CLA160H1 Lecture Notes - Bar Kokhba Revolt, Worship God, Mithridates Vi Of Pontus

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18 Nov 2012
CLA 310 – Roman Religion S. Dunning 11/14/12
Ancient Jewish Religion
Q: (Some things to keep in mind)
What are the main characteristics of ancient Jewish religious practices?
How did the Jewish religion differ from the polytheistic religious practices in the Roman Empire?
What was the relationship between Jews and the Roman Empire?
Why would Judaism be perceived as superstitio?
- The term “Jew” is problematic because it denotes one tribe when it is really comprised of 12. As
well denotes all from Judea
oAlternative: Judeans – still problematic though
oThis is because ancient scholars tend to tie the people to the land
- For the purpose of this class, “Jew” or “Hebrew” used
- The ancient Jewish religion not entirely uniform
Key events in Jewish history
- God’s covenant with Abraham (2nd millennium BC?)
- Exodus (1600-1300 BC?)
- Founding of Israel, ruled by judges, then kings (1350-586 BC)
- Divided kingdom – Israel to the north, Judah to the south
- Assyrian conquest of Israel (721 BC), Babylonians conquer Assyria, then Judah (586 BC)
- Persian conquest of Babylon (538 BC); Alex the Great conquers Persia, Seleucids rule Judaea
- Pompey conquers Mithridates VI of Pontus (63 BC), Judaea under Roman rule (governed by
kings loyal to Rome)
- Jewish Revolt (66-73 BC), Kitos Revolt (115 – 7 AD), Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-5 AD)
- Jews’ coming to power – sign of divine favour = Jewish god loves them (Roman thinking)
- Jewish thinking = favoured but disciplined (i.e., God punishes them for bad acts)
- Out of nothing, something comes to being (Abraham and conception of Isaac, from whom the
Hebrews originated)
- Absolute divine power vs. Human weakness
oRecurrent theme in Jewish origin discourse
- Judges – political, military and religious connotations
- Ark of the Covenant – most important sacred obj. of the Jews
- Kings enter into a covenant with God, loyal
oBut later devolved – lost sight of goal (worship God)
- Great Temple of Solomon housed the ark
- Split of kingdom after Solomon
- People get redistributed
- Many kings did bad regarding royal acts
oGreedy, power-hungry
- Intermarriages between the tribes, monotheistic worship
- Local elite used for governance
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- Greek statues, Roman deities asked to be put inside Jewish religious places – clash
oWill be subject people rather than compromise religion and so Romans assigned king
Sacrifices carried out, as well as quelling revolts – duties
- Romans make effort to feminize them (?)
Religious Performance in Judaism
- Jewish religious space
oHierarchical space regarding gender, position, degree of participation (i.e.,
oInner rooms exclusive to officials
Must be pure enough to go in
oConcept of ritual purity
oHoly of Holies – essence of God
- Greek and Roman temples – temple and grounds considered sacer
- Jewish considered theirs sanctus
oGod believed to be present within temple so considered sanctus - too much for human
beings to bear (too holy)
- Made beautiful to humans to be beautiful to God
oUse the best material
oDivinely ordained temple – built to order
- Act of sacrifice and obedience to God
oHolocaust sacrifice – meat leftover for use of priest - no sharing with common people
oPart of the priest’s livelihood
- Priests can get married – office restricted to Levites tribe
- Altar inside the temple, sculptural panels featuring animals and palm trees – no anthromorphic
images (as per the commandment that states they shall not worship idols – i.e., human images in
art considered as idols)
oGod is a spirit – should not try to imagine him as anything else
oTo see him is to see too much (cf. Semele and Zeus)
- Ark of the Covenant – made specifically according to God’s instructions (Bible)
o10 commandments preserved inside
oWith manna and Aaron’s staff
- 10 commandments = ethical code of the Jews
oCovenant with God
- Manna represents divine providence, the staff, divine ordinance / power
- Sacred texts
oCodified during the Babylonian captivity
oDead Sea Scrolls (Hebrew)
- Essential focus for worship in synagogues
- Synagogues
oPlace for instruction
o“coming together” in Greek
oInstructs on what one is supposed to do in their daily lives, how to have a better
relationship with God and others
oRabbi = teacher
- Sacred texts = 66 books – official texts – particularly linked to divine will
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