Harvard University

Shaye J. D. Cohen

History 1091 (JS 125) (HDS 1462) (Catalog Number: 6035)

Fall 2005  (TuTh 10:00 -11:30)




 Jewish History in the Second- and Post- Temple Periods


Course Description: A survey of Jewish history in antiquity from the Persian period (5th century BCE) to the Byzantine period (5th century CE). Topics include: political accommodation and resistance; Hellenism; the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great; the effects of Roman rule; Pharisees, Qumran, Christians; unity and diversity; the destruction of the temple and its aftermath; the emergence of rabbinic Judaism; homeland and diaspora.

Course requirements: to complete the assigned readings in a timely manner and to submit on time the written work (see below).  There will be a final examination.  Please feel free to see me at any point during the term in order to discuss the course, the readings, your written work, or anything else.

The grade for this course will be determined by the quality of the written work, as follows: two short papers (20% each, total 40%); one short research paper (30%); final examination (30%).


Please note that the course will meet in reading week.


This syllabus is work in progress; there will be modifications as the term progresses.


How to contact me: scohen@fas.harvard.edu; 617 496-6422.  My office: NELC (Semitic Museum), 6 Divinity Avenue, rm 105 (inside the NELC office)

Office Hours: TuTh 11:30-1:00


TAs for the course: Yehuda Kurtzer (kurtzer@gmail.com)



Books you will need to purchase (available at the Harvard COOP):

Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (University of California Press, 1999; ISBN: 0520218434)

Schiffman, Texts and Traditions: A Source Reader (Ktav, 1997; ISBN: 088125455X)

NB: this is not From Text to Tradition, by the same author.  Do not confuse the two.

Schäfer, The History of the Jews in the Greco-Roman World (Routledge, 2003; ISBN: 041530587X)

Schwartz, Imperialism And Jewish Society (Princeton  University Press, 2004; ISBN: 0691117810)

The Jewish Bible (Old Testament) and the Christian Bible (New Testament) will be useful on occasion. These are easily accessible online.



Some websites which may be interesting or helpful:


http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Interpretation.htm Bible interpretation

http://myweb.lmu.edu/fjust/ (NT, Jesus, early Christianity)


http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/JewishJesus/ (Jewish accounts of Jesus)

http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/bibkitot.html (ancient Jewish sectarianism)

http://www.hum.huji.ac.il/dinur/ (Dinur Center for Jewish History)

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/jewhist.html (ancient Jewish history)

http://www.pohick.org/sts/ (second temple synagogues)





Introduction to Ancient Judaism and the themes of the course 9/20


The Persian period: Cyrus, Ezra, Nehemiah, Elephantine  9/22

http://www.livius.org/ct-cz/cyrus_I/babylon01.html (Cyrus and Babylon)

Schiffman, Texts 3.1-3; 3.5. 


The Hellenistic period (LXX, Egypt, diaspora, pre-Hasmonean Judea) 9/27

Schäfer, History 1-25

Barclay 19-34



Schiffman, Texts 4.1; 4.2.1-4; 4.3; 4.4.1; 7.2.1-2


Hasmonean rebellion 9/29

Schäfer, History 27-63

Schwartz 19-36

Schiffman, Texts 4.6; 6.1.1-3; 4.4.2-3; 13.3.10-11


no session 10/4 RH.


Hasmonean dynasty 10/6

Schäfer, History 65-80


Barclay 35-47

Schiffman, Texts 6.1.4-9; 8.1.1

Schwartz 36-44


Herod and Romans 10/11

Schäfer, History 81-119

Schwartz 44-48



Schiffman, Texts 8.2.1; 8.3.2


no session 10/13 YK


no session 10/18 Sukkot


“Common Judaism”I  10/20  First paper due

John M. G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora 399-444

Schiffman, Texts 3.7.1


no session 10/25 Sukkot


“Common Judaism” II: Deviance and the limits of community 10/27

Schwartz 49-99

Examples of community discipline:

·        Trial of Jesus: Mark 14:1‑15:47 or Matthew 26:1‑27:66 or Luke 22:1‑23:56

·        Jesus son of Ananus the prophet: Josephus, Jewish War 6.288-309

·        stoning of Stephen: Acts 6:8-7:60

·        Paul as persecutor: Acts: 8:1-3, 9:1-22; 22:1-52; 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13-17

·        Expulsion from synagogue: John 9:22, 34; 12:42; 16:2

·        Paul as persecuted: 2 Corinthians 11:24;

·        We will not be able to study any of these texts in detail, but make sure that you are familiar with at least the first two examples


Pharisees 11/1

Schiffman, Texts 6.2 and 10.2

Steve Mason, Flavius Josephus and the Pharisees”

(available at http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Flavius_Josephus.htm)

Steve Mason, “Current Scholarship on the Pharisees”

Steve Mason, “Pharisaic Dominance before 70 C.E. and the Gospels' Hypocrisy Charge

http://www2.evansville.edu/ecoleweb/articles/pharisees.html (Pharisees)

http://www2.evansville.edu/ecoleweb/articles/sadducees.html (Sadducees)


Jesus movement 11/3

Barclay 381-395 (on Paul)

From Jesus to Christ at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/


Qumran 11/8



Schiffman, Texts 6.3; 7.3


Alexandria: Extreme allegorizers; Philo  11/10

Barclay 82-124, 158-180; browse 125-158.

Schiffman, Texts 5.6.6


Anti Judaism, philo Judaism, troubles in Alexandria 11/15

Barclay 48-81

http://www.livius.org/am-ao/antisemitism/antisemitism-t.html (Tacitus on the Jews)

Schiffman, Texts 5.2 and 5.3 and 5.4.2 and 5.5


Zealots, Sicarii, etc. 11/17 Second Paper Due

Who is Josephus?  Barclay 346-368

http://www.livius.org/jo-jz/josephus/josephus.htm (who is Josephus)

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=49&letter=Z (K. Kohler on Zealots)

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=681&letter=S (Sicarii)

Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.xx; Jewish War 7.xxx

Schiffman, Texts 9.5


Wars 11/22

Schäfer History 121-161

http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar03.html (war of 66-70)

http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar04.html  (destruction of Jerusalem)

http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar05.html (masada)

http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar06.html (war against Trajan)

http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar07.html (Bar Kokhba War)

Schiffman, Texts 9.1-2, 9.6; 11.1.2-3


no session 11/24 Thanksgiving


The second and third centuries; Yavneh and Usha; the patriarch; Bet Shearim 11/29

Schäfer 163-175

Schiffman, Texts 10.1-3


The Mishnah and early rabbinic literature 12/1

Schiffman, Texts 10.4-7; 13.2; 13.3.1



no session 12/6


Judaism and Christianity in the second and third centuries 12/8

Larry Hurtado, on the divinization of Jesus in early Christianity

(available at http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Devotion_to_Jesus.htm)

Daniel Boyarin, “The Gospel of the Memra,” Harvard Theological Review 94 (2001) 243-284.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ (perhaps Ignatius, Justin, Tertullian)


Schiffman, Texts  8.5-6


The rabbis and society  12/13

Schwartz 103-176


The fourth century and beyond 12/15  Third Paper Due  

Schäfer History 176-197

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/jewish/jews-romanlaw.html (Jews and later Roman Law)

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/jewish/julian-jews.html (Julian and the Jews)

Schiffman, Texts, 11.2 and 11.3.6-14


session 12/20


Talmud, talmudic culture, Midrash 1/3 (reading period) 


Schiffman, Texts 12.1-5; 13.9


Judaism and Christianity in the fourth century and beyond 1/5 (reading period)

Schwartz 179-214

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html (Chrysostom on the Jews) (excerpts)

Schiffman, Texts 5.4.3 (Aphrodisias)


Synagogues and rabbis  1/10

Schwartz 215-289

Schiffman, Texts 5.4.2, 9.3;


Final session 1/12


WRITTEN WORK FOR History 1091 (JS 125) (HDS 1462)

Jewish History in the Second and Post-Temple Period


In addition to completing the assigned readings for each session, you will need to submit three essays in the course of the term.  The first essay is a brief treatment of an important person from the period covered by the course.  The second essay is a brief treatment of an important institution, community, or aspect of Jewish life.  Here are some suggestions:

                   Person: Alexander the Great, Zenon (Zenon Papyri), Tobiah (the Tobiads), Judah the Maccabee, Jonathan, Simon, John Hyrcanus, Aristobulus I, Alexander Jannaeus, Salome Alexandra, Hyrcanus II, Aristobulus II, Antipater, Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Herod Antipas, Cleopatra, Caligula, Nero, Hillel, Shammai, Yohanan ben Zakkai, Gamaliel (the Elder), John of Gischala, Simon b. Giora, Judas the Galilean, Josephus, Hadrian, Simeon Bar Kokhba (Kosba), Rabbi Akiva, Aher (Elisha ben Abuyah), Justin Martyr, Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, Origen, Constantine, Julian, Theodosius, John Chrysostom


                   Institution, community, and realia of life: the temple in Jerusalem, the Temple in Heliopolis (Leontopolis), sanhedrin, synagogue(s), marriage, divorce, scribes, elders, schools, literacy, women, clothing, Roman provincial administration, family, languages, education, observance of purity rules, priests, high priests, burial, conversion to Judaism, conversion from Judaism, Jews of Syria, Jews of Rome, Jews of Asia Minor, Jews of North Africa, Samaritans, Zealots, Sicarii, Therapeutae, Ebionites (“Jewish Christians”), Aphrodisias, Dura Europus


For either topic you may substitute a report on any relevant ancient book or archaeological site.


The essays should be short (ca. 5 pages) and do not necessarily need to argue or sustain a thesis.  If you use a  web site as one of your sources, which of course you may do, list it in the bibliography (as you would any other source) and explain briefly after the listing why you think that this website purveys reliable information. If you use a  book or article as one of your sources, which of course you may do, list it in the bibliography (as you would any other source) and explain briefly after the listing why you think that this book or article purveys reliable information.


The first paper is due 10/20; the second is due 11/17. 


The third paper is a research paper on any topic of your choice related to Jews and Judaism in the second temple or rabbinic periods; it may be an investigation into some topic or question connected with one of your first two papers.  It is a research paper in the sense that it needs to sustain a thesis or answer a question. This paper may be as long as you like, but it need not be longer than 5-7 pages.   It is due 12/15.


There will also be a take home final exam.


I strongly encourage you to speak to me or a TA before working on any of these papers.