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Laws concerning Idolatry in Early Judaism and Christianity

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Chapter Summary

The chapter provides a survey of ancient Jewish idolatry laws and of the early Christian attitudes towards idol offerings. It starts with the laws concerning idolatry and their significance within the biblical narrative. The chapter discusses biblical conceptions in practical life of the earlier Second Temple period. The distinction between idolatry committed by Jews and by gentiles is basic to Rabbinic halakha. A prohibition of idolatry for Jews was axiomatic, in line with biblical tradition. Correspondingly the prohibition of idolatry came first among the ancient tradition of three main commandments never to be transgressed by a Jew, even at the cost of his life: idolatry, illicit sexuality, and bloodshed. All of this appears to reflect the historical situation of ancient Judaism. The evidence both of external and internal literary sources and of archeology indicates that Jewish idolatry was extremely rare, either in Palestine or in the diaspora.

Keywords: biblical narrative; Christianity; illicit sexuality; Jewish idolatry laws; Judaism; Rabbinic halakha



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