Ancient Judaism was not Exclusive

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Irish1975
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Ancient Judaism was not Exclusive

Post by Irish1975 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 12:39 pm

The Invention of the Jewish People, by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, is a fascinating read. Chapter 3 cites a great deal of evidence that Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman eras was already a universalizing, missionary monotheism, long before Christianity. It converted large masses of gentiles and sometimes entire kingdoms. Sand argues that both Christian and Zionist cultures have for various reasons tended to obscure this historical reality.

And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them (Esther 8:17).

"This is the only mention in the Bible of conversion to Judaism, and this statement about mass conversions--not at the End of Days but in the present--indicates the strengthening confidence of the young Jewish monotheism. It may also hint at the source of the great increase in the number of Jewish believers in that period."

"A 1965 doctoral thesis by Uriel Rapaport--unfortunately not published--deviated from the usual [Israeli] historiographic discourse and sought, without success, to draw researchers' attention to the widespread wave of conversions. Unlike all the ethnonationalist historians, Rapaport did not hesitate to conclude his brilliant thesis with this statement: 'Given its great scale [peaking at ~7-8% of population under Roman empire], the expansion of Judaism in the ancient world cannot be accounted for by natural increase, by migration from the homeland, or any other explanation that does not include outsiders joining it.
As he saw it, the reason for the great Jewish increase was mass conversion. This process was driven by a policy of proselytizing and dynamic religious propaganda, which achieved decisive results amid the weakening of the pagan worldview. In this, Rapaport joined a (non-Jewish) historiographic tradition that included the great scholars of ancient history--Renan, Wellhausen, Meyer, Schurer--and asserted, to use the sharp words of Theodor Mommsen, that 'ancient Judaism was not exlcusive at all; it was, rather, as keen to propagate itself as Christianity and Islam would be in the future.' (pp. 153-54).

"In almost all of the narratives produced by the proto-Zionist and even Zionist historians, conversion is mentioned as one reason for the vast presence of Jewish believers throughout the ancient world before the fall of the Second Temple. But this decisive factor was sidelined, while the more dramatic players of Jewish history dominated the field: expulsion, displacement, emigration, and natural increase. These gave a more appropriate ethnic quality to the "dispersion of the Jewish people. ...It is generally assumed that Judaism has never been a missionizing religion, and if some proselytes joined it, they were accepted by the Jewish people with extreme reluctance."

"The period between Ezra in the fifth century BCE and the revolt of the Maccabees in the second was a kind of dark age in the history of the Jews. ...What we do know is that, while the abundant biblical texts during this Persian period promoted the tribal principle of an exclusive "sacred seed," other authors wrote works that ran counter to the hegemonic discourse, and some of those works entered the canon. The Second Isaiah, Ruth, Jonah, and the apocryphal Judith all call for Judaism to accept gentiles, and even for the whole world to adopt the "religion of Moses." (pp. 150-51)


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Irish1975
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Re: Ancient Judaism was not Exclusive

Post by Irish1975 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 12:56 pm


I do not know how this title [Jews] came to be given to them, but it applies also to all the rest of mankind, although of alien race, who affect their customs.
Cassius Dio, Roman History 37.17


The noun Ἰουδαῖος is not the name of a people (ethnos), but of a choice in the manner of life. For if there be someone not from the nation of the Jews, a gentile, who accepts the ways of the Jews and becomes a proselyte, this person would properly be called a Ἰουδαῖος.
Origen (quoted in Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness, p. 134)

Although the crushing of the Judean revolts against Rome were long in the past when these authors wrote in the 3rd century CE, this late evidence of Jewish proselytism shows that Jewishness was not yet ethnicized. This would happen later under Christendom.

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Re: Ancient Judaism was not Exclusive

Post by semiopen » Mon Oct 07, 2019 5:14 am

Sands is more or less correct.

My take on this matter, is that from a marketing point of view, the Christian product was clearly superior.

To ensure survivability, the sages decided to make membership in the brotherhood exclusive.

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Irish1975
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Re: Ancient Judaism was not Exclusive

Post by Irish1975 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:39 am

More from Sand--

We may question the degree of monotheism in the kingdom of Judah before it fell in the 6th century BCE, but the Hasmonean kingdom was the first Jewish kingdom that unquestionably deserved to be described as monotheistic, while also being a typical Hellenistic province.

This was perhaps the first time in history that a clearly monotheistic religion combined with a political government: the sovereign became a priest. Like other single-deity religions that would hold power in the future, the Hasmonean theocracy used the sword to spread not only its territorial domain but also its religious following. And with the historical option of cultural Hellenization came the possibility of conversion to Judaism.

In 125 BCE, Yohanan Hyrcanus conquered Edom, the country that spread south of Beth-zur and Ein Gedi as far as Beersheba, and Judaized its inhabitants by force. (Josephus Antiquities 13.9).

The converted Jews of Edomite origin intermarried with Judeans and gave Hebrew names to their children, some of whom would play important roles in the history of the Judean kingdom. Not only Herod came from among them; some of the disciples of the strict Rabbi Shammai and the most extreme Zealots in the great revolt were also of Edomite descent.

In 104-103 BCE Judas Aristobulus annexed the Galilee to Judea and forced its Iturean inhabitants, who populated the northern region, to convert to Judaism. ...Judeans probably lived in the Galilee earlier, but it was populated and governed predominantly by the Itureans, the center of whose kingdom was in Chalcis in Labanon. Their origin is obscure--probably Phoenician and possibly tribal Arab. The territory annexed by aristobulus stretched from Bet She'an (Scythopolis) in the south to beyond Giscala in the north--that is, most of today's Galilee minus the coast. Masses of Itureans, the original inhabitants of the Galilee, assimilated into the expanding Judean population, and many became devout Jews. One of Herod's associates was Sohemus the Iturean.


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Re: Ancient Judaism was not Exclusive

Post by semiopen » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:41 am

Coming so close to Yom Kippur, this negative information dump recalls the story of the Ten_Martyrs
In the story,[1] the Roman emperor Hadrian decides to martyr ten rabbis as 'punishment' for the ten brothers listed in the Torah who sold their brother Joseph to Ancient Egypt.[2] He justifies this by saying that the penalty for this was death.[3] Though this crime took place almost 2000 years earlier, and Jewish law does not allow for the descendants of sinners to be punished,[4] the Roman commander goes ahead with the executions because (he says) there are 'none like you' ten who are capable of rectifying this crime.
Sands was making the point that modern Jews have little natural or divine right to settle in Israel, a major reason being that we are not actually descendants of the original population.

The Hasmoneans were more or less a right wing splinter group that somehow came out on top in a civil war. They have a better reputation than they deserve because this was one of the rare times that Judah had some form of military success (albeit at the cost of killing other Jews).

Heartbreaking stuff about the Idumeans, etc but where exactly is this going?

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