Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Josephus' Adiabene story and Acts 15

Anyone wanting to get a grip on the diverse beliefs within Judaism about conversion and adherence to Judaism by Gentiles (did Gentiles have to be circumcized in order to becom Jews?) have to read Josephus' account in Antiquities 20 on the conversion of the house of Adiabene. This provides an excellent background to the kind of disputes you find in Acts 15 and Galatians. A good discussion of the debate and comparison of Luke and Josephus can be found in Google Books at. Is Paul versus the Proselytizers in Galatia another version of Ananias vs. Eleazar in Adiabene?

Daniel R. Schwartz, ‘God, Gentiles, Jewish Law: On Acts 15 and Josephus’ Adiabene Narrative.’ In Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World. Edited by J. Frey, D. R. Schwartz, and S. Gripentrog. AJEC 71, Leiden: Brill, 2007., pages 263-281.


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Geoff Hudson said...

How do you answer this one then Dr Bird? Moses didn't teach or introduce the custom of circumcision, but he did introduce the custom of sacrificing animals for cleansing from sins (Acts 15.1). So was the conversion of the so-called 'house of Adiabene' concerned rather with sacrifice and not circumcision? This would of course imply collusion between the editors of the writings attributed to Josephus and the NT.

But it has surely not escaped your notice that the account of Izates and Helena has some remarkable echoes of Nero and Agrippina. I would suggest that it was Nero with an interest in Judaism, and that his real concern was whether or not he should sacrifice. The priests were pulling him towards the temple cult, and the prophets away from it. The issue was foundational to the intervention of the Roman army in 66 against the messianic priests who were persecuting the prophets and causing civil unrest.