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Discussing the biblical historiography of images of the Jew in the ancinet world

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

ABBREVIATIONS........................................................................ .........3 1. 0 INTRODUCTION...........................................................................3 1.1 JEWS IN THE DIASPORA...............................................................4 i. Exiles in Babylon ................................................................. .........4 ii. Jews in Egypt................................................................................5 iii. The effects of the conquests of Cyrus...................................................6 iv. Discussion....................................................................................6 1.2 SOURCES..................................................................................7 i. Sources for Babylonian history..........................................................7 ii. Sources for Persian history...............................................................8 1.3 VERSIONS OF THE BOOKS............................................................11 i. Septuagint.................................................................................11 ii Vulgate.....................................................................................11 iii Apocrypha.................................................................................11 1.4 SUMMARY OF OBJECTIVES..........................................................12 2.0 DANIEL......................................................................................12 2.1 Background and scholarly debate.........................................................12 2.2 Stories of the wise courtier.................................................................16 2.3 Faithful Jew..................................................................................17 2.4 Visions of apocalypse.........................................................................19 2.5 Discussion.....................................................................................20 3.0 ESTHER....................................................................................21 3.1 Background and scholarly debate.........................................................21. 3.2 A Jewish Queen?.....................................................................................................22 3.3 Concubines...................................................................................23 3.4 Feasting.......................................................................................25 3.5 Love and power..............................................................................26 4.0 MORDECHAI..............................................................................29 4.1 The kings benefactors.......................................................................29 4.2 How should a man be honored............................................................30 4.3 At the king's gate..........................................................................32 4.4 Discussion..................................................................................33 5.0 NEHEMIAH...............................................................................34 5.1 Composition, dating and versions.....................................................34 5.2 Cupbearer.................................................................................36 5.3 Governor.................................................................................37 5.4 Discussion...............................................................................39 9.0 SUMMARY AND CONCLUDING NOTES....................................40 IMAGES 1 and 2 43 3 and 4............................................................................................44 5...................................................................................................45 6....................................................................................................46 BIBLIOGRAPHY.................................................................................47 Abbreviations ANE Kuhrt, A. (1995) - The ancient Near east, Routledge AEN Myers, J. M. (1965) - The Anchor Bible - Ezra, Nehemiah , Doubleday ICCE Paton, L. B. (1951) - The International Critical Commentary, Esther, Edinburgh ICCEN Batten, L.W. (1949) - The international Critical Commentary, Nzra and Nehemiah, Edinburgh WAP Brosius, M (2002) - Women in ancient Persia (559- 331 BC), Oxford BCA Briant, P. (2002) - From Cyrus To Alexander,. Eisenbrauns 1. Introduction Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 and during the reign of Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon, deported from Jerusalem all but the poorest in the land. Kings II recounts: "24:14 He [ Nebuchadnezzar] deported all the residents of Jerusalem, including all the officials and all the soldiers (10,000 people in all), This included all the craftsmen and those who worked with metal, no one was left except the poorest among the people that were on the land. 24:15 He deported Jehoiachin from Jerusalem to Babylon, along with the king's mother and wives his Eunuchs and the high ranking officials of the land 24:16 The King of Babylon deported to Babylon all the soldiers (there were 7000) ...read more.

Middle

Speculation leads one to wonder if the reason why Amasis thought it unlikely that his daughter would become a legitimate royal wife was because she was Egyptian. On the other hand, we know that there was no issue with appointing foreign women to be royal concubines. At the palace of the Lydian satrap, Themistocles tried to gain the favor of the satrap's concubines (Plut. The. 31.2cf. Brosius 32). The women had allegedly been captured during a military campaign and had been taken to the palace of the king and the satraps. Whilst a Jewess may not have been able to become queen, as a royal concubine she may still have been able to hold an influential place in the Persian court. 3.2 Concubines The main sources to the historian on Persian concubines are the writings of Greek authors. Plutarch, (Artaxerxes 27:2) citing the writings of Deinon mentions that they were present at court in large numbers, whilst Heracleides ( FGrH 698 FI) states that during the day they accompanied the king on royal hunts, whilst at night they guarded his sleep singing and playing music. Brosius warns that the description of the Persian Harem by fourth century by Greek authors should be taken with a pinch of salt. For Greeks, concubines or phallakai held low status by reporting that these women held powerful positions at court they painted a picture of the Persian king as weak, effeminate and ruled by women65. Herodotus on the other hand, paints a different picture of Persian concubines not attributing to them any significant influence at court. In the book of Esther, a non-Persian woman succeeds in rising to an influential position in the Persian court. The Persian tradition of endogamy would have prevented a foreign woman from becoming queen and as a concubine it is unlikely that much influence could have been wielded. So, to what extent are the achievements of Esther a realistic ambition for the average Jewess living in the Persian Empire? ...read more.

Conclusion

It could be argued, that the character of Mordechai presents an ideal model of a Jew in the Diaspora; he is successful professionally: as gatekeeper to Xerxes palace and faithful to his King e.g. by denouncing the plot of the Eunuchs. However he is also loyal to his people and used his position to benefit them. The book of Esther exemplifies that a Jew may live a life in the top circles of society, indeed it seems to encourage professional ambition. However the heroes of the tale do not fail to use their position in a way that will benefit their fellow brethren. The message in Esther therefore, is that even when rub shoulders with royalty, the ultimate loyalty of a Jew should lie with his God and with his people. Similarly, the hero of Nehemiah holds a position of importance at the Persian court. His appointment as cupbearer; a duty undertaken in the past by Cyrus the great implies that he was a much trusted and respected member of the King's courtiers. Like the heroes of Esther and Daniel, Nehemiah utilises his position and indeed his familiarity with administrative protocolviii to aid the reconstructions of the walls of Jerusalem. It is, arguably due to Nehemiah's experiences at the kings court that he had the knowledge to execute the building of the walls with calculated precision. It was also due to his position at court that he has the military support necessary to foil any repeat attempts to stop the build. The exemplary tales of Daniel, Esther, Mordechai and Nehemiah played a crucial role in the cultural identity of the Jewish Diaspora. The stories, show members of the Jewish faith thriving in their new environment without sacrificing their faith. The stories also forge a cultural link between the Jewish community (that was small and fairly insignificant in relation to other nations in the Empire) and their new rulers; retelling the stories of Jews who rose to positions of influence at court gives the impression that members of the Jewish people had a stake in the history of the Persian empire. ...read more.

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