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'Hellenization' Of Judaea In The First Century ...

The word synagogue itself comes from Jewish Koiné Greek, a language spoken by Hellenized Jews across Southeastern Europe (Macedonia, Thrace, Northern Greece), North Africa and the Middle East after the 3rd century BCE. Many synagogues were built by the Hellenistai or adherents of Hellenistic Judaism in the Greek Isles, Cilicia, Northwestern and Eastern Syria and Northern Israel as early as the first century BCE- notably in Delos, Antioch, Alexandretta, Galilee and Dura-Europos: because of the mosaics and frescos representing heroic figures and Biblical characters (viewed as potentially conductive of "image worship" by later generations of Jewish scholars and rabbis), many of these early synagogues were at first mistaken for Greek temples or Antiochian Greek Orthodox churches.

'Hellenization' of Judaea in the First Century ...

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It was not until the time of Alexander the Great , however, that the contacts between Greeks and Jews were revived and intensified. The fact that for two centuries Palestine was part of Hellenistic kingdoms, first of Ptolemaic Egypt and then of Seleucid Syria, made Greek influence on Jewish thought and life inevitable. In the first third of the second century B.C.E., a group of Hellenizing Jews came to power in Jerusalem. They were led by wealthy Jewish aristocrats such as Joseph son of Tobiah, and his son Hyrcanus, who were apparently attracted to the externals of Hellenism; their Hellenization was, at first, primarily social rather than cultural and religious. Jason the high priest carried his Hellenizing to the extent of establishing Greek educational institutions, the gymnasium and ephebeion, and of founding Jerusalem as a Greek city, Antioch-at-Jerusalem. But Jason was only a moderate Hellenizer compared with Menelaus , whose succession as high priest occasioned a civil war between their factions, with the Tobiads supporting Menelaus and the masses of the people standing behind Jason. As the scholars Bickermann, Tcherikover, and Hengel have shown, it was the Hellenizers, notably Menelaus and his followers, who influenced Antiochus Epiphanes to undertake his persecutions of Judaism so as to put down the rebellion of the Hassideans , who were supported by the masses of Jerusalem and who rebelled against the Hellenizers. Perhaps the account in the Dead Sea Scrolls of the war between the sons of light and the sons of darkness reflects this struggle.

Education was a key area of Greek impact. After the establishment of the gymnasium and ephebeion by Jason the high priest in pre-Maccabean times, there is no further information on Greek educational institutions established by Jews. However, in the first century Rabban Gamaliel had 500 students of Greek wisdom in addition to 500 students of Torah (Sot. 49b, et al.), although this permission to study Greek was granted to the house of Rabban Gamaliel only because of their special relationship with the Roman government. In Egypt the only known schools with Jewish content were the Sabbath schools, intended for adults, which, according to Philo (Spec., 1:62), taught the traditional Greek four cardinal virtues. On the other hand, there is mention of the eagerness of Jews to enroll their children of secondary school age in Greek gymnasia; and apparently, until they were excluded by the Emperor Claudius in 41, they had succeeded in their efforts. Such an education initiated youths into the Greek way of life, especially athletics, its most characteristic feature. No Jew could have attended a Greek gymnasium without making serious compromises with his religion, for the gymnasia had numerous busts of deities, held religious processions, sponsored sacrifices, and participated in the athletic games associated with the festivals. Similarly, the fact that the 72 translators recommended that King Ptolemy watch plays (Letter of Aristeas, 284) and that Philo himself often attended the theater (Ebr., 177) shows that Hellenization had made deep inroads. It is not surprising that the rabbis (Av. Zar. 18b) forbade attendance at theaters, for ancient dramas were performed only at festivals of the gods in the presence of the altar and priests of the gods.

In Jerusalem itself about 40 percent of the Jewish inscriptions from the first-century period (before 70 C.E.) are in Greek. We may assume that most Jewish Jerusalemites who saw the inscriptions in situ were able to read them.

To begin with undisputed matters: Jesus was a Jew; the disciples were Jews; Paul was a Jew; and most of the New Testament writers were Jews. In other words, the Jesus movement in the first century was initiated by Jews. The major Jesus-movement figures in the New Testament themselves testify that they were Jews and had not opposed Jewish traditions. For instance, Peter hesitated (multiple times!) to take unlawful foods which are banned in Torah and regarded having fellowship with the Gentile as prohibited by Jewish laws (Acts 10:14, 28). Also, Paul, seen in retrospect as one of the founders of Christianity, claims that he is a Jew, still believing in the same God (Phil 3:5; 2 Cor 11:22). Moreover, Paul circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), and when Paul came back to Jerusalem, in Acts 21, he committed himself to Jewish purification.

[1] To employ the term Christianity in the first century setting would be anachronistic since Christianity was not established as a religion at that time. Hence, scholars usually adopt the term Jesus movement instead of Christianity. This paper, however, uses Christianity (or Christians), not indicating it as an official and established religion but to distinguish Jesus-followers/believers from Jews.

Still, pockets of Greek influence remained well into the first century. In Galilee, the area where Jesus spent much of his life and ministry, Greek was spoken in Beit She'an (Scythopolis) and the other cities of the Decapolis. It was also spoken in Sepphoris, a city near Nazareth.

This has been the commonly accepted view since 1845, when Abraham Geiger, a German rabbi, showed that even Jewish rabbis from the first century would have spoken Aramaic. He convincingly argued that the Hebrew from the first century (Mishnaic Hebrew) only functioned as a written language, not as a living, spoken language.

How did the status of Hebrew evolve from its use as the dominant language of Israel in the sixth-century BC to a highly localized language written and spoken in only very specific contexts in the first-century AD? How did Aramaic come to replace it?

The question that hovers over this inquiry remains: how did Islam adopt this very affiliation between Arabs and Ishmaelites? There are references in the Quran to Jewish tribes around Mecca about whom nothing further is known. Were they converts from paganism to Judaism and the vessel through which Islam absorbed this crucial identification? Did it somehow infiltrate through the Judaizing kings of Himyar who, however, had already lost their kingdom by the early sixth century? Or did Mohammedan Islam originate not in the Hijaz but rather in the territories conquered by the Moslems? A handful of Arabic inscriptions from the Negev (southern Palestine) which date to the first century of Islam (seventh-early eighth) hint at the existence of an Arab monotheistic creed that was neither Judaism nor Christianity nor yet Islam. It may be best described as proto-Islamic.7 Controversial as this provenance is bound to be, a Syria-Palestinian context might account more readily than the Hijaz for the transmission and adoption of biblical ancestry by the Arabs in late antiquity.8

Not only the Jerusalem of these anecdotes, but all of Roman Judea in the first century A.D. was a place of tremendous linguistic diversity. Centuries of political and religious change had resulted in the establishment of a culture in which Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin were written, read, and especially spoken by a multilingual group. This included governors and subjects, scholars and laymen, missionaries and proselytes, buyers and sellers, clients and kings. The rock of Masada, having yielded from its rubble Latin, Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew texts, exemplifies the societal internexus of New Testament Palestine.

Greek was apparently the official language of Sepphoris under Herod and Antipas as under the Seleucid and Ptolemaic imperial administrations earlier (and in Tiberias, once it was founded). Yet we cannot conclude, on the basis of their supposed contact with Sepphoris, that most Galileans had become accustomed to speaking Greek by the first century C.E.16

At first, he focuses on two sites in Upper Galilee: the cult center of Mispey Yamim in the Meiron massif and the administrative building that delivered a cache of seals from Kedesh. For Freyne, 1 Maccabees does not give reliable information about Galilee's inhabitants and cultural ethos in the pre-Maccabean period (mid-2nd century). Both sites were occupied during the Persian period and ceased to function in the middle of the 2nd century BCE. Both also give evidence of Phoenician and Egyptian cultic influence, whilst Greek influence is limited to Kedesh. Overall the evidence suggests for Freyne that Hellenization in Galilee was not imposed by either the Ptolemies or Seleucids, and no easy syncretism existed. What is evidenced is a native religious conservatism that was shared by all peoples of the East, including the Jews,1 at least in early encounters with

Karrer places the translator of Isaiah into Greek (the LXX) within the context of the power struggle between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids over Judea and the Maccabean liberation of Jerusalem in the first half of the 2nd century BCE. He bases this approach on the modification of the text in Isaiah 19:23 ('the Egyptians shall serve the Assyrians') and in light of this offers his own approach to the interpretation of Isaiah 9:1-2 (LXX). The differences between the MT and LXX lead him to the following hypothesis: 'Prophetie darf in der Septuaginta aktualisiert werden' [Prophecy can be updated in the Septuagint - own translation] (p. 37), something he also affirms for Isaiah later (p. 52). 041b061a72


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