Relations between Jews and non-Jews in the Hellenistic-Roman period were marked by suspicion and hate, maintain most studies of that topic. But if such conjectures are true, asks Louis Feldman, how did Jews succeed in winning so many adherents, whether full-fledged proselytes or "sympathizers" who adopted one or more Jewish practices? Systematically evaluating attitudes toward Jews from the time of Alexander the Great to the fifth century A.D., Feldman finds that Judaism elicited strongly positive and not merely unfavorable responses from the non-Jewish population. Jews were a vigorous presence in the ancient world, and Judaism was strengthened substantially by the development of the Talmud. Although Jews in the Diaspora were deeply Hellenized, those who remained in Israel were able to resist the cultural inroads of Hellenism and even to initiate intellectual counterattacks. Feldman draws on a wide variety of material, from Philo, Josephus, and other Graeco-Jewish writers through the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Church Councils, Church Fathers, and imperial decrees to Talmudic and Midrashic writings and inscriptions and papyri.
What emerges is a rich description of a long era to which conceptions of Jewish history as uninterrupted weakness and suffering do not apply.
Louis H. Feldman is Professor of Classics at Yeshiva University. Among his works is Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1937-1980).
PrefaceCh. 1Contacts between Jews and Non-Jews in the Land of Israel3Ch. 2The Strength of Judaism in the Diaspora45Ch. 3Official Anti-Jewish Bigotry: The Responses of Governments to the Jews84Ch. 4Popular Prejudice against Jews107Ch. 5Prejudice against Jews among Ancient Intellectuals123Ch. 6The Attractions of the Jews: Their Antiquity177Ch. 7The Attractions of the Jews: The Cardinal Virtues201Ch. 8The Attractions of the Jews: The Ideal Leader, Moses233Ch. 9The Success of Proselytism by Jews in the Hellenistic and Early Roman Periods288Ch. 10The Success of Jews in Winning "Sympathizers"342Ch. 11Proselytism by Jews in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Centuries383Ch. 12Conclusion416Abbreviations447Notes461Bibliography587Indexes621Names and Subjects646Geographical Place-Names662Greek, Latin, and Hebrew and Aramaic Words664Modern Scholars672