Home > Early Christianity, History, Judaism, Study of Judaism, Theology > Judaism in the Roman World

Judaism in the Roman World

  • Goodman, Martin, 1953-
  • Judaism in the Roman world : collected essays / by Martin Goodman.
  • p. cm. — (Ancient Judaism and early Christianity, ISSN 1871-6636 ; v. 67)
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN-13: 978-90-04-15309-7
  • ISBN-10: 90-04-15309-8 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Judaism—History—Post-exilic period,
  • 586 B.C.-210 A.D. 2. Judaism—History—Talmudic period, 10-425. I. Title. II. Series.
  • BM176.G63 2006       296.09’014—dc22      2006049637

These collected studies, previously published in diverse places between 199 and 26, discuss important and controversial issues in the study of the development of Judaism in the Roman world from the first century C.E. to the fifth.

The studies reprinted here originally appeared in diverse publications between 1990 and 2006, and in many cases they are not easily available. They were written for a variety of purposes, but they reflect a consistent approach in the study of Judaism from the late Second Temple period to the end of antiquity and I hope that reissuing them in a single volume may prove useful.

It is largely by accident that I have written on so many aspects of the religious lives of ancient Jews. I was trained as a Roman historian and came to the study of Jewish texts originally as a source for social, cultural and administrative history; for such purposes, it was necessary to analyze the religious milieu and meaning of these texts only to the extent that this clarified their value as evidence for other aspects of Jewish and Roman history. However, I discovered early in my teaching career that many colleagues simply assumed that anyone who works on Jewish texts must be interested in religious history for its own sake, and after a while I succumbed. In any case, it proved impossible to give lectures on Roman Palestine without taking a view on numerous contentious issues in the study of Judaism, and the provision of lectures for the Theology faculty in Oxford on ‘Varieties of Judaism’ encouraged a re-examination of received opinion on many aspects.

The studies reprinted here reflect these origins. They are not the work of a theologian: they deal with the religious lives of ancient Jews rather than with religious ideas in the abstract. Those lives are situated, explicitly or implicitly, against the background of the wider history of the Roman world. Throughout there is a strong concern to clarify the limitations of the surviving evidence for ancient Judaism and to encourage gentle scepticism about some of the later myths about Judaism in the early centuries—myths which were created already by the end of antiquity, within the rabbinic and Christian traditions, but which have in many cases survived to the present.

The texts of the essays are republished here unchanged from their original form except for the correction of a few misprints, since reference to more recent discussions of the issues they raise would not have changed the arguments and would have impaired the clarity of the presentation. But readers may find it helpful to know about a few of the most significant later works relevant to the articles written in the 1990s: for Chapter 2, Shaye Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: boundaries, varieties, uncertainties (University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1999); for Chapter 7, Christine Schams, Jewish Scribes in the Second-Temple Period (Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield 1998); for Chapter 8, Martin Goodman, Mission and Conversion: Proselytising in the Religious History of the Roman Empire (Oxford University, Press, Oxford, 1994); for Chapter 18, Steven Fine, This Holy Place: On the Sanctity of the Synagogue During the Greco-Roman Period (University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Ind., 1998).

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