ARCHIVISTS AND HISTORIANS: The Times They Are A-Changin'* by Patrick M Quinn

By Patrick M Quinn

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In spite of these four exceptions, the basic political stance of the Jews of both the land of Israel and the diaspora was not rebellion but accommodation. T h e Jews must support the state until God sees fit to redeem them. This was the counsel of Jeremiah in the sixth century B . C . E . , ofJosephus in the first century C . E . , and of the rabbis of the second through the twentieth centuries C . E . This advice was accepted by the masses of the Jews throughout antiquity. T h e only principled rejection of it was by the Sicarii and assorted other grouos in the first century.

The Jews also buried their dead separately, thus maintaining separation from gentiles in death as in life. They refused to participate in public ceremonies that involved worship either of the pagan gods or of the emperor; in other words, they refused to participate in practically all the communal events of ancient society. The pagan empires tolerated this behavior; Julius Caesar even exempted the Jews from appearing in court on the Sabbath and from serving in the army. In the polyethnic Hellenistic and Roman empires, national distinctiveness and loyalty to ancestral customs were not unusual, but the Jews carried their separateness to unusual lengths.

In a polytheistic world they could not believe in monotheism, in a society that revered philosophy they could not accept revelation, and in a universal culture they could not remain distinct. These three categories of apostasy are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes 42 From the Maccabees to the Mishnah it is hard to determine precisely which motives were operative in any given case; indeed, sometimes it is hard to determine whether the term "apostate" is appropriate at all. During the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes a group of Jews known to modern scholarship as "the extreme Hellenizers" tried to remove the distinctive characteristics of Judaism and to make it indistinguishable from other forms of Semitic-Hellenistic polytheism.

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