Manual A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism (Jewish Culture and Contexts)

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The Asidaioi represent the opposite principle and are killed due to their misconception of legitimacy and its sources. One might call this a charismatic type of leadership. Hellenistic and more specific, Seleucid?

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Lebram, Legitimiteit en Charisma. Over de herleving van de contemporaine geschiedschrijving in het jodendom tijdens de 2e eeuw v. Leiden: Brill, The con- cept is taken from Max Weber and applied to what we know about Hellenistic history; one should therefore note that there is no clear evidence that the idea was theoretically formulated in texts from the Hellenistic period. The source normally adduced is Suda s. Collected Essays ed.

For the analogy between Hasmonean and Hellenistic charismatic leadership, cf. Thus ancestry was re-introduced as determining legitimate rulership, but it was now historically based on merit;47 the Hasmonean wars against their neighbors might be explicable on this basis—as evidence for the constant need to reinforce their family charisma.


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The end of the Argead dynasty in Macedonia and the subsequent erection of the Hel- lenistic monarchies, which were based on military success but almost immediately developed dynastic ideologies, is the main analogy. What changed with the Roman takeover in 63 b. Although Pompeian propaganda had originally labeled both Hasmonean pre- tenders Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II potential tyrants,48 Hyrcanus was instituted as high priest and ethnarch.

Herod stepped in by marrying Mariamme but became king because he was a proven friend of the Romans. His rival Antigonus, with whom this essay began, re-introduced kingship, used the name Mattathias, struck coins with specifically Jewish symbols and thereby created links to the days of the early Hasmonean revolt, not to the less exciting years under Hyrcanus II. I will deal with his wide-ranging but in my view flawed arguments elsewhere. In 39 b. But a dynastic right not conveyed by Rome and not supported by pro-Roman achievements was worth nothing.

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The achievement-oriented argument prevailed again, as in the days of the early Hasmoneans. Circumcision and the Idumeans again The increased significance of circumcision in the Hasmonean and Herodian periods may be understood along the same lines. That cir- cumcision is of special interest to 1 Maccabees can be shown without doubt by comparing its treatment of the Hellenizing reform to that of 2 Maccabees.

Whether or not this refers to epispasmos a prac- tice securely attested only two centuries later , the parallel treatment in 2 Maccabees also has apostasy and gymnasion but does not mention circumcision; instead, the apostates wear Greek hats Whatever the historical truth may have looked like, it is clear that the emphasis on circumcision was not without alternative, but a conscious choice.

It emerges from 1 Maccabees that the Hasmoneans were engaged in politicizing circumcision. The rite plays a key role not only in defin- ing apostasy, but also with regard to a more concrete political con- text. It has been claimed that Josephus incor- porated anti-Hasmonean propaganda created by the Romans or more precisely, Pompey ,54 but there is no Roman evidence to support this. Strabo even mocks the Jewish rite of circumci- sion, which he has utterly misunderstood. While it is probable that this refers only to the children of Jews58 who did not dare or did not want to transgress the ban Antiochus IV had laid on circumcision, it is cer- tainly correct to relate the passage to the politics of Hyrcanus I.

The figure of Mattathias is an apologetic construction used to legitimize later political inventions.

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It is therefore likely that the Hasmoneans themselves made the—in my view, exag- gerated—claim that Idumeans and Itureans were forcibly circumcised. The second text is a little more problematic, but it may give an addi- tional hint. The Hebrew original of uncertain date simply states that after the Jews 55 Strabo, Geogr.

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See Shaye J. That the colophon addition F 11 Hanhart is authentic is widely accepted, although some saw it as a later forgery. Recently, how- ever, a case has been made that while not a forgery, the so-called colophon is simply the end of the book in its lxx-version, presenting a symbolic history of Purim and its transmission from Persia to Jerusalem and Alexandria; cf.

The analogy to the politics of Hyr- canus I and Aristobulus I is not far-fetched. It thus appears plausible that the Hasmoneans were themselves responsible for the idea that the Idumeans, and a little later the Itureans, were forcibly circumcised. Given the interest the Hasmoneans had in the incorporation of these people, this was not a bad idea. On a genealogical basis, such incorporation might not have been impossible; one could have argued that Esau was, after all, the brother of Jacob and that the Itureans were related to Abraham via Jetur.

Circumcision was a different way to solve the problem, because it did not focus on what these people were by nature, but what they did now. Ritual could serve to overcome the differences, by actually changing what Idumeans were—by changing the official image of what they did. This may also explain why the Hasmoneans presented the Idumeans as originally uncircumcised, which apparently they were not. If the Idumeans had been represented as already prac- ticing circumcision, they could not have been incorporated now by means of ritual.

Ancestry and Merit The difference between being something by nature and doing some- thing can be translated quite easily into our model of ancestry and merit. It is remarkable that the same rulers whose strategies for legiti- mizing leadership demanded a focus on merit instead of ancestry also and probably assumed the function described by Cavalier , her arguments against its authenticity are rather weak. For the translation chosen here, see Cohen, Beginnings of Jewishness, —82, and Thiessen, Genealogy, Circumcision and Conversion, 11 note 24 with further bibliography.

The portrait of Esau in Jubilees is, however, not decisive evidence for this theory and can even be read as establishing the genealogical difference between Israel and all other nations, see Thiessen, Genealogy, Circumcision and Conversion, — The effect of this innovation can be seen almost immediately. When the story of Dinah is retold in several versions, the circumcision of the Shechemites becomes a problem and is sometimes left out com- pletely. Women from the Herodian dynasty were apparently available only to men who under- went circumcision.

In Ezra-Nehemia, intermarriage is opposed because the holy seed of Israel not just the priests would be polluted. Christine Hayes has shown this Ezran emphasis on genealogy to be standing in opposition to the Pentateuchal view; it was nevertheless adapted by texts like Jubilees and 4QMMT. I believe that in Hasmonean times an interdiscursive transfer occurred. Merit replaced ancestry as the primary criterion for legiti- mate rulership, albeit only for a short time.

And in a parallel develop- ment, the same shift occurred with regard to Jewish identity, but this change created an option that was long-lasting. Thus, contrary to an approach established by Cohen and followed by Himmelfarb, it seems 63 See especially Jub. Levi circumcision is not omitted, which makes it necessary for the author to give a rationale for why killing the Shechemites was nonetheless justified. See on the passage Pancratius C. To be sure, there are not many texts from the period under concern here that contain more genealogical vocabulary than the first book of the Maccabees.

Although the text allows for apostate Jews to become gentiles by their own will, the possibility for gentiles to enter Juda- ism is not envisaged. Genealogical vocabulary abounds; the supposed relationship to the Spartans does not undermine this impression but strengthens it. While the argument from vocabulary is not negligible, it has to be taken into account that 1 Maccabees resorts to archaizing language in order to legitimize the Hasmoneans in a traditional context.

One should also remember that the text was written under Hyrcanus, when the Has- moneans had just established their own genealogical claims and might have needed a way of self-presentation that strengthened genealogy. And a strict theoretical approach would have to emphasize anyway that interdiscursive influences are not planned or consciously produced by this or that individual, but they are a matter of socially constructed and habitually reproduced modes of behavior 67 Cohen, Beginnings of Jewishness, —33; Himmelfarb, Kingdom of Priests, Studies in Memory of Menahem Stern ed.

Lee I. Levine and Daniel R. Daniel R. Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , 30—37, at 33— His ideas are very close to mine, especially where he seems to note the same interdiscursive phenomenon I discuss here: Resistance against the Hasmoneans emerges, according to Schwartz, only after the conversion of the Idumeans. But this argument presupposes that anti-Hasmonean arguments were based on genealogy, which is not the case. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the discrep- ancy was indeed noticed in Hasmonean times.

As is well known, the Ammonites and the Moabites are the only people who are not allowed to join the qehal jahweh even in the tenth generation, according to Deut The book of Judith can use the Achior-passage to show the consequences of an approach to Jewish identity that is essentially Hasmonean.

It is good will and circumcision, in short, merit that determines whether or not Achior is a Jew. One can speak of the genos Israel with almost tire- some frequency as does 1 Maccabees , but this traditional vocabulary cannot be taken at face value anymore after the Hasmonean innova- tions.

Archaizing language cannot determine Jewish identity. It may well be regarded as ironical that the book of Judith apparently seems to be more aware of what has changed in Judaism than is the Has- monean propaganda book itself. The ideal of charismatic leadership could still be contested by legiti- mistic arguments. Parents: This work has no parents. Tweet Share. Master's Papers Deposit your masters paper, project or other capstone work.

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