Yeshiva University – Stern College for Women

Classical Jewish History – Fall 2015

JHIS 1201

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%)


Office hours: Thursday 12:00-2:00PM or by appointment. Please email with any questions or concerns.

Unit I - Introduction

1. T. August 25 - Slides

Periods and Sources


2. Th. August 27

When Did Exodus Happen? - Slides



FTTT 1-32 (this pdf only starts on page 17.)


Unit II – Persian Period

3. T. September 1 -Slides for classses 3 -4 (pdf)

The Babylonian Period and Chronology


FTTT 33-45

T&T 65-73

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


FTTT 47-59

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 -



5. T. Septempber 8 - Slides, handout



FTTT 45-47

T&T 92-103

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,


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.

Passover, Temple

Recommended Reading:

Bezalel Porten “The Jews in Egypt” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume One, The Persian Period, pp. 378-400.


Unit III – Hellenistic Period

7. Th. October 8 - Slides

Alexander the Great, Hellenism


                 FTTT 60-79,COJS

Recommended Reading T&T 121-150



8. T. October 13

Maccabees, Hanukkah, Hasmonean Dynasty


            T&T 151-169

Recommended Reading at COJS



9. Th. October 15 - 10. T. October 20

The Legacy of the Hasmoneans

"Hellenism." in Encyclopaedia Judaica.


11. Th. October 22

Ethiopian Jews:



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


            FTTT 80-94

            T&T 211-220

            Letter of Aristeas, BT Megillah 9a-b



15. Th. November 5

 Apocrypha – Tobit and Esther Additions



            FTTT 120-130

            T&T 306-307, 330-333

            Book of Tobit – pdf or

Recommended Reading at COJS



16. T. November 10

Philo Judaeus


            FTTT 139-149

            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.


Unit V – Roman Period

17. Th.  November 12

Herod, Roman rule - Slides


            FTTT 139-149

            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.

             T&T 414-427

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)


            FTTT 157-164

            T&T pp. 429-469, esp. 446-457

Recommended Reading:

            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


            FTTT 164-171

            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.

Mosaics         Word



Unit VI – Tannaitic Period & Rabbinic Judaism

22. Th. December 3

Bar Kokhba Revolt (Slides)


            FTTT 171-176

            T&T 487-495




Writing Assignment, due December 17th

Write a 5 page essay on:


23. T. December 8

The Publication of the Mishnah and the Patriarch

History of Palestine until the Muslim Conquest (Slides, Mishnah Slides)


           FTTT 177-213

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


Recommended Reading:

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)


            T&T 568-570 - and continue to page two and read especially



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

Recommended Reading:

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)

            FTTT 220-239

            T&T 605-609, 613-616


Final Review

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,, 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.