I have two items today for my post on Louis Feldman’s Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World:
1. On pages 91-92, Feldman argues that the Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the second century B.C.E. did not persecute the Jews of Judea out of Jew-hatred, for he did not persecute Jews elsewhere in his realm (i.e., Syria and Asia Minor), “he was educated in an atmosphere of religious tolerance” (and Polybius actually disliked Antiochus for his egalitarianism), he was not a religious fanatic, and he did not oppress Jews at the beginning of his reign. He did desire money, of which the Temple had an abundance, for he was involved in struggles against the Parthians, the Ptolemies, and Romans, and people in his own realm, which was costly. He was also humiliated when a Roman general told him to get out of Egypt. What Feldman appears to settle on as the explanation for Antiochus’ persecution of Judaism in Judea was that there was turmoil there, and Antiochus felt that he could not have “instability on his southern frontier.” The turmoil concerned Hellenization, and extreme Jewish Hellenizers probably advised Antiochus that only religious suppression could restore order.
2. On page 112, Feldman refers to the anti-Christian Celsus (second century C.E.) who wondered (and this is Feldman’s summary): “If the prophets had foretold that Jesus would be the son of G-d, why did G-d promise the Jews that they would become rich and powerful and fill the earth and massacre their enemies, whereas Jesus condemns the rich and the powerful?”
That’s a good question. I’ve wondered similar things, even if I’ve not been able to articulate them.