The Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins,
Minutes volume 32
Topic for 1994-95:
Ethnicity, Identity and Alterity
David Sandmel (University of Pennsylvania)
Ross S. Kraemer (Center for Judaic Studies, Univ of Penn)
Secretary: Allen Kerkeslager (Center for Judaic Studies, Univ of Penn)
Coordinator: Robert Kraft (University of Pennsylvania)
Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, Minutes 32.1
Topic for 1994-95: ETHNICITY, IDENTITY AND ALTERITY
Meeting of 29 September 1994, Gates Room, VanPelt Library, UPenn
Introductory remarks: David Sandmel
Ross S. Kraemer, "We're Masculine: You're Feminine:
An aspect of polemic among Pagans, Jews and Christians."
Robert A. Kraft, "Ancient Ethnic Consciousness and Comparisons:
Some Approaches and Observations."
Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, Minutes 32.2
Topic for 1994-95: ETHNICITY, IDENTITY AND ALTERITY
Meeting of 27 October 1994
Ioudaios, Iudaeus, Judaean, Jew
Shaye J. D. Cohen
A. Before the 2nd century BCE Ioudaios was primarily an term designating
ethnic (blood or descent) and geographical identity rather than a
religious term. (In subsequent discussion, the problem of using
"ethnic" as a reference to biological descent was addressed, admitting
that while we realize ethnicity is primarily a social category, in
antiquity this was not realized and it was usually associated with
biological descent). In this sense it was used for (1) a member of
the nation of Judaeans in Judaea; (2) a member of an ethnic
association (politeuma) of Judaeans in a city or other political
jurisdiction outside Judaea; (3) a Judaean born in Judaea but
living outside Judaea; (4) a descendant of Judaeans. The use of
other ethnic terms such as "Thracian" in papyri from Ptolemaic
Egypt suggests that Ioudaios functioned in a similar manner. It
designated ethnic origins as did other terms used for immigrant groups
in early Ptolemaic Egypt. Later these groups evolved into
pseudo-ethnic associations that used originally ethnic
terminology to categorize individuals who may have come from a variety
of ethnic backgrounds. This raises the question of whether
Ioudaios also functioned as a pseudo-ethnic in later Ptolemaic
Egypt. The few examples of Ioudaioi with non-Jewish names have
usually been interpreted as ethnic Jews, possibly using these names as a
result of intermarriage or some other factor. The
possibility that Ioudaios is a pseudo-ethnic category like other
pseudo-ethnics might imply that Ioudaioi with Egyptian names are in fact
ethnic Egyptians who classified themselves with associations of Ioudaioi
to raise their social status. Unfortunately, this is difficult to
demonstrate. There are clear examples of persons of one ethnic
origin who attached themselves to pseudo-ethnic associations that used a
different ethnic designation for its members. But there are no
examples of a person who is indisputably distinguished as not being an
ethnic Ioudaios while belonging to an ethnic association of
Ioudaioi. Ioudaios does not seem to function as a pseudo-ethnic
and by the Roman period pseudo-ethnics are replaced by "Greeks" and
"Egyptians" while "Ioudaioi" remain.
could also function as an indicator of geographical
origin where ethnic identity was not necessarily implied. In this
usage it meant simply "someone from Judaea." Although Shaye
intentionally tried to limit his treatment to material primarily of the
pre-Roman period to avoid New Testament issues, in later discussion
Shaye stated that this is the usage in the Gospel of John.
C. Ioudaios could also refer to cultural or religious affiliation.
After about 100 BCE many associations that had originally had ethnic
connotations had come to focus around the worship of specific
deities. Associations of "Egyptians" outside of Egypt had been
transformed into associations of "worshippers of Isis," "worshippers
of Serapis," and others. The same situation seems to have occurred
with Ioudaioi. But there does not seem to be any transformation in
the terminology corresponding to the terminological changes
associated with groups such as the Egyptians (unless, as suggested in
discussion, one finds such terms in <theosebes> or the similar
<sebomenos tou theou>). A politeuma was in this sense no different
from a thiasos or any other religious association, though groups of
Ioudaioi eventually were know more commonly as sunagogai (cf the
new Schurer, edited by Vermes/Millar/Goodman). Persons of Gentile
origin who took up practices of these groups, especially worshipping
the God whose temple was in Judaea, were sometimes called
D. Ioudaios could also function in a political and social sense
for an individual or member of a group dominated by or closely
associated with Ioudaioi. In this sense the word could often be used
with a nasty bite when applied to an opponent. However, in
subsequent discussion Shaye emphasized that Ioudaios was used as a
term by both insiders and outsiders with no inherent derogatory
connotation. This contrasts to Yehudi in later Rabbinic literature,
which is usually used only by outsiders or individuals in the context
of outsiders. There is no corresponding insider designation in
Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, Minutes 32.3
Topic for 1994-95: ETHNICITY, IDENTITY AND ALTERITY
Meeting of 19 January 1995, University of Pennsylvania
Maintaining Jewish Identity in the Greek Gymnasium:
New Evidence from an Old Papyrus
Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
A Greco-Roman athlete's participation in any series of athletic
games presupposed a long period of training in a gymnasium. The
gymnasium was one of the quintessential institutions for the
transmission of Hellenistic culture. Individuals who had been
fully trained in the gymnasium possessed a certain degree of
"Hellenic" or "Greek" identity. A greatly neglected papyrus now
in Berlin contains evidence that some Jews were quite willing to
share in this identity.
The text was first edited and published by Wilhelm Schubart in
1950 and has since then been known as Papyrus Schubart 37 ( = P.
Berolinenses 13406). It was later republished as CPJ III.519.
Schubart dated the papyrus on paleographic grounds to
approximately 200 CE and I see no reason to doubt this on the
basis of the photograph. The text was included in the CPJ
because of its reference to an individual carrying "a Jewish
load." The thesis of this article is that this individual was a
Jewish athlete who was active in a Greek gymnasium.
2. The Setting of the Action of the Text
The content of the papyrus is a discourse on athletics. Schubart
suggested that the text was a treatise in speech form criticizing
athletics from the standpoint of philosophy. Schubart suggested
that the speaker was also interested in mime or drama. Pursuing
the line of reasoning suggested by Schubart, Stern and Fuks
proposed that the text presents a moral discourse or diatribe
criticizing enthusiasm for athletics and theatrical performances.
The changes in the direction of the speaker's attention in the
text suggest a better explanation for the evidence that they
cite. The simplest explanation for these phenomena is that the
dialogue is part of an actual theatrical production. The speaker
points to another actor who at that moment appears on stage
carrying "a Jewish load." The laughter of the audience suggests
that the content is comedy rather than tragedy (line 20). The
use of prose rather than strict metrical poetry indicates that
the genre of the text should be assigned to mime rather than
traditional comedy. There is nothing to indicate that the
speaker has any philosophical concerns.
3. The Main Issue of the Text
The speaker is defending the action of some individuals who
"admitted their own weakness" (lines 55-58). The speaker's
interlocutors in these lines are members of the crowd in the
stadium or the gymnasium. The speaker's defense of disreputable
actions presented a comical satire on what goes on in the
athletic games. In lines 33-46 the speaker appears to be
defending the disqualification of an athlete by the officials
responsible for the preliminary evaluation of the athletes.
The speaker's attempt to persuade his audience that the decision
of the officials was reasonable may imply some relation between
these officials and the group that he is defending in lines 48-62.
The speaker's interest in defending the decision of the
officials may indicate that he was either one of these officials
or some other major official at the games. The setting of the
speaker's defense is more likely a gymnasium than a stadium.
4. A "Jewish Load"
The "Jewish load" is a circumcized Jewish phallus.
(1) The person carrying the "Jewish load" is a male. The
distinct advantage of identifying the Jewish load with a
circumcized phallus is that this is the one object that almost
all Jewish males in Greco-Roman antiquity possessed.
(2) The load is something distinctively Jewish. There were
probably few personal objects in antiquity aside from a
circumcized phallus that would have been as readily identified
with Jews and Judaism by a large Gentile audience in a theater.
(3) The response to the speaker's mention of the "Jewish load" is
the laughter of the audience. Humor centered on the sex organs
was a common feature of ancient satire, theatrical comedy and its
costumes, decoration on symposium drinking vessels, and almost
any occasion in which witty puns were needed. Some of this
phallic humor focused directly upon Jewish circumcision.
(4) A Latin equivalent to the phrase "Jewish load" refers to a
circumcized phallus in a biting satire of Martial (Iudaeum
pondus; Epigrams 7.35).
(6) Some of the audience responds with disgust at the person
carrying the "Jewish load."
The first object of disgust was the use of a joke that was so
overused that it had become tiresome. "The thing that was said"
was the old joke, known as early as Aristophanes, of calling a
phallus a "load." The second object of disgust was "the man who
is seen"; i.e., the Jew himself. A third object of disgust was
probably the "Jewish load" itself. The speaker was interrupted
immediately after referring to the "Jewish load." This indicates
that the "Jewish load" was probably the focus of the reaction of
(7) The "Jewish load" is a concrete object that can be seen.
This would seem at first to present an insuperable obstacle to
identifying the "Jewish load" with a circumcized phallus. Jewish
males normally did not walk around naked. This obstacle easily
can be overcome when one recalls that Greco-Roman athletes
normally appeared nude in an athletic context. This is precisely
the context that dominates the subject matter of the text.
The ease with which the crowds could see the Jewish individual's
complete anatomical structure indicates that he was probably
naked. The nudity of the individual indicates that he was an
athlete. The text presents us with the image of a circumcized
Jewish athlete in a Greek gymnasium.
5. The Jewish Athlete in the Speaker's Discourse
A variety of attitudes are expressed toward the Jewish athlete by
the speaker and his audience. The Jewish athlete played a
positive role in advancing the speaker's argument. If the
question about proper order in lines 24-25 applied to an
individual rather than the crowds, then there may have been some
comparison between this individual and the Jewish athlete. The
larger context suggests that the speaker's main concern is the
defense of decisions made concerning some athlete other than the
Jewish athlete. The sudden reaction of the audience to the
Jewish athlete implies that he had made an appearance on stage
only at the moment he appears in our text. He was probably not
even mentioned before.
Despite the temptation to see circumcision in the "bodily
deformity," it is much more likely that the Jewish athlete in
lines 18-23 and the bodily deformity in lines 38-39 were two
completely unrelated illustrations.
The Jewish athlete appears to have played a genuine role as an
illustration in the speaker's argument. Such an illustration
would have lent no support to the speaker's argument if Jewish
athletes did not exist in the historical setting that the mime
was supposed to represent.
6. The Relation of the Mime to Historical Reality
Much of the comedy in ancient mimes derived from a distortion of
reality just as much as from honest satire. But Philo and other
sources give ample evidence that Jews did participate in
athletics. Ancient playwrights used comedy as a focal point for
commentary upon the social tensions at work in the members of the
audience. It is precisely in the jokes and the points at which
the audience of a mime erupted into laughter that one is often
able to identify issues that were current sources of conflict in
In our papyrus fragment the speaker asks, "Why are you laughing?
And why are some of you disgusted. . . ?" (lines 20-23). It is
at this point that the reaction of the speaker's interlocutors in
our text merges with the reaction of the audience in the theater.
The point at which this occurrs coincides with the appearance of
the Jewish athlete in the mime. The image of a Jewish athlete in
a Greek gymnasium gave concrete expression to social tensions
that operated in the world outside the theater.
7. The Sitz im Leben of the Text
Line 64 seems to refer to a site named Neapolis. Pauly-Wissowa
lists 27 locations known in antiquity as "Neapolis." The only
two for which a strong case could be made are Flavia Neapolis in
Palestine and a section of Alexandria known as Neapolis. If one
located the origin of our text in Flavia Neapolis, one would
probably have to date the text after 100 CE to allow time for the
establishment of a literary tradition. It is highly unlikely that
Jewish athletes appeared in Flavia Neapolis in the second century
with enough frequency to create the kind of social tensions
between Jews and Greeks that our text implies. It also would be
difficult to explain how a circumcized phallus could be
identified so easily in our text as "Jewish" or "Judaean"
(᾽Ιουδαϊκος) in a Samaritan area. Samaritans were only
occasionally considered "Jewish" or "Judaean" but practiced
circumcision. Use of the phrase "Jewish load" for a circumcized
phallus would have elicited an uncertain reaction from an
audience that included a substantial number of Samaritans. An
author living in Flavia Neapolis would surely have been aware of
this problem. This difficulty might be overcome if "Jewish load"
was a hackneyed pun used even in Samaria.
Identifying the historical setting of our text with Alexandria
has a number of points in its favor. (1) A text found in Egypt
is more likely to have been written in Egypt than somewhere else.
This argument could obviously be very misleading if used alone
and its value is admittedly very small. But it cannot be
dismissed entirely. It becomes more significant if one dates the
production of the text relatively close to the date of the
production of the manuscript. (2) Alexandria contributed a
lion's share to the Greek literary production of the Greco-Roman
world. (3) Alexandria had a large Jewish community that played a
major role in the social life of the city. (4) Alexandria had
taken the leading role in the production of Greek drama during
the Hellenistic period. Mimes were a distinctive feature of the
Alexandrian tradition. (5) The Alexandrian mime tradition was
sometimes closely associated with the mockery of Jews (CPJ
II.158a.5-7 [ = P. Par. 68.5-7]; Philo, Flaccus 34, 36-40, 72,
84-85). (6) Jewish participation in the Greek gymnasium was
often a source of social tension in Alexandria.
The text probably fits best in the period from about 20 BCE to 41
CE. Dating the text in the period from 20 BCE to 41 CE would
provide important evidence for Jewish participation in the
gymnasium in the very period in which such participation was an
important focus of conflict. It is precisely in this period that
Philo says many were "laughing" at the practice of circumcision
(Spec. Leg. 1.1-7). It is also in this period that a naked Jew
was dragged into the gymnasium to serve as an instrument for
mocking the Jewish King Agrippa (Philo Flac. 34-40). In the
athletic context of the gymnasium the circumcision of the mock
Jewish king presented a visible contrast with the uncircumcized
young men that made up his mock bodyguard. Philo explicitly
states that this event was modelled on the mimes (Flac. 34, 37-
First, the papyrus implies a period and a setting in which some
Jews had reconciled the marks of Jewish identity with
participation in the institutions of Greek identity. Second, the
presence of the Jewish athlete in a Greek gymnasium undermines
Aryeh Kasher's proposal that Jewish athletes must have trained in
a "Jewish gymnasium." Third, circumcision stands out as the
distinguishing feature of Jewish identity recognized by the
Gentile author of the text, the actors, and the theater audience.
Our text presents the rather ironic image of a Jew whose very
devotion to an expression of Greek identity makes his Jewish
identity all the more inescapably obvious. This should give
warning to Kasher, Feldman, and others who tend to equate
"Hellenization" with either "apostasy" or some type of compromise
on "orthodoxy," whatever those terms may mean.
Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, Minutes 32.4
Topic for 1994-95: ETHNICITY, IDENTITY AND ALTERITY
Meeting of 9 March 1995 at Princeton University
Christians and Other Others in Rabbinic Judaism
Robert Goldenberg, SUNY Stony Brook
The Tanak is unambiguous that Israel is not to worship other gods. But
other gods can be worshiped by other people, who are permitted to worship
their own gods; e.g., Deut 4. This raises a problem of consistency for
later Jews who read the Tanak with the assumption that it was a consistent
text with consistent patterns of ideas. This created ambiguities that
allowed for a variety of trajectories and approaches to the problem.
Biblical ambiguities became postbiblical non-ambiguities.
There was a Judaism that was at war with its environment. E.g., Maccabean
Jews and Jews in Egypt and Cyrene destroyed pagan temples. But explaining
the ideology behind the iconoclasm in the 115-17 CE revolt is difficult.
Jewish texts often see all of pagan sins as the result of polytheism.
There was also a Judaism that was not at war with its environment.
Enlightened Jews felt they had common ground with enlightened Gentiles, e.g,
Philo, Aristeas. In the LXX, Philo, and Josephus the Hebrew commandment not
to curse God ('elohim) was transformed into an injunction against cursing
"gods." But this was forgotten after the first century. The Rabbis do not
even seem to have heard of this idea. At the same time, Philo simply
assumes the superiority of his traditions. He polemicizes against attacks
on Judaism but does not assume that these attacks have a real bearing on the
superiority of Judaism.
This contrasts with the anxiety that the rabbis felt about this issue. The
rabbis don't ask questions about Christians in distinction from other
pagans. They seem unaware of the Christian claim to be neither Jew nor
pagan but rather a "third race." There were enough other categories for
defining groups of "others" without adding "Christians." In most cases
Christians were simply considered "goyim" in rabbinic texts. This contrasts
radically with the medieval commentators on the rabbinic texts. The real
question is at what point and at what time the rabbis were forced to create
new categories. The catalyst was probably the rise of Islam. The real
anxiety of the pre-Islamic rabbis is directed in a different direction.
B. Avodah Zerah 2a-3b exemplifies this anxiety. The text presents a court
scene of eschatological judgment, a midrash on Isa 43:9. The Romans come
first, make their excuse, and it fails to convince God. Then the Persians
come next, described in terms of Daniel's bear, and they also fail to
convince God that their case is justified. Rome and Persia will last until
the coming of the Messiah. All the nations of the world are condemned. The
nations then contend that they did not have the privileges of Israel.
It is at this point that the "other" is allowed to speak. Israel accepted
Torah only under constraint, they protest. The nations contend that the
Torah cannot be the standard of judgment because they didn't accept it, and
no one would accept it if given the option. This expresses the rabbinic
anxiety raised by the fact that nobody in their setting was a Jew by choice.
This created a resentment that was projected onto the other nations of the
world. At the time of the judgment the nations will assert that nobody can
live by the Torah because even Israel did not live by the Torah. But this
excuse will also fail. Finally the nations ask for a second chance and God
says it is too late. But he offers them one commmandment: the opportunity
to keep Sukkoth. The nations ultimately fail to do this. This shows that
the rabbinic anxieties are unfounded. The reward of Israel is justified.
The rabbinic concern of whether their reward will be worth the effort is
answered with a happy ending.
The Noachide commandments also raised a problem. They offer a way to be a
righteous Gentile. But one of the commandments was not to worship idols, so
it was doubtful that there ever could be a righteous Gentile on such a
basis. Part of the point of these commandments seems to be an anti-Kantian
kind of thrust. That is, one cannot simply be righteous by reasoning to it
or doing good things without the particularity of the Torah. The rabbis did
show one major feature of hellenization. They assumed that the educated
elite were different from everybody else, an idea that did not exist in
Judaism prior to the Hellenistic period.
Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, Minutes 32.5
Topic for 1994-95: ETHNICITY, IDENTITY AND ALTERITY
Meeting of 27 April 1995, University of Pennsylvania
"Gentiles, Jews, and Other Others in Early Christian Texts,
with Special Reference to Tertullian"
David Efroymson, La Salle University
In the New Testament, sometimes "the other" is clearly
identifiable as Jew or Gentile. In Rev 2:9; 3:9, "those who say
they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan" are
themselves Jews. The author of Revelation is also Jewish. The
counterclaims indicate a conflict over which way is the right way
to be Jewish, and the author chooses to reject the claims of the
opposing group. The author also includes the woman Jezebel, the
teaching of Balaam, idolatry, porneia, as the "other": These
things are what idolaters do, but not "us."
Paul in Galatians claims to be Jewish and still thinks of himself
as Jewish. He still considers some Christians to be "Gentiles"
(<ethne>) in Galatians 2. But he also speaks of "Gentiles" as
the past state of life of his Christian audience in 1 Thess 1:9-
10; 4:3-5 (behave "not like the Gentiles"). Similarly, 1 Cor
12:1-2 says "you were Gentiles" (<ethne>)--but now you are not.
Likewise, in 1 Cor 5:1ff, porneia is found among the <ethne>, but
should not be found in the audience of 1 Corinthians. Thus
<ethne> refers to: (1) the past of the Paul's community; (2)
people outside the community in the present; (3) people in the
community who are not Jews.
When one moves from the "other" to the self-understanding of the
community (the "us"), the problem is more difficult. Paul never
clarifies the identity of group to which the members of his
community are being invited. Is it the covenant, a family, a
people (all images that Paul uses), or what? Paul never clearly
conceives of the "self" of the entity into which they are called.
It is not clear that it is a Judaism. Gal 4:8-10 is referring to
Gentiles, not Jews, and so also in all of Paul's letters his
concern is with Gentiles, not Jews. Yet somehow Gentiles were
viewed as bound by certain features of the Law (though not in the
way Paul's opponents implied).
The Gospel of Matthew, following Saldarini, Harrington, Kee, et
al., is a Jewish document written by a Jew from a community that
has not given up its own Jewishness and claims to be in
possession of authentic Judaism while it argues against other
Jews. Matt 5:47 refers to "the Gentiles" as an outside group; so
also 6:31-32; 18:17; 20:25; etc. Positive references to Gentiles
are for critical comparison to Gentiles who have not followed
Jesus; e.g., 8:10-12; 12:21; 21:43. Those who claim that
Matthew's community sees itself as outside Judaism point to the
phrase "their synagogues" in 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9, but this is
not convincing. This could mean simply "their synagogues" as
opposed to "our ekklesia" or even "our synagogues."
In the Gospel of John, the author uses <hoi Ioudaioi> for his
opponents, but this doesn't mean he is not Jewish himself. The
ambiguity may not be a problem at all if the term simply means
"Judaeans." This terminology might further be clarified if the
Samaritans, who may have played some kind of role in John's
audience, used the "Judaeans" to contrast the opponents with
Tertullian is conscious of both for whom and against whom he is
writing. He is the prosecuting attorney and his opponents are
the defendants. His opponents are sometimes "they" and sometimes
"you," but he never calls his Jewish opponents "you" (2nd
person). This raises the question of whether his Jewish
opponents are genuine or are simply representatives of a group
with whom he never had more than a passing contact.
In De Cultu Feminarum, Tertullian says that perhaps woman should
dress in mourning garments because they are responsible for the
fall and should dress in a better way. In De Baptismo 17,
baptism can be administered by all except women.
Tertullian writes a large number of works with anti-Jewish
material in all periods and with all kinds of opponents and all
kinds of audiences. He applies to Judaism the term <vetustas>,
"antiquated, having been passed by and outdated." The document
Adversus Iudaeus is not indicative of what Tertullian says about
Jews and is one of his dullest works. Tertullian uses his anti-
Judaism to make some point about other groups. Tertullian
distances himself from claims made by other Christians that he
and his own group are themselves adhering to Judaism (which
claims may explain some of his vehemence in opposing Judaism).
Tertullian thinks Paul argues that Judaism is antiquated
(<vetustas>). Tertullian thinks that Jesus is the marker of the
end of the old and the beginning of the new--a point with some NT
precedent, but unlike the NT Tertullian identifies the old with
Judaism very clearly.
Tertullian's contribution to the identity of his community is the
framework from which he deals with the question: Judaism is a
negative form of reference that is antiquated. Christians should
not do the Jewish Law or Jewish things unless it is in a
different way. Christianity for Tertullian is the new and good
that is not Jewish. Tertullian has found in Judaism an ideal
"other" that governs what he says about morals, etc. Tertullian
thinks it is important to emphasize that whatever Jews are,
Christians are not (or vice versa).
The "other" terminology for Jews obviously became a contributing
factor in later anti-Semitism. It presents a pressing problem
for Christian theology. The conflicts in the NT are still
primarily Jew versus Jew and it is still possible that the
material that gave rise to later anti-Semitic tendencies can be
handled in such a way as to have a Christian theology "without
all that stuff."