Jews and Gentiles in Early Jewish Novels

University dissertation from Uppsala : Religionshistoria

Abstract: This dissertation deals with Jewish novels from the late Persian, Hellenistic and early Roman periods. The five texts chosen for this study are the Books of Ruth, Judith, Esther, Daniel and Joseph & Aseneth. Focus is on how the Jewish narrators describe non-Jews and non-Jewish religion, and on the relations between Jews and non-Jews.The study analyses the five texts and shows how they are intertextually related to each other and to other texts from the same or earlier periods. It also shows how the texts are situated in specific historical, sociological and religious contexts. The image of “the other” was from the Jewish point of view to a great extent depending of where this “other” should be located in the world made up of ethnic groups seen as descendants of various eponym fathers. This was often crucial especially if there was a case of close relations or even acceptance and integration into the Jewish community.For the shaping of the image of this “other” the historical and sociological development was important. The emergence of the Hellenistic empires and the Hellenistic culture was welcomed by some groups, but not by all. In the novels the authors expressed a strong aversion toward many of the novelties they encountered. Still they were strongly affected by the Hellenistic culture, and all of the novels were written in or translated into the Greek language.With the help of typescenes the authors could convey messages about Jews and non-Jews. The images of the non-Jews are often, but not always, negative, and there is a frequent use of irony and parody so that many of the non-Jewish characters are ridiculed and laughed at.

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