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Jewish Novellas in a Greek and Roman Age: Fiction and Identity

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Although Jewish novellas (Esther, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, and Joseph and Aseneth) have received more attention recently as a distinct genre within ancient Jewish literature, their relation to Greek and Roman novels is still debated. This article argues that, although some of the Jewish novellas arise earlier, they should be considered part of the same broad category of novelistic literature. The rich research on the cultural context of Greek and Roman novels applies to the Jewish as well. But a further question is also explored: if the Jewish texts were originally considered fictional, how did they come to be considered biblical and historical? Two suggestions are proposed: the protagonists of the narratives first came to be revered as heroes of the faith aside from the texts, and the rise of “biblical history” required the use of Esther and Daniel to fill in the gaps in the chronology.

Affiliations: 1: Episcopal Divinity School 99 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 U.S.A., Email:


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