Conclusion

The complicated area of Jewish-pagan relations is summed up by the Tosefta Avodah Zarah The murky area of idolatry one should not do business with a pagan on the day of the pagan's festival because it would appear that one is taking part in idolatry (1 13). How much is too much The Talmudic literature tries to define this. The prohibitions and their requisite abrogation are not necessarily the product of the later generations of Sages. The Tosefta opens with a saying of Nahum the Mede (ca....

Defection From Paganism

Evidence for pagan defectors is harder to come by, as we might expect. Indeed, some might say that the absence in Greco-Roman culture of the principle of exclusive commitment or firm boundaries, such as characterized Jewish and Christian communities (even if the reality was somewhat different), seems to exclude at the outset the notion of defection apostasy. Yet we do find examples that look very much like the phenomena we have already surveyed in Jewish and Christian texts, some of which,...

Characteristics Of Fairs

Yarid is the common term employed in the Tosefta and the Talmuds for the fair.1 According to Z. Safrai's work on the subject, this term is comparable to a rare and antiquated meaning of the Greek term, katabaino, to descend (1984, 139-58). In Greek, it was more common to use pangypis or, at times, agora. Latin employs nundinae or simply mercatus (analogous to shuk2 in Hebrew), which are not found in rabbinic literature. The Talmudic corpus also employs atlaz (especially in relation to the fair...

Relaxed Prohibitions

Yohanan is one of the leaders in relaxing Jewish-pagan prohibitions. However, there is a substantial methodological weakness in this claim. Many of the laws associated with R. Yohanan are recorded in the Tosefta, which is a document contemporaneous with the Mishnah, if not earlier than it. For instance, Tosefta 1 8 records that you can purchase Jewish slaves in a fair because you will save them from pagan hands. This ruling is taken up in a later text, the...

What If

No social group or movement succeeds in persisting without a certain critical mass of committed participants or adherents. In order to survive, all social groups and movements must attract and retain a certain number of persons willing and able to be identified, on a given occasion, as part of group x versus group y or z. If only for this reason, the demographic fact of an always limited number of potential and desirable participants (however great this number might be) in the life of a...

Models Of Decline In The Study Of Socialreligious Life

Unfortunately, the model of civic decline has often been used to explain other social and cultural phenomena in the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Many scholars correlate this decline with a degeneration of traditional religious life. As S.R.F. Price notes, the conventional model, which has been applied to both Greek and Roman cults, posits an early apogee followed by a long and continuous decline, until the last embers were extinguished by Christianity (1984, 14). As we shall see, the application...

Defection From Christianity

For our first Christian example, we may appropriately start with an unusual group the Jewish Christians who got caught up in the Bar Kochba rebellion. Justin mentions that some of them were put to death for refusing to recognize the claims of Bar Kochba (1 Apol. 31.6 Dia1.16 cf. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.6.2), but we may have a fuller, if cryptic, account in The Apocalypse of Peter (2 8-13) (8) They will promise that, I am the Christ who has come into the world. And when they see the wickedness...

The Fair As A Crowd

Many of the topics in the Jerusalem Talmud, which recall our passage from the Mishnah, try to recover the impulse that governs the discussion of the Mishnah. Why are these things prohibited asks the Jerusalem Talmud. One response refers to the tax-reduction and subsequent contribution to idol worship, which we have identified above. But there are other responses that discuss the compelling character of idol-worship by throngs of people. The Jerusalem Talmud opens with a question that tries to...

Rabbinic Textual Evidence

The period under investigation in this chapter is covered by the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. Modern scholarship frequently treats the historical information in these documents with a high degree of suspicion, because it appears that the opinions presented are essentially ahistorical. Some material is presented anonymously, while some is associated with specific Sages. Even when we can locate these Sages historically between the first century bce and the sixth...

Preface

This book is about religious rivalries in the early Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity. The book is divided into three parts. The first part debates the degree to which the category of rivalry adequately names the issue(s) that must be addressed when comparing and contrasting the social success of different religious groups in Mediterranean antiquity. Some scholars insist on the need for additional registers others consider it important not only to contemplate success but also failure...

Interpreting The Exemptions

The contrast between the stricter Mishnaic approach and the material collected in the Tosefta and the two Talmuds has been noted by scholars, who categorize the later allowances as an attempt to relieve some of the strictures in the area of Jewish-pagan relations. Ephraim E. Urbach, for example, notes that relationships between Jews and their neighbours relaxed and became more lenient over the years, claiming that all kinds of goods were permitted because of economic necessity (1959, 189-205)....

Defection From Judaism

One of the clearest examples of defection from Judaism occurred in Anti-och during the Jewish War. A Jew named Antiochus threw over the traces, denounced his fellow Jews, and accused them of setting the city centre on fire. To prove the sincerity of his own conversion (metabole) and his detestation of Jewish customs, he sacrificed in the Greek fashion, denounced (enedeiknyto) his father and other Jews, and forced as many as he was able to abandon their customs and follow his lead (Josephus,...

Adolf Von Harnack

In the preface to his seminal work, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, Adolf von Harnack claimed No monograph has yet been devoted to the mission and spread of the Christian religion during the first three centuries of our era 1908, vii . Before Harnack's work, it is said, there were only myths of origin The primitive history of the church's mission lies buried in legend or rather, it has been replaced by a tendentious history of what is alleged to have...

Evidence For The Vitality Of The Polis In Asia Minor

Now that we have challenged some scholarly portraits of the polis, we can go on to discuss more positive evidence concerning the continuing vitality of civic life. I begin by addressing the significance, for the polis, of social networks of benefaction in the Hellenistic and Roman eras then, I continue by using inscriptional evidence for associations in Roman Asia as an indication of involvements in, attachments to, and identifications with numerous dimensions of the polis on the part of its...

Introduction

Any attempt to understand religious rivalries in the ancient Mediterranean world must take into account the social and political structures within which such phenomena took place. Such structures influenced or constrained in various ways the activities and behaviours of the individuals, groups, and communities that attract our historical interest. Thus, it is the city or polis of the Greek East, and the larger power structures of which the polis was a part, that should frame our investigations....