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Friday, March 16, 2012

Judaism And Hellenism In Antiquity: Conflict or Confluence? by Lee I. Levine

Judaism And Hellenism In Antiquity: Conflict or Confluence?
by Lee I. Levine
Product Details
Hardcover: 184 pages
Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers
Date Published: 1998

Point: Hellenization involved much more than merely the dominance of the West over the East. It included the influence of religion, literature, philosophy, economy, social interactions, politics, and the whole of culture. Dominance can be clearly defined, whereas influence cannot. The influence of Greek thought varied from city to city, village to village, depending upon the location, size, and social make up of the community. Levine shows that the Jews had a diverse reaction to Hellenization.
Path: The author works through the general similarities between Jewish thought and Greek thought during the Second Temple era (536 b.c. to 70 a.d.), and then shows the stark contrasts.
Sources: Scholarly works primarily from the 1950’s - 1990’s
Agreement: The influence varied. One cannot say - “This is how it looked everywhere.” Also, the Greeks were influenced by the East (Alexander marrying Persian wives).
Disagreement: Levine final chapter before his conclusion deals with the synagogue. There he states “Hand in hand with this concept of the church as a heavenly, other-worldly edifice is the status of the bishop, who was considered the focus of the community, the representative of God, the mediator, high priest, and earthly father of his flock. No comparable distinctions are known to have existed within the synagogue. No hierarchy governed its proceedings, no set of divinely inspired individuals officiated, whether it be during the Torah and haftarah readings, the targumim, sermons, prayers, piyyutim, or even the priestly blessings; an ordinary Jew had the opportunity to actively participate in almost every aspect of the synagogue ritual. From its often modest size to its sometimes broadhouse dimensions and usually multifocal liturgy, the Byzantine synagogue, in contradistinction to its Christian counterpart, articulated a message of inclusion and involvement. In this sense, the Christian church more closely approximates the hierarchical stratification of the holy that once existed in the Jerusalem Temple. The Jews seemed to have generally shied away from such identification; the Temple was the house of god, the synagogue a communal framework with a modicum of sanctity.” (177-78)
It seems as though there was more structure than Levine allows.

Stars - 3.5 out of 5
Informative, but not exhaustive.

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Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)