The jews and hellenization: hengel and his critics

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Lester L. Grabbe
University of Hull

The question of the Jews and Hellenization seems to be

one of perennial interest. Because of the influence of Martin Hengel's various books on the subject, he serves as a useful focus to address the question. Most of the issues have been discussed by him, and those who have taken a different position in recent years have usually done so with explicit reference to him.
The purpose of the paper is to give a "once over lightly" to the subject but to introduce the main issues and questions, as well as giving my own conclusions.

<1> The focus of this paper is on the Ptolemaic period, though no discussion can be confined exclu-
sively to that time.

Hengel's Basic Thesis


Martin Hengel's opus magnum which appeared in English

in 1974 is probably the most significant work to deal with the question of Judaism in its relationship to Hellenism, though certainly building on and influenced by earlier authors, especially Bickerman. While limiting himself formally to the period from Alexander to the Maccabean revolt, he discussed the later period in passing at many points. Further, his monographs of 1980 and 1989 filled in certain aspects of the post-Maccabean period. Hengel's major work is a highly concentrated book which cannot be easily summarized. His main thesis relates to the cause of the suppression of Judaism as a religion under Antiochus IV, and in this he comes out forcefully on the side of the proposal already advanced by E. J. Bickerman.

<2> But in reaching that conclusion he takes a thorough look at the whole process of Hellenization and concludes, among other things, that Judaism and
Hellenism were not mutually exclusive entities and that from "about the middle of the third century BC all Judaism must really be designated `Hellenistic Judaism' in the strict sense," so that one cannot separate Palestinian Judaism from Hellenistic Judaism.
In order to demonstrate this thesis, Hengel does not
just advance a series of arguments or proofs. Rather, by a thorough description of Judaism during this period and by setting out its context in the Hellenistic world of the time, the conclusion forces itself forward that the Jews of Palestine were not successful in--indeed, did not particularly attempt--holding themselves aloof from the dominant culture. Judea under the Ptolemies and Seleucids was a part of the wider Hellenistic world, and the Jews of Palestine were as much a part of this
world as the other peoples of the ancient Near East. Thus, in order to disprove Hengel, one would have to give positive evidence that the Jews wanted to resist all aspects of the Hellenistic culture, that they were able to distinguish between "Hellenistic" and "native" elements, and that they prevailed in their resistance. Hengel has successfully put the onus of proof on any who would challenge the view that Palestinian Judaism was
a part of Hellenistic Judaism of the time. Although a summary cannot do justice to the detailed study, Hengel's major points and arguments are essentially the following:
1. The Jews of Palestine, far from being isolated,
were thoroughly caught up in the events of their time, particularly the rivalry between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms.
Palestine itself was a disputed territory, claimed by the
Seleucids with a certain legality on their side but nevertheless under Ptolemaic rule for the century before 200 BCE.
2. Ptolemaic (and later Seleucid) administration
reached to the lowest levels of Jewish society. Every village was supervised by the Greek administration and had its officials seeing that the various sorts of taxes were paid. Although natives were often delegated as supervisors at the lower levels, Greeks and Greek-speaking natives were very much in evidence,
especially at the higher levels.
3. International trade was a feature of the Hel-
lenistic world; indeed, trade with the Aegean had already brought many Greek influences to the Phoenician and Palestinian coasts long before the time of Alexander. Palestine itself was an important crossroads in the trade between north and south and
between Egypt and Arabia.
4. The language of trade and administration was Greek.
The use of Greek for official purposes is well illustrated
already by the mid-3rd century and its direct influence on the Jews can be deduced from a variety of sources.
5. Greek education also had its influence on Jews and
Jewish education.6. Greek influence on Jewish literature is already documented as early as Alexander's conquest and can be illustrated from literature in Hebrew and Aramaic as well as those works composed directly in Greek. Evidence of the influence of Greek philosophy occurs in such quintessentially Jewish circles as Qumran and writings such as 1 Enoch.

7. The "anti-Greek" forces which followed on the Mac-
cabean crisis did not succeed in erasing the pervasive Greek influence of the previous century and a half, and Jewish Palestine even as it gained basic independence under the Hasmoneans still remained a part of the Hellenistic world.

In his later writings, Hengel's position overall has
seemed to remain the same. However, he has nuanced it somewhat to meet some of the criticisms made (see next section): He recognizes that in the period before 175 BCE, "we only have very fragmentary and sporadic information about the Jews in Palestine
and in the Diaspora.?" He also accepts that Hellenization was perhaps a lengthier process than originally allowed for.

Criticisms of Hengel

Of the many reviews which have appeared--including
those by such well-known specialists in the Hellenistic period as Fergus Millar,<7> Arnaldo Momigliano,<8> and Louis Feldman<9>--the majority have been impressed by Hengel's breadth of learning and
by his basic arguments about the Hellenizing of Judaism. Feldman has been the main one to reject Hengel's thesis completely. The major areas where Hengel is weakest or most controversial are the following:<10>
1. While Greek influence on Jewish literature in Greek
is easy to demonstrate, such is much more difficult with literature in the Semitic languages. For example, Hengel takes the view that Qohelet shows knowledge and terminology of Greek popular philosophy, a thesis by no means universally accepted, as Feldman among others has noted.<11> In other examples, one can
show Greek parallels and make a cogent case for Greek influence yet without demonstrating that other potential sources are not equally possible. Thus, Hengel's arguments, which are generally quite strong with regard to Jewish literature in Greek, become
much less certain and more likely to be disputed in the area of Hebrew and Aramaic literature.
2. Many of the examples which Hengel uses actually
belong to the post-Maccabean period, partly because our knowledge of the Ptolemaic period is so problematic.<12> Of course, in many cases it seems legitimate to extrapolate to the earlier period (e.g., the evidence of the Qumran scrolls); also, it shows that
the crisis which arose in Jerusalem was not primarily one of Hellenizing but of religious suppression. Yet Hengel was not always careful in his original study to make clear that some developments in Hellenization may have come about only in post-Maccabean times, while the exact path of Hellenization in Judea during the Ptolemaic period may not be so clear as he first implied.
One of the most valuable of Feldman's criticisms is to cast doubt on the speed with which Judaism was Hellenized. Other contributors have also noted this (cf. also Hengel's response noted above).
3. In the way that examples are selected and pre-
sented, Hengel appears to exaggerate the place of Greek education and language in Palestine. The examples used go only so far; that is, they demonstrate that some Jews had a reasonable knowledge of Greek and many more had a smattering, but the actual number of Jews who could be considered monolingual or bilingual in Greek in Palestine was probably rather less than Hengel seems to conclude. In any case, the evidence is certainly not conclusive for a pervasive use of Greek throughout Jewish society in Palestine. As for the question of education, we simply have almost no information about education at all in Judea at this time, much less education in Greek.



One of the major problems in the debate is that of

terminology. All do not necessarily mean the same thing when they use the terms "Hellenize/Hellenization," which has resulted in confusion and much dispute over simple misunderstandings. In discussing the question of terminology, it is unavoidable that I anticipate some of the points made below. Nevertheless, it seems best to take up the question here rather than later.
There seem to be several legitimate ways in which the
"Hellenization" can be used. First is in reference to the general situation in the Orient after Alexander. Much remained the same, at least for the time being, but there was a qualitative change overall. Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt, and Mesopotamia now all fell under the rubric "Hellenistic" in that they made up the Hellenistic world. All Eastern peoples, the Jews included, were a part of this world.
Second is the cultural phenomenon, with its complex set
of cultural elements derived from both Greek and Near Eastern sources. It was neither "Greek" nor "Oriental," but neither was it homogenized. There were some loci (regions, social and economic classes, institutions) which were almost purely Greek and others which remained unadulteratedly native, and there were mixtures of various sorts (though this element--that of Verschmelzung--should not be exaggerated, as will become clear).
However, the balance of the different elements and their relationships were not static but constantly changing and developing. Thus, Hellenistic culture can be adequately described only as a process. The Jews were fully a part of this process. There is no indication that they differed from the other peoples within this world in both adopting certain Greek elements and practices and yet also preserving their own cultural heritage.
Thirdly, there is the question of the individual, the
extent to which specific Greek practices were adopted or conformed to. The Hellenistic world included far more than just the culture of classical Greece. But one could be said to be "Hellenized" if an effort was made to adher to Greek ideals and customs. From this point of view, individual Orientals--including individual Jews--might be more Hellenized than others.
This last point seems to be the one often in mind (perhaps even unconsciously) when Hellenization of the Jews is discussed. A further complication concerns the extent to which the adoption of some Greek cultural elements implies a religious apostacy.

The Question of Language

In the post-Alexandrian centuries "Greek" came less and less to be an ethnic designation and more and more one of education, especially in good Greek style. There is clear evidence that many educated and upper-class Orientals were knowledgable in the Greek language. The question is how far this knowledge penetrated. Although it is often asserted that Greek became the official language of the conquered territories, this seems mistaken:<13> the Seleucid empire was multilingual, with local languages continuing to be used in official documents (with perhaps a few exceptions.<14>
A similar situation pertained in Egypt. Although Egypt is famous for its finds of papyri in Greek, the accumulating evidence suggests that at least as much material was produced in Demotic during the same period of time. There was clearly a flourishing native literary tradition in all sorts of genres, not just temple literature, during this time. More significant, though, is the amount of Demotic papyri relating to the administration. The native Egyptian legal system was still administered alongside the Greek, but the Demotic documents cover far more than the legal sphere, encompassing bureaucratic activity up to a fairly high level. Contrary to a frequent assumption, Egyptians
could and did rise to high positions in the administration, and much of the work of the bureaucracy was done in bilingual mode.

In short, a great deal of business and everyday life was still carried on in the Egyptian language by Egyptians at all levels of society.

A major question is one of interpretation. One can
point to such examples as the Armenian king Artavasdes who cultivated Greek learning and even wrote Greek literature; at a birthday celebration, the Bacchides of Euripides was performed for his court (Plutarch, Crassus 33). Or the Buddhist king Asoka who erected inscriptions in good Greek (as well as Aramaic) in the remote area of Kandahar. But what conclusion should be drawn from this? How far can such examples be taken as typical?
For instance, Hengel states, "Galilee, completely encircled by the territories of the Hellenized cities . . ., will similarly have been largely bilingual." Martin Goodman gives a more nuanced and somewhat less categorical view. While recognizing that Greek had its place in Galilee, he notes that it was not dominant, with Aramaic--not Greek--being the lingua franca: "In Upper Galilee there is almost no evidence of Greek at all . . . . But in Upper Galilee and probably in the area around Lake Tiberias, Greek was only a thin strand in the linguistic cloth . . .".

Was Galilee bilingual? Evidently not, if one means

that Greek was widely used everywhere. The mere presence of some Greek usage does not necessarily deserve the term "largely bilingual."
Greek certainly did function as a lingua franca in many
parts of the Hellenistic East, as Aramaic had done under the Assyrian, neo-Babylonian, and Achaemenid empires. Royal inscriptions and many other sorts of documents were issued in Greek, yet there was no attempt to impose it as the sole language of administration. Traders no doubt found some acquaintance with Greek useful, not only in dealing with officialdom but also for getting around in areas with a multitude of local languages. If the buyer or seller one was dealing with knew a second language,
however, in many parts of the Seleucid empire it was more likely to be Aramaic than Greek.
The complexity of the penetration of the language is
illustrated by two examples. An ostracon in Aramaic from about the middle of the 3rd century BCE already contains two Greek words.<19> Another ostracon from Khirbet el-Kom in the Idumean area, dated about 275 BCE, is a bilingual in both Greek and Aramaic.<20> On the other hand, there is only one formal bilingual inscription so far known in the entirety of Syria, that from Tel Dan about 200 BCE.<21> Thus, Hengel's demonstration of the
widespread use of Greek in his various writings cannot be
doubted, yet the significance of this fact is not so easily
assessed. For one thing, this use of Greek seems to have been confined to a certain segment of the population, especially the educated upper-class. To what extent it penetrated into the lives of the bulk of the population is more difficult to determine; however, the number of Jews outside the Greek cities who were fluent in Greek seems small.

Hellenization Elsewhere in the Ancient Near East

An older view emphasized the Greek influence on the
original civilizations of the ancient Near East and the dominance of Greek institutions. Such an attitude can be found in the classic work by Tarn<22> and is also the prevalent view in the first edition of volume 7 of the Cambridge Ancient History (though Rostovtzeff gives a more nuanced approach in his articles in that volume). The most recent work has recognized not only the Grecocentric view of so much older scholarship but has found evidence in new discoveries as well as old that the earlier cultures were far from obliterated under Greek rule.<23>
The spread of Greek institutions and culture to the
remotest parts of the Greek empire can be seen in the Greek remains in such unlikely places as Ai hanum,<24> and the island of Failaka (ancient Icarus) in the Persian gulf.<25> The presence of Greek communities, as indicated by inscriptions, architecture, and literary remains shows that no region could escape some influence. The question is to what extent the Greek presence produced merging, adoption, or change in the indigenous cultures.
A "mixed culture" (Verschmelzung) was slow in coming in most cases, if it ever occurred as such.


The cities of Babylon and Uruk provide useful evidence
about Hellenization in Mesopotamia. Alexander originally made Babylon the capital of his empire. It has often been assumed that, with the founding of Seleucia-on-the-Tigris, Babylon declined to the point of desolation. The foundation of Seleucia was probably done deliberately to provide a new Hellenistic center, but Babylon itself continued not only to survive but to thrive as well.<26> The native tradition of kingship, in which the Seleucid ruler acted in the same capacity as the old native Babylonian kings, is attested as continuing and seriously supported by at least some of the Seleucids.<27>
Neither Babylon nor Uruk are certainly known to have
been poleis in the early Greek period, though evidently some Greeks were there.<28> The Greek names found in cuneiform sources fall into four periods which seem to correspond well with the history of the city under Greek rule:<29> First stage: Greek residents but no involvement with the native inhabitants (Greek names practically absent); second stage (223-187 BCE): Greeks begin to take part in civic life, with some intermarriage (limited Greek names among the Babylonians); third stage (middle
of 2nd century): influx of more Greeks, probably because of the policy of Antiochus IV (Greek names more frequent); fourth stage (after 140): the Arsacid conquest halts the Hellenization process (Greek names continue sporadically for a time but gradually die out).

Syria and Phoenicia<30>

The question of Hellenization in Syria generally is
very important since it formed Judea's immediate environment. Hengel has also emphasized the part played by Phoenicia and Philistia as the intermediaries of Greek culture to Judea.<31>
Millar has produced two seminal essays which address the question directly. One of his major points is that, perhaps apart from Phoenicia, it is difficult to draw general conclusions about Hellenization for the Syrian area simply because of the paucity of evidence.<32> After extensive discussion, Millar concludes on a rather negative note, "The enigma of hellenistic Syria--of the wider Syrian region in the hellenistic period--remains."<33> It is
not just a question of the paucity of data for the Hellenistic
period but also for the Achaemenid period: you cannot talk about changes after Alexander if you do not know what it was like before him.
This lack of remains can lead to widely differing interpretations of what little there is. To take one example,
Hengel places a good deal of emphasis on the writers and
philosophers who came from the Syrian region, including such individuals as Meleager of Gadara.<34> Millar, on the other hand, comments with regard to Meleager, "But there is nothing in the quite extensive corpus of his poetry to show that he had deeply absorbed any non-Greek culture in his native city . . .".<35>
This does not mean that only a negative conclusion can
be drawn from Millar's study. As the editors note in their
introduction, "his careful examination of a scattered body of material is susceptible to a more positive interpretation than he himself allows . . .".<36> One of the points which does emerge is the strong continuation of the native culture in that area, which was clearly not generally submerged by the Greek or absorbed into it. Millar has also produced evidence of changes under Hellenism
which included the spread of Greek culture in certain ways.
Phoenicia is a useful example of how Hellenization
could penetrate the culture yet not displace the native traditions. The influence of Greek culture actually began well before Alexander.<37> Although the precise course of Hellenization is difficult to document,<38> the cities of the region gradually evolved into Greek poleis.<39> Nevertheless, it is also clear that Phoenician culture continued at all levels, both in Phoenicia itself and in its colonies overseas. We find Phoenician names
alongside Greek, some individuals having both sorts. Coins have both Greek and Phoenician writing. Philo of Byblos wrote a work (supposedly based on the work of the ancient author Sanchuniathon) which preserves many details of Canaanite religion from antiquity, yet Philo's work is itself thoroughly Greek in form.<40> One would have to say that the major Phoenician cities were Hellenized in some sense, yet they also remain Phoenician
with a strong continuation from their past.

Resistance to Hellenization

The reactions against Hellenization were complex and
diverse, but the Jews were by no means the only people to fight it. Although much of the evidence has no doubt disappeared, enough survives to show that there were anti-Hellenistic moves of various sorts among a wide range of the Near Eastern peoples.
The most obvious form of resistance was armed rebellion against Greek political domination and the attempt to restore native rule. The Jewish state stands out in this because it successfully gained independence whereas most other rebels met with failure; yet the Jews of Palestine were certainly not the only ones to aspire to independence or to attempt to gain it by force of arms. Among the Egyptians in particular, there were a number
of uprisings, though none successful.<41>

Even gaining independence from Greek rule did not
necessarily mean the overthrow of Hellenistic culture or the rooting out of all Greek elements or influences, as is made clear by the example of the Hasmonean state which threw off the Seleucid yoke but made no attempt to eliminate the overt Greek elements in Jewish culture. On the contrary, Judea under Hasmonean rule was typical of Hellenistic kingdoms of that general period.

In this one may compare modern "nativistic movments."
They often react against some cultural elements of colonial
powers simply because they are symbolic of oppression,<42> yet many elements taken over from the colonizers will be accepted, either because they have become so well integrated that they are no longer recognized as foreign<43> or because they are useful or symbolically neutral to the movement.
Another sort of anti-Greek reaction was the production
of anti-Greek propaganda, generally of a literary type. We find a whole genre of such from the Hellenistic period produced by a variety of peoples, often taking the form of oracles or ex eventu prophecies. In Egypt there were prophecies predicting the overthrow of Greek rule, including the Oracle of Bocchoris or the Lamb, the Potter's Oracle, and the Demotic Chronicle.<44> From
Persia came the Oracle of Hystaspes.<45> The Jews produced fake Sibylline Oracles.<46> This literature itself was a way of kindling hope and venting frustration. What effect it had from a practical point of view is uncertain; probably little in most cases, though there may have been times when it served to inspire the native peoples to active resistance and revolt.


Hellenization was a long and complex phenomenon. It
cannot be summarized in a word or a sentence. It was not just the adoption of Greek ways by the inhabitants of the ancient Near East or of Oriental ways by Greeks who settled in the East. Hellenistic civilization was sui generis and must be considered from a variety of points of view, for it concerned many different areas of life: language, custom, religion, commerce, architecture, dress, government, literary and philosophical ideals.
Hellenization represented a process as well as a description of a type of culture. Whatever Alexander's ideals may have been, his successors were highly Greco-chauvinist. Pride of place in society was to go to Greeks alone, with the natives usually at the bottom of the pyramid. Greek ideals were preserved in the Greek foundations, with citizenship and membership of the gymnasium jealously guarded for the exclusive privilege of the Greek settlers. Orientals might live in the Greek cities but they were not citizens and were mostly barred from becoming so. There was no interest in cultural imperialism
as such by the Greek rulers.
However, over a period of a century or so after Alexander's death, things gradually began to change. Local nobles and chieftains were often of use in the Ptolemaic and Seleucid administrations, and they employed Greek secretaries. A good example of this is the Jewish noble Tobias for whom we have a number of letters in Greek from the Zenon archive.<47> These
individuals were also likely to see the need to have their sons given a Greek education. Thus, it is that already early in the Greek period, we find educated Orientals who have some knowledge of Greek. Individuals such as Manetho in Egypt and Berossus in Babylon were already writing treatises in Greek in the early part of the 3rd century. In the Tobiad romance, Joseph and later his son Hyrcanus (second half of the 3rd century) deal with the Ptolemaic court on an equal footing (Josephus, Ant. 12.4.2-11
sec. 160-236); there is no indication that they have to communicate by translator or that their educational background is considered inferior.
The life of the average person was not strikingly
affected. The poor peasant continued to work the land, only noting that he had a new landlord or had to pay taxes to a new regime. Yet in stating this, one must not forget that the day-to-day life of the bulk of the population in the Near East probably changed little between the 3rd millennium BCE and the l8th century CE. The coming of the Greeks did not radically change their lives--but neither did the coming of the Assyrians, the Persians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks, or the British. On
the other hand, there were constant reminders of the new culture, most obviously in the language of administration and commerce.

Certainly, anyone who wished to engage in trade would probably find it to advantage to gain some acquaintance with Greek, and those who could afford it would be under pressure to provide some sort of Greek education for their offspring. Yet the native languages continued to be used in administration, and most people could get by quite well without any knowledge of Greek. As an analogy, one might consider the Anglicization of India in the l9th century or the Westernization of Japan in the post-World War

II era.
This means that, on the one hand, Hellenization was a
centuries-long process in which all were engaged and from which no one escaped; therefore, all peoples of the Near East, the Jews included, were part of the Hellenistic world, were included in this process, and were from this point of view Hellenized. On the other hand, one could also speak of degrees of Hellenization in the sense of how far one went in consciously imitating and adopting Greek ways. From such a perspective it would be legitimate to talk of a particular individual as being "more Hellenized" or "less Hellenized" than another and Hellenization in
this sense represents a spectrum encompassing many shades of Greek influence from the limited to the intense. This means that it is important to make clear what is being referred to in each context, though many writers on the subject fail to make such distinctions and talk as if it were all or nothing, as if someone were Hellenized or not.
Although there are many points to be debated in current
study, Hengel's dictum is becoming more and more accepted: one can no longer talk of Judaism versus Hellenism nor of Palestinian versus Hellenistic Judaism. To do so is to create an artificial binary opposition and to reduce an enormously complex picture to stark, unshaded black and white. It is also to treat a lengthy process as if it were a single undifferented event--as if conception, pregnancy, birth, childhood, and adulthood could be
simultaneous. At the risk of repeating points made in the
previous section, the following points relate to the Jews specifically:
First, Hellenism was a culture whereas Judaism was a
religion. Some aspects of Hellenistic culture were irrelevant to Jewish religious views. Other aspects were viewed as irrelevant by some Jews but highly subversive by others. And from any point of view, certain aspects of Hellenistic culture, especially those in the religious sphere, had the potential to bring about major transformations of Judaism. The stark dichotomy of "Hellenizers" and "Judaizers" of 1 Maccabees has been used too simplistically and thus has caused gross distortion.<48> It assumes a narrow, prejudicial definition of what it means to be a loyal Jew with no allowance made for those of a different opinion. It is as if, to take a modern analogy, the only form of Judaism allowed to be "Jewish" were Orthodox Judaism. This may indeed be the view of
some Orthodox Jews, but it is hardly the perspective of Conservative, Reform, Liberal, Karaite, Falasha, and other forms of Judaism. It is not the job of the historian to take sides or adopt the denominational prejudice of the sources.
Secondly, those called "Judaizers" (or, misleadingly,
"orthodox" in some modern works) were not totally opposed to al aspects of Hellenistic culture. What they opposed were certain things affecting their religion, though this opposition sometimes used--or reacted to--cultural symbols as a means of expressing their loyalty to a particular form of Judaism. (One might compare a common reaction among "nativistic movements" in which
overt elements of the colonial culture are attacked even though much has been absorbed without even recognizing it.)
Thirdly, the attitudes of those called "Judaizers" seem
to have covered a wide spectrum, including the Hasidim, the Maccabees, those who refused to defend themselves against their enemies, the partisans of Onias, and those who wrote Daniel 7-12; the same is true of the so-called "Hellenizers." As far as we know, none of them rejected the label "Jew," even Menelaus and his followers whom many would regard as the most extreme of the
Hellenizers. Nevertheless, to be "Hellenized" did not mean to cease to be a Jew. Take for example Philo of Alexandria. Here was a man with a good Greek education, who wrote and thought in the Greek language (probably knowing no Hebrew), and lived a life which in many daily habits did not differ from the Greek citizens
of Alexandria, yet who considered himself nothing less than a loyal and pious Jew.<49> Or we might consider the message of the Letter of Aristeas which is that Jews can be a part of the Hellenistic world without necessarily compromising their Judaism. A final example is the Jason who became high priest (2 Macc 4:7- 22); he evidently considered himself a full and faithful Jew, yet he was the one who obtained permission for Jerusalem to become a
Greek foundation. The fact that some Jews may have judged him an apostate is irrelevant to the question of his own self- designation or Jewish identity.<50>
Fourthly, the native cultures continued to thrive to a
greater or lesser extent all over the Near East, not just in
Judea. Greek remained a minority language and did not displace the many local languages nor the old lingua franca of Aramaic.
Hellenization as a process--not just a static culture--continued with the coming of the Romans and the growth of their empire.
Fifthly, it is indeed true that Jews were unique and
did not lose their identity--a fact with which some writers on the subject seem obsessed--but one could also make the same statement about many of the native peoples. Each ethnic group was unique in its own way and was just as attached to its own identity, culture, native language, and traditions as the Jews.
This also in many cases included particular religious cults which were as important to them as Yahwism was to the Jews. One can readily accept the Hellenization of the Jews without denying their uniqueness, loyalty to religion, careful maintenance of tradition and custom, or continual contribution to Hebrew and Aramaic literature.
Sixthly, in accommodating to Hellenistic culture the
Jews always maintained one area which could not be compromised without affecting their Judaism, that of religion. The Jews alone in the Greco-Roman world refused honor to gods, shrines, and cults other than their own. Thus, even those Jews who were most at home in the Hellenistic world, such as Philo or the author of Pseudo-Aristeas, still found themselves marked out--and
marked off--by this fact. For the vast majority, this was the final barrier which could not be crossed; we know of only a hand- ful of examples from antiquity in which Jews abandoned their Judaism as such. Thus, however Hellenized they might be, observant Jews could never be fully at home in the Greek world.


<<1>>Further information on the subject in general and a more detailed study of many points in particular is found in chapter 3 of my book, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (Minneapolis: Fortress, in press). The following are abbreviations used throughout:
Hengel 1974 Judaism and Hellenism (2 vols.; London: SCM; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974)
Hengel 1980 Jews, Greeks and Barbarians: Aspects of the Hellenization of Judaism in the pre-Christian
Period (Philadelphia: Fortress; London: SCM, 1980).
Hengel 1989 The `Hellenization' of Judaea in the First
Century after Christ (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity, 1989)
Kuhrt/Sherwin-White A. Kuhrt and S. Sherwin-White (ed.), Hellenism in the East: The Interaction of Greek
and Non-Greek Civilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexandria (London: Duckworth, 1987).
<<2>>E. J. Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees (SJLA 32; Leiden: Brill, 1979).
<<3>>Hengel 1974: 1.2-3.
<<4>>Hengel 1974: 1.103-6.
<<5>>Hengel 1980: 51.
<<6>>Hengel 1980: 53: "A more thorough `Hellenization', which also included the lower classes, only became a complete reality in Syria and Palestine under the protection of Rome . . . . It was Rome which first helped `Hellenism' to its real victory in the East . . ."
<<7>>F. Millar, "The Background to the Maccabean Revolution: Reflections on Martin Hengel's `Judaism and Hellenism,'" JJS 29 (1978)
1-21. The review by Fergus Millar appears primarily directed against the thesis that the persecutions were initiated by the "Hellenizing party" of the Jews, a thesis which is beyond the scope of this paper (see the discussion in ch. 5 of my book cited in note 1 above). However, his attitude to the question of the
Hellenizing process in Palestine is not completely clear. On the one hand, Millar states, "only new evidence could improve Hengel's portrayal of Hellenism in Judaea itself" (p. 3). On the other hand, he concludes that "the evidence shows how un-Greek in structure, customs, observance, literary culture, language and historical outlook the Jewish community had remained down to the earlier second century, and how basic to it the rules reimposed
by Ezra and Nehemiah had remained" (p. 20). For other discussions by Millar which relate to the problem, see the articles listed in notes 21 and 30 below.
<<8>>A. Momigliano, review of Hengel's Judentum und Hellenismus, JTS 21 (1970) 149-53.
<<9>>L. H. Feldman, "Hengel's Judaism and Hellenism in Retrospect,"
JBL 96 (1977) 371-82; "How Much Hellenism in Jewish Palestine?"
HUCA 57 (1986) 83-111. In the earlier review he summarized Hengel's work in 22 points and then proceeded to attack each of them as invalid or not supporting Hengel's thesis in a significant way. His 1986 article covers some of the same ground but in a more diffuse way.
There is no doubt that Feldman has some important
criticisms and has drawn attention to areas where Hengel is weak or where the data do not give strong support to his argument.
Unfortunately, he vitiates the impact of his arguments with two major flaws: First, there seems to be a strong, underlying assumption that being Hellenized means ceasing to be a proper Jew (e.g., 1986: 85). Secondly, his arguments against Hengel often depend on interpretations which would not be accepted by the
majority of specialists. For example, in his 1977 contribution he dates 1 Enoch 12-36 much later than is generally done (his point #21) and doubts the identity of the Qumranites as Essenes (point #22). In the 1986 article, e.g., he assumes that only Gentiles attended the various amphitheaters and sports stadia erected by Herod and others (p. 104) and that the ossuary inscriptions in Greek were only to prevent non-Jews from molesting the graves (p. 88). Overall, his complete rejection of Hengel's thesis seems unjustified.
<<10>>This is aside from his main thesis which relates to the cause of the suppression of Judaism as a religion under Antiochus IV.
See notes 2 and 7 above.
<<11>>Contrast H. Braun (Koheleth und die fruhhellenistische Popularphilosophie [BZAW 130; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1973]), who develops the thesis at length, with O. Loretz (Qohelet und der alte Orient [Freiburg: 1964]) who argues strongly that there is
nothing in Qohelet which cannot be explained from preHellenistic
Near Eastern tradition.
<<12>>See A. Momigliano's review of Hengel's Judentum und Hellenismus in JTS 21 (1970) 149-53.
<<13>>Kuhrt/Sherwin-White: 5-6, 23-25.
<<14>>E.g., slave-sale documents after 275 BCE were issued only in Greek, according to L. T. Doty ("The Archive of the Nana-Iddin Family from Uruk," JCF 30 [1980] 65-90, esp. 85) and M. Rostovtzeff ("Seleucid Babylonia: Bullae and Seals of Clay with Greek Inscriptions," Yale Classical Studies 3 [1932] 1-114, esp.
<<15>>A. E. Samuel, From Athens to Alexandria: Hellenism and Social Goals in Ptolemaic Egypt (Studia Hellenistica 26; Louvain: Imprimerie Orientaliste, 1983), especially pp. 105-17 on the linguistic situation.
<<16>>G. Pugliese Carratelli and G. Garbini, A Bilingual Graeco- Aramaic Edict by Asoka: The First Greek Inscription Discovered in Afghanistan (Serie Orientale Roma 29; Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1964).

<<17>>Hengel 1989: 14-15.
<<18>>M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, A.D. 132-212 (Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies; Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld, 1983) 64-68, specifically 67-68.
<<19>>F. M. Cross, "An Aramaic Ostracon of the Third Century B.C.E. from Excavations in Jerusalem," EI 15 (1981) *67-*69.
<<20>>L. T. Geraty, "The Khirbet el-Kom Bilingual Ostracon," BASOR 220 (Dec. 1975) 55-61.
<<21>>A. Biran, "Tel Dan," RB 84 (1977) 256-63; G. H. R. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published in 1976 (Ancient History Documentary Research Centre; Sydney: Macquarie University, 1981);
cf. Millar, "The Problem of Hellenistic Syria," in Kuhrt/Sherwin- White: 110-33, especially 132.
<<22>>W. W. Tarn and G. T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilisation (3rd ed.; London: Arnold, 1952).
<<23>>See especially especially Kuhrt/Sherwin-White.
<<24>>Bernard, P. "Ai Khanum on the Oxus: A Hellenistic City in Central Asia," Proceedings of the British Academy 53 (1967) 71-95.
<<25>>C. Roueche and S. M. Sherwin-White, "Some Aspects of the Seleucid Empire: the Greek Inscriptions from Failaka, in the Arabian Gulf," Chiron 15 (1985) 1-39.
<<26>>S. Sherwin-White, "Seleucid Babylonia: a Case Study for the Installation and Development of Greek Rule," in Kuhrt/Sherwin- White: 18-20; R. J. van der Spek, "The Babylonian City," in Kuhrt/Sherwin-White: 65-66.
<<27>>S. Sherwin-White, "Ritual for a Seleucid King at Babylon?" JHS 103 (1983) 156-59; "Seleucid Babylonia," 8-9, 28-29; A. Kuhrt, "Berossus' Babyloniaka and Seleucid Rule in Babylonia," in
Kuhrt/Sherwin-White: 51-52, 55-56.
<<28>>S. Sherwin-White, "A Greek Ostrakon from Babylon of the Early Third Century B.C.," ZPE 47 (1982) 51-70; "Seleucid Babylonia," 20-21; van der Spek, "The Babylonian City," 66-70, 72-74.
<<29>>G. K. Sarkisian, "Greek Personal Names in Uruk and the Graeco- Babyloniaca Problem," Acta Antiqua 22 (1974) 495-503; van der Spek, "The Babylonian City," 60-74.
<<30>>Millar, F. "The Phoenician Cities: A Case-Study of Hellenisation," Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Association 209 (1983) 55-71; "The Problem of Hellenistic Syria," 110-33.
<<31>>Hengel 1974: 1.32-35; 1980: 28.
<<32>>Millar, "Problem of Hellenistic Syria," especially 111-13, 129- 31.
<<33>>Ibid., 129.
<<34>>Hengel 1974: 1.84-86; 1980: 118.
<<35>>Millar, "Problem of Hellenistic Syria," 130.
<<36>>Kuhrt/Sherwin-White: x.
<<37>>Millar, "The Phoenician Cities," 67; Hengel 1974: 1.32-35.
<<38>>Millar, "The Phoenician Cities," 60.
<<39>>Millar, "Problem of Hellenistic Syria," 123-24.
<<40>>J. Barr, "Philo of Byblos and his `Phoenician History,'" BJRL 57 (1974-75) 17-68.
<<41>>Cf. W. Peremans, "Les revolutions egyptiennes sous les Lagides," Das ptolemaische Agypten: Akten des Internationalen Symposions 27.-29. September 1976 in Berlin (ed. H. Maehler and V. M. Strocka; Mainz: Zabern, 1978) 39-50; A. B. Lloyd, "Nationalist Propaganda in Ptolemaic Egypt," Historia 31 (1982) 33-55.
<<42>>W. La Barre, "Materials for a History of Studies of Crisis Cults: A Bibliographic Essay," Current Anthropology 12 (1971) 3- 44, esp. 20-22.
<<43>>Cf. P. Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of "Cargo" cults in Melanesia (London: Macgibbon & Kee, 1957) 23.
<<44>>S. K. Eddy, The King Is Dead (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1961); J. J. Collins (ed.) Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre (Semeia 14; Atlanta: Scholars, 1979) 168-70.
<<45>>Eddy, ibid.; Collins, ibid., 210.
<<46>>Collins, ibid., 46-47.
<<47>>A convenient edition of these letters is found in V. A. Tcherikover, A. Fuks, and M. Stern, Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum (3 vols.; Cambridge, MA: Harvard; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1957-64) 1.115-30.
<<48>>See further my chapter on the Maccabean revolt in Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian.
<<49>>See especially A. Mendelson, Philo's Jewish Identity (BJS 161; Atlanta: Scholars, 1988).
<<50>>See further the discussion in chapter 5 of Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian.
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