By Steven T. Katz

3 released volumes hide the historical past of Judaism from the Persian interval as much as the 3rd century, and a fourth is at the past due Roman-Rabbinic interval. Taken jointly, The Cambridge historical past of Judaism offers the fullest and so much authoritative account of its topic and should undergo as a tremendous scholarly resource.
The first 3 volumes of The Cambridge historical past of Judaism hide the background of the Jews from the Exile in 587 B.C.E. to the early Roman interval extending into the 3rd century C.E. A complete exam is made from the entire proper literary and archeological assets, and detailed awareness is given to the interplay of Iranian, Semitic, Hellenistic and Roman cultures.
The moment of 4 volumes protecting the historical past of Judaism from 540 BCE to 250 CE, this publication bargains with the come across of Judaism with the Hellenistic tradition unfold in the course of the Mediterranean international and past via Alexander the good and his successors. Drawing upon contemporary scholarship in archaeology, historical past and scriptures, the individuals describe the spiritual, social and cultural rejection and adoption of Hellenism via Judaism. Illustrated with plates and diagrams, the textual content will end up a useful source to students and basic readers attracted to Jewish or Mediterranean history.
This quantity covers the background of Judaism within the Roman interval. Political historical past is handled from Pompey to Vespasian, yet many chapters on Jewish existence and proposal transcend the interval of the Flavian emperors to offer issues and proof of value for Judaism as much as the third century CE. The technique has targeting the examine of associations and colleges of suggestion via attention of archaeological unearths and inscriptions. Jewish-Gentile family members, temple and synagogue, teams and faculties of notion - Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Baptist sects, the fourth philosophy and comparable teams, Samaritans and the Christian circulate - are tested. An strange characteristic of the quantity is its old remedy of Christianity in the context of historical Judaism. The Qumran texts, Philo and Josephus obtain consciousness as does Jewish society in Judaea and Galilee.
The fourth quantity of The Cambridge heritage of Judaism covers the interval from 70 CE to 640 CE (the upward push of Islam), addressing the main historic, political and cultural advancements in Jewish heritage in this the most important period. the amount is principally robust in its insurance of the expansion and improvement of rabbinic Judaism and the foremost classical rabbinic resources resembling the Mishnah, Jerusalem Talmud, Babylonian Talmud and numerous Midrashic collections. moreover, it surveys the expansion of early Jewish mystical literature and the liturgical literature of the constructing synagogue.

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Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 17 Moreover, much of the content of the Mishnah represents a backward looking reflection on the Temple. If one does not know this, then much of the substance of the Mishnah becomes not only puzzling but bizarre. Again, it is relevant to see the economic and political events in thirdcentury, fourth-century and seventh-century Palestine as catalysts that triggered the messianic enthusiasm of those periods. The various rabbinic and other discussions of eschatological matters – and the messianic texts that encouraged and carried forward this hope for redemption – are not wholly intelligible independent of the historical contexts that gave rise to them.

Undoubtedly many Jews were killed or enslaved, or died of disease or starvation during the siege, but it is difficult to go beyond such unsatisfactory generalizations. It may be 1 See M. Broshi, ‘‘The Population of Western Palestine in the Roman-Byzantine Period,’’ BASOR 236 (1979), 1–10, supported by G. Hamel, Poverty and Charity in Roman Palestine, First Three Centuries C E (Berkeley, 1990), 137–40. Their figures are based on the carrying capacity of the land (and may assume a rather too high proportion of wheat harvested to that sown – 5:1 – and so may be slightly high).

Thus, for example, to understand why there are differing rabbinic views on masturbation, that can be divided, primarily, according to geographical location, it is relevant to know that the Palestinian sages appear to have shared Galen’s ‘‘two seed’’ theory of conception, that is, that both the man and the woman contribute ‘‘seed’’ to the fetus (cf. BT Nid. 31a; BT Kidd. 30b; Lev. R. 6). Therefore, while disapproving of masturbation, they have a specific understanding of the nature of semen and reproduction that does not equate semen per se with potential life.

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