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Identity and authority in ancient judaism

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Chapter Summary

This chapter purposes to document a parallel phenomenon in the period of the Second Temple, the Mishnah and the Talmud - a phenomenon which has been left unconsidered in the voluminous recent scholarship on Jewish identity in antiquity. The actions of Hasmonaean High Priests in the conversion of Idumaeans (in the 120s BCE) and Ituraeans (in c. 104 BCE) presupposed that such unilateral action, involving the forced circumcision of males, could turn gentiles into Jews. The chapter explores the hypothesis that the ambiguities about status, which, as has been shown, were tolerated with surprising ease until then, gave way after that date to a new Jewish awareness of a need for greater clarity; and that this new awareness was precipitated, as so often in Jewish history, by the attitude of the outside world - in this case, the Roman state.

Keywords: Jewish identity; Mishnah; Roman state; Talmud



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