David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
History and Theory 43 (2):179–197 (2004)
What caused the eventual decline in later Jewish history of the vibrant historiographical tradition of the biblical period? In contrast to the plethora of historical writings composed during the biblical period, the rabbis of the early common era apparently were not interested in writing history, and when they did relate to historical events they often introduced mythical and unrealistic elements into their writings. Scholars have offered various explanations for this phenomenon; a central goal of this article is to locate these explanations within both the immediate historical setting of Roman Palestine and the overarching cultural atmosphere of the Greco-Roman Near East. In particular, I suggest that the largely ahistorical approach of the rabbis functioned as a local Jewish counterpart to the widespread classicizing tendencies of a contemporary Greek intellectual movement, the Second Sophistic. In both cases, eastern communities, whose political aspirations were stifled under Roman rule, sought to express their cognitive and spiritual identities by focusing on a glorious and idealized past rather than on contemporary history. Interestingly, the apparent lack of rabbinic interest in historiography is not limited to the early rabbinic period. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, Jews essentially did not write their political, diplomatic, or military history. Instead, Jews composed “traditional historiography” which included various types of literary genres among which the rabbinic “chain of transmission” was the most important. The chain of transmission reconstructs the links that connect later rabbinic sages with their predecessors. Robert Bonfil has noted the similarity between this rabbinic project and contemporary church histories. Adding a diachronic dimension to Bonfil’s comparison, I suggest that rabbinic chains of transmission and church histories are not similar though entirely independent phenomena, but rather their shared project actually derives from a common origin, the Hellenistic succession list. The succession list literary genre, which sketches the history of an intellectual discipline, apparently thrived during the Second Sophistic and diffused then into both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity. Thus, even though historiography was not terribly important to the early rabbis or to most Second Sophistic intellectuals, the succession list schematic, or the history of an intellectual discipline, was evaluated differently. Rabbis and early Christians absorbed the succession list from Second Sophistic culture and then continued to employ this historiographical genre for many centuries to come
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Keimpe Algra (ed.) (2005). The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
Diskin Clay (1983). Lucretius and Epicurus. Cornell University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Yoram Hazony (2012). The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Jonathan Boyarin (2008). Jewishness and the Human Dimension. Fordham University Press.
Domenic Marbaniang (2009). Theology of Revelation in the Bible and the Writings of 19th and 20th Century Theologians. Google Books.
Robert Eisen (2004). The Book of Job in Medieval Jewish Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
Robert Eisen (2008). The Hermeneutics of Order in Medieval Jewish Philosophical Exegesis. In Charles Harry Manekin & Robert Eisen (eds.), Philosophers and the Jewish Bible. University Press of Maryland.
Michael A. Rosenthal (2008). Spinoza, History, and Jewish Modernity. In Charles Harry Manekin & Robert Eisen (eds.), Philosophers and the Jewish Bible. University Press of Maryland.
David L. Freeman & Judith Z. Abrams (eds.) (1999). Illness and Health in the Jewish Tradition: Writings From the Bible to Today. Jewish Publication Society.
Charles Harry Manekin & Robert Eisen (eds.) (2008). Philosophers and the Jewish Bible. University Press of Maryland.
Kenneth Seeskin (2008). What Maimonides Can Teach Us About Reading the Bible. In Charles Harry Manekin & Robert Eisen (eds.), Philosophers and the Jewish Bible. University Press of Maryland.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads10 ( #171,308 of 1,692,559 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #181,202 of 1,692,559 )
How can I increase my downloads?