EARLY JEWISH DIASPORA: IN THE A.D. 1ST AND 2ND CENTURIES

JEWISH DIASPORA

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Cochin Jew in India in the 1800s
After the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70 and the banishment of the Jews from Jerusalem in A.D. 135 , Jews began dispersing around the world. Many Jews lived in isolated groups that often had little or no contact with other Jewish groups. The groups were held together by religious tradition and by faith in a common calling and destiny. This cohesion and fragmentation allowed Jews around the globe to develop as community that was both national and international at the same time.

The Diaspora is a word used to describe the dispersal of Jews around the world after the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70. During the Roman period Jews began moving out of Palestinian to places like Alexandria and Rome. Most Jews settled in North Africa and the Mediterranean area. Within a few decades between 3 and 6 million Jews lived outside of Palestine in the Roman Empire and only about half that number lived in Palestine.

Alexandria was a center of Christian and Jewish learning as well Greek learning. One of the greatest achievements of the Alexandria Library and learning center was The creation of the Old Testament by seventy-two Jewish scholars, brought together by Ptolemy, to translate the Hebrew Bible (the Torah), "which from its beginning was enshrouded in legend and folklore," into Greek. According to a Jewish legend, Ptolemy asked each of the Jewish scholars to individually to translate the whole Hebrew bible, and miraculously, the result, was 72 identical versions. Modern copies of the Bible are all based on the Greek translation.

After being kicked out Palestine, the Jews lost hope of establishing a Holy Jewish empire. Instead they concentrated on surviving in the their new worlds. Some Jews remained in Palestine and lived there while numerous rulers came and went.

L. Michael White of the University of Texas told PBS: “When we see the Christians beginning to spread out beyond the original homeland environment, they're following a pathway that had already been well trod before them by other Jews. By the middle of the first century, there are probably more Jews living outside of the homeland, than actually live back in Judah proper. This is what we call the Diaspora, that is, the dispersion of Jewish population throughout the Empire, and we know that there are major Jewish communities in most of the large cities of the Empire, all the way from the Persian Gulf on the east to Spain on the west. It's an extensive diffusion of the Jewish population throughout the Roman. [Source: L. Michael White: Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

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Kaifeng Jew in China 1910s
“And these these Jewish communities in the Diaspora environment faced a number of challenges. How do you maintain your traditional Jewish identity and piety, while at the same time fitting into the social and cultural traditions of Greek and Roman cities? In some localities, we find Jews participating in the theater or in normal aspects of daily life. In other cities, we find Jews experienc[ing] oppression and seeming to distance themselves from the local environment. So, it varies from city to city, on what the Jewish experience would be. On the whole, however, Judaism in the Diaspora was able to accommodate a great deal of Hellenistic culture. The normal language for Jews in the Diaspora was Greek. It was in the Diaspora that the Bible was translated from Hebrew into a Greek vernacular. So, later on, when we find Paul quoting scripture, he's not quoting the Hebrew Bible. He may not even know the Hebrew Bible directly. He quotes the Bible in Greek.

Jews refer to their period of exile as the Galut . During the entire time they kept alive hopes of returning to Zion, the traditional name of Jerusalem. This longing was kept alive with expression, “Next year Jerusalem,” often expressed at end of Passover.

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Virtual Jewish Library jewishvirtuallibrary.org/index ; Yivo Institute of Jewish Research yivoinstitute.org ; Holocaust Museum ushmm.org/research/collections/photo ; Jewish Museum London jewishmuseum.org.uk ; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Dispersed Jews in the Roman Empire

The relations between Romans and Jews scattered through the cities of the Roman Empire were less than cordial. Anti-Semitism was a common feature of Roman life. Under Hadrian, Jews who gazed on the ruins of the Temple faced a punishment of death. Constantine allowed wailing there once a year.


ancient synagogue in Ostia Antica near Rome

The Romans demanded that their gods be worshipped, but at the same time they received the local gods. The reason the Jews and Christian were persecuted is that they presented a threat and refused to worship the Roman gods. Judaism and Christianity were not the only religions in the Roman empire. Mithraism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism and many others were practiced. There were lots of other strange religions around--- Manichaeans, Donatist, Pelagians, Arians. Subjects from all religions were expected to make sacrifices to the Roman gods and worship the Roman emperor as a god.

As the Christian religion grew, Jewish Christian converts worked to convince the Romans that their religion was different from militant Judaism. As time went on, the Romans were absolved of any guilt involving Jesus's death and the blame was placed on the Jews who handed him over to the Romans.

Some of the Jews in Italy were probably descendants of 5,000 captive Jews the Emperor Titus brought to Italy after the destruction of the Second Temple. But most are thought to have settled even before that because of the importance of Israel as a maritime trading center. A headstone of a grave found in Italy, dated to A.D. 1st century, thought to belong to a 25-year-old female, Jewish household slave reads: “Claudia Aster, captive of Jerusalem. Tiberius Claudius Proculus, imperial freeman, took care of the epitaph. I make sure through the law that you take care that no one casts down my inscription.”

Jewish Population in Rome and Ostia

L. Michael White wrote: “There are very large Jewish communities in some of the major Roman cities. Rome itself, seems to have something on the order of ten different synagogue congregations, and the Jewish population of the city of Rome at its zenith was perhaps 100,000. Unfortunately, we have no archaeological evidence of the actual synagogue buildings themselves from the city of Rome but fortunately, a recent archaeological discovery from the nearby port city of Ostia, shows us one such congregation, in its very real setting. [Source: L. Michael White: Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“When you go through the city of Ostia, you're seeing a kind of microcosm of the city of Rome, in the first century. It's a little Rome, and as you go down the main streets of Ostia, and you go out the gate near the harbor, down the road, you find a little building just off to the side, and as you go in, you find a hall for assembly. From the outside, this building looks like any other along that street. You wouldn't know it's ... a place of worship for a Jewish community until you go inside and look at the carvings over the arches that show us a menorah. This is a Jewish synagogue. It may date from the very end of the first century and is one of the earliest that we know of, from the Diaspora.<>

“So, here's a Jewish congregation through several generations trying to maintain its its life, its identity, in a major Roman city. It's interesting that ... right adjacent to the hall of assembly, is a kitchen and a dining room. Apparently, they too had fellowship dinners. Apparently, they too were engaged in an active social life.<>

Jewish Catacombs in Rome: A Great Source


Jewish catacombs in Venosa

L. Michael White wrote: “One of our best sources of information about the Jewish community at Rome comes from their burial places. There are several important Jewish catacombs, and they've yielded hundreds of inscriptions that tell us the names and identity of the numbers of the Jewish congregations in Rome. They're a mixed lot. Some of them seem to be predominantly Aramaic speaking, and don't know much Greek, but the vast majority used Greek and a few even know Latin. What they show us is how thoroughly integrated the Jewish communities were in the social life of Rome. They participate in all aspects of commerce and trade. They are busy organizing their community life. We hear of people who are the mothers or fathers of the synagogues, meaning they're the ones who actually build the buildings and support the congregations. We hear of the leadership of the Jewish groups. So, we find these Jewish communities really trying to maintain their identity, just like any immigrant group would have expected to do in their new locality. [Source: L. Michael White: Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

Shaye I.D. Cohen: of Brown University told PBS: “The Greek word "diaspora" means a scattering. And indeed there was a scattering of Jews throughout the known Greek and Roman world from the third century B.C. and on down. There's a famous utterance by Strabo, a Greek geographer of the late first century, B.C., who says that you can't go anywhere in the civilized world without encountering a Jew. And by his time this certainly was true. There were large Jewish communities in Egypt, especially in Alexandria, but even throughout the countryside, up the Nile Valley. There were large Jewish communities in Syria, a very large one in the city of Antioch, but throughout Syria, and there were numerous Jewish communities throughout Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, just as there were Jewish communities in Greece and throughout the Italian peninsula, most especially of course in the city of Rome. Even further west, we know about Jews in southern France, and Jews in Marseilles and perhaps even Jews in Spain.... [Source:Shaye I.D. Cohen, Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“It's interesting to note that early Christianity first spread in those areas where there was a Jewish presence. That is, it spreads in Egypt, it spreads in Syria, it spreads in Asia Minor, it spreads in Greece and Italy. These are precisely areas where we know there were Jewish communities, there were Jewish synagogues and there were Jews in number scattered throughout all these areas. Presumably the earliest Christian travellers and missionaries like Paul would begin their travels by obviously approaching their brethren, approaching their fellow Jews, and converting some of them to the new path or the new religion, if I may use that word, or the new way of thinking, and perhaps using these communities as springboards from which to get access to the non-Jews in these very areas also. It's clear, then, that the Diaspora communities formed the Jewish network which early Christians as Jews were able to use for their own purposes.<>

Jewish Identity and the Diaspora


menorah from a Jewish catacomb in Venosa

Paula Fredriksen of Boston University told PBS: “The Jewish way of constructing reality is through the Bible. And the center of gravity in the Jewish Bible, what pulls the story along, is getting to the land of Israel. So the land of Israel, the promise of land to Abraham, the importance of the land, the holiness that goes along with the land, is embedded in Jewish historical imagination through the medium of the Bible. This means that religiously and socially, any place outside the land is, in a sense, not home for a Jew, even if Jews can live for generations in other cities. [Source: Paula Fredriksen: William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“The Jewish designation... for territory other than the land of Israel, is the Diaspora. And by the time of the first century, there were probably then, as now, more Jews living outside the land of Israel than within the land of Israel. There's a very energetic Jewish population in Babylon since the destruction of the first temple. There is a very wealthy, vigorous Jewish population living in the major cities around the Mediterranean. And that population, which is speaking Greek, which is the matrix of the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible, which becomes eventually the seedbed of Christianity ... to make the idea of Israel available to Greek readers ... to liberate it, in a sense, from its native language.<>

“Nonetheless, despite the wide dispersion of Jewish population throughout the Roman Empire and in the east, Jews are bound together imaginatively and socially by the calendar. Jews have this trans-local imaginative community. They have every seventh day off ... they're the ones who have the weekend in antiquity. They have the Sabbath, which is a time, typically, for the community to gather wherever it is, whether they're in a village in the Galilee, or in a suburb of Rome, and hear the law read... they have the great pilgrimage holidays. They have the calendar of the Jewish liturgical year. And therefore, Jewish populations in the Diaspora would also journey home even if their actual home was Alexandria or Rome or any place in Asia Minor. Their spiritual home and their historical home was Israel, and specifically, Jerusalem.<>

All Jews Relate to the Temple

Shaye I.D. Cohen of Brown University told PBS: “The Jewish historian, Josephus, has a very memorable line. He says, "one temple, for the one God." The Jews saw themselves as a unique people, with the one God alone... there's one God of this one special people, one temple, and that's a very powerful idea, reflecting accurately, I think, the historical truth that the temple was a very powerful unifying source, within the Jewish community.... [Source: “Shaye I.D. Cohen: Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“At the same time, the temple also serves as a source of division and a source of conflict in the Jewish community. Many, many Jews were unhappy with the way the priests ran the temple. The priests did not obey the purity laws properly. They didn't follow the right calendar. They didn't perform the sacrifices properly. The priests themselves were insufficiently pious. Their marriages were somehow illicit or improper. The priests used the office for self-aggrandizement, for self-advantage. They were somehow were making themselves wealthier at the expense of the community and on and on and on. We hear a series of such complaints about the priests, many of the them in the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of them found in Rabbinic literature, but some of course, as anybody who reads the Bible knows, going back to the prophets, even in Biblical times, complaining about the priests of the temple.... Nonetheless, it's clear among all the numerous groups within the Jewish community of the 1st century, that all of them, to justify themselves, have to some degree or other deal with the temple. They have to either explain why the priests are wrong and they are right, or they have to explain that the priests are correct but =they're only correct, insofar as they agree with what this group itself believes.... You can see that among virtually all the groups in Jewish society in the 1st century of our era.<>

Synagogues in the Jewish Diaspora

Shaye I.D. Cohen: of Brown University wrote: “The word "synagogue" is a Greek word, it means a gathering or an assembly, or perhaps a congregation. The synagogue, then, was the point of communal organization of the Jews in the Diaspora. Wherever you have a sufficient number of Jews, you would have a Jewish community. Wherever you would have a Jewish community you would have a Jewish synagogue. The synagogue, then in part, is a community building or a community place, a place where Jews would gather to discuss matters of communal concern. Sort of like a New England town square, where the citizens would gather regularly to discuss issues of importance. Among the issues that they would discuss, of course, Jews would discuss Judaism. That is to say they would discuss their sacred texts. Many of our sources tell us that Jews would gather in synagogues regularly, perhaps every Saturday on the Sabbath, or perhaps more often than that, in order to read the laws, to read the Torah, the sacred book of Moses and to expound upon it. And any reader of the New Testament knows that this is what Jesus did in the homeland, in the Galilee, entering the synagogues on the Sabbath and expounding the scriptures. And of course, we also know this from Paul, that in his travels in Asia Minor, Paul routinely went to seek out the local synagogue and therein to teach the scriptures from his peculiar perspective, but teach the scriptures to the Jewish community. So something else that happens there in a synagogue then in these public gatherings will be the communal study of the sacred texts, specifically of the Torah. We imagine also that they probably will have prayed, together... [Source:Shaye I.D. Cohen, Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]


Diaspora synagogues in Antiquity


“According to the New Testament, another remarkable feature of the synagogues in the Diaspora is not only that they attracted large crowds of people, but among these crowds will have been gentiles. Gentiles apparently found these synagogues to be interesting or a place worth visiting, perhaps because they enjoyed hearing the philosophical type discussions about God, or perhaps they enjoyed hearing things being sung or chanted. We don't know exactly why gentiles found these places attractive; modern scholars too readily assume it's because these people were somehow believers of Judaism, or somehow were half converts... as if there's no other rational explanation why gentiles would want to go to a synagogue if they were not almost converting to Judaism. But the fact is there are many reasons why gentiles may have come.... Gentiles found the Jewish synagogues and the Jews themselves apparently open, interesting, attractive, friendly and why not go to the Jewish synagogue, especially because there are no non-Jewish analogs. There's nothing equivalent to this communal experience anywhere in pagan or Greek or Roman religions. And we shouldn't be surprised if it would have attracted curious, well intentioned by-standers, who may have come in to witness, or perhaps even participate to some degree in what was going on.<>

Diversity of Judaism

L. Michael White of the University of Texas told PBS: “It would be a mistake to think of Judaism in this period as a state religion, even though the temple is the centerpiece of Jewish life and of Jewish worship. There's no such thing as a state church. It's not a monolithic religious or cultural entity at this time. Indeed, what we're seeing more and more through the research and the archaeological discoveries, is how diverse Judaism was in this period. So we see different groups, such as the Sadducees and the Pharisees. We also see a number of new religious texts and new practices starting to develop. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“For example, let's not forget that the Holy Day, the festival of Hanukkah, was a relatively new holiday celebration at the time of Jesus. It had only been around for something like a hundred years. But it shows some of the new ideas, the new experiences that Jews have had to overcome in that time. And so, we're watching a religious tradition that is itself still going through certain changes. Some of those changes were met with a view of optimism and progress. Some people, though, might not have liked them. And so, this sets the stage for what we see as some of the tension and some of the controversy that also surrounds the temple. So the interesting thing about the temple in the days of Jesus is that on the one hand, it's a grand, new place. It's the center of life and worship. It's the showpiece of Jewish tradition. And yet, it could also be a center of controversy and tension. <>

“One of the best examples of the ...the kind of diversity and vibrantly different thought that's at work in Judaism in this period is, of course now, what we know from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.<>

Pharisees, Saduccees, Revolutionaries, and Plain Jews

Shaye I.D. Cohen: of Brown University wrote: “In the first century of our era there were many sects and schools in Jewish society. We hear about the Essenes, of course, the Jews of Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, who separated themselves from the community at large and clearly constituted a sect, a group which thought it alone possessed the truth. Whether there were other sects or not it's hard to tell. We know instead about other groups or schools or movements or parties.... The most conspicuous of these parties or schools will be the Pharisees. The Pharisees are known to everybody from the New Testament where they enjoy a very negative press. They clearly are seen as the opponents of Jesus and "the bad guys." Who the Pharisees really were is a different question entirely, once we get past the Jewish polemic, the anti-Pharisee polemic of the gospels. And we realize the Pharisees were a conspicuous Jewish group. They seem to have been a scholarly group or a group of Jews who, as Josephus the historian says, had a reputation as the most meticulous observers of the ancestral laws. [Source: “Shaye I.D. Cohen, Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]


Pharisees and Sadduccees Come to Tempt Jesus

“ So here is a group which claim expertise [in] understanding the Torah of Moses and claimed expertise in the observance of the laws. And apparently most Jews were prepared to accept that claim.... Their opponents, of course, were the Sadducees, who were no less pious than the Pharisees, but the Sadducees did not believe in the authoritative nature of the ancestral laws. What did the Sadducees do then, exactly, we don't really know. Except the Sadducees apparently had a great deal of following among the well-to-do, among the priestly classes, and seem to have been characterized primarily by two things. One, they opposed the Pharisees and two, they denied belief in the resurrection of the dead, a belief that the Pharisees espoused and the Sadducees denied. And this, of course, made the Sadducees famous as we see very clearly in the New Testament passages where the only thing in the gospels you know about the Sadducees is basically that they deny the belief in the resurrection. <>

“But aside from these groups that we may call schools or parties - the Pharisees appear to us to be a school and the Sadducees appear to us to be a party, a social-political party - there will have been a whole wide variety of other groups in Jerusalem and perhaps in the countryside as a whole. Some of these are political movements..., the revolutionary groups, Sicarii and the Zealots and whatnot, who took their religious understanding of what Judaism was, took their religious interpretations and turned that into a political agenda. "We must destroy the Roman Empire or we must destroy Jews who cooperate with the Roman Empire. We will kill all collaborators, no King but God," and other such slogans emerge from these religious thinkers.<>

“And of course, the most important group of all are not the Pharisees, not the Sadducees, not the Essenes, not the revolutionaries, but the plain Jews. Plain simple folk who presumably live their Jewish lives by following the ways that they'd always done, whatever mother or father had taught them, that's what they do themselves. We may call [this] perhaps "simple piety." The Jews who observe the Sabbath, who observe the holidays, the festivals, who go with the pilgrimage to temple, who observe the Jewish food laws, the Jewish rituals, believe in the Jewish God, follow the ways by which to make the life holy, follow the dictates of the Torah in a kind of simple plain way, these are the plain folk and these are the folk who are not Pharisees, not Sadducees, but simply plain Jews. And we get a glimpse of some of them in the pages of the New Testament. But these are probably the most numerous of all and the most important of all.<>

Saducees, Pharisees, Essenes, "Insurrectionists"

Paula Fredriksen of Boston University told PBS: “[Josephus' two books] are two of our prime sources for the history of this period. And Josephus gives a kind of catalog for what the major groups are within first century Judaism.... He talks about the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes. He also mentions another group, [for whom] my label is Insurrectionists. That's not his term for it, but he attributes to this group of people the rebelliousness and weariness with Rome that ultimately led to the Great War against Rome in 66 to 70, eventuating in the destruction of the Temple. It's hard to tell exactly how close Josephus' descriptions are to what these groups actually believed and thought. The Sadducees are usually associated with aristocratic Priests, therefore they're in Jerusalem. They seem to not have thought that there was resurrection of the dead, which by this period is almost a normative belief in Judaism. And, since they were Priests, much of their religious interests focused on the smooth operation of the Temple, as is right, because that was their responsibility. [Source: Paula Fredriksen, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]


John the Baptist and the Pharisees

“Pharisees, on the other hand, were a school of interpretation of Biblical text.... Priests are family groups in Judaism. If you have a friend named Cohen, that means he's a priest. So one is born a priest. One can't choose to become a priest, unlike most other religious groupings in antiquity. But, if somebody is born a priest, he could decide to interpret the Bible according to a Pharisaic tradition, and that's what happened. These are not absolute boundaries. These are permeable identifications. Josephus, for example, this historian we have is from a Jerusalem-like, priestly, aristocratic family, but he aligns himself with the Pharisees, which is one of the reasons why he praises them so much in his books.<>

“The Essenes are another group of people very concerned with purity. There is a lot of purity ritual associated with them. Josephus and another first century historian and writer, Philo, talk about the Essenes as being a philosophic community [with] communal property. There was a group within the Essenes who were celibate. What's interesting is that this is the community that's also represented by the Dead Sea Scroll library. And, given what we now know about them, as a result of finding that library, we can measure the distance between a respectful description by somebody who's not an Essene, and what the Essenes were actually up to. The Essenes, themselves, were very apocalyptic. They were very concerned with purity. They were so concerned about the holiness of the Temple that at least the ones in Qumran had a reputation of not going up there at all....<>

“But how many people are we actually talking about?... [W]e have no way of testing [Josephus'] numbers, but if they're like any other kind of guess done either by a modern newspaper or by an ancient historian, they're not absolute. He mentions ... I'm not absolutely certain. I think his figures are like 6000 Pharisees, 4000 Essenes...maybe there were 20,000 Priests. Of those Priests, how many were aristocrats and therefore Sadducees? I don't know ... but a fraction of that. So that doesn't give us very many Jews actually accounted for. But there were millions of Jews in antiquity, which means that most people belonged to none of these groups. Who were these people? What did they think? We don't know because we only have the evidence for the groups that have articulated ideologies. I think we have to assume that most Jews who did not associate with one group or the other did the best they could interpreting what they thought was leading a Jewish life according to how the Bible happened to be interpreted in their neighborhood. Again, this is the vast majority of Jews, and as is the case with most populations in history, it's a silent majority because we don't have written evidence from them.<>

Self Definition for Jews in the Second Century

Shaye I.D. Cohen of Brown University told PBS: “The second century of our era was an age of definition not just for Christianity but also for Judaism. In Christianity, of course, the second century of the common era is a time of sects and heresies and divisions and splits and schools of all sorts as Christians try to figure out exactly what Christianity is and exactly what Christianity isn't. On the Jewish side of the fence, we don't hear much about conflicting sects or heresies. Most of them seem to have disappeared in the wake of his destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. So we don't hear about then conflicting parties the way we do on the Christian side. [Source: “Shaye I.D. Cohen: Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

But nonetheless, I think we can still call the second century of our era an age of definition, even on the Jewish side. Because it is the second century of our era that marks the emergence for the first time into the light of history of a new group and a new culture and a new literature and a new way of thinking and writing. We call the people rabbis and we call their Judaism "Rabbinic" texts or "Rabbinic" literature.... It is the rabbis who now emerge as a new kind of Judaism, and it is this Judaism that will endure from the second century of our era down to our own age. <>

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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