Tuesday, 24 November 2015
It was, apparently, easy for Romans to pass themselves off as Jews. Shaye Cohen says:
Jews and gentiles in antiquity were corporeally, visually, linguistically and socially indistinguishable. Even the sags of the rabbinic academy could not discern Romans in their midst.
He the quotes a story from Sifrei to Deuteronomy in which two Roman soliders study with Rabbi Gamaliel - Scripture and Mishnah - and are undetected. The conclusion is that Gamaliel taught the Romans Torah - otherwise forbidden - because he and his colleagues were unable to detect that they were not Jews. If they presented themselves as converts, rather than born Jews, perhaps even more understandable. Cohen ends:
If you knew what to say and do, apparently it was easy to pass as a Jew.