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Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society?: Reciprocity and by Seth Schwartz

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By Seth Schwartz

How good built-in have been Jews within the Mediterranean society managed through historic Rome? The Torah's legislation appear to represent a rejection of the reciprocity-based social dependency and emphasis on honor that have been wide-spread within the old Mediterranean international. yet have been Jews quite a humans aside, and outdoors of this commonly shared tradition? have been the Jews a Mediterranean Society? argues that Jewish social family in antiquity have been lively via a center stress among biblical cohesion and exchange-based social values corresponding to patronage, vassalage, formal friendship, and debt slavery.Seth Schwartz's examinations of the knowledge of Ben Sira, the writings of Josephus, and the Palestinian Talmud exhibit that Jews have been extra deeply implicated in Roman and Mediterranean bonds of reciprocity and honor than is usually assumed. Schwartz demonstrates how Ben Sira juxtaposes exhortations to biblical piety with hard-headed and possible contradictory recommendation approximately dealing with the risks of social kinfolk with non-Jews; how Josephus describes Jews as basically countercultural; but how the Talmudic rabbis think Jews have thoroughly internalized Roman norms even as the rabbis search to arouse resistance to these norms, no matter if it is just symbolic.Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society? is the 1st entire exploration of Jewish social integration within the Roman global, one who poses difficult new questions on the very nature of Mediterranean tradition.

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Extra resources for Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society?: Reciprocity and Solidarity in Ancient Judaism

Sample text

The Problem with Mediterraneanism Said’s orientalism. It would be misleading to say that as a result of Herzfeld’s work—which was part of a growing discomfort among anthropologists and others with functionalism, large-scale reductive normative models, “grands récits,” and everything that smacked of imperialism, both actual and metaphorical—mediterraneanism died, but it certainly seems to have faded in importance among anthropologists (if not among travel and food writers). 8 This is important for my purposes, because I too will be seeking continuities—though also differences—across the ancient religious boundaries between Jews and pagans.

None of these texts addresses reciprocity in a cultural vacuum. All of them, like the Hebrew Bible itself, understand the relationships they are concerned with as embedded in various complexes of cultural practice, and here is where mediterraneanism enters the picture, because the cultural complexes they write about bear a striking resemblance to the historical and ethnographic construct (as I think we must describe it). In particular the sense of honor or shame, a central concept in mediterraneanist ethnography, plays a peculiarly important but very varied role in each of these texts: Ben Sira, who associates it with domination, embraces honor but insists it is conferred by wisdom or piety above all; Josephus claims the Jews reject it; rabbinic texts (which also tend to associate it with domination) display great anxiety and confusion about it.

Or, to put it differently, a complex society that possesses no ideological foundation beyond gratitude and loyalty to benefactors and kinspeople will in short order dissolve into its segments. Solidarity based on ideals rather than exchange was an important feature even of states that embraced reciprocity as a fundamental value. For example, though benefaction and gratitude were crucial components of the Roman system, the success of the Roman state lay precisely in its ability to organize this sense of personal loyalty pyramidally: modest subjects were expected to feel gratitude toward benefactors (governors, senators, emperors) who had given them nothing, whom they had never even seen.

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