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Chaste betrayals: Women and men in the Apocryphal Novels

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Chapter Summary

The apocryphal texts demonstrate an acute awareness of the Babylonian conquest which left a sizeable Jewish population living outside the land of Israel. The apocrypha provide a blueprint for how to maintain Jewish identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora. Like Esther and Judith, Diaspora Jews should maintain the dietary laws even under the most adverse circumstances; they should observe the holidays of Purim and Hanukkah, which commemorate victories of Israel against foreign political, military and spiritual forces. The apocryphal books of Susanna, Tobit, Judith and Greek Esther illustrate the various precepts and values that were dear to the hearts of Diaspora Jews. Though not quite pot-boilers or Harlequin romances these books, like modern novels, were intended to entertain as well as to convey a moralistic or didactic message. A striking feature of these novels is the predominance of women characters around whom revolve the emotional issues of the drama.

Keywords: apocryphal novels; Greek Esther; Hellenistic Diaspora; Jewish identity; Judith; Susanna; Tobit



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