I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges

So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Saint John, Letter to Galatians 4:16

Freedom of Religion - Freedom from Religion - Freedom of Public Display of Religion and Traditions

We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief.
Ronald Reagan (Temple Hillel Speech, 1984)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chapter 4: Hebrews: Ancient Historians - Part A

Of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism is the oldest of the other two major monotheistic religions – Christianity and Islam; except in the case of Zoroastrianism. Christianity really an extension of the story of the Hebrews because the founder and his disciples were Jewish.

Hebrew Sacred Texts

The Hebrew, actually what the language is known as are the Jewish people, have a strong belief in one true God who is the creator, ruler of this world and the entire universe who knows everything and sees everything. He has revealed the sacred laws of Jews in the Torah and has chosen Hebrews (Jews)  and those that follow those laws and preserves the Torah and history has come to know them as the Chosen People or as Mohammed, the founder/prophet of Islam called them: “The People of the Book".   But the first issue to discuss refers to that holy book, the sacred texts of Judaism and use it in the proper terminology used to describe the 38 books that make up the Hebrew Canon (Bible),  referred to as the Old Testament. However, this is not entirely true and has been a point of a theological discussion and argument since the inception of Christianity and Islam. And as mentioned in the title page, archaeology has been a significant aid in constructing the past in human history, and validating what scholars and historians have written about in the course of examining theological history and philosophy.
The Hebrew Scriptures are: (1) Genesis, (2) Exodus, (3) Leviticus, (4) Numbers, (5) Deuteronomy, (6) Joshua, (7) Judges, (8) Ruth, (9) First Samuel, (10) Second Samuel, (11) First Kings, (12) Second Kings, (13) First Chronicles, (14) Second Chronicles, (15) Ezra, (16) Nehemiah, (17) Esther, (18) Job, (19) Psalms, (20)Proverbs, (21) Ecclesiastes, (22) Song of Solomon, (23) Isaiah, (24) Jeremiah, (25) Lamentations, (26) Ezekiel, (27) Daniel, (28) Hosea, (29) Joel, (30) Amos, (31) Obadiah, (32) Jonah, (33) Micah, (34) Nahum, (35) Habakkuk, (36) Zephaniah, (37) Haggai, and (38) Malachi. The Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books are not in the Hebrew Bible, but can be found in the Catholic and Protestant bibles. The New Testament concerns Jesus of Nazareth, his life and his teachings, and is not found in the Hebrew Canon.

The Old Testament points to the New Testament, in terms of prophetic paragraphs and the New Testament often refers to people and the ancient laws within the Old Testament. While the actual description and examination of Christianity is discussed later in this book, as with the other ancient religions, it interacts historically with other religions and theological ideology. If we are to understand the sacred writing of Judaism, we must rid ourselves of the idea that the Old Testament or covenant has been replaced by the new, and therefore in some theological views leaves the originating religion extinct or for some – untrue. However, it is true that the New Testament reveals a new age in theology and the concept of the spiritual world versus the living world, as well as the promise or presentation that the spirit moves on beyond the physical receptacle of the earthly body at the moment of death, and not having to wait in limbo for what was referred to as the Rapture, as presented in the Old Testament and by the patriarch authorities. Rapture is also a description of what the disciples referred to as the Second Coming of Christ, which is a major part of the Christian doctrine. More of this later.
So, if the word Torah  (written law), Talmud (book of instruction)  or mentions of other sacred texts are used here, the term Hebrew Bible is meant to represent the Old Testament used in the Christian Holy Bible – the book of many books. It can all be confusing, bud did not the ancient Hebrew scholars, scribes and prophets write or originate those books found in the Old Testament?
If we follow that train of thought, then we must also realize that those books in the authorized version of the Bible are not truly complete. In addition, the Torah has been kept in its original form and written language; whereas the Old Testament has been translated first into Greek, then Latin and then other languages, specifically English and further “translated” into “modern” terms. I believe that over the period of history these “translations” have caused the loss of the original intent, in some cases the meaning, and possibly left out important aspects of the original text and entire books.
The most visible difference is that the books included within the Hebrew Bible and the order in which they are placed. The Catholic tradition, which is the oldest of the Christian organization known as the Church, whose original name was the Holy Roman Catholic Church in the Christian religion.
The Catholic Bible, of which I use as reference, is the Authorized Version handed down through the order of King James of England. Isn’t it a bit strange that an authorized version would have been ordered to be reproduced in England instead of where the papal seat was located in Rome? The Catholic Bible includes such texts as First Maccabees and Second Maccabees, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach as deuteroncanonical texts, while those texts have been considered as being outside the canon of the Hebrew Bible or as what is termed as the apocryphal texts by Jews who originated the Bible. The results of the Protestant Reformation were the return to a specific list of books which made up the Hebrew Bible, according to its origination by the Jews. The Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible ends up with the last verse of the Second Book of Chronicles, whose intention was to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, while the Christian canon of the Hebrew Bible ends with the last verse of the Prophet Malachi, which has served as a “theological bridge” between the “Old” and the New Testament with the words:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.
The reader of this version of theological text just turns the page in order to find the fulfillment of this prophecy in the activities of John the Baptist of the New Testament, who is sort of identified with Elijah, who began the prophecy of a messianic king.
The most accurate term for the Hebrew Bible in the history of Judaism is in the term Tanak, which is an acronym made up of the first letters of the three parts of the Hebrew Bible: TorahNevi’im, and Ketuvim.  Torah is also described as the Pentateuch or the first five books, which gives reference to the revelation given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Included in this revelation of Moses is the creation text, a story of the first ancestors called patriarchs, a description of Israel’s bondage under the Egyptian rulers, the exodus from Egypt, and all the traditions of law of the community of Jews that would establish themselves as a people with a nation and that nation becoming Israel. Scholars usually refer to those five books of the Torah by their Latin titles: GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbers, and Deuteronomy, but the Jews refer them as the first major texts of the Hebrew Bible. Therefore, Genesis is actually Bereshit (in the beginning), Shemot (Names) for ExodusVayyikra (and he called) for LeviticusBamidbar (in the desert) for Numbers, and Devarim (Words) for Deuteronomy.Torah is translated to mean law, and while the Torah does contain laws, its terminology is not as we should understand it. Many section of the Torah contain texts about the life and rituals of the community and this is because ancient Israel didn’t differentiate between what we know as civil code of law and religious code of law; therefore, as in the Qu’ran of Islam, all actions of humans fall under the jurisdiction of Torah. The Torah in the history of Judaism is the authoritative text that is most binding between God and humanity. Moses received the Written Torah (torah she-beketav) and it was extended by the Rabbis from the Oral Torah (torah she-ba’al peh) blending together as a complete written sacred text. Oral traditions were put together by early Rabbis and written down in what is called Mishnah around 210 AD. This basically makes up the first section of the torah.
The second section of the Tanakh is Nevi’im and is further subdivided into three divisions: the early prophets (JoshuaJudgesFirst and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings; the later prophets (IsaiahJeremiah and Ezekiel) and the 12 smaller books of prophecy – HoseaJoelAmosObadiahJonahMicahNahumHabakkukZephaniahHaggaiZechariah and Malachi. The final section of the Tanak is Ketuvim or writings that are various forms of prose and poetic texts from different historical periods of ancient Israel. Ketuvim includes the Book of Psalms, wisdom literature such as the Book of Proverbs, the Book of Job and the Book of Ecclesiastes; dramatic literature such as the Books of Esther and Ruth; and historical texts such as EzraNehemiah and the First and Second Chronicles.
The process of canonizing the texts of the Hebrew Bible was completed with the help of three periods of tragedies that eventually formed the Tanak. The oral and written traditions were formally placed together shortly after the Babylonian Exile (520 BC).
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947)  near ancient Jericho (between Israel and Jordan) and were thought to be written by a Jewish sect called Essenes , which emphasized ceremonial purity. The original authors of some of the text were recorded as biblical persons who had become famous, while the writing themselves were written long after their death. Because of this the texts/scrolls became known as Pseudepigrapha or as in the title of the book by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr. – The Forgotten Books of Eden. These books were written during the Greek, Hasmonean and Roman periods in history. Most have been dated between 200 BC and 100 AD.  Several versions of The Books of Adam and Eve have survived. The translation in The Forgotten Books of Eden came from an Egyptian edition of unknown date.
Enoch was the seventh generation after Adam and father of Methuselah, a popular person in Jewish folkloreThe Book of The Secrets Of Enoch is text included in the aforementioned text collection.
  The Psalms of Solomon is also included in the collection and they refer to King Solomon, King David’s son who was said to be the author of The Psalms included in the canonized version of the Bible. The Psalms of Solomon refer to the agony the Jews went through and their faith when Pompey’s Roman legions conquered the Holy Land.
The Letter of Aristeas was written by a Jew from the Hellenic period and who lived in Egypt. It is thought he lived in Alexandria. He used the legend of how the Septuagint was written to make Judaism acceptable in the gentile community.
The Fourth Book of Maccabees is about the events of the Syrian persecution of the Jews and the Maccabean revolt, but scholars believe it resembles a sermon of Stoic philosophy.
The Story of Ahikar was found in the early 20th century among the Aramaic papyri of the 5thcentury BC on the island of Elephantine on the Nile River. Ahikar is a character that appears frequently in Jewish and pagan tales.
  The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs are Christian texts and are only mentioned here because they were written in an attempt to rewrite Jewish tracts of Scripture. They predate Paul because of his mention of Testament of Levi. Some of the versions were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran Library). It is mostly about the struggle between good and evil.
The oldest translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that later became part of the canonized Bible was in Greek and is known as the Septuagint that was prepared in Egypt in the 3rd century BC. It contains text that Jewish religious leaders rejected; later Christians preserved them but left them out of the “authorized” canonized version of the Old Testament.

 God’s Chosen People

God’s chosen people refers to the beginning of the Hebrew culture that started with Abraham, whose original name was Abram – because God chose him to do so -
a father of many nations have I made thee.

GOD_CreationGod even changed the name of his wife from Sarai to Sarah.  Genesis tells us that humanity began with two people; Adam and Eve, by the time of Abraham humans were spread out and had organized into different cultures and with different languages. The story within Genesis, which tells the beginning and the development of human civilization, is from the Oral Torah. From Adam to Noah and then to Abraham there was what is called the Covenant, and the race of Israel was given a nation made up of tribes for the first time for the Jews. After that point of time, from Abraham to the Gospels, those that were not Jews were called Gentile. The moral history of the Gentile world is told in Romans 1:21-32 and all humanity’s moral accountability is in Romans 2:1-16, which will be discussed in Chapter 7, where Christianity makes available the worship of God to all, not just the Jews.
So, Abram (Abraham), that God changes to the name Abraham begins his covenant with God and becomes the father of the nation of Jews in Genesis 12:1-2:
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get the out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee; And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.
The land that is mentioned here was the land of Canaan, which later would become Israel and Palestine, and further divided after strife in a place called Judea. Even during periods of exile from their holy lands, they prayed towards the holy city of Jerusalem, the holy capital of the Hebrew people. Many centuries later, after the final blow to the nation of Israel, the Jews wandered among people of several nations until in the late 1940s they were able to return to their holy land that God had given them at the time of Abraham. Those religious yearnings brought about the birth of Zionism, which was the center of the founding of the modern State of Israel.

The Ten Commandments

Whereas Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew civilization, Moses was the Prophet of all prophets and another important figure in Hebrew history, but also revered by the Christians and Moslems. While his life story is well known as an historical figure, he is best known for his leading the Hebrews (Jews) out of Egyptian bondage and into the desert in search of the Promised Land. Then there was the miraculous escape across the Red Sea that was parted so the Hebrews could escape the approaching army of the Pharaoh. But in terms of scripture, the Ten Commandments stand out among the duties and tasks set before Moses. Called Decalogue in Greek (ten words), it was divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai during the Exodus period of the Hebrews from Egyptian servitude. The Commandments are numbered differently in a Catholic, Protestant, or Hebrew Canon scripture (Bible). It appears in the the Book of Deuteronomy 5: 6-12 and the Book of Exodus, 20: 2-17, as the following reads:
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land in which the Lord your God gives you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything else that is your neighbor's.
In recent times there has been controversy of public display in public/government buildings of the Ten Commandments, mainly because of religious content concerning God. Mainly Atheists, they argue that the Constitution of the United States decrees that the Church (religion) should be separated from the state, when in fact it reads that the state will not sanction or support a specific religion. Most of the rules in the Ten Commandments have been established by civilized nations around the world - whatever the people's religion. The arguments continue today and so does the efforts of removing from display the historical heritage of the United States of America with the word God mentioned in various important historical documents, including the Pledge of Allegiance where the words under God were inserted by an act of Congress and signed by President Eisenhower. The major complaints are those coming from a small minority of atheists and agnostics, and despite Gallup and other polls showing that the majority of Americans want the traditional public display of American heritage of Judean-Christian culture, the protests persist with the help of an organization called ACLU. Little complaint comes from the Hebrew organizations and American Jews about the matter.
Many Jews today no longer rigidly comply with the laws of the Torah, but orthodox Jews follow them in every detail. Some have tried to find a way to adapt those regulations of the Torah to life in the modern world.

Methods of Worship and Hebrew Rites

The place of worship since the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC has been the synagogue. Synagogue is a Greek word meaning “a place of meeting” and a Hebrew translation of Bet Hakeneset. The actual origin of the synagogue is uncertain, but it came in handy after the final destruction of the Temple of Solomon in 70 AD and for those Jews who could not venture to the holy city in order to pay homage to the one true God.
A prominent feature near the pulpit of a synagogue is called the “ark” and it is a cupboard mounted on the eastern wall and faces Jerusalem. The ark, symbolic of the original Ark of the Covenant, contains the scrolls of the Law, written in Hebrew on parchment. The scrolls are covered in velvet, silk or brocade and has ornament shaped like bells, a crown and a “breastplate” of gold or some precious metal. In front of the ark is a lamp that is kept perpetually burning. In the center of the synagogue is a platform, previously described as a pulpit above, from which the service is conducted and the Law is read. The service follows a ritual written in a prayer book called the Siddur. Every Saturday during the morning service the ark is opened and the scroll of the Law is lifted and carried in a procession around the synagogue. Several portions of the scroll are read in Hebrew just as the ancient Jews did. Members of the congregation are called up to recite the traditional blessing before and after each reading. When the reading is complete, the scroll is carried around once again before returning it to the ark. Members may touch the edges of the scroll with their prayer shawl (tallit) and then kiss the fringe part of the shawl that touched the scroll as an act of devotion and reverence for the word of God. The service is led by a cantor (chazzan) instead of a rabbi. The duties of a rabbi are to instruct the congregation in the faith and to make decisions concerning Jewish law. He is entitled to be called “rabbi” only after completing studies of Jewish Law.
The Talmud is more like a manual of home medicine with anecdotes of philosophy sprinkled among the pages rather than a code of religious laws; you might look upon it as an encyclopedia of advice. But there was a reason for this – the Jews were scattered and had become isolated, poor and destitute, and was beginning to slip into ancient superstitious ways of medicine. Something was required to instruct them and help them remember the science of medicine and healing, while the instruction came from the Rabbis, he required a reference book to consult on occasion. This is what the gist of what the Talmud is all about. Therefore, the rabbis not only became a teacher and a judge within the community, but a medical advisor as well. The rabbis studied and made himself a medical expert and an expert on diet. For example, dietary wisdom begins with the teeth. These should never be extracted, no matter how they ache, for
if a man chews well with his teeth his feet will find strength.

Hebrew Theology

In the long history of suffering of Jews they continued to believe that they were God’s Chosen People.
Everything created has a divine purpose: God created the snail as a cure for the scab, the fly as a cure for the sting of the wasp, and the gnat as a cure for the bite of the serpent, and the serpent as a cure for a sore.
Between God and humans there is a continuous relationship, every step one takes is always in the sight of God, every deed or thought honors or dishonors the divine God. All humanity is descended from Adam and Eve, yet it is said that
man was created with a tail like an animal.
up to the generation of Enoch the faces of the people resembled those of monkeys.
Sin is natural, but guilt is not inherited.
The rabbis taught the doctrine concerning the fall of humanity through Adam and Eve, but there is neither original sin nor divine atonement. A person suffers only for his own sins, and death is a form of punishment because it came into the world because of sin.
Death is a debt owed by a sinful humanity to the author of all life.
  The Hebrew Scriptures told little of a reward or punishment after life, but the idea began to formulate in rabbinical theology. Hell was thought to be divided like Heaven into seven parts with graduated degrees of torment; but even confirmed sinners would not be punished forever.
All who go down to hell shall come up again, except these three: he who commits adultery, he who shames another in public, and he who gives another a bad name.
Heaven was called Gan Eden and is
a place of physical and spiritual beauty; the wine there would be a vintage preserved from the days of creation, perfumes would bless the air; and God himself would join the saved in a banquet whose supreme joy would be the sight of His face.
Many rabbis state that no man can say what lies beyond the grave. What kept the Jews united in their faith was not the theology of their religion, but the ritual and the fact that humility and patience was an ultimate virtue. Will Durant wrote:
  Christianity sought unity through uniform belief, Judaism through uniform ritual.

Jewish Holidays and Festivals

 New Year – The Jewish religious year includes a number of festivals and days of fasting. The first of these is New Year Day - Rosh Hashanah, which means “head of the year.” It occurs in September or October. The Hebrew prayer-book states:
This is the day that the world was called into existence. This day He causeth all creatures to stand in judgment.
A ram’s horn is blown (shophar) in synagogues to remind people to return to god, and the next ten days are set aside for meditation and repentance. It is customary to eat apple dipped in honey and to wish others a good and sweet year.
The Day of Atonement – (Yom Kippur) is considered the holiest day in the Jewish religious year. It is the conclusion of the period of penitence that begins on New Year’s Day. The day is filled with prayer, fasting and public confessions of sin. Traditionally this was the day when the high priest made sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel and entered the holy of holies in the temple, or in earlier period, the tabernacle. Today there isn’t any temple and no sacrifice is offered, but atonement is sought through repentance. The devout worshiper fasts for twenty-four hours, spends all day in the synagogue and wears a white robe as a symbol of purity and of the grave. At the end of the day the worshiper considers himself spiritually reborn.
Tabernacles – Five days after the Day of Atonement comes the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) which lasts for a week. This is one of the three harvest festivals in the Jewish year,  and has been considered the model of Christian harvest celebrations. During the festival people remember how God provided all their needs when they wandered for forty years in the wilderness. They build temporary shelters of branches that represent a tabernacle in their gardens or next to their synagogues. They eat their meals in them and sometimes sleep in them, depending upon the climate because they are not weatherproof.
Celebrating the Law – After the Feast of Tabernacles comes the “Rejoicing of the Law” (Simchat Torah). During the year the first five books of the Hebrew Bible is read in the synagogue. On this festival day the reading is completed with the last portion of Deuteronomy and begun with the first verses of Genesis. The service is conducted with great joy and the scrolls of the Law are carried in a procession around the synagogue with singing and dancing.
Festival of Lights – At about the time the Christians celebrate Christmas, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. This commemorates the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Syrians, and the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC. The festival lasts eight days and many Jewish families light an eight-branch candlestick called a menorah. It actually has nine candles; the additional one is used to light the others. One candle is lit each day of the festival until on the eighth day all are lit.
Purim – In February or March comes Purim, the festival which recalls the story of Esther. Purim means “lots” and refers to the lots cast by Haman to choose the day on which to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire. In the synagogue the Book of Esther is read and whenever the name of Haman is read, the boys makes a noise with rattles or stamp their feet. In the home Purim is a time for parties and for eating special pastries called Hamantaschen.
Passover – this festival is probably the best known and is called Pesach in Hebrew. It recalls the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt and it was established around 1220 BC. A special meal (Seder that means “order”) is held in the home. Traditional dishes are eaten, songs are sung and the story of the deliverance from Egypt is retold. The youngest child asks the question, “Why is this night different from other nights?” and that is the father’s cue to tell of the events of the biblical book of Exodus. This reading ceremony is called Haggadah, which means “showing forth” or “telling the story.” Traditionally a place at the table is left vacant and a glass of wine is set aside for the prophet Elijah who is expected to come as the herald of the Messianic Age. One the eve of Passover a search is made in each Jewish home to ensure that no leaven (yeast) has been left anywhere. In the place of ordinary bread, flat, unleavened bread called matzah is eaten. It is a reminder of the bread of affliction which the Jewish slaves ate in Egypt.
Pentecost – A period of seven weeks of mourning follows Passover. This is associated with the failure of the Jewish revolt against Rome in the 2nd century AD and the loss of many Jewish scholars at about the same time because of plague. The Festival of Pentecost is celebrated fifty days after the second day of Passover and commemorates the giving of the Law of God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In the synagogue service the Ten Commandments are read and some Jews sit up all night meditating on God’s Law. The synagogue is decorated with flowers and plants, and dairy food is eaten.
Day Of Mourning – On Tishah B’Av, the ninth day of the Jewish month (July-August), the Jewish people remember the destruction of the temple in 70 AD by the Romans. Some also link the date of the destruction of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. It is a day of mourning and fasting, and all ornaments are removed from the synagogue.
One major element in the Jewish religion is the existence of a covenant between God and the Hebrew people. The first covenant between God and Noah and the gist of it is the promise made to humanity and the animal world that the flood that occurred in global proportions would not happen again. The promise even has its sign – a rainbow. Then there is the covenant between God and Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel where God promise to make Abraham the ancestor of a great nation and to give him and his descendents the land of Israel. The covenant itself is found in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17. Circumcision becomes the sign of this covenant.
More than 600 years later, this covenant is extended at Mt. Sinai with Moses who leads all of the Jews out of Egypt. In the Book of Deuteronomy the record of Moses’ farewell to Israel when the finally reach the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 5 tells of the Mt. Sinai covenant; Deuteronomy 7refers to the covenant with the patriarchs of Israel; andDeuteronomy 29 is the renewal of the covenant with all of the people. Despite Israel’s failure to comply with the conditions set, God continues to be gracious. In later historical books a covenant is recorded with David and his descendants, which is associated with the Levitical priesthood.

Hellenism and the Jews

In Chapter 2, the relationship between Greek and Jew was examined. Here, in this chapter the relationship is portrayed from historical text and the development of Hellenistic Jewish culture is examined as well.
When Abraham established a Jewish community in the Land of Canaan, several cities were named with the most prominent being the city of Salem, which later would be called Jerusalem. The Land of Canaan was divided by Hebrew tribal divisions as described in the Book of Genesis.
In 1004 BC retook the small Jebusite city of Jerusalem from the Philistines after King Saul’s death (2 Samuel), refortified it, organized and army, established an administration and renamed Jerusalem as The City of David, which established it as the capital of the first united Jewish Kingdom.  The location was on Mount Zion and the city was described by the 1stcentury (AD) historian, Flavius Josephus, and appears on most early maps. Recent archaeological examinations show that David’s city was on a southeastern ridge, south of theTemple Mount.
King David was succeeded by his son, Solomon, whose reign was from 961 to 922 BC and experienced great prosperity. It became the political, economic, and religious center of the kingdom. Solomon built many public monuments, the most famous being the House of the Lord, the First Temple.
The history of Judea in the Hellenistic age changes because of an external and internal conflict: the external struggle between Seleucid Asia and Ptolemaic Egypt for Palestine and the internal struggle between the Hellenic and the Hebraic culture. As can be seen by researching these histories, Palestine has been a center of turmoil for much longer than recent times, the recent fifty years of Palestinian history.
The first conflict is what Will Durant calls dead history, although Judea loses Palestine to the Egyptians during this period. It is the internal struggle with Hellenistic Greeks that, historically speaking, is the most lasting because,
Matthew Arnold believed the second conflict to be one of the lasting cleavages of human feeling and thought.
Alexander’s empire had been divided and Judea was given to Ptolemy. Wars resulted from this because the Seleucids did not accept the decision. Ptolemy I won the war and Judea, which was the middle of the trade route between Damascus and Jerusalem, continued to be subject to the Ptolemies from 312 to 198 BC. Judea paid annual tribute and despite this burden it continued to prosper. Judea was left with some sort of self-government under the rule of the high priest of Jerusalem and the Great Assembly or Council of Elders. This hierarchy had been established by Ezra and Nehemiah two hundred years previously and consisted of both a senate and a supreme court. It had about seventy members and they were chosen from leading families of the community and also consisted of scholars (Soferim). The regulations set by the Soferim, called Dibre Soferim, became laws of orthodox Judaism from the Hellenistic age to present.
Judaism, its sacred texts, and the importance of remembering history became important in every moment of Jewish life. Morals and manners were adhered to in strict detail. Intermarriage with non-Jews was forbidden; yet celibacy was also forbidden. Despite war and famine, infanticide was forbidden and the population grew. Until the time of Caesar there were about seven million Jews in the Roman Empire. Most of the Jews were agriculturalists. Jews had not yet gained the reputation of being traders and bankers. Even Flavius Josephus said–
We are not a commercial people. ...
In the Hellenistic age, the great traders were the Phoenicians, the Arabs, and the Greeks. Slavery existed in Judea as other places in the ancient world, but class war was not as common. Art did not develop in Judea, but music did. The flute, the drum, the cymbal, the trumpet (ram’s horn), the lyre, and the harp were used to accompany a singer, play a folk song, or accompany a religious ceremony. Orthodox Jews looked down upon the Greek religious rituals and would have nothing to do with images or oracles.
The invading Greeks brought a different culture among them, filled with temptations of wealth and things foreign to the Hebrew culture. Hellenism was devoted science and philosophy, art and literature, beauty and pleasure, song and dance, drinking and feasting, athletics and courtesans and handsome boys, along with gay sophistication that questioned all morals, and an urbane skepticism that undermined all supernatural belief.
  Youthful Jews began to mock the priests and looked upon them as greedy for money and pious Jews as fools. Jews who wanted to be appointed as Greek officials had to speak Greek, live in the Greek manner, and even say good things about Greek gods and goddesses.
This powerful influence upon the intellect and the physical world of the Jews occurred during the persecution under Antiochus IV and the protection of Rome during the Judea uprisings. More religious Jews began to form sects like Chasidim, meaning the Pious. It began with something simple like abstaining from drinking wine during a certain period and later they would increase the extremes of what later would be called Puritanism, against all physical pleasure in order not to surrender their morals to Satan or the Greeks.
The Greeks looked at the Jews with wonder and classified them as strange, called the orthodox Jews gymnosophists. The common Jews were critical with the severe religious doctrine of the Chasidim and preferred to find middle ground. A compromise would have probably been established between the Jewish communities if it wasn’t for the attempt of Antiochus Epiphanies trying to force Hellenism upon Judea. The Jews felt their religion was being challenged and worried that they would be forced to change their religious ways, thereby disobeying the Law.
In 198, Antiochus III defeated Ptolemy V, and made Judea a part of the Seleucid Empire. The Jews supported Antiochus at first because they were tired of being under the thumb of Egypt, and even welcomed the capture of Jerusalem as liberation instead of captivity. But his successor, Antiochus IV, looked upon Judea only as a source of revenue to fund his campaigns. He ordered the Jews to pay one third of their grain crops and one half of the fruit from their trees as taxation. Hellenism was forced upon the Jews and when Antiochus IV was expelled by Popilus (168), and the Jews rejoiced by massacring the leaders of the Hellenistic leadership and cleaned out the Temple of pagan abominations. Antiochus was humiliated and suddenly had no funds, but managed to gather supporters and returned to Judea to take it away from the Ptolemies of Egypt. He marched into Jerusalem and slaughtered Jews, both men and women, by the thousands, desecrated and looted the Temple, and melted down its golden altar and used the other looted treasures to restore his treasury. He then ordered that all Jews will be Hellenized in 167 AD. He rededicated the Temple to Zeus and a Greek altar was built over the old Jewish one where sacrifices of swine took place. Jews were no longer allowed to keep the Sabbath and neither could they hold their religious festivals. Circumcision became a crime. Every Jew who did not eat pork or possessed the Book of the Law were jailed or killed, and when the book was found it was burned. Jerusalem lay in ruin, burned and its walls were destroyed and the Jewish population was sold into slavery. Foreign people were brought in to repopulate Jerusalem and a new fortress was built on Mt. Zion with a garrison of troops left in the city to serve the king’s wishes. At one point of time, Antiochus considered making it a requirement to worship himself as a god. As time went on persecution increased and the administrators of Antiochus put an end to all visible expression of Judaism in Jerusalem and the towns and villages of Judea. Everywhere people were given a choice between death and Hellenic worship, which included the eating of sacrificial swine. All synagogues were closed, along with Jewish schools. Jews were forced to participate in Greek festivals and pagan rites. The Chasidim still existed, living in caves and began preaching courage and the need for resistance. A detachment of the king’s troops was sent to the caves where thousands of Jews had sought refuge and ordered the Jews inside to come out. They refused and because it was Sabbath they did not move stones to block the entrance to the caves. The soldiers attacked with fire and sword, killing many of the occupants of the caves and asphyxiated those that remained with smoke from fires lit at the entrances. Women who had circumcised their newborn sons were killed by throwing them off the city walls. Stories of martyrdom began to circulate and can be found in the books of the First Maccabees and Second Maccabees and became precursor to Christian martyrdom practices. Judaism nearly became extinct during this period, between Christian converts and forcing of Hellenism upon their youth; but their religious conviction and resolve to rise again as a nation were strong.
During this period there arose a Jew by the name of Judas, whose family was called MaccabeeJudas (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot) was a warrior who was a devoted Jew both spiritually in bravery. He led a small army
...who lived in the mountains after the manner of beasts, feeding on herbs.
He and his army would send sporadic raids upon local villages to kill those who sided with the Hellenes and destroyed pagan altars and
...what children soever they found uncircumcised, those they circumcised valiantly.
Judas Maccabeus was a military genius in order to be able to win against Syrian generals like Appolonius, Seron and Gorgias, with his comparatively smaller army. He was also a hero for restoring Temple in Jerusalem and his hard core followers were determined as Judas to not only gain religious freedom but political freedom as well. In 161 AD, Judas defeated Nicanor at Adasa and made an alliance with Rome, but in the same year Judas was killed. His brother Jonathan continued the war effort and even made some progress by using diplomacy, but was captured and executed in 143 BC at Acco. The surviving brother, Simon was supported by Rome and won Judean independence and by popular decree was appointed high priest and general, whose positions were made hereditary in his family and became the founder of the Hasmonean dynasty. The first year of his reign has been known to be the beginning of a new era in Judean history and coins were issued that marked the rebirth of the Jewish state. In 135 BC, Simon and his two older sons were murdered by Ptolemy, who had married Simon’s daughter as a diplomatic gesture. Simon’s third son, Hyrcanus, was warned of the assassination plot and was able to survive and continue Simon’s plans of a prosperous kingdom. He ruled from 135 BC to 105 BC, but during the end of his reign the kingdom was split due to rivalry between Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Hasmoneans (Maccabees) spent three generations increasing Judea’s borders through diplomacy and sometimes by force. By 78 BC, Judea had conquered Samaria, Edom, Moab, Galilee, Idumea, Transjordania, Gadara, Pella, Gerasa, Raphia, and Gaza.
Palestine had been extended as far as it had been in the golden age of Solomon. In 63 BC, Roman consul Pompey and his legions came to Damascus; from there he began a campaign to take Jerusalem that was ruled by Aristobulus.
Jerusalem withstood a siege that lasted three months, but Pompey’s troops were able to mine the walls and raise mounds for his battering rams because the Jews would not fight on the Sabbath. When the city finally fell, 12,000 Jews died; but due to Roman policy, Pompey left the Temple treasures intact and instead requested 10,000 talents of gold as tribute.  The territory was now under Roman rule and Hyrcanus, who conspired with Pompey to take over Judea, was now high priest and puppet ruler of Judea. The real ruler was Antipater of Idumea who had been appointed by Pompey as a reward for his help in the campaign. The independent monarchy of Judea ended and Pompey returned to Rome triumphant.
In 54 BC, Crassus of Rome robbed the Temple of the treasures that Pompey had spared ; and when news that Crassus had been killed in battle by the Parthians at Carrhae in 53 BC, the Jews took the opportunity to once again claim their freedom by revolting. Crassus’ successor in Palestine suppressed the revolt in 43 BC and sold 30,000 Jews into slavery and sent to Rome. Many of the Jews of the Roman Church were descendants of these captives. In the same year the Parthians came out of the desert and conquered Judea, taking it from the Romans, and set up the last of the Maccabees, Antigonus II, as a puppet king. The Parthians were Indo-Europeans from Russia and Turkestan, cousins of the Hittites who had joined Mithridates in his revolt against Rome in Asia Minor, which was called Pontus then. The Parthian Empire had included Assyria and Babylonia by 100 BC.

Books of Maccabees

The books of the Maccabees consist of five Jewish books named after Judas Maccabeus, who is the hero of the first two books. The books are not in the Jewish Bible, but books 1 and 2 Maccabees are included in the Greek and Latin canon and in the Protestant Apocrypha. Books 1 and 2 provide an account of Jewish resistance to the religious suppression and Hellenistic cultural aggression of the Seleucid period (Syria) between 175 and 135 BC.
The books also contain partial records of the Hasmonean (Maccabean) dynasty, which was able to secure Jewish political independence during the resistance to the Seleucids until 63 BC. The First Book of Maccabees was written around 110 BC and gives more historical detail than the others. Maccabees 2, written just before 63 BC, is part of an earlier work by Jason of Cyrene. Maccabees 3 is an account of the persecution of Egyptian Jews by Ptolemy IV (221-204 BC) and was written around 50 BC. The last book, Maccabees 4, was originally written in Greek around 25 AD and is mostly a philosophical discussion of reason, governing by religious laws and the concept of passion. The word Maccabees does not appear in Christian Scripture. It is supposed to have come from the Hebrew word makkabah, which means “hammer.”
Originally there were five books, the fifth containing the history of the Jews from 184 to 86 BC and is a compilation made by a Jew after the destruction of Jerusalem. Only four books are presented in the apocrypha.

Flavius Josephus – Hebrew Historian

Flavius Josephus described himself as Joseph, son of Matthias, a Hebrew and priest from Jerusalem. He fought in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66 AD, a military leader in Galilee. Josephus surrendered to the Roman forces in July 67 AD and according to Josephus he was a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem. The Roman forces were led by Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus Vespasian. In 71 AD, Josephus arrived in Rome with Titus’ army and became a Roman citizen. His name then was changed to Flavius Josephus and he lived in Vespasian’s former home, receiving a pension. It was while he was in Rome that Josephus wrote his known texts. Around 70 AD, Josephus divorced his first wife and married a Jewish woman from Alexandria by whom he had two children: a son Flavius Hyrcanus and a second child that nothing is known about. Around 75 AD, he divorces again and marries, for the third time, and fathers two more sons, Flavius Justus and Simonides Agrippa.
Critics of Josephus who question some of his historical accounts are not satisfied with Josephus’ explanation of his actions during the Jewish war, like: Why did he not commit suicide in Galilee in 67 AD with his fellow Jews? Why, after he was captured did he cooperate with the Roman invaders? Some scholars consider Josephus a traitor and Roman informer, so questioned his credibility as an historian. His works are viewed by some to be nothing but Roman propaganda and smoothing over his reputation in history. Yet, archaeological discovery has backed his history.
Without question, Josephus was an important apologist-historian for the Jewish people and their culture in the world of Romans. Josephus always looked upon himself as a loyal and law-observing Jew. He would commend Jews and Judaism to the educated Gentiles of the Graeco-Roman culture. He constantly presented Jewish culture as people who were civilized, devout and philosophical thereby compatible in the Graeco-Roman cultural world. Some scholars would disagree with this biography and state that he consorted with the Roman bureaucracy for self preservation. Still others state that he recorded the history out of guilt of his surrender to Roman authority. The latter cannot be true because Flavious was considered a Roman citizen after a certain period. Archaeological discovery would end up backing up his reputation. Personally I believe he was compelled to write history for fear of it being lost within the Roman Empire's grip upon the culture and traditions and Roman written histories.
According to Martin Goodman, a prestigious historian, in his book: Rome and Jerusalem, page 160-164, as an example, relates how Josephus explains being a Jew and Roman, as well as converting to Judaism was a personal endeavor:
Conversion to Judaism was not just a theoretical possibility. ... For most such converts, the precise mechanisms by which thye became Jewish is not known, but in the unique case of the conversions of Izates, king of Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia, and of his mother Helena, a quite full and illuminating narrative preserved by Josephus ... The lact of any single external authority to define who was a Jew had most impact in such cases of conversion from gentile to Jewish status ...
  The works of Josephus provides information about the First Jewish-Roman War and an important literary source for understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran Library) and the post-Second Temple period of Judaism. Before the 20th century, scholars focused upon Josephus’ relationship with the sect of the Pharisees and portrayed him as a member of the sect and a traitor of his own nation. In the middle of the 20th century, this view was reexamined by a new generation of scholars who formulated a different concept of Josephus and restored his reputation as an historian. This came mostly from new archaeological evidence based upon what Josephus wrote.
  Josephus gives information about individuals, groups, customs and geographical places. His writing gives important information about the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He made references to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Pharisees and Essenes, the Herodian TempleQuirinius and the Zealots. He also mentions Pontius PilateAgrippa Iand Agrippa IIJohn the BaptistJames the Just  and a brief reference to Jesus of Nazareth that has been disputed since Josephus texts have been recovered. Recently scholarly findings have compared what Josephus had written to original texts of the Gospel of Luke and have shown that Josephus correctly includedJesus of Nazareth in the annals of Hebrew history.  However, scholarly analysis reveals that certain portions were either incorrectly copied/written or was purposely included some time after Origen. It is a debatable argument, which will be examined at Chapter 7.
Along with Philo of Alexandria, Josephus is an important source for studies concerning the Post-Temple Judaism and the world of early Christianity. Josephus writes after his examination/explanation of the Jewish-Roman War a twenty volume work entitled Antiquities of the Jews, which was completed in 93 AD. He claims that he began the work because he was asked by interested persons to relate in Latin Jewish history. Josephus begins with the story of Creation and outlines Jewish history from Abraham, who was professed to teach science to the Egyptians, who in turn taught the Greeks. The great figures of the biblical stories are presented as philosophical leaders, such as Moses who is depicted as a senatorial priestly aristocrat. At an appendix there is an autobiography which defends Josephus’ actions at the end of the war when he cooperated with the Roman forces. A defense or was it a self-imposed justification based upon his own conscious?  A traitor or scholar? (or both)
Josephus’ Against Apion is a two-volume defense of Judaism as a classical religion and philosophy being stressed in its value in antiquity. Maybe it was written in guilt of being part of the Roman campaign against the insurgent Jews who fought against Roman rule, a personal amends for being a traitor to his own people. I believe he wanted to write a history of his people in Latin to inform Romans. Myths accredited to Manetho and anti-Judean allegations by the Greek writer Apion are exposed in these texts.
Josephus divided Judeans into three main groups:
Sadducees – Priestly and aristocratic families who interpreted the Law more literally than the Pharisees; and who dominated Temple worship and its rites, including the sacrificial cult. The Sadducee recognized the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the existence of angels. They were unpopular with the common people.
Pharisees – Unlike the Sadducees, they maintained the oral as well as the written Law. They were flexible in interpretations and adapted the Law to change with current events. They believed in an afterlife and the resurrection of the dead. By the 1st century AD, the Pharisees represented the beliefs and practices of the majority of Palestinian Jews.
Essenes – were a separatist group, some formed a monastic community and kept to themselves in the wilderness of Judea. They shared material possessions and occupied most of their time with study, worship and work. They practiced ritual immersion, which later would be called Baptism and ate their meals together as a group instead of individual families. One particular monastic branch forbade marriage. The Essene are thought to be have been the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. That particular community has come to be known, after archaeological research, as the Qumran Community and the scrolls found are part of the Qumran Library found in a series of caves at the archaeological site. A Judean revolt occurred in 66 AD and the Qumran fell to the Roman legions around 68 AD, followed by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Masada, the famous revolt where the Roman legions were held off for a long period of time because of their location on a strategic plateau finally died at their own hands after the long siege in 73 AD.
 The following studies are important in the examination of Hebrew life and the Qumran Library, just as important as reading the works of Flavius Josephus who lived during the time of the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem to the early period of Christianity. Scriptures and biblical texts have been produced due to a remarkable 20th century archaeological find just after World War II.

Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls

  In the spring of 1947 Bedouin goat herders were searching the cliffs along the Dead Sea for a lost goat, or for treasure, depending on who is telling the story, when they found a cave that contained jars filled with manuscripts. The sensation in the community of scholars and the public caused almost as much excitement as when King Tutankhamen’s tomb was found. But the scholars didn’t find about the discovery until 1948, when seven of the scrolls were sold by the Bedouin to a cobbler and antiquities dealer called Kando. He then sold three of the scrolls to Eleazer L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University, and four to Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel of the Syrian Orthodox monastery of St. Mark. Mar Athanasius brought four scrolls to the American School of Oriental Research, where American and European scholars could study them.
As far as the site, it wasn’t until 1949 that the cave was identified as Qumran Cave 1. From there the explorations by archaeologists in the area of Khirbet Qumran began. Meanwhile, after further exploration in Cave 1, pottery, cloth and wood were found as well as additional manuscripts, but were only fragments. It was these further investigations that proved that the scrolls were ancient and authentic and not just a hoax created by an antiquities dealer.
Between 1949 and 1956 it became a race between Bedouin, who already made money finding the first scrolls, and the archaeologists to find ten more caves in the hills around Qumran that had several more scrolls, as well as thousands of fragments of scrolls. There were approximately 800 manuscripts dating from approximately 200 BC to 68 AD.
The manuscripts of the Qumran caves included early copies of biblical books in Hebrew and Aramaic, hymns, prayers, Jewish writings known as Pseudepigrapha  and texts that represented beliefs of a particular Jewish group that may have lived at the site of Qumran. Most scholars believe, as mentioned previously, that the Qumran community was Essene or a group similar to them. Essene, as you recall, was one of four Jewish philosophical groups described by Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian.
No one knows who the author or authors were that wrote the scrolls, but scholars believe they were part of the priesthood and the group was led by priests who were probably disapproved by the Jerusalem priesthood, much like the situation with Jesus of Nazareth. The community held a strict and pious way of life and expected a confrontation between good and evil in the near future.
The Qumran Library, what the Dead Sea Scrolls are now referred to by scholars, has been invaluable as far as information. From the texts there is a greater understanding of biblical texts already known, scholars (and now the public) learned more about the development of early Judaism, and obtained an insight into the culture out of which emerged the Rabbinic movement of Judaism and the concepts in Christianity.
The Qumran site was excavated by Pere Roland de Vaux, a French Dominican, in an effort to find the place where the authors of the scrolls lived. The excavations uncovered a complex of structures, 262 by 328 feet which de Vaux described as a monastic community. It was believed it was the wilderness retreat of the Essenes of the Second Temple Period.
After de Vaux’s excavation was interpreted by ancient historians, they came to the conclusion that the Essene community wrote, copied, or collected the scrolls at Qumran and then put them in caves in the hills. Others dispute this and claim that either the scroll sect was Sadducee; that the site was no monastery but rather a Roman fortress or a winter villa; that the Qumran site has nothing to do with the scrolls; or that the evidence available does not support a definite conclusion.
Whatever the habitat was built for, evidence indicates that the excavated settlement was built about 150 BC, during the time of the Maccabees, a priestly family that ruled Judea in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Archaeologists discovered evidence of a huge earthquake that disrupted the occupation of the site. Qumran was abandoned about the time of the Roman sweep to quell an uprising in 68 AD, two years before the collapse of Jewish self-government in Judea and the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The following describes the text from the scrolls and reprint of translation by the Israel Antiquities Authority and other sources are given at footnotes.

Calendrical Document

Written on parchment and copied c.50-25 BC. Found in Qumran Cave IV:
A significant feature of the community was its calendar, which was based on a solar system of 364 days, unlike the common Jewish lunar calendar, which consisted of 354 days. The calendar played a weighty role in the schism of the community from the rest of Judaism, as the festivals and fast days of the group were ordinary work days for the mainstream community and vice versa. According to the calendar, the New Year always began on a Wednesday, the day on which God created the heavenly bodies. The year consisted of fifty-two weeks, divided into four seasons of thirteen weeks each, and the festivals consistently fell on the same days of the week. It appears that these rosters were intended to provide the members of the "New Covenant" with a time-table for abstaining from important activities on the days before the dark phases of the moon's waning and eclipse.

Serekh ha-Yahad (The Community Rule)

Parchment copied late 1st century BC – early 1st century AD, English translation:
And according to his insight he shall admit him. In this way both his love and his hatred. No man shall argue or quarrel with the men of perdition. He shall keep his council in secrecy in the midst of the men of deceit and admonish with knowledge, truth and righteous commandment those of chosen conduct, each according to his spiritual quality and according to the norm of time. He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community, so that they shall behave decently with one another in all that has been revealed to them. That is the time for studying the Torah (lit. clearing the way) in the wilderness. He shall instruct them to do all that is required at that time, and to separate from all those who have not turned aside from all deceit. These are the norms of conduct for the Master in those times with respect to his loving and to his everlasting hating of the men of perdition in a spirit of secrecy. He shall leave to them property and wealth and earnings like a slave to his lord, (showing) humility before the one who rules over him. He shall be zealous concerning the Law and be prepared for the Day of Revenge. He shall perform the will [of God] in all his deeds and in all strength as He has commanded. He shall freely delight in all that befalls him, and shall desire nothing except God's will...

Books of Judaism

Through the turmoil of their history, the Jews were able to maintain their tradition of scholarship and the love of it produced literature that has lasted throughout the ages. Near the close of the 3rdcentury a Jewish poet composed the beautiful Song of Songs, where Greek verse is adapted from Sappho to Theocritus and applied to Hebrew literature. Hellenistic Jews who lived in places like Jerusalem, Alexandria and other cities of the eastern Mediterranean, wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek – such masterpieces as EcclesiastesDaniel, part of Proverbs and Psalms, and most of the Apocrypha. They wrote histories like Chronicles, novelettes like Esther and Judith, and stories of family life like the Book of Tobit. The Soferim changed the Hebrew script from the old Assyrian to the square Syrian style, which has survived to modern times. Most of the Jews in the Near East spoke Aramaic instead of Hebrew, the scholars explained in Aramaic Targums (interpretations). Schools were built to study the Torah (Law) and explained the moral codes to Jewish youth. By the end of the 3rd century the scholars of the Great Assembly had completed the editing of the older literature and made official the canonized New Testament. To them the age of prophets had ended and the inspiration of religious literature had ended with it.
The prologue of Ecclesiasticus describes it as a Greek translation that was completed in 132 AD that was written two generations before him by the translator’s grandfather, Jesus, the son of Sirach (not of Nazareth). His given/whole name was Joshua ben Sirach and was a scholar, and after traveling about the known world he decided to settle down and make his home a school for students, to whom he wrote essays on the wisdom of life. He denounces the rich Jews who have abandoned their faith in order to deal with the world of the Gentiles. Joshua was not as strict as the Chasidim and believed in harmless pleasure.
In Chapter 24 of Ecclesiasticus he conveys that
Wisdom is the first product of God, created from the beginning of the world.
This idea of delegated intelligence dominated Jewish theology in the last centuries before Christ.
In the Book of Enoch that was written by several authors in Palestine between 170 and 66 BC, according to scholars, emphasizes the hope of heaven; the success of power over the wicked and the misfortunes of the pious Hebrew people. Emphasis is made on the writings during this period of the coming of a Messiah who will establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and will reward those who are virtuous with everlasting happiness after death.
In the Book of Daniel the story of the terror under the rule of Antiochus IV is told. Around 166 BC, when the faithful were persecuted to the death for their beliefs, more large enemies were advancing upon the Maccabee band of rebels and the Chasidim renewed the courage of the people and described the sufferings and prophecies of Daniel in the days of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. Copies were made and passed secretly among the Jews for inspiration and hope even though it concerned a prophet who had lived 370 years before.
The Jewish writings of this period are described by scholars as
mystic or imaginative literature of instruction, edification, and consolation.
To the Jews religion was not an escape from the affairs of the world, but a demonstration and drama of faith; ruled by a powerful God that sees and knows all things that rewards the virtuous and punishes those that follow the path of evil. The Captivity had repressed this belief, yet the restoration of the Temple had restored faith. One again their faith broke down under the rule of Antiochus and pessimism became dominate; yet in the writings of the Greeks the Jews found stories of injustice and tragedies of life that compared to theirs. Meanwhile, Jewish contact with Persian philosophy and theology concerning heaven and hell was a believable struggle between good and evil. Triumph of the good didn’t offer an escape from their despair, and perhaps the idea of immortality that had been available to Jews in Alexandria which had inspired the Jews during the Greek and Roman periods. This allowed them to continue to pursue the dream of once again having their own state and rebuilding their Temple. From the Jews, Egyptians, Persians, and even the Greeks, developed the idea of eternal reward and punishment that created a stronger faith that would help them tackle the problems of the world.

The Talmud

After what was called the Dispersion of 70 AD, the Jews had become scattered among other nations. Previously, in the Temple, the synagogues and the schools of Palestine and Babylonia the scribes and rabbis put together texts of law and comments known as the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds. It was composed of both the oral and written Law and the Sadducee of Palestine questioned the divine authenticity of the oral Law until they disappeared after 70 AD. The Bible was the literature and religion of the ancient Hebrews, and the Torah was the Hebrew Bible of medieval Jews. Because the Law of the Pentateuch was written, it could not meet the needs of Jerusalem that did not govern itself or Judaism without a nation. So it was the job of the Sanhedrin teachers before the Dispersion and the rabbis afterwards to interpret the legislation passed down from Moses for the guidance of a new age where Jews were scattered around the ancient world. In the first six generations after Christ the rabbis were called tannaim – “teachers of the oral Law.” They became the experts of the Law and were both teachers and judges within the Jewish community. The oral teaching became known as the Mishnah and from this the rabbis developed written commentaries, which gave the completed Babylonian Talmud.
The word Talmud means teaching. The stories developed in written material is called Haggadah and was eventually incorporated into the Talmud with bits of biographies, history, medical texts, astronomy, astrology, magic and theosophy that accompanied the Law. It might be pictured as a textbook covering several subjects for the use of rabbis to teach members in their communities that would standardize Judaism no matter where Jews may have lived.
The Babylonian Talmud runs to 1947 folio leaves, or some 6,000 pages of 400 words each. The Mishnah is divided into six sedarim (orders), each of these into mishmayoth (teachings). Modern editions of the Talmud usually include: (1) the commentary of Rashi (1040-1105), which appears on the interior margins of the text; and (2) tosaphoth (additions), discussions of the Talmud by French and German rabbis of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which appear on the exterior margins of the text. Many editions add the Tosefta or Supplement – remnants of the oral Law omitted from the Mishnah of Jehuda Hanasi.

Herod the Great

Caesar Augustus , now Princeps of the Roman Empire after the death of Julius Caesar, appointed Herod, son of Antipater, king of Judea, and financed his Jewish army with Roman money. Herod drove out the Parthians, protected Jerusalem from pillage, sent Antigonus to Antony for execution, killed all the Jewish leaders who had supported the puppet government, and the rest is well known in history, his reign lasting from 37 to 4 BC.
Herod was an intellectual ruler, but without morals and was much like the Caesars of Rome in several ways. He enforced his orders through his military among the people, his realm grew bigger and more prosperous, more by force than by trade. According to the historian, Josephus, Herod was brave and strong. He was
a great marksman with javelin and bow and a mighty hunter who killed forty wild beasts in one day.
Despite having strong enemies like Antony, Augustus, and Cleopatra; he outlived them all. It seemed from every crisis he just grew richer and more powerful. Yet, he had become king and grew wealthy because of Rome. The Jewish people he ruled hated him and wanted to break free from him and Roman rule. The economy had grown weak because of his huge taxation policy; yet he built great buildings that Judea had not seen since Solomon. He enlarged the Temple of Zerubbabel because it was too small, he claimed, much to the anger of the people. His Temple was destroyed by Titus Vespasian in 70 AD.
His own family must have hated him. Herod’s sister convinced him that his favorite wife, Marianne, was trying to poison him. He put her on trial and then executed her. He jailed other family members and executed others. As an old man he suffered from dropsy, ulcers, convulsions, and it is thought cancer finally killed him. Hated by his people, he died a broken man at the age of 69. Scholars have
...said that he stole his throne like a fox, ruled like a tiger, and died like a dog.
The kingdom was divided among his three sons: Philip, Herod Antipas, and Archelaus.

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