Paper on IV Maccabees: Seth Schwartz Article

Yesterday, I read Seth Schwartz’s “The Hellenization of Jerusalem and Shechem,” Jews in a Greco-Roman World, ed. Martin Goodman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 37-46. Here are some quotes:

1. “See Tcherikover (1958), 152-174; Bickerman (1979), 38-42, arguing that Jason established not a Greek city but a Greek corporation within the still Jewish city of Jerusalem. See also Le Rider (1965), 410-11, supporting Tcherikover’s argument on the basis of such common Seleucid coin legends as Antiochon ton en Ptolemaidi, where the reference is clearly to a Greek city, and not a Greek corporation in a native city; Millar (1978), 10; Habicht (1976), 216-217. Verse 19: ‘Jason…sent as theoroi men who were Antiochenes from Jerusalem [or, as theoroi from Jerusalem men who were Antiochenes], carrying three hundred silver drachmas…’ This is, on the face of it, difficult to reconcile with Tcherikover’s view. Perhaps the author of 2 Maccabees himself misunderstood what his source, Jason of Cyrene, had written” (39).

This sounds bumpy because it’s a footnote. But it’s a somewhat decent summary of the debate about whether Antioch was Jerusalem-turned-into-a-polis, or rather a Hellenistic sub-section within Jerusalem. I may check out some of those references.

2. “The second account is more closely related to the first: when, according to Josephus (Ant. 12.257-64), the traditional Jewish cult was abolished in Jerusalem, the rulers of the Samaritan city of Shechem petitioned Antiochus for the right to reform the municipal cult so as to make Zeus Xenios the patron-god of the city. (I am assuming, by the way, that the letter is basically genuine, notwithstanding the powerful arguments of Rappenport.) And they asked to retain their traditional laws, provided with an interpetatio graeca and altered in such a way as to obscure the laws’ connection with those of the Jews. The king responded by welcoming the Shechemites‘ adoption of ‘Hellenic customs’ (hellenika ethne; Joseph. Ant. 12.264; the expression is also used in Jerusalem in Antiochus V’s rescission of the Hellenization, 2 Macc. 11:24). What resulted in both cases were cities whose Hellenism was in part notional; Jerusalem was still governed by a high priest and a board of gerontes (elders) (2 Macc. 4:18, 44), just as Phoenician cities in the same period were still ruled by their dikastai (judges); the municipal religion in both Jerusalem and Shechem was at first basically the traditional one, and even later in Jerusalem was not precisely Greek. In sum, then, the hellenika ethe of these Greek cities consisted of normally Hellenized religion, and political structure, combined with (at Jerusalem certainly, at Shechem possibly) a gymnasium and ephebate.

“We cannot be sure that the same process occurred also in such Hellenizing cities as Sardis, Tyre, Sidon, and Gaza, but the supposition that something similar did explains the significant continuities in religious and political life listed by Fergus Millar in his discussion of Phoenician cities, and by Sherwin-White and Kuhrt (1993:180-4) in their discussion of Sardis. Indeed, such continuities may have been even more conspicuous in the other cities than in Jerusalem, where the zeal of the petitioners, or of the king, eventually led them to introduce changes more radical than what was normally required to make a community ‘Greek’–a fact which may help explain the failure of Hellenization in Jerusalem (about the fate of Shechem, where the reforms were more moderate, we can only speculate)” (39-40).

“Yet the new Greekness functioned in two different ways to preserve elements, displaced and altered, of traditional cultures. Now I assume that when one, or several, of the Phoenician cities resumed the title dikastai for one of their magistrates, few people after the first generation, were necessarily aware that anything distinctive, or at any rate distinctively Phoenician, was being preserved; but the preservation of the traditional cults in the Hellenized cities may have actually functioned to keep alive a significant consciousness of a special past. Certainly the priests preserved pre-Hellenic language and myths (even if the latter often incorporated layers of Greek interpretation)–how else are we to understand the survival of the Phoenician language and, in the work of Philo of Byblos, of fragments of Canaanite mythology, albeit stoicized and euhemerized? Once Hellenized, of course, this mythology took its place in the common elite culture of the Hellenistic world, and thereby changed it, yet it retained simultaneously an irreducable distinctiveness” (42).

These quotes tell me that, in cities other than Jerusalem that became Hellenized, there wasn’t really a radical change in political structure and culture. I’d like to follow up on that Josephus reference to Shechem, since that city tried to Hellenize while preserving its traditional customs, which resembled Judaism. If there wasn’t a radical change in political structure, then why did II and IV Maccabees claim that the politeia had been changed? I think a lot of it had to do with Hellenization’s compromise of Judaism, in that it undermined circumcision and instituted a gymnasium that challenged Jewish customs. It wasn’t enough of a change to incite a revolt, but it did cause the authors of II and IV Maccabees to retroactively claim that God sent Antiochus‘ persecution as punishment for Israel’s sins.

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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