Monday, June 23, 2014

Notes on Schwartz' Ancient Jews

I'm still reading through Seth Schwartz' new book Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad (Cambridge), mentioned earlier. As I predicted, it's really good, and I'm learning a great deal. I just finished ch. 3, on Herod. Up next is the period of the revolts, so that'll be fun. I've been taking notes, and here are just a few of the things I think are interesting.

Again, I'm reading the Kindle version, which does not at this point include page numbers for this book, so I'm referencing the Kindle location numbers.
  • Schwartz thinks that the Hasmonean family were non-Aaronides. That is, rather than questioning whether the priestly family of the Hasmoneans were Zadokite or not (an issue I've discussed before on this blog), Schwartz thinks they weren't priests at all (loc. 1173, 1217).
  • "Herod is the best attested of all ancient Jews, of all Roman client kings, probably one of the best attested of all Romans, Josephus having devoted over four books of his œuvre to the king's life and career (Jewish War 1; Ant. 14-17)" (loc. 1547). 
  • "Herod was not necessarily worse than his famous violent predecessors and contemporaries, but suffered from worse press" (loc. 1574). 
  • Herod "tirelessly used his connections at Rome to defend the interests of vulnerable Jewish communities in Asia Minor and elsewhere (extrapolating from Ant. 16.27-65; Richardson 1996: 174-214)" (loc. 1635). Just later Schwartz says: "Among the Jews, Herod worked to bring about integration, within his kingdom, in the Jewish world as a whole, and between the Jews and the Roman Empire (Baltrusch 2009)." This helps to explain why the pilgrimage festivals became so massive in Herod's days and not before (loc. 1664-70). 
  • "Herod had a total of ten wives, many of them concurrently, making him the only Jew in the Hellenistic and Roman periods known to have practised polygamy (in itself odd, since both biblical and rabbinic texts take the legitimacy and diffusion of the practice for granted; Katzoff 1995)." (loc. 1581). 
  • I wasn't familiar with the Talmudic story about Herod's necrophilia with Mariamme's corpse. Schwartz cites this article
  • "The last known Hasmoneans are some early to mid-second century Roman senators from Asia Minor who served in the college of quindecimviri sacris faciundis; so the descendants of the men who had fought to purify Jerusalem of idolatry supervised the municipal temples and priesthoods of the city of Rome (Kokkinos 1998: 254-8)." (loc. 1605)

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