appearances on that day (Philo, Legat. 23; 158; Josephus, AJ 16.27); rearrangement of the grain distributions was another Jewish request. The almost certainly erroneous but quite common supposition among pagan writers that the sabbath was a fast day reveals at least that certain fasts, either fixed or supernumerary, were a part of Jewish observance. The three agricultural and pilgrim festivals (Passover, Sukkoth - Tabernacles, and Shavuot - the Feast of Weeks) expressed the connection of diaspora Jews with the land and asserted the significance of the temple. The Levitical dietary laws figure frequently in diaspora narratives, whose authors, no doubt in part with an exhortatory purpose, have the participants avoid prohibited foods or those prepared by Gentiles. In the Pauline literature, we are made aware of the aversion to sacrificial meat (1 Cor 8 and 10; cf. Acts 15:29; Rev 2:14). Purity through ablution was associated with prayer and, interestingly, in contrast with Palestine, hand-washing is better attested than immersion in pools for effecting purification.17 Intermarriages with unconverted Gentiles were not approved but no doubt occurred.18
Legal rulings made in Jerusalem may indeed sometimes have been sent abroad, but we may concur with the assumption that 'diaspora Jews were capable of interpreting the Bible, and that they did not sit, patiently waiting for the Houses of Hillel and Shammai to send them their disagreements'.19 Even in the post-destruction era, the claims to authority of the developing rabbinic movement, with the code for living embodied, around 200 ce, in the Mishnah of Rabbi Judah Hanasi, are likely to have made few inroads in regions far from their Galilean seats, despite the impression given by all the stories that have come down to us of travelling rabbis.20 Diaspora inscriptions do not mention rabbis before the fourth century ce.21
Erwin Goodenough, in a monumental study, sought to construct diaspora Judaism as an independent and highly distinctive religious system, highlighting Philonic allegory, the repertoire of characteristic visual symbols and their possible meanings and the thoroughgoing syncretism of the many magical papyri which have prominent Jewish elements. But the first of these components could hardly form the basis of belief for the ordinary person; the second was much over-interpreted by Goodenough; and the third represents a world of
17 Sanders, Jewish law, 260-72.
18 Goodman, 'Jewish proselytizing', 63-6; Barclay, Negotiating diaspora, 410-12.
19 Sanders, Jewish law, 256.
20 Main sources in Williams, Jews among Greeks and Romans, 81.
21 Cohen, 'Epigraphic rabbis'.
Was this article helpful?