Paper on IV Maccabees: A Few Hengel Quotes

I’m working my way through Martin Hengel’s Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine during the Early Hellenistic Period (London: SCM, 1974). I stumbled on some quotes that may relate to my paper topic:

1. “A way was to be opened for the extension of Hellenistic civilization and customs, which had previously been hindered by the religious prejudices of conservative groups. The limitations which the latter placed on unrestricted economic and cultural exchanges with the non-Jewish environment were to be abolished…To this end, the ‘reactionary’ conservative groups had to be deprived of their political power, so that they could no longer exercise their influence to carry through limiting, legalistic, and ritual regulations, as had happened under Simon the just…

“The prerequisite for this was the repeal of the ‘letter of freedom’ promulgated by Antiochus III, as this grounded the internal ordering of the Jewish ‘ethnos’ solely on the traditional ‘ancestral laws’ and gave a legal basis to the defenders of the traditional theocracy. These aims could be most easily achieved by the transformation of Jerusalem–and thus of the whole Jewish ethnos in Judea–into a Greek ‘polis’. As the bestowal of citizenship of the proposed polis, and admission to the gymnasium and ephebate, were under the control of Jason and his friends…True, the temple liturgy with its sacrifices continued in the usual way, and the law of Moses was by no means officially repealed, remaining valid largely as a popular custom, but the legal foundations were removed from the Jewish ‘theocracy’. Political order and policy were no longer determined by the Torah and the authoritative interpretation of it by priests and soperim; in the future they were to be based on the constitutional organs of the new polis, the ‘demos‘, i.e. the full citizens, the gerousia and the magistrates appointed by them. This inevitably resulted in a lowering of the status of the priestly nobility, and a sign of the strength of the desire within the priestly aristocracy to adopt Greek customs is the fact that this consequence was taken into account. The most powerful lay family, the Tobiads, will on the other hand have welcomed the tendency, as the fact that they were not of priestly descent had been a hindrance to them in earlier struggles for power. The considerable relaxation of the law, which was no longer a binding norm, was evidenced in the fact that individual Jewish ephebes, presumably because of the participation of foreigners in contests in the gymnasium, underwent epispasm…The unsuccessful sacrifice for the Tyrian Heracles can also be regarded as a sign of tendency towards assimilation in the development as a whole” (278).

But even Hengel says elsewhere that Jason was a Zadokite (224). Wasn’t Jason a Tobiad? That’s something to check out.

Hengel pretty much goes with Tcherikover here, only Hengel says that Jason’s Hellenistic reform chipped away at the law. Tcherikover does not really believe this, for he says, “Any change in the manner of worship or offence to monotheistic purity would without doubt have provoked a reaction among the common people in Judea and Jerusalem, but no such reaction is heard of at the time of the Hellenistic reform.” Victor Tcherikover, “The Hellenistic Movement in Jerusalem and Antiochus’ Persecutions,” The Hellenistic Age (New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1972) 128.

The Hellenistic reform had to be bad enough to be a cause for God to punish Jerusalem (according to II Maccabees and IV Maccabees), but not bad enough to spark a revolt among pious Jews.

One thing to look into is how Jewish law inhibited interaction with foreigners, since Hellenization was the reverse of this. That could give some indication as to how Hellenization challenged the Jewish politeia.

2. “The complaints which the delegation of two hundred Pharisees brought in the spring of 63 BC to Pompey in Damascus in effect confirm the step which the Teacher of Righteousness had taken about ninety years earlier. They sound like the accusations of II Macc. against Jason and Menelaus: the Hasmonean leaders had ‘done away with the ancestral laws’…and unjustly enslaved the citizens (Diod., 40 fr. 2…)” (227).

Hengel quotes the Jewish historian Eupolemus. His writings may be worth looking at to see how he believed the Hasmoneans undermined the Jewish ancestral laws. But it looks like such an accusation was a standard charge. We saw that Josephus used it when he discussed Herod’s openness to the Gentiles (see Paper on IV Maccabees: Some Josephus Passages).

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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