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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Jewish by Association

Cohen introduces this idea:

You might reasonably concluded that people you see associating with Jews are themselves Jews. This argument has some merit especially if the Jews of antiquity as a rule kept themselves separate from gentiles.

Apparently, many (particularly anti-Jewish) ancient sources refer to Jewish separation, including the book of Acts (ie Acts 10:28). While it is probably safe to assume that most diaspora Jews kept some of the food laws to some degree (or other), the evidence suggests that these sources and polemic and much exaggerated. Diaspora Jews were well integrated into mainstream society and still attracted converts. G-d-fearers in particular had no formal Jewish staus, yet associated strongly with Jewsish communities.

There were Jewish neighbourhoods, but the evidence here suggests that there were often very mixed or named after the Jews had moved out - and there is no archaelogical difference. On the other hand, only Jews will have submitted to the authority of communal Jewish courts. Cohen sums up:

People associating with Jews were not necessarily Jews themselves. Even people assembled in a synagogue or present in a Jewish neighbourhood were not necessarily Jews themselves. In the Roman diaspora social mingling between Jews and gentiles was such that, without inquiring or checking, you could not be sure who was a Jew and who was not.

Posted By Jonathan, 9:00am Comment Comments: 0