Religious Studies 525 -- Robert A. Kraft, University of Pennsylvania

Varieties of Judaism in the Hellenistic Era (300 bce - 200 ce)

OUTLINE of Class Discussion Topics (13 weeks)

1. General Orientation (4 weeks)

The course bibliography page is being updated. For additional bibliographical assistance, see the old files from this course, and internet pages such as that by John Elliott, Thomas Knittel and others (more are included on the class bibliography page)

startup assignments and helps (for different levels of students):

  • previous class minutes, with discussion of requirements and with some links added (recommended for all);
  • online materials by RAK and others dealing with
  • the relevant sections in introductory treatments such as the following:
  • The Named Groups (mostly in Palestine), as described by the ancient sources (with linked excerpts):

    The Period and its Relevant History

  • Main Time Span: Alexander through Hadrian (323 bce - 135 ce)
  • Geography and Languages: mostly Mediterranean, especially the eastern portion; mostly Greek (or Greek influenced) or Semitic (Hebrew, Aramaic); but as part of the larger "hellenistic world" created by Alexander the Great and his successors in the late 4th century BCE
  • Judaism(s) under Persia-Greece-Rome: "Homeland" and Diaspora
  • Seleukids, Ptolemies (map c185BCE) and the Maccabean Revolt (map c90BCE)
  • Palestinian Judaism's Independent Hasmonean Dynasty with its center in Jerusalem
  • Under Roman and Parthian Rule
  • The Surviving Sources and how they Survived

    Literature produced by Jews
  • Biblical -- preserved by Jews and Christians
  • "Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha" -- preserved mainly by Christians
  • Philo of Alexandria and Josephus (of Judea and Rome) -- preserved by Christians
  • Rabbinic -- preserved by Jews
  • Modern Discoveries, especially the "Dead Sea Scrolls" -- "lost" literatures
  • Other Sources
  • Documents (i.e. non-literary) and Inscriptions
  • Architecture (e.g. synagogues), Art (e.g. mosaics), Artifacts (e.g. gemstones, pottery and other vessels, textiles, etc.)
  • Contemporary Reports by Outsiders (see M. Stern Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism)
  • 2. Focusing on the Past: Narrative Materials & Themes (2 weeks)


  • history in apocalyptic form: Enochic Dreams ( "1 Enoch" 83-90) -- see also Daniel, Revelation, 4 Ezra on similar matters
  • sample each of the following groupings, and especially from Josephus Antiq 12-20, Philo Embassy to Gaius, Paraleipomena Jeremiah (long and short forms)
  • Selfconscious History and Historical Survey

  • 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Josephus War/Antiquities, LAB (ps-Philo)
  • Stories, Folklore and Legend

  • Judith, Tobit, Additions to Daniel & Esther, Adam/Eve Cycle, Paraleipomena Jeremiah (long and short forms)
  • Poetic and Philosophical Representations

  • Ezekiel the Tragedian,
  • Philo on Moses (also book 2, (etc)
  • Commentary on "Scriptures" (esp Philo, Qumran)

    3. Focusing on Revealed Realities: Testaments & Apocalypses (4 weeks)


  • for backgrounding,
  • 3.1 Anchoring the Materials in their Ancient Settings

  • The "Dead Sea Scrolls" attest many copies of previously known writings such as
  • But also some previously unknown texts with apocalyptic focus such as
  • 3.2 Testaments -- holding past, present and future in tension

  • Jubilees ("The Little Genesis"), revealed to Moses to be passed along to the people (testament-like?)
  • Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, and also Testament of Isaac, Testament of Job, etc --
  • see also Ascension (and Martyrdom) of Isaiah (especially the ending) and the last chapter of Paraleipomena Jeremiou
  • 3.3 Apocalypses -- learning from heaven's secrets, living with earth's frustrations

  • "1 Enoch" and the Enoch Cycle (including the "Similitudes" section in "1 Enoch" 37-71 and also 2 Enoch)
  • "Apocalypse of Moses" (or, "Testament" of Moses)
  • 2 Baruch (Syriac Apocalypse)
  • 3 Baruch (Greek Apocalypse)
  • 4 Ezra (RSV "2 Esdras")
  • Book of Revelation (NT "Apocalypse of John")
  • 4. Focusing on the Present: Inside and Outside the Communities (2 weeks)

    Community Living in the End Times, including Some Rules and Regulations

  • Damascus Document and Manual of Discipline (on the threshold of the end)
  • Paul's Letter to the Galatians ("present eschatology" with anticipated consummation)
  • Other Examples of Community Selfconsciousness, Standards, and Worship

  • Sirach (instruction in living)
  • Baruch (prayer and exhortation)
  • Additional Psalms
  • Hodayot (poetic expressions; some samples and more)
  • Philo's Contemplative Life (see also excerpts on the community of Therapeutae)
  • Philosophical and Political Enlightenment: Addressing the World

  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Philo (especially On Flaccus and Embassy to Gaius; also On Providence excerpts one and two)
  • Josephus, Against Apion book one and book two
  • 4 Maccabees
  • 5. Synthesis: Early Judaism in Perspective (final session)

    general assignments due at the end of the course (and/or exam period)

  • research paper (approx. 15 pages) on an approved topic
  • summary of class report on an approved book (review) or special theme, drawn from the archives of the IOUDAIOS-L internet list or from published treatments (books, articles)
  • oral overview session ("exit interview")

  • //end//

    Last modified: 28 October 2003

    Robert Kraft (