is remarkably absent from Genesis. Yet the socioeconomic situation of the patriarchs was so different from the urban, mercantile, and monarchical background of the Ugaritic myths as to render any comparisons highly questionable.

The Mosaic period: foundations of the Israelite religion

The Egyptian sojourn

Judaism: Important sites and regions of biblical Judaism.According to Hebrew tradition, a famine caused the migration to Egypt of the band of 12 Hebrew families that later made up a tribal league in the land of Israel. The schematic character of this tradition does not impair the historicity of a migration to Egypt, an enslavement by Egyptians, and an escape from Egypt under an inspired leader by some component of the later league of Israelite tribes. To disallow these events would make their centrality as articles of faith in the later religious beliefs of Israel inexplicable.

Tradition gives the following account of the birth of the nation. At the Exodus from Egypt (13th century BCE), YHWH showed his faithfulness and power by liberating Israel from bondage and punishing their oppressors with plagues and drowning at the sea. At Sinai, he made Israel his people and gave them the terms of his Covenant, regulating their conduct toward him and each other so as to make them a holy nation. After sustaining them miraculously during their 40-year wilderness trek, he enabled them to take the land that he had promised to their fathers, the patriarchs. Central to these events is God's apostle, Moses, who was commissioned to lead Israel out of Egypt, mediate God's Covenant to them, and bring them to Canaan.

Behind the legends and the multiform law collections, a historical figure must be posited to whom the legends and the legislative activity could be attached. And it is precisely Moses' unusual combination of roles that makes him credible as a historical figure. Like Muhammad at the birth of Islam, Moses fills oracular, legislative, executive, and military functions. The main institutions of Israel are his creation: the priesthood and the sacred shrine, the Covenant and its rules, the administrative apparatus of the tribal league. Significantly, though Moses is compared to a prophet in various texts in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), he is never designated as one--the term being evidently unsuited for so comprehensive and unique a figure.
Mosaic religion
The distinctive features of Israelite religion appear with Moses. The proper name of Israel's God, YHWH, was revealed and interpreted to Moses as meaning ehye asher ehye--an enigmatic phrase (literally meaning "I am/shall be what I am/shall be") of infinite suggestiveness. The Covenant, defining Israel's obligations, is ascribed to Moses' mediation. Although it is impossible to determine what rulings go back to Moses, the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, presented in chapter 20 of Exodus and chapter 5 of Deuteronomy, and the larger and smaller Covenant codes in Ex. 20:22-23:33; 34:11-26) are held by critics to contain early covenant law. From them, the following features may be noted: (1) The rules are formulated as God's utterances--i.e., expressions of his sovereign will. (2) They are directed toward, and often explicitly addressed to, the people at large; Moses merely conveys the sovereign's message to his subjects. (3) Publication being of the essence of the rules, the people as a whole are held responsible for their observance (see also covenant).

The liberation from Egypt laid upon Israel the obligation of exclusive loyalty to YHWH. This meant eschewing all other gods--including idols venerated as such--and the elimination of all magical recourses. The worship of YHWH was aniconic (without images); even such figures as might serve in his worship were banned--apparently owing to the theurgic overtones (the implication that through them men may influence or control the god by fixing his presence in a particular place and making him accessible). Though a mythological background lies behind some cultic terminology (e.g., "a pleasing odor to YHWH," "my bread"), sacrifice is rationalized as tribute or (in priestly writings) is regarded purely as a sacrament; i.e., as a material means of relating to God. Hebrew festivals also have no mythological basis; they either celebrate God's bounty (e.g., at the ingathering of the harvest) or his saving acts (e.g., the festival of unleavened bread, which is a memorial of the Exodus).

The values of life and limb, labour, and social solidarity are protected in the rules on relations between man and man. The involuntary perpetual slavery of Hebrews is abolished, and a seven-year limit is set on bondage. The humanity of slaves is defended: one who beats his slave to death is liable to death; if he maims a slave he must set the slave free. A murderer is denied asylum and may not ransom himself from death, while for deliberate and severe bodily injuries the lex talionis ("an eye for an eye" principle) is ordained. Harm to property or theft is punished monetarily, never by death.

Moral exhortations call for solidarity with the poor and the helpless, for brotherly assistance to fellows in need. Institutions are created (e.g., the sabbatical, or seventh, fallow year, in which land is not cultivated) to embody them in practice.

Since the goal of the people was the conquest of a land, their religion had warlike features. Organized as an army (called "the hosts of YHWH" in Ex. 12:41), they encamped in a protective square around their palladium--the tent housing the ark in which the stone "tablets of the Covenant" rested. When journeying, the sacred objects were carried and guarded by the Levites (a tribe serving religious functions), whose rivals, the Aaronites, had a monopoly on the priesthood. God, sometimes called "the warrior," marched with the army; in war, part of the booty was delivered to his ministers.

The period of the conquest and settlement of Canaan
The conquest of Canaan was remembered as a continuation of God's marvels at the Exodus. The Jordan River was split asunder, Jericho's walls fell at Israel's shout; the enemy was seized with divinely inspired terror; the sun stood still in order to enable Israel to exploit its victory. Such stories are not necessarily the work of a later age; they reflect rather the impact of these victories on the actors in the drama, who felt themselves successful by the grace of God.

A complex process of occupation, involving both battles of annihilation and treaty arrangements with the natives, has been simplified in the biblical account of Joshua's wars. Gradually, the unity of the invaders dissolved (most scholars believe that the invading element was only part of the Hebrew settlement in Canaan; other Hebrews, long since settled in Canaan from patriarchal times, then joined the invaders' covenant league). Individual tribes made their way with more or less success against the residue of Canaanite resistance. New enemies, Israel's neighbours to the east and west, appeared, and the period of the judges (leaders, or champions) began.

The Book of Judges, the main witness for the period, does not speak with one voice on the religious situation. Its editorial framework describes repeated cycles of apostasy, oppression, appeal to God, and relief through a Godsent champion. The premonarchic troubles (before the kingship of Saul; see below) caused by the weakness of the disunited tribes were thus accounted for by the covenantal sin of apostasy. The individual stories, however, present a different picture. Apostasy does not figure in the exploits of the judges Ehud, Deborah, Jephthah, and Samson; YHWH has no rival, and faith in him is periodically confirmed by the saviours he sends to rescue Israel from their neighbours.

This faith is shared by all the tribes; and it is owing to their common cult that a Levite from Bethlehem could serve first at an Ephraimite and later also at a Danite sanctuary. The religious bond, preserved by the common cult, was enough to enable the tribes to act more or less in concert under the leadership of elders or an inspired champion in time of danger or religious scandal.

To be sure, both written and archaeological testimonies point to the Hebrews' adoption of Canaanite cults--the Baal worship of Gideon's family and neighbours in Ophrah in Judges, chapter 6, is an example. The many cultic figurines (usually female) found in Israelite levels of Palestinian archaeological sites also give colour to the sweeping indictments of the framework of the Book of Judges. But these phenomena belonged to the private, popular religion; the national God, YHWH, remained one--Baal sent no prophets to Israel--though YHWH's claim to exclusive worship was obviously not effectual. Nor did his cult conform with later orthodoxy; Micah's idol in Judges, chapter 17, and Gideon's ephod (priestly or religious garment) were considered apostasies by the editor, in accord with the dogma that other than orthodoxy there is only apostasy--heterodoxy (nonconformity) being unrecognized and simply equated with apostasy.

To the earliest sanctuaries and altars honoured as patriarchal foundations--at Shechem, Bethel, Beersheba, and Hebron in Cisjordan (west of the Jordan); at Mahanaim, Penuel, and Mizpah in Transjordan (east of the Jordan)--were now added new ones at Dan, Shiloh, Ramah, Gibeon, and Gilgal, among others. A single priestly family could not operate all these establishments, and Levites rose to the priesthood; at private sanctuaries even non-Levites might be consecrated as priests. The ark of the Covenant was housed in the Shiloh sanctuary, staffed by priests of the house of Eli, who traced their consecration back to Egypt. But the ark remained a portable palladium in wartime; Shiloh was not regarded as its final resting place. The law in Exodus, chapter 20, verses 24-26, authorizing a plurality of altar sites and the simplest forms of construction (earth and rough stone) suited the plain conditions of this period.

The period of the united monarchy

The religiopolitical problem
The loose, decentralized tribal league could not cope with the constant pressure of external enemies--camel-riding desert marauders who pillaged harvests annually or iron-weaponed Philistines (an Aegean people settling coastal Palestine c. 12th century BCE) who controlled key points in the hill country occupied by Israelites. In the face of such threats to the Israelites, local, sporadic, God-inspired saviours had to be replaced by a continuous central leadership that could mobilize the forces of the entire league and create a standing army. Two attitudes were distilled in the crisis, one conservative and antimonarchic, the other progressive and promonarchic. The conservative appears first in Gideon's refusal, in Judges, chapter 8, verse 23, to found a dynasty: "I will not rule you," he tells the people, "my son will not rule over you; YHWH will . . . !" This theocratic view pervades one of the two contrasting accounts of the founding of the monarchy fused in chapters 8-12 of the First Book of Samuel: the popular demand for a king was viewed as a rejection of the kingship of God, which was embodied in a series of inspired saviours from Moses and Aaron, through Jerubbaal, Bedan, and Jephthah, to Samuel. The other account depicts the monarchy as a gift of God, designed to rescue his people from the Philistines (I Sam. 9:16). Both accounts represent the seer-judge Samuel as the key figure in the founding of Israel's monarchy, and it is not unlikely that the two attitudes struggled in his breast.

The Benjaminite Saul was made king (c. 1020 BCE) by divine election and by popular acclamation after his victory over the Ammonites (a Transjordanian Semitic people), but his career was clouded by conflict with Samuel, the major representative of the old order. Saul's kingship was bestowed by Samuel and had to be accommodated to the ongoing authority of that man of God. The two accounts of Saul's rejection by God (through Samuel) involve his usurpation of the prophet's authority. King David, whose forcefulness and religiopolitical genius established the monarchy (c. 1000 BCE) on an independent spiritual footing, resolved the conflict.

The Davidic monarchy
The essence of the Davidic innovation was the idea that, in addition to divine election through Samuel and public acclamation, David had God's promise of an eternal dynasty (a conditional, perhaps earlier, and an unconditional, perhaps later, form of this promise exist in Psalms, 132 and II Samuel, chapter 7, respectively). In its developed form, the promise was conceived of as a covenant with David, parallelling the Covenant with Israel and instrumental in the latter's fulfillment; i.e., that God would channel his benefactions to Israel through the chosen dynasty of David. With this new status came the inviolability of the person of God's anointed (a characteristically Davidic idea) and a court rhetoric--adapted from pagan models--in which the king was styled "the [firstborn] son of God." An index of the king's sanctity was his occasional performance of priestly duties. Yet the king's mortality was never forgotten--he was never deified; prayers and hymns might be said on his behalf, but they were never addressed to him as a god.

David captured the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem and made it the seat of a national monarchy (Saul had never moved the seat of his government from his home town, the Benjaminite town of Gibeah, about three miles north of Jerusalem). Then, fetching the ark from an obscure retreat, David installed it in his capital, asserting his royal prerogative (and obligation) to build a shrine for the national God--at the same time joining the symbols of the dynastic and the national covenants. This move of political genius linked the God of Israel, the chosen dynasty of David, and the chosen city of Jerusalem in a henceforth indissoluble union.

David planned to erect a temple to house the ark, but the tenacious tradition of the ark's portability in a tent shrine forced postponement of the project to his son Solomon's reign. As part of his extensive building operations, Solomon built the Temple on a Jebusite threshing floor, located on a hill north of the royal city, which David had purchased to mark the spot where a plague had been halted. The ground plan of the Temple--a porch with two free-standing pillars before it, a sanctuary, and an inner sanctum--followed Syrian and Phoenician sanctuary models. A bronze "sea" resting on bulls and placed in the Temple court has a Babylonian analogue. Exteriorly, the Jerusalem Temple resembled Canaanite and other Middle Eastern religious structures, but there were differences; e.g., no god image stood in the inner sanctum, but rather only the ancient ark and the new large cherubim (hybrid creatures with animal bodies, human or animal faces, and wings) whose wings covered it, symbolizing the presence of YHWH who was enthroned upon celestial cherubim.

Alongside a brief, ancient inaugural poem in I Kings, chapter 8, verses 12-13, an extensive (and, in its present form, later) prayer expresses the distinctively biblical view of the temple as a vehicle of God's providing for his people's needs. Since, strangely, no reference to sacrifice is made, not a trace appears of the standard pagan conception of the temple as a vehicle of man's providing for the gods.

That literature flourished under the aegis of the court is to be gathered from the quality of the preserved narrative of the reign of David, which gives every indication of having come from the hand of a contemporary eyewitness. The royally sponsored Temple must have had a library and a school attached to it (in accord with the universally attested practice of the ancient Middle East), among whose products were not only royal psalms but also such liturgical pieces intended for the common man as eventually found their way into the book of Psalms.

The latest historical allusions in the Torah literature (the Pentateuch) are to the period of the united monarchy; e.g., the defeat and subjugation of the peoples of Amalek, Moab, and Edom by Saul and David, in Numbers, chapter 24, verses 17-20. On the other hand, the polity reflected in the laws is tribal and decentralized, with no bureaucracy. Its economy is agricultural and pastoral, class distinctions apart from slave and free are lacking, and commerce and urban life are rudimentary. A premonarchic background is evident, with only rare explicit reflections of the later monarchy; e.g., in Deuteronomy, chapter 17, verses 14-20. The groundwork of the Torah literature may thus be supposed to have crystallized under the united monarchy.

It was in this period that the traditional wisdom cultivated among the learned in neighbouring cultures came to be prized in Israel. Solomon is represented as the author of an extensive literature comparable to that of other Eastern sages. His wisdom is expressly attributed to YHWH in the account of his night oracle at Gibeon (in which he asked not for power or riches but for wisdom), thus marking the adaptation to biblical thought of this common Middle Eastern genre. As set forth in Proverbs, chapter 2, verse 5, "It is YHWH who grants wisdom; knowledge and understanding are by his command." Patronage of wisdom literature is ascribed to the later Judahite king, Hezekiah, and the connection of wisdom with kings is common in extrabiblical cultures as well.

Domination of all of Palestine entailed the absorption of "the rest of the Amorites"--the pre-Israelite population that lived chiefly in the valleys and on the coast. Their impact on Israelite religion is unknown, though some scholars contend that a "royally sponsored syncretism" arose with the aim of fusing the two populations. That popular religion did not meet the standards of the biblical writers and that it incorporated pagan elements--and that such elements may have increased as a result of intercourse with the newly absorbed "Amorites"--is likely and required no royal sponsorship. On the other hand, the court itself welcomed foreigners--Philistines, Cretans, Hittites, and Ishmaelites are named, among others--and made use of their service. Their effect on the court religion may be surmised from what is recorded concerning Solomon's many diplomatic marriages: foreign princesses whom Solomon married brought along with them the apparatus of their native cults, and the King had shrines to their gods built and maintained on the Mount of Olives. Such private cults, while indeed royally sponsored, did not make the religion of the people syncretistic.

Such compromise with the pagan world, entailed by the widening horizons of the monarchy, violated the sanctity of the holy land of YHWH and turned the king into an idolator in the eyes of zealots. Religious opposition, combined with grievances against the organization of forced labour for state projects, led to the secession of the northern tribes (headed by the Joseph tribes) after Solomon's death.

The period of the divided kingdom
Jeroboam I (10th century BCE), the first king of the north (now called Israel, in contradistinction to Judah, the southern Davidic kingdom), appreciated the inextricable link of Jerusalem and its sanctuary with the Davidic claim to divine election to kingship over all Israel (the whole people, north and south). He therefore founded rival sanctuaries at Dan and at Bethel--ancient cult sites--and manned them with non-Levite priests whose symbol of YHWH's presence was a golden calf--a pedestal of divine images in ancient iconography and the equivalent of the cherubim of Jerusalem's Temple. He also moved the autumn ingathering festival one month ahead so as to foreclose celebration of this most popular of all festivals in common with Judah.

For the evaluation of Jeroboam's innovations and the subsequent official religion of the north down to the mid-8th century, one must rely almost exclusively on the Book of Kings (later divided into two books). This work has severe limitations as a source for religious history. The material of this book, in good part contemporary, is subjugated to a dogmatic historiography that regards the whole enterprise of the north as one long apostasy ending in a deserved disaster. The culmination of Kings' history with the exile of Judah shows its provenience to have been Judahite. Yet the evaluation of Judah's official religion is subject to an equally dogmatic standard, namely, the royal adherence to the Deuteronomic rule of a single cult site. The author considered the Solomonic Temple to be the cult site chosen by God, according to Deuteronomy, chapter 12, the existence of which rendered all other sites illegitimate. Every king of Judah is judged according to whether or not he did away with all extra-Jerusalemite places of worship. (The date of this criterion may be inferred from the indifference toward it of all persons [e.g., the 9th-century-BCE prophets Elijah and Elisha and the Jerusalemite priest Jehoiada] prior to the late-8th-century-BCE Judahite king Hezekiah.) Another serious limitation is the restriction of Kings' purview: excepting the Elijah-Elisha stories, it notices only the royally sponsored cult; notices of the popular religion are very few. From the mid-8th century the writings of the classical prophets, starting with Amos, set in. These take in the people as a whole, in contrast to Kings; on the other hand their interest in theodicy (justification of God) and their polemical tendency to exaggerate and generalize what they deem evil must be taken into consideration before approving their statements as sober history.

For a half-century after the north's secession (c. 922 BCE), the religious situation in Jerusalem was unchanged. The distaff side of the royal household perpetuated, and even augmented, the pagan cults. King Asa (reigned c. 908-867 BCE) is credited with a general purge, including the destruction of an image made for the goddess Asherah by the queen mother, granddaughter of an Aramaean princess. He also purged the qedeshim ("consecrated men"--conventionally rendered as "sodomites," or "male sacred prostitutes").

Foreign cults entered the north with the marriage of the 9th-century-BCE king Ahab to the Tyrian princess Jezebel. Jezebel brought with her a large entourage of sacred personnel to staff the temple of Baal and Asherah that Ahab built for her in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In all else, Ahab's orthodoxy was irreproachable, though others of his court may have joined the worship of the foreign princess. That fierce opposition to the non-YWHW cults sprang up must be supposed in order to account for Jezebel's persecution of the prophets of YHWH, conduct untypical of a polytheist except in self-defense. Elijah's assertion that the whole country apostatized is a hyperbole based on the view that whoever did not actively fight Jezebel was implicated in her polluted cult. Such must have been the view of the prophets, whose fallen were the first martyrs to die for the glory of God. The quality of their opposition may be gauged by Elijah's summary execution of the foreign Baal cultists after they failed the test at Mt. Carmel, where they vied against him in a contest over whose god was truly God. A three-year drought (attested also in Phoenician sources), declared by Elijah to be punishment for the sin, must have done much to kindle the prophets' zeal.

To judge from the Elisha stories, the Baal worship in the capital city, Samaria, was not felt in the countryside. There the religious tone was set by the popular prophets and the prophetic companies ("the sons of the prophets") who attached themselves to them. In popular consciousness these men were wonder-workers--healing the sick and reviving the dead, foretelling the future, and helping to find lost objects. To the biblical narrator they witness the working of God in Israel. Elijah's rage at the Israelite king Ahaziah's recourse to the pagan god Baalzebub, Elisha's cure of the Syrian military leader Naaman's leprosy, and anonymous prophets' directives and predictions in matters of peace and war all serve to glorify God. Indeed, the equation of Israel's prosperity with God's interest generated the issue of "true" and "false" prophecy that made its first appearance at this time. That prophecy of success could turn out to be a snare is exemplified in a story of conflict between Micaiah, the lone 9th-century-BCE prophet of doom, and 400 unanimous prophets of victory who lured Ahab to his death. The poignancy of the issue is highlighted by Micaiah's acknowledgment that the 400 were also prophets of YHWH--but inspired by him deliberately with a "lying spirit."

The period of classical prophecy and cult reform

The emergence of the literary prophets
By the mid-8th century a hundred years of chronic warfare between Israel and Aram had finally ended--the Aramaeans having suffered heavy blows from the Assyrians. King Jeroboam II (8th century BCE) was able to undertake to restore the imperial sway of the north over its neighbour, and a prophecy of Jonah that he would extend Israel's borders from the Dead Sea to the entrance to Hamath (Syria) was borne out. The well-to-do expressed their relief in lavish attentions to the institutions of worship and their private mansions. But the strain of the prolonged warfare showed in the polarization of society between the wealthy few who had profited from the war and the masses whom it had ravaged and impoverished. Dismay at the dissolution of Israelite society animated a new breed of prophets who now appeared--the literary or classical prophets, first of whom was Amos, an 8th-century-BCE Judahite who went north to Bethel.

That apostasy would set God against the community was an old conception of early prophecy; that violation of the sociomoral injunctions of the Covenant would have the same result was first proclaimed by Amos. Amos almost ignored idolatry, denouncing instead the corruption and callousness of the oligarchy and rulers. The religious exercises of such villains he proclaimed were loathsome to God; on their account Israel would be oppressed from the entrance to Hamath to the Dead Sea and exiled from its land.

The westward push of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the mid-8th century BCE soon brought Aram and Israel to their knees. In 733-732 Assyria took Gilead and Galilee from Israel and captured Aramaean Damascus; in 721 Samaria, the Israelite capital, fell. The northern kingdom sought to survive through alliances with Assyria and Egypt; its kings came and went in rapid succession. The troubled society's malaise was interpreted by Hosea, a prophet of the northern kingdom (Israel), as a forgetting of God. As a result, in his view, all authority had evaporated: the king was scoffed at, priests became hypocrites, and pleasure seeking became the order of the day. The monarchy was godless; it put its trust in arms, fortifications, and alliances with the great powers. Salvation, however, lay in none of these but in repentance and reliance upon God.

Prophecy in the southern kingdom
Judah was subjected to such intense pressure to join an Israelite-Aramaean coalition against Assyria that its 8th-century-BCE king Ahaz chose to submit himself to Assyria in return for relief. Ahaz introduced a new Aramaean-style altar in the Jerusalem Temple and adopted other foreign customs that are counted against him in the book of Kings. It was at this time that Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem. At first (under Uzziah, Ahaz' prosperous grandfather), his message focussed on the corruption of Judah's society and religion, stressing the new prophetic themes of indifference to God (which went hand in hand with a thriving cult) and the fateful importance of social morality. Under Ahaz the political crisis evoked Isaiah's appeals for trust in God, with the warning that the "hired razor from across the Euphrates" would shave Judah clean as well. Isaiah interpreted the inexorable advance of Assyria as God's chastisement; Assyria was "the rod of God's wrath." But, since Assyria ignored its mere instrumentality and exceeded in an insolent manner its proper function, God, when he finished his purgative work, would break Assyria on Judah's mountains. Then the nations of the world, who had been subjugated by Assyria, would recognize the God of Israel as the lord of history. A renewed Israel would prosper under the reign of an ideal Davidic king, all men would flock to Zion (the hill symbolizing Jerusalem) to learn the ways of YHWH and submit to his adjudication, and universal peace would prevail (see also eschatology).

The prophecy of Micah (8th century BCE), also a Judahite, was contemporary with that of Isaiah and touched on similar themes (e.g., the vision of universal peace is found in both their books). Unlike Isaiah, however, who believed in the inviolability of Jerusalem, Micah shocked his audience with the announcement that the wickedness of its rulers would cause Zion to become a plowed field, Jerusalem a heap of ruins, and the Temple mount a wooded height. Moreover, from the precedence of social morality over the cult, Micah drew the extreme conclusion that the cult had no ultimate value and that God's requirement of men can be summed up as "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Reforms in the southern kingdom
According to Jeremiah (about 100 years later), Micah's prophetic threat to Jerusalem had caused King Hezekiah (reigned c. 715-c. 686 BCE) to placate God--possibly an allusion to the cult reform instituted by the King in order to cleanse Judah from various pagan practices. A heightened concern over assimilatory trends resulted in his also outlawing certain practices considered legitimate up to his time. Thus, in addition to removing the bronze serpent that had been ascribed to Moses (and that had become a fetish), the reform did away with the local altars and stone pillars, the venerable (patriarchal) antiquity of which did not save them from the taint of imitation of Canaanite practice. Hezekiah's reform, part of a restorational policy that had political, as well as religious, implications, appears as the most significant effect of the fall of the northern kingdom on official religion. The outlook of the reformers is suggested by the catalog in II Kings, chapter 17, of religious offenses that had caused the fall, which the objects of Hezekiah's purge closely resemble. Hezekiah's reform is the first historical evidence for Deuteronomy's doctrine of cult centralization. Similarities between Deuteronomy and the Book of Hosea lend colour to the supposition that the reform movement in Judah, which culminated a century later under King Josiah, was sparked by attitudes inherited from the north.

Hezekiah was the leading figure in a western coalition of states that coordinated a rebellion against the Assyrian king Sennacherib with the Babylonian rebel Merodach-Baladan, shortly after the Assyrian's accession in 705 BCE. When Sennacherib appeared in the west in 701, the rebellion collapsed; Egypt sent a force to aid the rebels, but it was defeated. Hezekiah saw his kingdom overwhelmed and offered tribute to Sennacherib; the Assyrian, however, pressed for the surrender of Jerusalem. In despair, Hezekiah turned to the prophet Isaiah for an oracle. Though the prophet condemned the King's reliance upon Egyptian help, he stood firm in his faith that Jerusalem's destiny precluded its fall into heathen hands. The King held fast, and Sennacherib, for reasons still obscure, suddenly retired from Judah and returned home. This unlooked-for deliverance of the city may have been regarded as a vindication of the prophet's faith and was doubtless an inspiration to the rebels against Babylonia a century later. For the present, while Jerusalem was intact, the country had been devastated and its kingdom turned into a vassal state of Assyria.

During Manasseh's long and peaceful reign in the 7th century BCE, Judah was a submissive ally of Assyria. Manasseh's forces served in the building and military operations of the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. Judah benefitted from the upsurge of commerce that resulted from the political unification of the whole Near East. The prophet Zephaniah attests to heavy foreign influence on the mores of Jerusalem--merchants who adopted foreign dress, cynics who lost faith in the efficacy of YHWH to do anything, people who worshipped the pagan host of heaven on their roofs. Manasseh's court was the centre of such influences. The royal sanctuary became the home of a congeries of foreign gods--the sun, astral deities, and Asherah (the female fertility deity) all had their cults there alongside YHWH. The countryside also was provided with pagan altars and priests, alongside the local YHWH altars that were revived. Presumably, at least some of the blood that Manasseh is said to have spilled freely in Jerusalem must have belonged to YHWH's devotees. No prophecy is dated to his long reign.

With Ashurbanipal's death in 627, Assyria's power faded quickly; the young Judahite king Josiah (reigned c. 640-609 BCE) had already set in motion a vigorous movement of independence and restoration, a cardinal aspect of which was religious. First came the purge of foreign cults in Jerusalem, under the aegis of the high priest Hilkiah; then the countryside was cleansed. In the course of renovating the Temple, a scroll of Moses' Torah (by scholarly consensus an edition of Deuteronomy) was found. Anxious to abide by its injunctions, Josiah had the local YHWH altars polluted to render them unusable and collected their priests in Jerusalem. The celebration of the Passover that year was concentrated in the Temple, as it had not been "since the days of the judges who judged Israel," according to II Kings 23:22, or since the days of Samuel, according to II Chron. 35:18; both references reflect the unhistorical theory of the Deuteronomic (Josianic) reformers that the Shiloh sanctuary was the precursor of the Jerusalem Temple as the sole legitimate site of worship in Israel (as demanded by Deuteronomy, chapter 12). To seal the reform, the King convoked a representative assembly and had them enter into a covenant with God over the newfound Torah. For the first time, the power of the state was enlisted on behalf of the ancient covenant and in obedience to a covenant document. It was a major step toward the fixation of a sacred canon.

Josiah envisaged the restoration of Davidic authority over the entire domain of ancient Israel, and the retreat of Assyria facilitated his program--until he became fatally embroiled in the struggle of the powers over the dying empire. His death in 609 was doubtless a setback for his religious policy as well as his political aspirations. To be sure, the royally sponsored syncretism of Manasseh's time was not revived, but there is evidence of recrudescence of unofficial local altars. Whether references in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to child sacrifice to YHWH reflect post-Josianic practices is uncertain. There is stronger indication of private recourse to pagan cults in the worsening political situation.

That Assyria's fall should have been followed by the yoke of a harsh new heathen power dismayed the devotees of YHWH who had not been prepared for it by prophecy. Their mood finds expression in the oracles of the prophet Habakkuk in the last years of the 7th century BCE. Confessing perplexity at God's toleration of the success of the wicked in subjugating the righteous, the prophet affirms his faith in the coming salvation of YHWH, tarry though it might. And in the meantime, "the righteous must live in his faith."

But the situation in fact grew worse as Judah was caught in the Babylonian-Egyptian rivalry. Some attributed the deterioration to the burden of Manasseh's sin that still rested on the people. For the prophet Jeremiah (active c. 626-c. 580 BCE), the Josianic era was only an interlude in Israel's career of guilt that went back to its origins. His pre-reform prophecies denounced Israel as a faithless wife and warned of imminent retribution at the hands of a nameless northerner. After Nebuchadrezzar's decisive defeat of Egypt at Carchemish (605 BCE), Jeremiah identified the scourge as Babylon. King Jehoiakim's attempt to be free of Babylonia ended with the exile of his successor, Jehoiachin, along with Judah's elite (597); yet the court of the new king, Zedekiah, persisted in plotting new revolts, relying--against all experience--on Egyptian support. Jeremiah now proclaimed a scandalous doctrine of the duty of all nations, Judah included, to submit to the divinely appointed world ruler, the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadrezzar. In submission lay the only hope of avoiding destruction; a term of 70 years had been set to humiliate all men beneath Babylon. Imprisoned for demoralizing the populace, Jeremiah persisted in what was viewed as his traitorous message; the leaders, on their part, persisted in their policy, confident of Egypt and the saving power of Jerusalem's Temple, to the bitter end.

Jeremiah also had a message of comfort for his hearers. He foresaw the restoration of the entire people--north and south--in the land, under a new David. And since events had shown that man was incapable of achieving a lasting reconciliation with God on his own, he envisioned the penitent of the future being met halfway by God, who would remake their nature so that to do his will would come naturally to them. God's new covenant with Israel would be written on their hearts, so that they should no longer need to teach each other obedience, for young and old would know YHWH.

Among the exiles in Babylonia, the prophet Ezekiel, Jeremiah's contemporary, was haunted by the burden of Israel's sin. He saw the defiled Temple of Manasseh's time as present before his eyes, and described God as abandoning it and Jerusalem to their fates. Though Jeremiah offered hope through submission, Ezekiel prophesied an inexorable, total destruction as the condition of reconciliation with God. The majesty of God was too grossly offended for any lesser satisfaction. The glory of God demanded Israel's ruin, but the same cause required its restoration. For Israel's fall disgraced YHWH among the nations; to save his reputation he must therefore restore Israel to its land. The dried bones of Israel must revive, that they and all the nations should know that he was YHWH (Ezek. 37). Ezekiel, too, foresaw the remaking of human nature, but as a necessity of God's glorification; the concatenation of Israel's sin, exile, and consequent defamation of God's name must never be repeated. In 587/586 BCE the doom prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel came true. Rebellious Jerusalem was reduced by Nebuchadrezzar, the Temple was burnt, and much of Judah's population dispersed or deported to Babylonia.

The exilic period
The survival of the religious community of exiles in Babylonia demonstrates how rooted and widespread the religion of YHWH was. Abandonment of the national religion as an outcome of the disaster is recorded of a minority only. There were some cries of despair, but the persistence of prophecy among the exiles shows that their religious vitality had not flagged. The Babylonian Jewish community, in which the cream of Judah lived, had no sanctuary or altar (in contrast to the Jewish garrison of Elephantine in Egypt); what developed in their place can be surmised from new postexilic religious forms: fixed prayer; public fasts and confessions; and assembly for the study of the Torah, which may have developed from visits to the prophets for oracular edification. The absence of a local or territorial focus must also have spurred the formation of a literary-ideational centre of communal life--the sacred canon of Covenant documents that came to be the core of the present Pentateuch. Observance of the Sabbath--a peculiarly public feature of communal life--achieved a significance among the exiles virtually equivalent to all the rest of the Covenant rules together. Notwithstanding its political impotence, the spirit of the exiles was so high that foreigners were attracted to their ranks, hopeful of sharing their future glory.

Assurance of that future glory was given not only in the consolations promised by Jeremiah and Ezekiel (the fulfillment of whose prophecies of doom lent credit to their consolations); the great comforter of the exile was the writer or writers of what is known as Deutero-Isaiah (Isa. 40-66), who perceived in the rise and progress (from c. 550) of the Persian king Cyrus II the Great the instrument of God's salvation. Going beyond the national hopes of Ezekiel, animated by the universal spirit of the pre-exilic Isaiah, Deutero-Isaiah saw in the miraculous restoration of Israel a means of converting the whole world to faith in Israel's God. Israel would thus serve as "a light for the nations, that YHWH's salvation may reach to the end of the earth." In his conception of the vicarious suffering of God's servant--through which atonement is made for the ignorant heathen--Deutero-Isaiah found a handle by which to grasp the enigma of faithful Israel's lowly state among the Gentiles. The idea was destined to play a decisive role in the self-understanding of the Jewish martyrs of the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes' persecution in the 2nd century BCE (in, for example, Daniel) and later again in the Christian appreciation of the death of Jesus.

The period of the restoration
After conquering Babylon, Cyrus so far justified the hopes put in him that he allowed those Jews who wished to do so to return and rebuild their Temple. Though, in time, some 40,000 made their way back, they were soon disillusioned by the failure of the glories of the restoration to materialize and by the controversy with the Samaritans, and left off building the Temple. (The Samaritans were a judaized mixture of native north Israelites and Gentile deportees settled by the Assyrians in the erstwhile northern kingdom.) A new religious inspiration came under the governorship of Zerubbabel, a member of the Davidic line, who became the centre of messianic expectations during the anarchy attendant upon the accession to the Persian throne of Darius I (522). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah perceived the disturbances as heralds of an imminent overthrow of the heathen Persian Empire and a worldwide manifestation of God and glorification of Zerubbabel. Against that day they urged the people quickly to complete the building of the Temple. The labour was resumed and completed in 516; but the prophecies remained unfulfilled. Zerubbabel disappears from the biblical narrative, and the spirit of the community flagged again.

The one religious constant in the vicissitudes of the restored community was the mood of repentance and the desire to win back God's favour by adherence to his Covenant rules. The anxiety that underlay this mood produced a hostility to strangers, which encouraged a lasting conflict with the Samaritans, who asked permission to take part in rebuilding the Temple of the God they too worshipped. The Jews, however, rejected them on ill-specified grounds--apparently ethnoreligious; i.e., they felt the Samaritans to be alien to their historical community of faith, especially to its messianic hopes. Nonetheless, intermarriage occurred and precipitated a new crisis when, in 458, the priest Ezra arrived from Babylon, intent on enforcing the regimen of the Torah. By construing ancient and obsolete laws excluding Canaanites and others so as to make them apply to their own times and neighbours, the leaders of the Jews brought about the divorce and expulsion of several dozen non-Jewish wives and their children. Tension between the xenophobic (fear of strangers) and xenophilic (love of strangers) in postexilic Judaism was finally resolved some two centuries later with the development of a formality of religious conversion, whereby Gentiles who so wished could be taken into the Jewish community by a single, simple procedure.

The decisive constitutional event of the new community was the covenant subscribed to by its leaders in 444, making the Torah the law of the land: a charter granted by the Persian king Artaxerxes I to Ezra--scholar and priest of the Babylonian Exile--empowered him to enforce the Torah as the imperial law for the Jews of the province Avar-nahra (Beyond the River), in which the district of Judah (now reduced to a small area) was located. The charter required the publication of the Torah and the publication, in turn, entailed its final editing--now plausibly ascribed to Ezra and his circle. Survival in the Torah of patent inconsistencies and disaccords with the postexilic situation indicate that its materials were by then sacrosanct, to be compiled but no longer created. But these survivals made necessary the immediate invention of a harmonizing and creative method of text interpretation to adjust the Torah to the needs of the times. The Levites were trained in the art of interpreting the text to the people; the first product of the creative exegesis later known as Midrash is to be found in the covenant document of Nehemiah, chapter 9--every item of which shows development, not reproduction, of a ruling of the Torah. Thus, with the publication of the Torah as the law of the Jews the basis of the vast edifice of the Oral Law characteristic of Judaism was laid.

Concern over observance of the Torah was fed by the gap between messianic expectations and the gray reality of the restoration. The gap signified God's continued displeasure, and the only way to regain his favour was to do his will. Thus it is that Malachi, the last of the prophets, concludes with an admonition to be mindful of the Torah of Moses. God's displeasure, however, had always been signalized by a break in communication with him. As time passed and messianic hopes remained unfulfilled, the sense of a permanent suspension of normal relations with God took hold, and prophecy died out. God, it was believed, would some day be reconciled with his people, and a glorious revival of prophecy would then occur. For the present, however, religious vitality expressed itself in dedication to the development of institutions that would make the Torah effective in life. The course of this development is hidden from view by the dearth of sources from the Persian period. But the community that emerged into the light of history in Hellenistic times is one made over radically by this momentous, quiet process.

Hellenistic Judaism (4th century BCE-2nd century CE)

The Greek period (332-63 BCE)

Hellenism and Judaism

Hellenistic Judaism: Important historical sites of Hellenistic and medieval Judaism.Actual contact between Greeks and Semites goes back to Minoan and Mycenaean times and is reflected in certain terms in Homer and in other early Greek authors. It is not until the end of the 4th century, however, that Jews are first mentioned by Greek writers, who praise the Jews as brave, self-disciplined, and philosophical.

After being conquered by Alexander the Great (332 BCE), Palestine became part of the Hellenistic kingdom of Ptolemaic Egypt, the policy of which was to permit the Jews considerable cultural and religious freedom.

When in 198 BCE Palestine was conquered by King Antiochus III (247-187 BCE), of the Syrian Seleucid dynasty, the Jews were treated even more liberally, being granted a charter to govern themselves by their own constitution, namely, the Torah. Greek influence, however, was already becoming manifest. Some of the 29 Greek cities of Palestine attained a high level of culture. The mid-3rd century-BCE Zenon papyri--containing the correspondence of a business manager of a high Ptolemaic official--present the picture of a wealthy Jew, Tobiah, who through commercial contact with the Ptolemies acquired a veneer of Hellenism, to judge at least from the pagan and religious expressions in his Greek letters. His son and especially his grandsons became ardent Hellenists. It has been argued that the Hellenic influence was so strong among the Jews of Judaea by the beginning of the 2nd century that if the process had continued without the forcible intervention of the Seleucids in Jewish affairs (see below) Judaean Judaism would have become even more syncretistic than that of Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (c. 15 BCE-c. 40 CE). The apocryphal writer Jesus ben Sirach so bitterly denounced the Hellenizers in Jerusalem (c. 180 BCE) that he was forced by the authorities to temper his words.

In the early part of the 2nd century BCE, Hellenizing Jews came into control of the high priesthood itself. Jason as high priest (175-172 BCE) established Jerusalem as a Greek city, Antioch-at-Jerusalem, with Greek educational institutions. His ouster by an even more extreme Hellenizing faction, which established Menelaus (died 162 BCE) as high priest, occasioned a civil war, with the wealthy aristocrats supporting Menelaus and the masses Jason. The Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had initially bestowed exemptions and privileges upon the Jews, intervened upon the request of Menelaus' party. Antiochus' promulgation of decrees against the practice of Judaism and the offensive and cruel measures to enforce them led to the revolt of an old priest, Mattathias, and his five sons--the so-called Maccabees or Hasmoneans. It has been conjectured that one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, mirrors the fierceness of this struggle. In any case, the figure of the martyr, as known in Judaism and Christianity--the person who bears witness to the faith through his suffering and death--dates from this event.

The tactics employed both in the countryside and in Jerusalem by the Hasmoneans in their counterattack against Hellenizing Jews, whose children they forcibly circumcised, indicate the inroads that Hellenism had already made. On the whole, however, the chief strength of the Hellenizers lay among the wealthy urban population, while the Maccabees derived their strength from the peasants and urban masses. Yet, there is evidence that the ruthlessness exhibited by the Hasmoneans toward the Greek cities of Palestine had political rather than cultural origins, and that, in fact, they were fighting for personal power no less than for the Torah. In any case, some of those who fought on the side of the Maccabees were idol-worshipping Jews. The Maccabees soon found a modus vivendi with Hellenism: Jonathan (160-142), according to the Jewish historian Josephus (c. 38-c. 100 CE), negotiated a treaty of friendship with Sparta; Aristobulus (104-103 BCE) actually called himself Philhellene (a lover of Hellenism); Alexander Jannaeus (103-76) hired Greek mercenaries and inscribed his coins with Greek as well as with Hebrew. The Greek influence reached its height under King Herod I of Judaea (37-4 BCE), who built a Greek theatre, amphitheatre, and hippodrome in or near Jerusalem.

Social, political, and religious divisions
During the Hellenistic period the priests were both the wealthiest class and the strongest political group among the Jews of Jerusalem. The wealthiest of all were the Oniad family, who held the hereditary office of high priest until they were replaced by the Hasmoneans; the Temple that they supervised was, in effect, a bank, where the Temple wealth was kept and where private individuals also deposited their money. Hence, from a social and economic point of view, Josephus is justified in calling the government of Judaea a theocracy (rule by those having religious authority). Opposition to the priests' oppression arose among an urban middle class group known as scribes (soferim), who were interpreters and instructors of the Torah on the basis of an oral tradition probably going back to the time of the return from the Babylonian Exile (538 BCE and after). A special group of the scribes known as Hasidim (Greek, Hasideans), or "Pietists," became the forerunners of the Pharisees (middle-class liberal Jews who reinterpreted the Torah and the prophetic writings to meet the needs of their times) and joined the Hasmoneans in the struggle against the Hellenists, though on religious rather than on political grounds.

Josephus held that the Pharisees and the other Jewish parties were philosophical schools, and some modern scholars have argued that the groupings were primarily along economic and social lines; but the chief distinctions among them were religious and go back well before the Maccabean revolt. The equation of Pharisaic with "normative" Judaism can no longer be supported, at any rate not before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The fact that in 70 CE, according to the Palestinian Talmud (see below Rabbinic Judaism [2nd-18th century]), there were 24 types of "heretics" in Palestine indicates that there was, in fact, much divergence among Jews; and this picture is confirmed by Josephus, who notes numerous instances of religious leaders who claimed to be prophets and who obtained considerable followings.

Some other modern scholars have sought to interpret the Pharisees' opposition to the Sadducees--wealthy, conservative Jews who accepted the Torah alone as authoritative--as based on an urban-rural dichotomy; but a very large share of Pharisaic concern was with agricultural matters. To associate the rabbis with urbanization seems a distortion. The chief support for the Pharisees came from the lower classes, whether in the country or in the city.

The chief doctrine of the Pharisees (literally "Separatists") was that the Oral Law had been revealed to Moses at the same time as the Written Law. In their exegesis and interpretation of this oral tradition, particularly under the rabbi Hillel at the end of the 1st century BCE, the Pharisees were liberal, and their regard for the public won them considerable support. That the Maccabean ruler John Hyrcanus I broke with them and that Josephus set their number at merely "more than 6,000" at the time of King Herod indicates that they were less numerous and influential than Josephus would have his readers believe. The Pharisees stressed the importance of performing all the commandments, including those that appeared to be of only minor significance; those who were particularly strict in their observance of the Levitical rules were known as haverim ("companions"). They believed in the providential guidance of the universe, in angels, in reward and punishment in the world to come, and in resurrection of the dead, in all of which beliefs they were opposed by the Sadducees. In finding a modus vivendi with Hellenism, at least in form and in terminology, however, the Pharisees did not differ greatly from the Sadducees. Indeed, the supreme council of the Great Synagogue (or Great Assembly) of the Pharisees was modelled in its organization on Hellenistic religious and social associations. Because they did not take an active role in fostering the rebellion against Rome in 66-70 CE, they were able, through their leader Johanan ben Zakkai, to obtain Roman permission to establish an academy at Jabneh (Jamnia), where, in effect, they replaced the cult of the Temple with study and prayer.

The Sadducees and their subsidiary group, the Boethusians (Boethosaeans), who were identified with the great landowners and priestly families, were more deeply influenced by Hellenization. The rise of the Pharisees may thus be seen, in a sense, as a reaction against the more profound Hellenization favoured by the Sadducees, who were allied with the philhellenic Hasmoneans. From the time of John Hyrcanus (135-104 BCE) the Sadducees generally held a higher position in comparison with the Pharisees and were in favour with the Jewish rulers. Religiously more conservative than the Pharisees, they rejected the idea of a revealed oral interpretation of the Torah, though, to be sure, they had their own tradition, the sefer gezerot ("book of decrees" or "decisions"). They similarly rejected the inspiration of the prophetic books of the Bible, as well as the Pharisaic beliefs in angels, rewards, and punishments in the world to come, providential governance of human events, and resurrection of the dead. For them Judaism centred on the Temple; but about 10 years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Sadducees in effect disappeared from Jewish life when the Pharisees excluded them from entering the Temple.

Not constituting any particular party were the unlearned rural masses known as 'amme ha-aretz ("people of the land"), who were to be found among both the Pharisees and Sadducees and even among the Samaritans, descendants of the northern Israelites who had their own Torah and their own sanctuary. The 'amme ha-aretz did not give the prescribed tithes, did not observe the laws of purity, and were neglectful of the laws of prayer; and so great was the antagonism between them and the learned Pharisees that to their daughters was applied the biblical verse, "Cursed be he who lies with any kind of beast." The antipathy was reciprocated, for in the same passage in the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim) are added the words, "Greater is the hatred wherewith the 'amme ha-aretz hate the scholar than the hatred wherewith the heathens hate Israel." That there was, however, social mobility is clear from the Talmudic dictum, "Heed the sons of the 'am ha-aretz, for they will be the living source of the Torah." That there is little evidence that the early Christian church was particularly successful in converting 'amme ha-aretz suggests that their position was not unbearable.

Proselytes (converts) to Judaism, though not constituting a class, became increasingly numerous both in Palestine and especially in the Diaspora (the Jews living beyond Palestine). Scholarly estimates of the Jewish population of this era range from 700,000 to 5,000,000 in Palestine and from 2,000,000 to 5,000,000 in the Diaspora, with the prevailing opinion being that about one-tenth of the population of the Mediterranean world at the beginning of the Christian Era was Jewish. Such numbers represent a considerable increase from previous eras and must have included large numbers of proselytes. Already in 139 BCE the Jews of Rome were charged by the praetor (civil administrator) with attempting to contaminate Roman morals with their religion, presumably an allusion to proselytism. The first large-scale conversions were by John Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, who, in 130 and 103 BCE, respectively, forced the people of Idumaea in southern Palestine and of Ituraea in northern Palestine to become Jews. The eagerness of the Pharisees to win converts is seen in a statement in Matthew that the Pharisees would "traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte." To be sure, some of the proselytes, according to Josephus, did return to their pagan ways, but the majority apparently remained true to their new religion. In addition, there were many "sympathizers" with Judaism who observed one or more Jewish practices without being fully converted.

Outside the pale of Judaism in most, though not all, respects were the Samaritans, who, like the Sadducees, refused to recognize the validity of the Oral Law; and, in fact, the break between the Sadducees and the Samaritans did not occur until the conquest of Shechem by John Hyrcanus (128 BCE). Like the later so-called Qumran covenanters (the monastic group with whom are associated the Dead Sea Scrolls), they were opposed to the Jewish priesthood and the cult of the Temple, regarded Moses as a messianic figure, and forbade the revelation of esoteric doctrines to outsiders.

Scholars have recently revised an older conception of a "normative" Pharisaic Judaism dominant in Palestine and a deviant Judaism dominant in the Diaspora. On the one hand, the picture of "normative" Judaism is broader than at first believed, and it is clear that there were many differences of emphasis within the Pharisaic party; and, on the other hand, supposed differences between Alexandrian and Palestinian Judaism were not as great as had been formerly thought. In Palestine, no less than in the Diaspora, there were then deviations from Pharisaic standards.

Despite the attempts of the Pharisaic leaders to restrain the wave of Greek influence, they themselves showed at least a surface Hellenization. In the first place, as many as 2,500-3,000 words of Greek origin are to be found in the Talmudic corpus, and they supply important terms in the fields of law, government, science, religion, technology, and everyday life, especially in the popular sermons preached by the rabbis. When preaching, the Talmudic rabbis often gave the Greek translation of biblical verses for the benefit of those who understood Greek only. The prevalence of Greek in ossuary (burial) inscriptions and the discovery of Greek papyri in the Dead Sea caves confirm the widespread use of the language, though few Jews, it seems, really mastered Greek. Again, there was a surface Hellenization in the frequent adoption of Greek names, even by the rabbis; and there is evidence (Talmud, Sota) of a school at the beginning of the 2nd century that had 500 students of "Greek wisdom." Even after 117 CE, when it was prohibited by the rabbis to teach one's son Greek, Rabbi Judah the Prince, the editor of the Mishna (authoritative compilation of the Oral Law) at the end of the 2nd century, remarked, "Why talk Syriac in Palestine? Talk either Hebrew or Greek." Even the synagogues of the period have the form of Hellenistic-Roman basilicas, have frequent inscriptions in Greek, and often have pagan motifs. Many of the anecdotes told about the rabbis have Socratic and Cynic parallels. There is evidence of discussions of rabbis with Athenians, Alexandrians, and Roman philosophers, and even with the emperor Antoninus; but in all of these discussions there is evidence of only one rabbi, Elisha ben Abuyah, who became a Gnostic heretic, accepting certain esoteric religious dualistic views. The rabbis never mention the Greek philosophers Plato or Aristotle or the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo, and they never use any Greek philosophical terms; the only Greek author whom they name is Homer. Again, the parallels between Hellenistic rhetoric and rabbinic hermeneutics are in the realm of terminology rather than of substance, and those between Roman and Talmudic law are inconclusive. Part of the explanation of this may be that, although there were 29 Greek cities in Palestine, none was in Judaea, the real stronghold of the Jews.

Religious rites and customs in Palestine: Temple and synagogues
The most important religious institution of the Jews until its destruction in 70 was the Temple in Jerusalem--the Second Temple, erected 538-516 BCE. Though services were interrupted for three years by Antiochus Epiphanes (167-164 BCE) and though the Roman general Pompey desecrated the Temple (63 BCE), Herod lavished great expense in rebuilding it. The high priesthood itself became degraded by the extreme Hellenism of such high priests as Jason and Menelaus; and the institution declined when Herod began the custom of appointing the high priests for political and financial considerations. That not only the multitude of Jews but the priesthood itself suffered from sharp divisions is clear from the bitter class warfare that ultimately erupted in 59 CE between the high priests on the one hand and the ordinary priests and the leaders of the populace of Jerusalem on the other.

Though the Temple remained central in Jewish worship, synagogues may already have emerged during the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BCE. In any case, in the following century, Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood and read from the Torah to the people (Nehemiah). According to the interpretation of some scholars, a synagogue existed even within the precincts of the Temple; and certainly by the time of Jesus, to judge from the references to Galilean synagogues in the New Testament, synagogues were common in Palestine. Hence, when the Temple was destroyed in 70, the spiritual vacuum was hardly as great as it had been after the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE).

The chief legislative, judicial, and educational body of the Palestinian Jews during the period of the Second Temple was the Great Sanhedrin (council court), consisting of 71 members, among whom the Sadducees were an important party. The members shared the government with the king during the early years of the Hasmonean dynasty, but beginning with Herod's reign their authority was restricted to religious matters. In addition, there was another Sanhedrin, set up by the high priest, which served as a court of political council, as well as a kind of grand jury.

Religious and cultural life in the Diaspora

Hellenistic Judaism: Important historical sites of Hellenistic and medieval Judaism.During the Hellenistic-Roman period the chief centres of Jewish population outside Palestine were in Syria, Asia Minor, Babylonia, and Egypt, each of which is estimated to have had at least 1,000,000 Jews. The large Jewish community of Antioch--which, according to Josephus, had been given all the rights of citizenship by the Seleucid founder-king, Seleucus Nicator (died 280 BCE)--attracted a particularly large number of converts to Judaism. It was in Antioch that the apocryphal book of Tobit was probably composed in the 2nd century BCE to encourage wayward Diaspora Jews to return to their Judaism. As for the Jews of Asia Minor, whose large numbers were mentioned by Cicero (1st century BCE), their not joining in the Jewish revolts against the Roman emperors Nero, Trajan, and Hadrian would indicate that they had sunk deep roots into their environment. In Babylonia, in the early part of the 1st century CE, two Jewish brothers, Asinaeus and Anilaeus, were able to establish an independent minor state; their followers were so meticulous in observing the Sabbath that they assumed that it would not be possible to violate the Sabbath even in order to save themselves from a Parthian attack. In the early part of the 1st century CE, according to Josephus, the royal house and many of their entourage in the district of Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia were converted to Judaism; some of the Adiabenian Jews distinguished themselves in the revolt against Rome in 66 (see below Judaism under Roman rule).

The largest and most important Jewish settlement in the Diaspora was in Egypt. There is evidence (papyri) of a Jewish military colony at Elephantine (Yeb), Upper Egypt, as early as the 6th century BCE. These papyri reveal the existence of a Jewish temple--which most certainly would be considered heterodox--and some syncretism (mixture) with pagan cults. Alexandria, the most populous and most influential Hellenistic Jewish community in the Diaspora, had its origin when Alexander the Great assigned a quarter of the city to the Jews. Until about the 3rd century BCE the papyri of the Egyptian Jewish community were written in Aramaic; after that, with the exception of the Nash papyrus in Hebrew, all papyri until 400 CE were in Greek. Similarly, of the 116 Jewish inscriptions from Egypt, all but five are written in Greek. The process of Hellenistic acculturation is, thus, obvious.

The most important work of the early Hellenistic period, dating, according to tradition, from the 3rd century BCE, is the Septuagint, a translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. (The translation of the whole Hebrew Bible was completed during the next two centuries.) The fact that, in the Letter of Aristeas and the works of Philo and Josephus, this translation was itself regarded as divinely inspired led to the neglect of the Hebrew original. The translation shows some knowledge of Palestinian exegesis and the tradition of Halakha (the Oral Law); but the rabbis themselves, noting that the translation diverged from the Hebrew text, apparently had ambivalent feelings about it, as is evidenced in their alternate praise and condemnation of it. The fact that such a concept as Torah was translated as nomos ("law") and tzedaqa as dikaiosyne ("justice") opened the way to antilegalism in early Christianity and to Platonic interpretations; and the introduction of such Greek mythological terms as "Titans" and "Sirens" helped to pave the way for the syncretism of Judaism and paganism.

The establishment of a temple at Leontopolis in Egypt (c. 145 BCE) by a deposed high priest, Onias IV, indicates that the temple was clearly heterodox; but this temple never really offered a challenge to the one in Jerusalem and was merely the temple of the military colony of Leontopolis. It is significant that the Palestinian rabbis ruled that a sacrifice intended for the temple of Onias might be offered in Jerusalem. That the temple of Onias made little impact upon Egyptian Jewry can be seen from the silence about it on the part of Philo, who often mentions the Temple in Jerusalem. The temple of Onias, however, continued until it was closed by the Roman emperor Vespasian in 73 CE.

The chief religious institutions of the Egyptian Diaspora were synagogues. As early as the 3rd century BCE there were inscriptions mentioning two proseuchai, Jewish prayerhouses. In Alexandria there were numerous synagogues throughout the city, of which the largest was so famous that it is said in the Talmud that he who has not seen it has never seen the glory of Israel.

Egyptian Jewish literature
In Egypt the Jews produced a considerable literature (most of it now lost), intended to inculcate in Greek-speaking Jews a pride in their past and to counteract an inferiority complex that some of them felt about Jewish cultural achievements. In the field of history, Demetrius, near the end of the 3rd century BCE, wrote a work On the Kings in Judaea--perhaps intended to refute an anti-Semitic Egyptian priest and author--showing considerable concern for chronology. In the 2nd century BCE a Jew who used the name of Hecataeus wrote On the Jews. Another, Eupolemus (c. 150 BCE), like Demetrius, wrote On the Kings in Judaea; an indication of its apologetic nature may be seen from the fragment asserting that Moses taught the alphabet not only to the Jews but also to the Phoenicians and to the Greeks. Artapanus (c. 100 BCE), in his book On the Jews, went even further in romanticizing Moses by identifying him with the Greek Musaeus and the Egyptian Hermes-Thoth (god of Egyptian writing and culture) and by asserting that Moses was the real originator of Egyptian civilization and that he even taught the Egyptians the worship of the deity Apis (the sacred bull) and the ibis (sacred bird). In his history, Cleodemus (or Malchus), in an obvious attempt to win for the Jews the regard of the Greeks, asserted that two sons of Abraham had joined Heracles in his expedition in Africa and that the Greek hero had married the daughter of one of them. On the other hand, Jason of Cyrene (c. 100 BCE) wrote a history, of which II Maccabees is a summary, glorifying the Temple and violently attacking the Jewish Hellenizers; but his manner of writing history is typically Hellenistic, with emphasis on pathos. III Maccabees (1st century BCE) is a work of propaganda intended to counteract those Jews who sought to win citizenship in Alexandria. The Letter of Aristeas, though ascribed to a pagan courtier, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, was probably composed by an Alexandrian Jew about 100 BCE to defend Judaism and its practices against detractors.

Egyptian Jews also composed poems and plays, now extant only in fragments, to glorify their history. Philo the Elder (c. 100 BCE) wrote an epic On Jerusalem in Homeric hexameters. Theodotus (c. 100 BCE) wrote an epic On Shechem, quite clearly apologetic, to judge from the fragment connecting the name of Shechem with Sikimios, the son of the Greek god Hermes. At about the same time, a Jewish poet wrote a didactic poem, ascribing it to the pagan Phocylides, though closely following the Bible in some details; the author disguised his Jewish origin by omitting any attack against idolatry from his moralizing. A collection known as The Sibylline Oracles, containing Jewish and Christian prophecies in pagan disguise, includes some material composed by a 2nd-century-BCE Alexandrian Jew who intended to glorify the pious Jews and perhaps to win converts; it is possible that the Oracles were known to the Roman poet Virgil when he wrote his fourth Eclogue.

A Jewish dramatist of the period, Ezekiel (c. 100 BCE), composed tragedies in Greek. Fragments of one of them, The Exodus, show how deeply he was influenced by the Greek dramatist Euripides. Whether such plays were actually presented on the stage or not, they edified Jews and showed the pagans that the Jews had as much material for drama as they did.

The greatest achievement of Alexandrian Judaism was in the realm of wisdom literature and philosophy. In a work on the analogical interpretation of the Law of Moses, Aristobulus in the 2nd century BCE anticipated Philo in attempting to harmonize Greek philosophy and the Torah, in using the method of allegory to explain anthropomorphisms in the Bible, and in asserting that the Greek philosophers were indebted to Moses. The Wisdom of Solomon, dating from the 1st century BCE, shows an acquaintance with the Platonic doctrine of the preexistence of the soul and with a method of argument known as sorites that was favoured by the Stoics (Greek philosophers). During the same period the author of IV Maccabees showed an intimate knowledge of Greek philosophy, particularly of Stoicism.

By far the greatest figure in Alexandrian Jewish literature is Philo, who has come to be recognized as a major philosopher. His synthesis of Greek philosophy, particularly that of Plato, and of the Torah, and his formulation of the Logos (Word, or Divine Reason) as an intermediary between God and the world, helped lay the groundwork for Neoplatonism (a philosophy dealing with levels of being), Gnosticism (a dualistic religious movement teaching that matter is evil and that spirit is good), and the philosophical framework of the early Church Fathers. Philo was a devotee of Judaism neither as a mystic cult nor as a collateral branch of Pharisaic Judaism; he was a Diaspora Jew with a profound knowledge of Greek literature who, though almost totally ignorant of Hebrew, tried to find a modus vivendi between Judaism and secular culture.


Hellenistic Judaism: Important historical sites of Hellenistic and medieval Judaism.Mention may be made of the Jewish community of Rome. Numbering perhaps 50,000, it was, to judge from the inscriptions in the Jewish catacombs, predominantly Greek-speaking and almost totally ignorant of Hebrew. References in Roman writers, particularly Tacitus and the satirists, have led scholars to conclude that the community--which was influential, to judge from the pagan jibes--observed the Sabbath and the dietary laws and was active in seeking converts.

The Hellenization of the Diaspora Jews is, however, to be seen not merely in their literature but even more in the papyri and art objects that have recently been studied at great length. As early as 290 BCE, Hecataeus of Abdera, a Greek non-Jew living in Egypt, had remarked that under the Persians and Macedonians the Jews had greatly modified the traditions of their fathers. The fact that--to judge from other papyri--at least three-fourths of the Egyptian Jews had personal names of Greek, rather than Hebrew, origin is significant. That the only schools of which mention is made are Sabbath schools intended for adults and that, on the contrary, Jews were extremely eager to gain admittance for their children to Greek gymnasia--where quite obviously they would have to make compromises with their Judaism--indicates their scale of values. Again, there are a number of violations from the norms of Halakha (which precluded the charging of interest for a loan), most notably in the fact that of 11 known extant loan documents only two are without interest. There are often striking similarities between the documents of sale, marriage, and divorce of the Jews and of the Greeks in Egypt, though some of this, as with the documents of the Elephantine Jewish community, may be due to a common origin in the cuneiform law of ancient Mesopotamia. The charms and apotropaic (designed to avert evil) amulets are often syncretistic, and the Jews can hardly have been unaware of the religious significance of symbols that were still very much filled with meaning in pagan cults. The fact that the Jewish community of Alexandria was preoccupied in the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE with obtaining rights as citizens--which certainly involved compromises with Judaism, including participation in pagan festivals and sacrifices--shows how far they were ready to deviate. Philo mentions Jews who scoffed at the Bible, which they insisted on interpreting literally, and of others who failed to adhere to the biblical laws that they regarded as mere allegory; he writes too of Jews who observed nothing of Judaism except the holiday of Yom Kippur. But despite such deviations, the pagan writers constantly accuse the Diaspora Jews of being "haters of mankind" and of being absurdly superstitious; and Christian writers later similarly attack the Jews for refusing to give up the Torah. At least they were loyal Jews in their contributions of the Temple tax and in pilgrimages to Jerusalem on the three festivals. Actual apostasy and intermarriage were apparently not common, but the virulent anti-Semitism and the pogroms perpetrated by the Egyptian non-Jews must have served as a deterrent.

Palestinian literature
During this period literature was composed in Palestine in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, with the exact language still a subject of dispute among scholars in many cases and with the works often apparently composed by more than one author over a considerable period of time. Most of the works composed in Hebrew, many of them existing only in Greek--Ecclesiasticus, I Maccabees, Judith, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Baruch, Psalms of Solomon, Prayer of Manasseh--and many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are generally conscious imitations of biblical books, often reflecting the dramatic events of the Maccabean struggle and often with an apocalyptic tinge (involving the dramatic intervention of God in history). The literature in Aramaic consists of the following: (1) biblical or Bible-like legends or midrashic (interpretive) additions--Testament of Job, The Martyrdom of Isaiah, Paralipomena of Jeremiah, Life of Adam and Eve, the Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon, Tobit, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon; and (2) apocalypses--Enoch (perhaps originally written in Hebrew), Assumption of Moses, the Syriac Baruch, II (IV) Esdras, and Apocalypse of Abraham. In Greek the chief works by Palestinians are histories of the Jewish War against Rome and of the Jewish kings by Justus of Tiberias (both are lost) and the history of the Jewish War, originally in Aramaic, and the Jewish Antiquities by Josephus (both written in Rome).

Of the wisdom literature composed in Hebrew, the book of the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus (c. 180-175 BCE), modelled on the book of Proverbs, identified Wisdom with the observance of the Torah. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, probably written in the latter half of the 2nd century BCE, patterned on Jacob's blessings to his sons, are now thought to belong to eschatological literature related to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The identification of Wisdom and Torah is stressed in the Mishnaic tract Pirqe Avot ("Sayings of the Fathers"), which, though edited 200 CE, contains the aphorisms of rabbis dating back to 300 BCE.

Books such as the Testament of Job, the Dead Sea Scroll Genesis Apocryphon, the Book of Jubilees (now known to have been composed in Hebrew, as seen by its appearance among the Dead Sea Scrolls), and Biblical Antiquities, falsely attributed to Philo (originally written in Hebrew, then translated into Greek, but now extant only in Latin), as well as the first half of Josephus' Jewish Antiquities, often show affinities with rabbinic Midrashim (interpretive works) in their legendary accretions of biblical details. Sometimes, as in Jubilees and in the Pseudo-Philo work, these accretions are intended to answer the questions of heretics, but often, particularly in the case of Josephus, they are apologetic in presenting biblical heroes in a guise that would appeal to a Hellenized audience.

Apocalyptic trends, given considerable impetus by the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, were not--as was formerly thought--restricted to Pharisaic circles. They were (as is clear from the Dead Sea Scrolls) found in other groups as well, and are of particular importance for their influence on both Jewish mysticism and early Christianity. These books, which have a close connection with the biblical Book of Daniel, stress the impossibility of a rational solution to the problem of theodicy--how to reconcile the righteousness of God with observable evil. They also stress the imminence of the day of salvation, which is to be preceded by terrible hardships, and presumably reflected the current historical setting. In the book of Enoch there is stress on the terrible punishment inflicted upon sinners in the Last Judgment, the imminent coming of the Messiah and of his kingdom, and the role of angels.

The sole Palestinian Jewish author writing in Greek whose works are preserved is Josephus. His account of the war against the Romans in his Life and, to a lesser degree, in the Jewish War are largely a defense of his own questionable behaviour as the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee. But these works and more especially Against Apion and the Jewish Antiquities are largely defenses of Judaism against anti-Semitic attacks. Josephus' Jewish War is often quite deliberately parallel to Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War; and his Jewish Antiquities is quite deliberately parallel to Dionysius of Halicarnassus' Roman Antiquities, dating from earlier in the same century.

The Roman period (63 BCE-135 CE)

New parties and sects

Hellenistic Judaism: Important historical sites of Hellenistic and medieval Judaism.Under Roman rule a number of new groups, largely political, emerged in Palestine. Their common aim was to seek an independent Jewish state. All were zealous for, and strict in their observance of, the Torah.

The Herodians were a political group that after the death of Herod--whom they apparently regarded as the Messiah--sought the reestablishment of the rule of Herod's descendants over an independent Palestine as a prerequisite for Jewish preservation. Unlike the Zealots, however, they did not refuse to pay taxes to the Romans.

The Zealots' party, founded c. 6-9 CE, refused to pay tribute to the Romans and advocated overthrowing them on the ground that they should acknowledge God alone as their master. A priestly, eschatologically oriented resistance movement, the Zealots were particularly dedicated to keeping the Temple and its cult pure and used guerrilla tactics toward that end. The Sicarii (Assassins), so-called because of the dagger (sica) they carried, arose c. 54, according to Josephus, as a group of bandits who kidnapped or murdered those who had found a modus vivendi with the Romans. It was they who made a stand at the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, committing suicide rather than be captured by the Romans (73).

A number of other parties--various types of Essenes, Damascus Covenanters, and the Qumran Dead Sea groups--were distinguished by their pursuit of an ascetic monastic life, disdain for material goods and sensual gratification, sharing of material possessions, concern for eschatology, strong apocalyptic views in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, practice of ablutions to attain greater sexual and ritual purity, prayer, contemplation, and study. The Essenes were like the Therapeutae, a Jewish religious group that had flourished in Egypt two centuries earlier, but the latter actively sought "wisdom" whereas the former were anti-intellectual. Only some of the Essenes were celibate. The Essenes have been termed Gnosticizing Pharisees because of their belief, shared with the Gnostics, that the world of matter was evil; some have seen in them the influence of a quasi-monasticism.

The Damascus sect (New Covenanters) were a group of Pharisees who went beyond the letter of the Pharisaic Halakha. Like the Essenes and the Dead Sea sect, they had a monastic type of organization and opposed the way in which sacrifices were offered in the Temple.

The continuing recent discoveries of scrolls in caves of the Dead Sea area have focussed attention on the groups that lived there. On the basis of paleography, carbon-14 testing, and the coins discovered there, most scholars accept a 1st-century date for them. A theoretical relationship of the communities with John the Baptist and the nascent Christian groups remains in dispute, however. The sectaries have been identified variously as Zealots, an unnamed anti-Roman group, and especially Essenes; but a major difference between the Qumran groups and the Essenes is that the former were militarily activist (the discovery of hymns and a calendar at Masada--a stronghold of the Sicarii--that had previously been found at Qumran, may indicate a connection between the groups), while the latter were, for the most part, pacifist. That the groups had secret, presumably apocalyptic, teachings is clear from the fact that among the scrolls are some in cryptographic script and reversed writing; and yet, despite their extreme piety and legalistic conservatism, they apparently were not unaware of Hellenism, to judge from the presence of Greek books at Qumran.

It has long been debated whether the Gnostic systems of the 1st and 2nd centuries go back to the collapse of the apocalyptic strains in Judaism--which expected a final transforming catastrophic event--when the Temple was destroyed in 70. It is doubtful that there is any direct Jewish source for this Gnosticism, though some characteristic Gnostic doctrines are found in certain groups of particularly apocalyptic 1st-century Jews--the dichotomy of body and soul and a disdain for the material world, a notion of esoteric knowledge, and an intense interest in angels and in problems of creation.
Origin of Christianity: the early Christians and the Jewish community
Though it attracted little attention among pagans and Jews at the beginning, the rise of Christianity was by far the most important "sectarian" development of the Roman period. With the revision, largely due to the discoveries at Qumran, of the view that Pharisaic Judaism was to be considered normative, primitive Christianity, with its apocalyptic and eschatological interests, has come to be viewed by many scholars as no longer "sectarian" or peripheral to Jewish development but, at least initially, as part of a broad spectrum of attitudes within Judaism. Jesus himself, despite his criticisms of Pharisaic legalism, may now be classified as a Pharisee with strong apocalyptic inclinations; he proclaimed that he had no intention of abrogating the Torah, but of fulfilling it. It is possible to envision a direct line between Jewish currents, both in Palestine and the Diaspora in the Hellenistic Age, and Christianity, particularly in the traditions of martyrdom, proselytism, monasticism, mysticism, liturgy, and religious philosophy, especially the doctrine of the Logos (Word) as an intermediary between God and the world and the synthesis of faith and reason. The Septuagint, in particular, played an important role both theoretically, in the transformation of Greek philosophy into the theology of the Church Fathers, and practically, in converting Jews and Jewish "sympathizers" to Christianity. The connection of nascent Christianity with the Qumran groups may be seen in their dualism and apocalypticism; but there are differences, notably in the conception of the Incarnation, in the relationship of the Son and the Father, and in Jesus' vicarious suffering for sinners as against the direct suffering of the Qumran Teacher of Righteousness. Again, the Qumran group constituted an esoteric movement, militant, with enforced community of goods, concerned with strict observance of the Torah, especially with its calendar, whereas Christianity was pacifist, was open to all, and represented a New Covenant, with stress away from the Torah ritual and with voluntary community of possessions. In general, moreover, Christianity was more positively disposed toward Hellenism than was Pharisaism, particularly under the leadership of Paul, a thoroughly Hellenized Jew.

When Paul proclaimed his antinomianism (against Torah observance as a means of salvation) many Jewish followers of Jesus became Jewish Christians and continued to observe the Torah. Their two main groupings were the Ebionites--probably to be identified with those called minim, or "sectaries," in the Talmud--who accepted Jesus as the Messiah but denied his divinity, and the Nazarenes, who regarded Jesus as both Messiah and God, but regarded the Torah as binding upon Jews alone.

The percentage of Jews converted to any form of Christianity was extremely small, as can be seen from the frequent criticisms of Jews for their stubbornness by Christian writers. In the Diaspora, despite the strong influence of Hellenism, there were relatively few Jewish converts, though the Christian movement had some success in winning Alexandrian Jews.

There were four major stages in the final break between Christianity and Judaism: (1) the flight of the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem to Pella across the Jordan in 70 and their refusal to continue the struggle against the Romans; (2) the institution by the patriarch Gamaliel II of a prayer in the Eighteen Benedictions against such heretics (c. 100), and (3 and 4) the failure of the Christians to join the messianic leaders Lukuas-Andreas and Bar Kokhba in the revolts against Trajan (115-117) and Hadrian (132-135), respectively.

Judaism under Roman rule

Hellenistic Judaism: Important historical sites of Hellenistic and medieval Judaism.When Pompey entered the Temple in 63 BCE as an arbiter both in the civil war between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus and in the struggle of the Pharisees against both Jewish rulers, Judaea in effect became a puppet state of the Romans. During the civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar, the Idumaean Antipater had ingratiated himself with Caesar by aiding him and was rewarded by being made governor of Judaea; the Jews were rewarded through the promulgation of a number of decrees favourable to them, which were reaffirmed by Augustus and later emperors. His son Herod, king of Judaea, an admirer of Greek culture, supported a cult worshipping the Emperor and built temples to Augustus in non-Jewish cities. Since he was by origin an Idumaean, he was regarded by many Jews as a foreigner. (The Idumaeans, or Edomites, were forcibly converted to Judaism by John Hyrcanus; see above.) On several occasions during and after his reign, Pharisaic delegations sought to convince the Romans to end the quasi-independent Jewish government. After the death of Herod's son and successor Archelaus in 6 CE, his realms were ruled by Roman procurators, the most famous or infamous of whom, Pontius Pilate (26-36), attempted to introduce busts of the Roman emperor into Jerusalem and discovered the intense religious zeal of the Jews in opposing this measure. When Caligula ordered the governor of Syria, Petronius, to install a statue of himself in the Temple, a large number of Jews proclaimed they would suffer death rather than to permit such a desecration. Petronius in response succeeded in getting the Emperor to delay. The procurators of Judaea, being of equestrian (knightly) rank and often of Oriental Greek stock, were more anti-Semitic than the governors of Syria, who were of the higher senatorial order. The last procurators in particular were indifferent to Jewish religious sensibilities; and various patriotic groups, to whom nationalism was an integral part of their religion, succeeded in polarizing the Jewish population and bringing on an extremely bloody war with Rome in 66-70. The climax of the war was the destruction of the Temple in 70, though, according to Josephus, the Roman general (and later emperor) Titus sought to spare it. The war was not ended, however, until 73, when the Sicarii at Masada committed suicide rather than submit to the Romans.

The papyri indicate that the war against Trajan (115-117), involving the Jews of Egypt, Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia (though only to a minor degree those of Palestine), was a widespread revolt under a Cyrenian king-messiah, Lukuas-Andreas, aimed at freeing Palestine from Roman rule. The same spirit of freedom impelled another messiah, Bar Kokhba, who had the support of the greatest rabbi of the time, Akiba, in his spontaneous uprising (132-135). The result was Hadrian's decrees prohibiting circumcision and public instruction in the Torah, though these were soon revoked by Antoninus Pius. Having suffered such tremendous losses on the field of battle, Judaism turned its dynamism to the continued development of the Talmud.

Rabbinic Judaism (2nd-18th century)

The age of the Tannaim (135-c. 200)

The role of the rabbis
With the defeat of Bar Kokhba and the ensuing collapse of active Jewish resistance to Roman rule (135-136), politically moderate and quietist rabbinic elements remained the only cohesive group within Jewish society. With Jerusalem off limits to the Jews, rabbinic ideology and practice, which were not dependent on Temple, priesthood, or political independence for their vitality, provided a viable program for autonomous community life and thus filled the vacuum created by the suppression of all other Jewish leadership. The Romans, confident that the will for insurrection had been shattered, soon relaxed the Hadrianic prohibitions of Jewish ordination, public assembly, and regulation of the calendar and permitted rabbis who had fled the country to return and reestablish an academy in the town of Usha in Galilee.

The strength of the rabbinate lay in its ability to represent simultaneously the interests of the Jews and the Romans, whose religious and political needs, respectively, now chanced to coincide. The rabbis were regarded favourably by the Romans, as a politically submissive class, which, with its wide influence over the Jewish masses, could translate the Pax Romana (the peace imposed by Roman rule) into Jewish religious precepts. To the Jews, on the other hand, the rabbinic ideology gave the appearance of continuity to Jewish self-rule and freedom from alien interference. The rabbinic program fashioned by Johanan ben Zakkai's circle (see above Hellenistic Judaism [4th century BCE-2nd century CE]) had replaced sacrifice and pilgrimage to the Temple with study of Scripture, prayer, and works of piety, thus eliminating the need for a central sanctuary (in Jerusalem) and making of Judaism a religious association capable of fulfillment anywhere. Judaism was now, for all intents and purposes, a Diaspora religion even on its home soil. Any sense of real break with the past was mitigated by continued adherence to purity laws (dietary and bodily) and by assiduous study of Scripture, including those legal sections that historical developments had now made obsolete. The reward held out for scrupulous study and fulfillment was the promise of messianic deliverance; i.e., divine restoration of all those institutions that had become central in Jewish notions of national independence--the Davidic monarchy, Temple service, the ingathering of Diaspora Jewry--and, above all, the assurance of personal reward to the righteous through resurrection and participation in the national rebirth.

Apart from the right to teach Scripture publicly, the most pressing need felt by the surviving rabbis was for the reorganization of a recognized body that would reactivate the functions of the former Sanhedrin and pass on disputed questions of law and dogma. A high court was, accordingly, organized under the leadership of Simeon ben Gamaliel (reigned c. 135-c. 175), the son of the previous patriarch (the Roman term for the head of the Palestinian Jewish community) of the house of Hillel, in association with rabbis representing other schools and interests. In the ensuing struggle for power, the patriarch managed to concentrate all communal authority in his office. The dominating role of the patriarchate reached its zenith in the days of his son and successor, Judah the Prince, whose reign (c. 175-c. 220) marked the climax of this period of rabbinic activity, otherwise known as the "age of the tannaim" (teachers). Armed with wealth, Roman backing, and dynastic legitimacy (which the patriarch now traced to the house of David), Judah sought to standardize Jewish practice through a corpus of legal norms that would reflect recognized views of the rabbinate on every aspect of life. The Mishna (collection of rabbinic law) that soon emerged became the primary source of reference in all rabbinic schools and constituted the core around which the Talmud (commentary on Mishna, literally "teaching") was later compiled. It thus remains the best single introduction to the complex of rabbinic values and practices as they evolved in Roman Palestine.
 

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