In the Hellenistic Context

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Jubilees and Hellenistic Jewish Literature

The previous section demonstrated that Jubilees’ author was almost certainly familiar with some of the (written) science that had developed in the Hellenistic world. In this section I propose that the author of Jubilees was also acquainted with other Hellenistic literary works, namely, with Hellenistic Jewish literature. I further suggest that Jubilees was written to combat certain tendencies of the latter.

It was Victor Tcherikover who first noted that most Hellenistic Jewish literature was not addressed to a gentile audience, and should therefore not be interpreted in an apologetic vein.41 Written for a Jewish audience, one of its main purposes was to resolve the conflict that plagued Jews living in the Hellenistic world: how could one remain faithful to Judaism while living in an environment that offered the attraction of the glittering culture of Hellenism, in which the Torah’s laws and narratives had no meaning and were sometimes in fact contradicted or at least viewed contemptuously by that alien culture’s laws and traditions?42 Hellenistic Jewish literature was concerned, therefore, with the affirmation of both Hellenism and Judaism,43 attempting to combine or at least to harmonize them.44

Efforts toward that goal are evident throughout all genres of Hellenistic Jewish literature. I focus first on works similar in nature to Jubilees, that is, historiographic works.45

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