Yeshiva University – Stern College for Women
Classical Jewish History – Fall 2015
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:15PM
Professor Richard Hidary
email the whole class
This course will survey the history of the Jews during the Diaspora, Second Temple and Rabbinic periods (600BCE-600CE). This period is witness to the development of many aspects of Judaism as we know it today, such as, the holidays of Purim and Hanukkah, the fast days, the canonization of Tanakh, the publication of the Mishnah and Talmud, and the rise of the Rabbis. But this period is also interesting for the variety of forms of Judaism and groups of Jews that did not gain hegemony: Samaritans, Hellenists, Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and the Dead Sea sect, among others. Each of these groups had to respond to and a find a way to survive two destructions and exiles, many wars and revolts, strong influences from foreign cultures, and internal strife while at the same time remaining committed to monotheism and the Biblical tradition. Not all of these groups were successful; we will try to figure out why. The relevance of this material for understanding our own identities and for evaluating the current state of Judaism and its future prospects will become obvious.
In addition to these themes and questions, class discussion will focus on historical analysis and critical evaluation of primary sources. We will learn to think and write like historians. By identifying all relevant literary and archeological sources, recognizing the interpretive difficulties presented by these sources, and evaluating the methodological issues confronting the modern historian, we will be able to formulate not only what we know, but also how we know it, how sure we are of it, and what gaps are there in the historical record. As with everything in life, you’ll only get as much from this course as you put into it, so let’s dig in!
Required text books: (available on Amazon)
Schiffman, Lawrence. From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Hoboken: Ktav Publishing House, 1991. (FTTT)
---------. Texts and Traditions: A Source Reader for the Study of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Hoboken: Ktav Publishing House, 1998. (T&T)
Some of the information in these textbooks is also available at the Center for Online Judaic Studies -COJS
(1) Attendance, prompt arrival and class participation are assumed. Anything more than two absences will lower your grade. Three lates are equivalent to one absence.
(2) Preparation and Participation: Reading assigned primary and secondary texts is essential for you success in grasping the wide survey of history we are covering in this course. Primary texts are important so that you learn the methodology of how historians use these sources to construct the past. Secondary texts help in presenting, organizing and helping us remember important historical data. I may assign written and electronic homework assignments and quizzes based on the readings. Students may also be selected randomly each class to read and explain the required texts or to summarize the assigned reading. (10%)
(3) Exams. A midterm (35%) and a final (45%) will assess your grasp and retention of material as well as give the class an opportunity to review and notice patterns that recur through many topics.
(4) Writing Project, see under class 22 below, due on December 17th. (10%)
1. T. August 25 - Slides
Periods and Sources
2. Th. August 27
When Did Exodus Happen? - Slides
COJS - http://cojs.org/overview-_jews_and_judaism_in_the_greco-roman_period/
FTTT 1-32 (this pdf only starts on page 17.)
3. T. September 1 -Slides for classses 3 -4 (pdf)
The Babylonian Period and Chronology
Read 2 Kings 24-25 and Jer 52 carefully. Make note of dates. Bring a Tanakh.
Read Wikipedia on “Neo-Assyrian Empire” and “Neo-Babylonian Empire”
4. Th. September 3
`Return from Exile, Counting 70
Activities of Ezra and Nehemiah
T&T 80-92, 104-5
Ezra 1, 7-10, Nehemiah whole book especially chs. 8 and 10. Bring a Tanakh
2 Chron 36, Haggai 1, Is 44:28-45:1, Jeremiah 29, Zechariah 7-8, Daniel 9
Recommended Reading at COJS , COJS
Wikipedia on “Achaemenid Empire”
Menachem Leibtag article - http://tanach.org/special/purim.doc
5. T. Septempber 8 - Slides, handout
2 Kings 17, Ezra 4
Encyclopedia Judaica - "Samaritans" and "Samaritan Pentateuch"
Recommended Readings at COJS
On DNA research of Samaritans
Robert T. Anderson, "The Elusive Samaritan Temple," The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 54, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 104-107.
Feldman, Louis. “Josephus’ Attitude Toward the Samaritans: A Study in Ambivalence.” Studies in Jewish Civilization 3 (1992) 23-45.
6. Th. September 10
Elephantine Papyri - Slides, Temple Papyrus,http://youtu.be/JCPCbE4xhcc
Purvis and Meyers, "Exile and Return: From the Babylonian Destruction to the Reconstruction of the Jewish State," in Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple.
Bezalel Porten “The Jews in Egypt” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume One, The Persian Period, pp. 378-400.
7. Th. October 8 - Slides
Alexander the Great, Hellenism
Recommended Reading T&T 121-150
8. T. October 13
Maccabees, Hanukkah, Hasmonean Dynasty
Recommended Reading at COJS
9. Th. October 15 - 10. T. October 20
The Legacy of the Hasmoneans
"Hellenism." in Encyclopaedia Judaica.
What were the lasting effects of Hellenism on Judaism?
How have the Maccabees been remembered through the centuries?
How were the Maccabees used by Zionists?
Why is our basketball team called the Maccabees? And what about the Maccabeats?
11. Th. October 22
12. T. October 27
Sectarianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Intro Slides, Sects handout, MMT Slides, MMT handout
Magen Broshi, A Day in the Life of Hananiah Nothos: A Story”
FTTT 98-119, 120-138
T&T 266-299, 340-1, 363-6
13. Th. October 29
Midterm Review Sheet - current to 2015
14. T. November 3
Septuagint – “The Most Important Translation Ever Made”
Sources, letter of aristeas, powerpoint
Letter of Aristeas, BT Megillah 9a-b
15. Th. November 5
Apocrypha – Tobit and Esther Additions
T&T 306-307, 330-333
Book of Tobit – pdf or http://www.ebible.org/kjv/Tobit.htm
Recommended Reading at COJS
16. T. November 10
T&T pp. 369-407, esp. 385-395, COJS
Suggested Reading: Wolfson, Harry A. Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948.
17. Th. November 12
Herod, Roman rule - Slides
T&T pp. 369-407, esp. 385-395
18. T. November 17 - 19. Th. November 19
The Beginnings of Christianity (Slides)
Reading: T&T 407-414, 149-156.
E.P. Sanders. “The Life of Jesus.” in Shanks, Hershel, ed. Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Washinton D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992, 41-83.
Recommended: Gospel of Mark
20. T. November 24
Destruction of Temple II (Slides, Josephus and The Talmud)
T&T pp. 429-469, esp. 446-457
Feldman, Louis. Judaism and Hellenism Reconsidered. Brill, 2006, pp. 763-782.
Rubenstein, Jeffrey. Talmudic Stories: Narrative Art, Composition, and Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, pp. 139-173.
21. T. December 1
Reactions to Destruction
Development of the Synagogue
T&T 118-120, 469-479
Steven Fine, “From Meeting House to Sacred Realm: Holiness and the Ancient Synagogue” in Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World, 21-47.
Unit VI – Tannaitic Period & Rabbinic Judaism
22. Th. December 3
Bar Kokhba Revolt (Slides)
Writing Assignment, due December 17th
Write a 5 page essay on:
Choose a topic from COJS that we have not covered in class, read all of the primary and secondary sources (texts and images) on that topic and write a paper analyzing what you have read.
Or choose topic of your choice. It should include at least 5 primary sources and three secondary sources. Please approve the topic with me first.
Or write on this topic: What was the level of acculteration of the Rabbis during the Talmudic period compared with the acculteration of American rabbis. Did the ancient Rabbis speak Greek? Did they read the Greek literature of their day? Were they acquainted with Greco-Roman mythology, science, history, and philosophy? Choose one of these fields, cite relevant primary and secondary sources, and discuss. What was the the Rabbis' attitude towards the outside culture? Do you think their approach to outside culture is similar or different from modern Rabbis in America? In your opinion, to which modern denomination of Judaism, if any, were the ancient Rabbis most similar? Sources and Articles:
Reading: H. A. Fischel, Encyclopedia Judaica, “Rabbinic Knowledge of Greek and Latin Languages”
Lieberman, Saul. Hellenism in Jewish Palestine. New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1962, 100-114.
Daniel Sperber, A
Dictionary of Greek and Latin Legal Terms in Rabbinic Literature (1984).
Daniel Sperber, A Dictionary of Greek and Latin Legal Terms in Rabbinic Literature (1984).
Fables - Sources
Reading: Yassif, Eli. The
Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning. Translated by Jacqueline
Teitelbaum. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, 191-209.
Reading: Yassif, Eli. The Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning. Translated by Jacqueline Teitelbaum. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, 191-209.
Greek Science - The Sun’s Path
Reading: Nathan Slifkin, “The Sun’s Path at Night.”
Suggested Reading: Simon-Shoshan, Moshe. “'The Heavens Proclaim the Glory of God': A Study in Rabbinic Cosmology.” Bekhol Derakhekha Daehu; Journal of Torah and Scholarship 20: 67-96.
23. T. December 8
The Publication of the Mishnah and the Patriarch
History of Palestine until the Muslim Conquest (Slides, Mishnah Slides)
T&T 537-559, 609-612, esp. 537-543
Recommended Reading: T&T 571-596 and at COJS
*Oral Presentation: Iggeret haRav Sherira Gaon
24. Th. December 10
Levine, Lee. The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity. Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Press, 1989, pp. 76-83.
Hezser, Catherine. The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997, pp. 186-195.
25. T. December 15
Roman Attitudes Towards Judaism (Slides)
http://www.livius.org/am-ao/antisemitism/antisemitism01.html - and continue to page two and read especially http://www.livius.org/am-ao/antisemitism/antisemitism-t.html
26. Th. December 17
Rabbinic Thought (Slides)
Jews in Babylonia and the Exilarch (Slides)
Readings: FTTT 214-219
T&T 596-617, esp. 605-609
Gafni, Isaiah. "Babylonian Rabbinic Culture." In Cultures of the Jews, edited by David Biale, 223-65. New York: Schocken, 2002.
· How were the Jews treated under Parthian and Sassanian Empires?
· How much interaction was there between the Jews and their Zoroastrian and Christian neighbors?
The Talmuds and the Yeshivot
From Priest to Rabbis - sourcesheet (pdf)
T&T 605-609, 613-616
Final – Tuesday January 5 at 9:30AM
Readings in one pdf.
Students with disabilities who are enrolled in this course and who will be requesting documented disability-related accommodations should make an appointment with the Office of Disability Services, (646) 592-4132, firstname.lastname@example.org, during the first week of class. Once you have been approved for accommodations, please submit your accommodation letter to ensure the successful implementation of those accommodations.