Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

I struggle with this:

The creation of the Hexateuch at Alexandria ca. 270 BCE (and the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek60) inaugurated a political and theological revolution in the national life of Judea and Samaria, replacing traditional national institutions with a novel theocratic form of government, new laws and a new national literature, in accordance with the political and literary agenda outlined in Plato’s Laws (Gmirkin 2017: 261–9). For the most part, the Platonic political agenda was successfully implemented in the reinvention of Jewish and Samaritan national life (cf. Gmirkin 2017: 261–9). Instead of the former rule under a governor during the Neo-Babylonian, Persian and early Hellenistic Era, there was now a new theocratic form of government under a high priest and gerousia (senate) closely modeled on Plato’s Nocturnal Council (Gmirkin 2017: 36). Incorporating Plato’s Laws and other Greek laws researched at Alexandria’s Great Library and retaining a few Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian laws preserved among the Samaritans (Gmirkin 2017: 144, 175 n. 366, 263, 2020b: 87), a new constitution and law code was created. These laws were given a divine origin in the Torah’s foundation story, much as Plato had prescribed, in which Yahweh had revealed them to Moses. This new law code recognized existing priesthoods and temples and incorporated local religious customs, as Plato also advised, in order to enhance the aura of antiquity and divinity associated with the new legislation (Gmirkin 2017: 254–5, 262–3). The Pentateuchal foundation story and laws authored and translated into Greek at Alexandria ca. 270 BCE were supplemented in Jerusalem shortly thereafter by the creation of an entire national library of approved literary texts, also following Plato’s agenda in Laws (Gmirkin 2017: 261–9). The sacred texts of the Hebrew Bible formed the basis of the Jewish educational system, especially as reflected in the proliferation of synagogues in the third century BCE in Egypt and later in Palestine (Gmirkin 2017: 268–9). By ca. 200 BCE, according to all available literary and historical evidence, Jews and Samaritans had come to fully accept the Mosaic foundation story as actual history, and the new constitution and laws of ca. 270 BCE as their ancient foundational heritage, much as Plato might have predicted (Republic 3.415c–d). As an external program of nation-building, the creation of the new national life in ca. 270–200 BCE under the agenda laid out in Plato’s Laws must be viewed as extremely successful.

Gmirkin, Russell E.. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts (p. 288).

Again, viewing the writing of the Torah in 270, as a process of documenting existing laws, stories, and traditions with a Hellenized framework is one thing. Viewing the writing of the Torah as the invention of a largely new set of laws, stories, and traditions, including the introduction of the exclusive worship of Yahweh as the Creator of the universe, is another matter. I'm not saying its impossible, its just stretches the realm of plausibility.
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

I have considered something that Gmirkin does not mention that I have noticed, but which may aid his thesis.

There is the possibility that after the fall of the Persians, the Jewish elite who were carrying out the program that Grmikin proposes (supposedly), may have declared that the Persians had suppressed their true heritage, and that the priesthood was now revitalizing the truth about their ancestors.

In other words, I think it would be difficult to simply foist a false history and heritage upon a population. However, it could be possible if that population believed that their heritage had been suppressed by the ruling class.

For example, after the fall of the Soviet Union, one can imagine that it would have been possible (and may have happened) for leaders in former Soviet Republics to claim that their nation had previously been a nation of (pic your religion) Muslims or Orthodox Christians or Catholics, or whatever, who had been suppressed by the Soviet atheists, and that now they would go about re-educating the people in the ways of their ancestors.

This is plausible.

In the case of the Jews, what would have happened here would have been a much more rigorous re-writing of their history, but after 200 years of Persian rule, who would know any better?

So, I think that this potential for "re-education" does provide a plausible scenario for the possibility of what Gmirkin proposes.

Nothing in the Deuteronomistic works mentions the Persians. However the fact that ostensibly later works, such as those of Ezra and Isaiah praise the Persians, may challenge the proposal I just laid out.
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

Now, as for why later writers would praise Cyrus? A possibility is that it was done for reasons similar to the story recorded in Josephus of Alexander visiting Jerusalem.

The Jews were often at odds with the Hellens, so why do we have a story that so closely aligns the greatest Hellen with the Jews? Because the story portrays the greatest Hellen as someone who endorsed Judaism and the right of Jews to live under their own laws.

Likewise, by portraying Cyrus, who was still a much respected national leader of great renown, as the restorer of the Temple, it gave the Temple credibility in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans. Here was an institution that was sanctioned by the greatest leader of the prior era. And not only that, but, according to these writings, the Temple facilitated peace between the Persians and the Jews. Thus, the message is sent, if the Seleucids or the Romans support the Temple the way that Cyrus did, then they too will gain the trust and support of the Jews.

Ezra and Isaiah, as well as a few other sources, portray the Persian period as a time of harmony between subject and ruler, presenting it as a model for present and future rulers to emulate. Thus, what these works were doing was presenting to ruling powers the way that the Jews wanted to be governed and treated. They present alternatives between the Babylonians, whom the Jewish God worked to defeat, and the Persians, who cooperated with the Jewish God and were able to govern the Jews profitably.

This is how I may try to envision the works of some of the Prophets in the context of Gmirkin's thesis.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 31, 2022 4:49 am I struggle with this:

The creation of the Hexateuch at Alexandria ca. 270 BCE (and the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek60) inaugurated a political and theological revolution in the national life of Judea and Samaria, replacing traditional national institutions with a novel theocratic form of government, new laws and a new national literature, in accordance with the political and literary agenda outlined in Plato’s Laws (Gmirkin 2017: 261–9). For the most part, the Platonic political agenda was successfully implemented in the reinvention of Jewish and Samaritan national life (cf. Gmirkin 2017: 261–9). Instead of the former rule under a governor during the Neo-Babylonian, Persian and early Hellenistic Era, there was now a new theocratic form of government under a high priest and gerousia (senate) closely modeled on Plato’s Nocturnal Council (Gmirkin 2017: 36). Incorporating Plato’s Laws and other Greek laws researched at Alexandria’s Great Library and retaining a few Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian laws preserved among the Samaritans (Gmirkin 2017: 144, 175 n. 366, 263, 2020b: 87), a new constitution and law code was created. These laws were given a divine origin in the Torah’s foundation story, much as Plato had prescribed, in which Yahweh had revealed them to Moses. This new law code recognized existing priesthoods and temples and incorporated local religious customs, as Plato also advised, in order to enhance the aura of antiquity and divinity associated with the new legislation (Gmirkin 2017: 254–5, 262–3). The Pentateuchal foundation story and laws authored and translated into Greek at Alexandria ca. 270 BCE were supplemented in Jerusalem shortly thereafter by the creation of an entire national library of approved literary texts, also following Plato’s agenda in Laws (Gmirkin 2017: 261–9). The sacred texts of the Hebrew Bible formed the basis of the Jewish educational system, especially as reflected in the proliferation of synagogues in the third century BCE in Egypt and later in Palestine (Gmirkin 2017: 268–9). By ca. 200 BCE, according to all available literary and historical evidence, Jews and Samaritans had come to fully accept the Mosaic foundation story as actual history, and the new constitution and laws of ca. 270 BCE as their ancient foundational heritage, much as Plato might have predicted (Republic 3.415c–d). As an external program of nation-building, the creation of the new national life in ca. 270–200 BCE under the agenda laid out in Plato’s Laws must be viewed as extremely successful.

Gmirkin, Russell E.. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts (p. 288).

Again, viewing the writing of the Torah in 270, as a process of documenting existing laws, stories, and traditions with a Hellenized framework is one thing. Viewing the writing of the Torah as the invention of a largely new set of laws, stories, and traditions, including the introduction of the exclusive worship of Yahweh as the Creator of the universe, is another matter. I'm not saying its impossible, its just stretches the realm of plausibility.
Part of me would like to respond but I don't know where to start. I could probably make a contribution if you could point out exactly why you find the scenario "stretches the realm of plausibility". There must be reasons / a reason.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 31, 2022 11:47 am Thus, the message is sent, if the Seleucids or the Romans support the Temple the way that Cyrus did, then they too will gain the trust and support of the Jews.
Would it not be more likely that Isaiah was written for a Judean audience with an aim of persuading the Judeans to accept a Cyrus-initiated cult?

(Hellen, by the way, is not the same as Hellene. I think you mean the latter: http://hull-awe.org.uk/index.php/Helen_ ... _-_Hellene )
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

neilgodfrey wrote: Thu Sep 01, 2022 10:29 pm
rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 31, 2022 11:47 am Thus, the message is sent, if the Seleucids or the Romans support the Temple the way that Cyrus did, then they too will gain the trust and support of the Jews.
Would it not be more likely that Isaiah was written for a Judean audience with an aim of persuading the Judeans to accept a Cyrus-initiated cult?

(Hellen, by the way, is not the same as Hellene. I think you mean the latter: http://hull-awe.org.uk/index.php/Helen_ ... _-_Hellene )
1) That would make sense if Isaiah were written during the reign of the Persians. I'm trying to understand why Isaiah would be written the way it is in the Hellenistic era.

2) Good call!
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

rgprice wrote: Fri Sep 02, 2022 12:25 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Thu Sep 01, 2022 10:29 pm
rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 31, 2022 11:47 am Thus, the message is sent, if the Seleucids or the Romans support the Temple the way that Cyrus did, then they too will gain the trust and support of the Jews.
Would it not be more likely that Isaiah was written for a Judean audience with an aim of persuading the Judeans to accept a Cyrus-initiated cult?


1) That would make sense if Isaiah were written during the reign of the Persians. I'm trying to understand why Isaiah would be written the way it is in the Hellenistic era.

The myth was about an exodus from Babylonian captivity. That makes Cyrus the inevitable key figure. That would apply even if the myth was formulated/refined in Roman times, would it not?
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Sep 02, 2022 12:55 am The myth was about an exodus from Babylonian captivity. That makes Cyrus the inevitable key figure. That would apply even if the myth was formulated/refined in Roman times, would it not?
Right, but why write about this at all? Why be so positive about Cyrus? They could also have claimed that Cyrus was a tyrant.

Firstly, I think that most Jewish works were far more directed at non-Jewish audiences than is widely acknowledged. They were almost always writing for two audiences. I'd say this is less true of some of the unique works from Qumran of course, but a lot of the classic apocrypha as well as the stuff from the Old Testament is very much written with foreign audiences in mind. 1 & 2 Maccabees are of course overtures to the Romans for example.

I think the Torah was written with a Hellenic audience in mind. This was also true of many prophetic works from other sources too. They were very often written for both sides. Such works were often written to reassure/inspire the "home audience" and to either threaten the foreign audience or to make overtures to the foreign audience.

Almost everything written by Jews in this period was allegorical and related to the current situation. Again, the story about Alexander visiting Jerusalem. Why? To have Alexander endorse Judaism and sanction the right of Jews to live under their own laws, even though Alexander was now long gone. It would be like a conservative writing a story about meeting Ronald Reagan today and claiming that Reagan had read his book and loved it, even though it never happened. Reagan is still revered by American conservatives, so getting his retroactive blessing is still valued.

Daniel, set in Babylonian times, is of course about the Seleucids. Its a message to both the Jews and the Seleucids.

At some point, the Jews needed royal endorsement. So they had a legend about endorsement from Alexander and Cyrus as well. The legend about Alexander was of course directed at the Seleucids and the Romans. "See, Alexander endorsed our regime and endorsed the right of Jews to live under their own laws. How could you possibly question his judgement? If he supported Judaism, so should you!"

The message is the same with Cyrus. It gives the Jerusalem Temple royal endorsement. Its all about establishing the provenance of the Jerusalem Temple -- in the eyes of foreign audiences. Because the Jews needed endorsement from third parities. In order to gain credibility they had to have "external witnesses", they couldn't just testify for themselves. Leader respected leaders. Yes, Cyrus was Persian, but he was of course respected by the leaders of all nations. His endorsement of the Temple gave it credibility in the eyes of all national leaders.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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I don't know how foreign leaders would ever come to read a Jewish priestly or other religious writing, or why they would take any notice of it if they did bother with it at all. But how would it have come to their notice anyway? And why would they have taken any time out to read it or have it read to them?
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Sep 02, 2022 2:04 am I don't know how foreign leaders would ever come to read a Jewish priestly or other religious writing, or why they would take any notice of it if they did bother with it at all. But how would it have come to their notice anyway? And why would they have taken any time out to read it or have it read to them?
Someone must have been reading this stuff, or at the very least using the material as a check against verbal claims. Josephus clearly documents 20ish Roman decrees that grant various rights to Jews based on an understanding of their history, laws, and prior precedent. These citations by Josephus have been overwhelming viewed as authentic by scholars, even if their context is called into question. In other words, Josephus may embellish the narrative around such citations, but it appears that the decrees are in fact legit.

The Romans must have engaged in some research before granting special rights and privileges to Jews, especially to the extent that they did.

There was collaboration between the Hasmoneans and the Romans. Surely they worked with Romans to convince them of some facts about their history and heritage.
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