Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daniel Schwartz on the Ioudaioi Debate

Myself and Joel Willitts have thought a fair bit about whether Ioudaioi should be translated as "Jews" or "Judeans". See our respective posts on Judean and Syrian, Being Jew or Judean, and Its High Time to Change our Terminology. I'm not yet ready to jettison the term "Jew" in favour of "Judean", although I do think that "Judean" finds a proper place at many points especially related to the Gospels and in parts of Josephus. See also Phil Harland (e.g. here and here) and Loren Rosson's posts (here).

What has further raised doubts in my mind about treating Ioudaioi as "Judean" is an essay by Daniel R. Schwartz, '"Judean" or "Jew"? How Should We Translate Ioudaios in Josephus,' in Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World, eds. J. Frey, D. Schwartz, and S. Gripentrog (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 3-27. Schwartz notes now post-holocaust sensitivites have both helped and hindered discussions of Jewish identity and he notes the complex problem of identity as not all Jews adhere to Judaism and not all adherents of Judaism are Jews by birth, so life and usage can get complicated (a complication exhibited in Israeli courts where Jewish identity often has to be proven). He also acknowledges examples where Ioudaios clearly means "Judean" such as Apion 1.177ff and Antiquities 18.196. Yet Schwartz presents no less than ten reasons why we should prefer "Jews" over "Judeans"!

(1) Epigraphic evidence indicates that Ioudaios refers mostly to people who have been born as Jews, regardless of where they are from, and in a few cases to those who had converted to Judaism. (2) If the Idumeans, Judeans, and Galileans made a common front against the Romans, what is that front to be called? (3) In 2 Macc. 2.21, 8.1, and 14.38 Ioudaios defines a person by his relation to religion not by his place of Judea. (4) There seems to be no evidence at all for calling someone we would call a non-Jew a Ioudaios. (5) When we do hear of pagans mentioned in Judea they are usually called 'Greeks' not 'Judeans'. (6) Our English term 'Jew' refers not only to religion but also to descent, and much data in Josephus points to Ioudaios as something predicated by birth. (7) There is an element of development in Josephus' thought between Wars written in the 70s and his other works written in the 90s, Josephus' understanding of being Jewish developed from one which assumed that religion and state go together to one which recognized that they need not. (8) Greco-Roman authors very rarely linked the Ioudaioi with the land of Judea and they used other words for it such as Idumea, Palestine, or Syria. (9) Given that more Ioudaioi lived outside of Judea than in it (i.e. the Diaspora) there is not enough evidence to indicate that Ioudaioi could unambiguously be taken as linking those it denoted to a particular land. (10) There is no good reason not to treat Ioudaios just like Rhomaios. All "Romans" were Roman regardless of whether they were in or from Rome or not.

Interesting stuff to think about!


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you.

Chris Weimer said...

Excellent stuff! I want to point out that there is no etymological difference between Jew and Judean, one (Jew) following natural evolutionary paths from Latin through French to Old English, and the other (Judean) being borrowed directly from Latin.

As such, I can't see the antipathy towards "Jew" for pre-70 CE "followers of the Torah".

The Pook said...

It seems to be the case that whilst "Ioudaioi" is never applied to Gentile residents of Judea, "Galilean" does apply to Jewish residents of Galilee. But Jewish residents of Samaria would not have been called Samaritans! Nor probably would those living in Idumea have been called Idumeans (unless, like Herod, they were half-Idumean), but Ioudaioi.

Don't know about Josephus, but certainly in John's Gospel the term "Jews" seems often, but not always to be used as something more specific than a generic religious designation. Though it is also used that way as well. In several instances it seems to mean the Jews of Judea, or even more specifically the religious Jews associated with the Temple authorities, the Sanhedrin, or the Pharisees - in other words, very religious Jews living in or around Jerusalem.

In John 5:10f, "the Jews" are contrasted with the man Jesus healed on the Sabbath, even though he too is Jewish. The same is true of the man born blind in chapter 9. In many places "the Jews" are the opponents of Jesus and his disciples, even though they too are Jewish. In John 8:31, Jesus speaks in Jerusalem "to the Jews who had believed in him," who are a different group from his Galilean disciples.

On the other hand, in John 4, both the Samaritan woman and Jesus in his answer to her use the term "Jew" and "Jews" in a generic fashion, and Jesus applies the term to himself.

In John 6, while speaking in Galilee, it is "the Jews" who oppose Jesus there, and though it is not clear whether that refers to Galilean Jews or only ones who have come from Judea to hear him, it is obviously a smaller group than the total number of Jews who hear him, most of whom are ambivalent rather than antagonistic. However, in John 7:1 it says "And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Judaea, because the Jews sought to kill him." (NASB) That does sound like the term there refers specifically to the ultra-religious Jews living in Judea, and this suspicion is strengthened by 7:11 which says that at the Feast (in Jerusalem) "the Jews were watching for him and asking "Where is that man?" But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews." Who are the "no ones" in that sentence who are contrasted with "the Jews?" They are obviously Jewish residents of Jerusalem too, yet not described as "the Jews." so for John, at least in certain contexts, the term clearly means a subset within Judaism, probably something like "Jewish religious conservatives based in Judea, especially teachers of the Law, Scribes, Temple authorities and members of various sects such as the Pharisees."

As Chris Weimer says, when read in context, there is no antipathy towards Jews generally, certainly no 'anti-Semitism' in John's Gospel. The fact that he himself is a Jew, writing about Jesus who is Jewish should alert people to this fact in itself. But any careful study of the Gospel shows that wherever the term is used negatively, it appears to apply only to a subset within Judaism, namely the Judean religious authorities who opposed Jesus.

The Pook said...

...and regarding point 10), there is an obvious difference between the term "Roman" and "Jewish" - the former applying either to race/geographical origin or to citizenship. A 'Roman' might be someone of Italian descent from Syria, Gaul, or Judea, or even someone not of Italian descent but a native of those places who had acquired citizenship. Not all Italians were 'Roman', not just in the sense of not living in Rome, but of not being citizens. Some were slaves.

Paul was a native of Tarsus, a Jew, and a Roman simultaneously. Yet he was not a Jew in the geographical sense of someone living in Judea.

David Garrett said...

Just curious if you've read Shaye Cohen's "The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties" as of yet, and if you have, what you make of his position on this issue.

Leon said...

Daniel Schwartz gives excellent reasons why Judean should not replace Jew. But there is more and some of it was given in John Elliott's article from last summer. "Judean" was the term that gentiles or pagans, and in particular the Romans, used to identify this people. The people called themselves children of Israel or members of the House of Israel. Both Judeans and Galileans thought of themselves this way. "Judeans" represents Roman imperialism, not Jewish identity, and now this Roman imperialism has merged into Christian imperialism in the study of Jewish history. Has it occurred to anyone that Jews have the right to decide what terms will be used in their own history?

Overlooked in all this are the ulterior motives in this debate about "Judeans". First, this started or picked up steam when scholars became uncomfortable with John demonizing the Jews in his Gospel. They want to find a way to save him from this black mark. In a way, it does not work because it does not matter whether you call them Judeans or Jews. John is still depicting this people in a very ugly way. But to most scholars, it will sound better to say "John is demonizing Judeans" than to say "John is demonizing Jews".

Second, scholars have never let go of a need to blame some large body of Jews for the death of Jesus, to blame more than Jewish leaders. One example: E.P. Sanders says in "Jesus and Judaism" (p. 270) that Jesus offended most Jews, not just the leaders, and he makes this offensiveness the chief cause of his death (as most scholars do). What is going to happen very soon, if it has not started already, is that scholars will start blaming Judeans for Jesus' death, and, they will add, we are not being anti-Jewish because, if anything, we are being anti-Judean and who cares about this ancient group?

Third, as part of this, scholars want to identify Jesus as a Galilean Israelite and distinguish him from the Judeans who do him in. There are no good grounds for this. Josephus describes Judeans and Galileans as more united than separated. He never talks about them the way he talks about Pharisees and Sadducees.

The move towards Judean is theologically motivated. This is the major thing that is omitted from these discussions. Scholars want to create an artificial division between Jesus and the so-called Judeans. That is based on their theology of Jesus at odds with other Jews. This is Jewish history and Christian theology has no place in the study of it.

Leon Zitzer