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24 Pious Long-Sleepers in Pagan, Jewish and Christian Antiquity

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Chapter Summary

If we assume that the Abimelech story, with its setting in First Temple period, is of Jewish origin, which seems certain, we cannot but conclude that the Christian originator(s) of legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus knew this story and borrowed heavily from it. What both stories have in common is, first, the setting in a period of great upheaval: the destruction of Jerusalem Temple and deportation of the Jews to Babylon, on the one hand; and persecution of the Christians by Decius, on the other. Second, there is the central motif of falling asleep, in or near a mountain. Third, there is the element of the return to the city after the long sleep. We must assume that the creator of the Christian legend knew the Jewish story of the pious long-sleepers. The legend of the Seven Sleepers is nothing but the Jewish Honi/Abimelech story in Christian dress.

Keywords: Abimelech story; Christian antiquity; Jerusalem Temple; Jewish story; Pagan; pious long-sleepers; Seven Sleepers of Ephesus



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