Ancient Jewish Diaspora: Punishment, Opportunity, or Universal Mission


"Diaspora" in biblical literature was perceived, first and foremost, as punishment for transgression of God's commandments: "The Lord will scatter you among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other" (Deut. 28:64). When this threatened consequence became a reality in the Second Temple period, diaspora Jews developed strategies for dealing with the challenges of an ongoing, at times hostile dispersion. This introduction to dynamics of the Second Temple diaspora will frame subsequent discussion of two literary works produced in different lands, each offering a framework for Jewish life abroad.

The Book of Esther is not the only literary reflection on the life and challenges that Jews confronted in the diaspora of the Second Temple Period. Following a general introduction, this series will discuss two less familiar ancient books of that period: Tobit and 3 Maccabees. These works provide insights into Jewish life outside the Land of Israel in this period, but from widely diverse vantage points.



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