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  • 8/9/2019 Daniel - Anti-Semitism in the Hellenistic-Roman Period


    Anti-Semitism in the Hellenistic-Roman Period

    Jerry L. Daniel

     Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 98, No. 1. (Mar., 1979), pp. 45-65.

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  • 8/9/2019 Daniel - Anti-Semitism in the Hellenistic-Roman Period


    J B L

    98 1979) 45 65


    P E R I O D

    J E R R Y L . D A N I E L

    41 9 S P R I h G F I E L D A \ E Y L E U E S T F I E L D




    H E complexities of the Graeco -Rom an w orld coupled with the nature of

    Judaism itself produce a situation which is difficult to analyze. Anti-

    Semitism certainly existed and was a phe nom eno n of som e im portan ce in the

    Hellenistic world as well as in the Roman Empire, but its extent, nature,

    causes an d results are con troversial and have inspired a n imm ense literature.1

    Even the term is controversial. An ti-Sem itism is a relatively m od ern term ,

    apparently coined by

    W .

    M arr in the latter part of the nineteenth century an d

    used "to designate antipathy to Jews on racial, pseudo-scientific, and often

    polit ical grounds."* There are problems with the term, and i t is not fully

    adequate to describe the phen om enon for which it is normally used. Fo r one

    thing, it suggests a racial distinction which cannot be maintained, since the

    theory of pure Aryan and Semitic races has l i tt le mod ern support .3 Fo r

    ano ther, the word Semite is broader th an the word Jew, since there are other

    peoples (e.g., Arab s) who are just as S emitic as are the Jews.

    Since this term is open to such objections, various attem pts have been

    made to find a better one, with many modern authors preferring anti-

    ' I n addition t o the discussions of anti-Semitism in standard Jewish histories, some of the more

    im port ant specialized treatm ents are: J . Leipoldt, Antisemitismu s in der alten Welt (Leipzig: Von

    Dorss ling und Grante , 1933); M. Rad in, The Jews Amo ng the Greeks an d Rom ans (Philadelphia:

    Jewish Publication Society, 1915); A. N. Sherwin-White , Racial Prejudice in Imper ia l Ro m e

    (Cam bridge: C am brid ge University, 1967) 86-101; J . S . Raisin, Gentile Reactions to Jewish

    Ideals (New York : Philosophical Library, 1953); J . N . Sevenster, The Ro ot s of Pag an Anti-

    Semitism in the Ancient W orld (N ovT Sup 41; Leiden: Brill, 1975); N. W . Goldstein, "Cultivated

    Pagans and Ancient Anti-Semitism," J R 19 (1939) 346-64; J . G . Gager, Mosesin Greco-R oman

    Paganism (Nashville: Ab ingdon, 1972);

    G .

    La P iana , "Fore ign Grou ps in Rom e During the F irst

    Centuries of the E mpire," H TR 20(1927) 183-403; S. Zeitlin, "Anti-Sem itism," Crozer Quarterly

    22 (1945) 134-49; and two articles by I. H einem ann : "Antisem itismus," P W Su p 5 (1929) 3-43;

    and "The A ttitu de of the Ancient W orld Tow ard Jud aism ," R R 4 (1940) 385-400. Collections of

    pagan com ments abo ut Jews a re available in an old w ork by T . Reinach (Textes d 'auteurs grecs et

    rom ains relatijs au Judaism e[Hildesheim : Ge org Olms, 18951); an d in a recent work edited by

    M .

    Stern (Greek a nd Latin Auth ors o n Jews an d Judaism [2 vols. ; Jerusalem: Israel Academy of

    Sciences and Humanities, 1974-1).

    *E. H. F lannery , "Ant i -Semitism," N C E 1 (1967) 633. Cf . J . He inemann and J . Gu tman n ,

    "Anti-Semitism: In Antiquity," E nc Jud 3 (1971) 87; and S evenster, Roots , I .

    'Flannery, "Anti-Semitism," 633.

  • 8/9/2019 Daniel - Anti-Semitism in the Hellenistic-Roman Period



    J O U R N A L O F B I BL IC A L L I T E R A T U R E

    Judaism.4 This avo ids the q uest ionable racial dis t inct ion and seems at f irs t

    mor e precise, bu t in fact i t to o is highly questiona ble. Jud aism usua llyden otes

    a certain way of life, thought a nd belief. S It is not s yn on ym ou s with Jewry ; it

    can be used without referring personally to Jews, and it is possible to be

    Jewish w ithout representing J ud ais m as the lat ter term is usual ly un derstood.

    Anti-Ju daism implies th en a rejection of certain kin ds of thinking an d living

    within Jew ry, a nd seems even less adeq uate as a general term for the various

    kinds of oppo sition to Jews.6 O th er terms have also been propo sed; e.g.,

    hatred of the Jews. ' This, however, is also open to objections. Hostil i ty

    tow ard Jews did n ot always am ou nt t o hatred in the usual sense, thus such a

    term is less than adeq uate. I have seen no w ord o r phrase suggested which is

    entirely satisfactory, thus I have decided t o use the familiar expressio n, anti-

    Semitism, which, d espite i ts weaknesses, is idioma tic an d is in general use fo r

    all opposi t ion to Jews.

    A survey of the co mm ents abo ut Jew s in the Hellenist ic-Roman l iterature

    shows tha t they were alm ost universally disliked, o r at least viewed w ith an

    amused co ntempt . So me mod ern scholars have a t tempted to minimize the

    dislike,8 an d relatively few hav e recognized just how de ep a nd widespread the

    anti-Semitic feelings were. The great majority of the comments in the

    literature ar e negative. This is true of serious historia ns (e.g., Ta citus) an d also

    of satirists a nd oth er lesser writers (e.g. , Juven al, M artial). N. W. Goldstein

    speaks of an imp assable chasm between the Jews an d their neig hbo rs.

    , 9

    a view which summarizes quite well the impression given by the li terature.

    This is not to say that anti-Semitism was universal in Hellenistic and

    R om an t imes, no r is it t o imply tha t th e various peoples were negat ive towa rd

    Jews in the same ways or to the same degree. Despi te the differences in

    particulars,lO there was a pervasive anti-Semitic feeling, not uniqu e t o any

    given segment of the Graeco-Roman world.

    jsevenster ,




    T f . F . L o vs ky , Antisemitisme et mystere d lsrael (Paris: Albin Michel. 1955) 13-17.




    EE.g., ibid. , 180; Ra din , Jews Among Greek and Romans, 174, 195-96; and Sherwin-White,

    Racial Prejudice,

    10 1.

    y Cultivated Paga ns, 346.

    10Anti-Semitism was m ore mil i tant in the Greek cit ies of the eastern provinces: cf. Sherwin-

    White, Racial Prejudice,86 ; and Rad in , Jews Among Greeks and Romans, 201. T he si tuat ion in

    Alex andria is especially well docu men ted bo th by literary sourc es (esp. Philo,

    Legatio ad Gaium

    and In Flaccum; and Josephus J. W. 2.18.7-8 5487-99; Ant. 19.5.2-3 5278-85) a nd by the papyri

    (see V. Tcherikover, A. Fuks, and M. Stern [eds.] ,

    Corpus Papyrorum Judaicum [


    Camb ridge: H arva rd Universi ty, 1957164). Leo F uch s (Die Juden Aegyptens inptolemaischer

    und romischer Zeit [Vienna: Rath , 19241 22), says: Der Has s zwischen den Jud en und Griechen

    Alexandreias zieht s ich wie eine chronische K rankheit durc h die ganze Geschichte der romischen

    Kaiserzeit . Of the many treatments of Alexandrian J ewr y, see esp. Heinemann,

    Antisemitismus, 6-12; H I Bell, Anti-Semitism in Alex andria , JRS 31 (1941) 1-18; H. S.

    Jones , Claudius and the Jewish Quest ion a t Alexandr ia , JRS 16 (1926) 17-35: an d A . SegrC,

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