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Imperialism and Jewish Society:
200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E.
Seth Schwartz

Winner of the National Scholarly Jewish Book Award, Jewish Book Council

Paperback | 2004 | $37.50 / £26.95 | ISBN: 9780691117812
336 pp. | 6 x 9
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400824854 |
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This provocative new history of Palestinian Jewish society in antiquity marks the first comprehensive effort to gauge the effects of imperial domination on this people. Probing more than eight centuries of Persian, Greek, and Roman rule, Seth Schwartz reaches some startling conclusions--foremost among them that the Christianization of the Roman Empire generated the most fundamental features of medieval and modern Jewish life.

Schwartz begins by arguing that the distinctiveness of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and early Roman periods was the product of generally prevailing imperial tolerance. From around 70 C.E. to the mid-fourth century, with failed revolts and the alluring cultural norms of the High Roman Empire, Judaism all but disintegrated. However, late in the Roman Empire, the Christianized state played a decisive role in ''re-Judaizing'' the Jews. The state gradually excluded them from society while supporting their leaders and recognizing their local communities. It was thus in Late Antiquity that the synagogue-centered community became prevalent among the Jews, that there re-emerged a distinctively Jewish art and literature--laying the foundations for Judaism as we know it today.

Through masterful scholarship set in rich detail, this book challenges traditional views rooted in romantic notions about Jewish fortitude. Integrating material relics and literature while setting the Jews in their eastern Mediterranean context, it addresses the complex and varied consequences of imperialism on this vast period of Jewish history more ambitiously than ever before. Imperialism in Jewish Society will be widely read and much debated.

Review:

"Schwartz has presented nothing less than a learned and bold bombshell with this important, groundbreaking book. His thesis is that to make sense of the remains of ancient Judaism, one must consider the effects of shifting types of imperial domination and that there is a direct connection between the rise of the synagogue and the religious ideology that justified its construction and the rise of Christianity. This is the most original and the most provocative book on this period that has appeared in many years. It will, and deservedly, be the subject of debate for a long time to come."--Louis H. Feldman, The Forward

"Important. . . . Schwartz challenges many long-held ideas about Jews in antiquity. . . . This work is recommended as fascinating reading for anyone interested in the history of the Jews and Judaism."--James E. Seaver, History: Reviews of New Books

"Schwartz is a leading expert on the Jews in the Roman Empire. Using scholarly publications, he has produced a new synthesis that will provoke much debate among scholars. . . . [His] carefully argued positions must be taken seriously."--Choice

"A bold feat of reinterpretation that is certain to stir up controversy in scholarly circles."--Stuart Schoffman, Jerusalem Report

"This is a brilliant and provocative book, which will undoubtedly stimulate much debate among historians of Judaism and of the ancient world. But it deserves, as well, a wide audience among all those interested in the impact of imperial power on regional cultures."--J. B. Rives, International History Review

"Schwartz's study is wide-ranging, rich, well-informed, polemical, creative, unconventional."--Jonathan J. Price, Religious Studies Review

More reviews

Table of Contents:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS vii
ABREVIATIONS ix
Introduction 1
PART I: THE JEWS OF PALESTINE TO 70 C.E. 17
ONE: Politics and Society 19
TWO: Religion and Society before 70 C.E. 49
PART II: JEWS IN PALESTINE FROM 135 TO 350 101
THREE: Rabbis and Patriarchs on the Margins 103
FOUR: Jews or Pagans? The Jews and the Greco-Roman Cities of Palestine 129
FIVE: The Rabbis and Urban Culture 162
PART III: SYNAGOGUE AND COMMUNITY FROM 350 TO 640 177
SIX: Christianization 179
SEVEN: A Landscape Transformed 203
EIGHT: Origins and Diffusion of the Synagogue 215
NINE: Judaization 240
TEN: The Synagogue and the Ideology of Community 275
Conclusion 291
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 293
INDEX 317

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      File created: 9/19/2014

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