MODULE 2 â POST-BIBLICAL JUDAISM
The beginning of Judaism
â The emergence of Israelite religion.
â The return of the Israelites to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile is considered
to be the beginning of Judaism as a religion.
â King Darius of Persia
o He liked the Jewish people
o He encouraged them to return to their homeland.
â The beginning of Judaism is tied closely to Ezra and Nehemiah:
o Ezra â priest and scribe (professional copier of ancient manuscripts)
ï§ When he returned to Jerustlem, he was instrumental because he
took with him the Torah (1 five books of the Hebrew Bible)
ï§ He instigated to encourage the public readings of the Torah.
o Nehemiah â architect of re-building the city of Jerusalem.
ï§ In 515 the walls were re-built.
â Esther is also important:
o Saved the Jews from destruction
â Hellenistic age follows the classical Greek age
o Age of philosophers, poets, writers.
â Alexander the Great - conquered many of the countries around the
Mediterranean and ruled 336-323.
o He spread the Greek language.
o Hellenistic Greek/common Greek was spoken.
o Everyone throughout Greece and down into Egypt communicated in it.
o Language was a universalizing factor of culture and religion.
o Septuagint (LXX) (70)
ï§ Idealized portrait of Hebrew Bible (tanack) translated by 72
scribes in 72 days from Hebrew into Greek
ï§ Occurred in Alexandria (Upper Nile Delta)
ï§ We can now assume that Jewish people who cannot speak
classical Hebrew cannot have access to their Holy Scriptures.
ï§ Many Jewish people lived in Alexandria and down the Nile.
â¢ The translation of Torah into Greek was necessary.
â When one group exchanges a traditional language for another language, how
long does it take for children to lose the traditional language?
o Generally one or two generations
o In Alexandria, Jewish community was already speaking Greek
ï§ Culture is a strong byproduct of language
ï§ Greek culture and Israelite culture often contradicted and
conflicted with one another
o Jews have lived not only in the land of Israel, but many areas around it as
o Change in language in Hellenistic age also caused a cultural and religious
challenge to the Jewish people. â The Maccabees
o Received name from one of their leaders
ï§ He 'hammered' somebody
o Before Alexander the great, the Ptolemies and Seleucids were two
dynasties constantly at war with one another
ï§ Ptolemies are located closer to Egypt
ï§ Israel was in the middle of these conflicts
o 223 BCE, The Seleucids overcame the Ptolemies due to Antiochus III
ï§ Mediterranean era of Hellenistic age came under control of
o Antiochus IV was very much against Jewish customs and Jewish life
ï§ Completely desecrated the temple
ï§ Sacrificed a pig on the alter of the temple
ï§ Forbid the practice and worship of Jewish people in temple or
ï§ Renamed the temple 'Temple of Zeus'
ï§ Political ruler who suppressed the Jews
o Jewish people did not take this very well!
ï§ 167 BC - Judas Maccabee rose up against Antiochus IV and
â¢ When they entered the temple, there was very little oil left
â¢ This is the historical beginning of the festival of Chanukah
ï§ 165 - 64 BC, Ruling dynasty following Maccabee was the
â¢ Good time for the Jewish people
â¢ Tension was struggle between retaining Jewish practices
and finding a balance with Greek culture
â Philo of Alexandria
o Important to philosophical development of Judaism
o Many of his ideas were later rejected in Rabbinic Judaism
o Grew up Greek, spoke Greek as mother tongue
o Left 40 treatises, including allegorical interpretation of Torah
o Tried to work out philosophical/theological synthesis between Judaism
ï§ Biblical Judaism and Greek Philosophy
ï§ More or less followed 'Middle Platonism"
â¢ Along the lines of Plato
â¢ First attempt to interpret Plato philosophically
o Brought idea of Logos, or reason
o Ideal that you cannot know God's essence, only his existence
o Believed Plato got some ideas from Moses
â Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes â During the time of Philo there were three or four groups who lived in and around
Jerusalem; they took religion seriously
â Distinctions between the three were their understanding of Torah:
o We generally see this as a negative; in English it is associated with
o Those who are responsible for oral Torah
ï§ Interpretation/Clarification of Torah
ï§ 'Oral Torah is a fence around Torah'
o Rejected by Sauddecees who believed only written scripture was valid
o Most accurate interpreters of written law
o Also handed down regulations (Oral Torah) that was not written
o Oral Torah is as binding and authoritative as written Torah
o Everything happens according to the providence of God
ï§ Not the same as predestination
o Soul is imperishable; after death, life is not over
o Lived a simple life; lay people
o Influential and liked among the common people
o That which is handed down orally does not need to be observed
o Oral Torah is not authoritative
o Do not believe in divine providence
o Do not believe in resurrection
o Aristocracy; professional elite; may have been arrogant
o When a candidate to become high priest in Jerusalem was rejected, they
ï§ Saw rejection as beginning of end of the world
o Romans took over in 63 BCE and Essene community left Jerusalem
o When they moved as a community they were guided by 'Teacher of
ï§ Orthodox Torah teacher
o Did not perform sacrifices or have a material temple
o Understood own community as the body (temple) of God
o Paid special attention to purity laws; had large ritual baths
o Believed end of the world was