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Epistolary Literature

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Chapter Summary

This chapter considers the form and function of the letter in the context of Jewish literary activity in the period c. 200 B.C.E.- c. 200 CE. The evidence of a corpus of texts is conveniently surveyed as follows: manuscript letters (1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, Josephus, Eupolemus, Epistle of Aristeas, Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch), rabbinic texts and New Testament. The corpus of letters falls into two groups: literary and non-literary. In literary letters epistolary form is used as a means of communicating moral, philosophical or religious ideas. Non-literary letters have a more specific, everyday purpose: they issue orders, make requests, assure friends of one's health and so on, and they are normally meant for a very limited and precise audience. Out of whole corpus, only the Bar Kokhba and Masada letters provide first-rate evidence for the analysis of epistolary practice since they alone exist in their physically original form.

Keywords: literary letters; manuscript letters; Masada letters; New Testament; non-literary letters; rabbinic texts



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    The Literature of the Jewish People in the Period of the Second Temple and the Talmud, Volume 2 Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period — Recommend this title to your library
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