Elements of Jewish Religious Identity in the Second Temple PeriodPreface

The studies presented here owe their origin to an informal discussion among a number of participants at the ISDCL conference held in Berlin in 2013. It was agreed that the notion of Jewish identity markers during the Second Temple period had yet to receive adequate attention and that it might be productive to hold a workshop devoted to some exploratory treatments of this topic. If the presentations and discussions offered at such a workshop indicated various ways forward for future research, it might then be appropriate to devote a fuller, future meeting of the ISDCL to the broader subject. Plans were made for a weekend meeting at St John’s College in the University of Cambridge in June 2014 and seven papers were delivered and their themes closely analysed by the participants.

Jeremy Corley considered Ben Sira’s understanding of Jewish ethnicity (including nation and geography), his notion of Jewish culture (especially language and history), and his view of Jewish religion (involving belief and halakhah). The Septuagint’s exotic inclusion of the giraffe among pentateuchally permitted animals led James Aitken to the conclusion that the kosher laws were applied rather minimally, since few animals would have been available for eating. For Kristin De Troyer, the description of Apame, King Darius’s concubine, in 1 Esdras, should be understood as a statement about what was defined as good and bad in relationships between men and women. Reflections on the name as a key concept in Jewish thought and religion preoccupied Núria Calduch-Benages and she explained the significance of the name of Jerusalem in the concluding passage of Baruch.

Friedrich Reiterer dealt with how the wise person was identified in the Wisdom of Solomon and related such an identity to the broader philosophical ideas of the HellenisticWorld. The question of the apparent absence of circumcision and Shabbat in Tobit led Renate Egger-Wenzel to define the religious, sociological and geographical factors in the creation of Jewish identity in that book. Hebrew and Aramaic texts were combed by Stefan Reif for indications of how the early rabbis understood Torah, worship, ethics, priorities regarding religious precepts, the status of the land of Israel, the nature of the after-life, and relations with the dominant culture.

The editors of these papers thank the editors of Biblische Notizen for kindly including them in this issue, as well as the ISDCL and St John’s College for their generous support.

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