Monday, December 15, 2008

Connecting Hanukkah, Christmas and `Idu-l-Adha

A Homily for the Season
by Joachim Martillo (

Because Hanukkah, Christmas, and 'Idu-l-Adha occur so close together this year, the 2008 winter holiday season provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the connections between these holidays in order to increase mutual understanding among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith communities as well as between believers and non-believers.$

Hanukkah is the appropriate starting point for analysis because the Maccabean revolt set in motion a process of change that challenged the fundamental religious assumptions of the people of Hellenistic Judea and of anyone that worshiped God according to the rituals of the Jerusalem Temple Religion that is also called Second Temple Judaism.

The Talmud, the Megillat Antiochos (Scroll of Antiochus), and the Greek deuterocanonical books of Maccabees contain somewhat different versions of the history of the struggle between the Maccabean fighters and the Hellenistic Syrians ruled by Antiochos IV Epiphanos. Even though the miracle of the oil becomes central to the modern Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the books of the Maccabees do not even mention it.

The Greek texts are neither centrally focused on demonstrating God's ultimate power over nature nor overtly concern with the most minute aspect of ritual purity down to the last drop of fuel for the candelabrum of the Jerusalem Temple but rather aim at legitimization of the Hasmonean dynasty that the Maccabees established.

The Jerusalem Temple Religion of the Hasmonean period was radically different from the Rabbinic Judaism that crystallizes into its final form approximately 1000 years after the Maccabean revolt. Rabbinic Judaism is based on the deterritorialized Talmudic framework that was developed after the 2nd century CE Bar Kochba rebellion and that focuses on spiritual rather than political power issues.

On the basis of unavoidably questionable Rabbinic Jewish understanding of the historical events of the Maccabean rebellion, Christopher Hitchens describes the current celebration of Hanukkah in a recent Slate article:*
"And so we have a semiofficial celebration of Hanukkah, complete with menorah, to celebrate not the ignition of a light but the imposition of theocratic darkness.."
Hitchens has inadvertently but possibly also somewhat maliciously trivialized the complex national and international politics of Hellenistic Judea of the 2nd century BCE.

Second Maccabees Chapter 1 describes the miracle that concerned the author of the Greek text and thereby hints at the actual conflict that underlay the rebellion.


Therefore whereas we purpose to keep the purification of the temple on the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, we thought it necessary to signify it to you: that you also may keep the day of Scenopegia [Feast of Tabernacles], and the day of the fire, that was given when Nehemias offered sacrifice, after the temple and the altar was built.


For when our fathers were led in Persia, the priests that then were worshipers of God took privately the fire from the altar, and hid it in a valley where there was a deep pit without water, and there they kept it safe,


But when many years had passed, and it pleased God that Nehemias should be sent by the king of Persia, he sent some of the posterity of those priests that had hid it, to seek for the fire: and as they told us, they found no fire, but thick water.


Then he bade them draw it up, and bring it to him: and the priest Nehemias commanded the sacrifices that were laid on, to be sprinkled with the same water, both the wood, and the things that were laid upon it.


And when this was done, and the time came that the sun shone out, which before was in a cloud, there was a great fire kindled, so that all wondered.
The miracle of Second Maccabees is not the miracle of the oil but is that of the rekindling of the sacred fire during Nehemiah's governorship of the Yehud administrative district of the Persian Empire. The territory of this district corresponded only to a portion of the area of the pre-exilic Kingdom of Judah.

The rekindling miracle took place approximately four centuries earlier than the 25th of Kislev (Casleu), which the Hasmoneans designated the first day of Hanukkah in order to commemorate the Maccabean rebellion. The Hasmoneans connected themselves with this miracle in order to claim legitimacy to rule Hellenistic Judea even though they came from Modiin outside of Persian Yehud and were not descendants of the elite transplanted from Mesopotamia to Jerusalem at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The issue of the lineage of the Hasmoneans has been obscured in the canonical and deuterocanonical books of the Bible because the Book of Ezra probably purposefully conflates the people of the land (of Yehud) and Samaritans (or Samarians) as groups with whom the new Jerusalem elite of Yehud were not supposed to intermarry.

The description of the social political situation makes no sense because Samaritans had their own Temple and their own elite certified by the Persian Emperor, and in the 6th century they almost certainly had no particular interest in aiding or hindering the construction of the Jerusalem Second Temple.

The text of Ezra mixes the politics of two different periods. In the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, the central Persian government had a practice of installing elites with no connection to local populations to act as agents of the central government. Such elites might be associated with a dubious local pedigree, but first and foremost they represented Persian interests. Thus even though the territory of Palestine is naturally within the Egyptian sphere of influence, in the Torah text of the "returnees" Egypt plays the role of villain and unappeasable enemy of the Children of Israel. Because intermarriage with the people of the land (the am haaretz of the Book of Ezra) might weaken commitment to Persia, the new Persian-backed elite maintained their privileges as long as they kept separate and established no family allegiances with the locals.
Persian Yehud
Modi'in was located about 35 mi. SE of Joppa
just outside the borders
By the time of the establishment of Hellenistic dynasties that replaced the Persian Empire, the people of the land have fully assimilated to the religious practices of the Persian-created elites in both Judea and Samaria, and the main tensions no longer manifest themselves between Mesopotamian "returnees" and the people of the land but between Samarians and Judeans. Depending on when the texts of Ezra and Nehemiah were composed, they either reflected these tensions or were modified for consistency with the later historical situation.

For more than a century after Alexander's conquest of the Middle East, the "returnee" elite in Jerusalem manages to cling to authority in Judea, but the Maccabees seize an opportunity to displace this elite shortly after the Romans humiliate Antiochos in Egypt. There may have been some minor skirmishes with a Syro-Greek garrison that supported the old Persian elite, but in the end Antiochos probably did not care whether the old or a new elite held power in Judea, and from his standpoint an independent buffer state between Hellenistic Syria and Roman-dominated Egypt provided many benefits.

Supporters of the Hasmoneans wrote the history of the Maccabean triumph to minimize the intra-Judean conflict by emphasizing or fabricating a conflict between Hellenism and Second Temple Judaism. Yet the Hasmoneans themselves became thorough-going Hellenizers while they simultaneously legitimized their dynasty by injecting their victory into the core of the Jerusalem Temple Religion by adding Hanukkah into the sacred calendar in a way that radically reshaped Second Temple religious concepts.

The operation of calendar, the dates of Holy Days, and the associated meanings were key issues of spirituality and religious debate in Second Temple Judaism. Open questions still remained until the end of the Geonic Period, and Saadyah Gaon took part in calendar debates as late as the tenth century CE.

The Second Temple sacred calendar begins with the Passover liberation at approximately the equinox of spring. Next follows the law giving and rebellion at the Festival of Weeks at approximately the summer solstice. The warmth of summer corresponds in a way to the glory of the unified monarchy. Then comes repentance during the month of Elul as the summer draws to a close in the royal New Year. Ten days later comes the Day of Atonement, and the last holiday of the Temple's sacred calendar is the harvest Festival of Tabernacles or Booths with the associated Celebration of the Law and Assembly of the Eighth. The flimsy dwelling structures of the composite celebration presages weakness, dependency, and coming exile (Golah). .

Instead of returning to the start of the cycle in the spring, from the Hasmonean standpoint Hanukkah was supposed to legitimize the rule of the new royal dynasty by resolving the calendrical cycle with a celebration of the miraculous birth of a strong central expansive Judean state led by a warrior king, who defeated the forces of Golah near the winter solstice exactly when Nehemiah's earlier miraculous rekindling took place in a blaze of light and warmth that defeated the darkness and cold of winter.

The Hasmoneans drew an analogy explicitly between themselves and Ezra as well as implicitly between themselves and the House of David (to invoke the concept of the Messiah, the son of David) by rededicating the Temple. They connected themselves with messianic yearnings that were often expressed in combination with the star prophecy that later became associated with the Star of Bethlehem:
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. [Numbers 24:17]
Almost subconsciously by putting a new Festival of Light at the 25th of Kislev so close to the winter solstice and the ancient winter festival of light, the Hasmonean legitimization narrative also connected with the ancient sacred calendar and Sacrificial King of the older mythic traditions, which still lived in the mostly pagan Idumaean, Galilean, and Peraean districts that the Hasmoneans eventually added to their kingdom and Judaized.
Hasmonean Judea
According to the core of this myth, the Sacrificial King, who is also known as the Ever-Dying God, mates with the Great or White Goddess to impregnate her, and he is sacrificed to fertilize the land in a sort of apotheosis that transforms him into the powerful Summer God, who gradually withers as the seasons progress. Nine months later at the winter solstice, which is celebrated in a festival of lights, the goddess gives birth to her former lover as a miraculous child, who rapidly matures into the sacrificial king to mate with her once again in the spring to restart the cycle.#

In later forms of the Sacrificial King myth, the Sacrificial or Sacred King avoids death through the substitution of a tanist, who is a sort of understudy or designated substitute and is often the brother or son of the Sacred King. In such versions the Sacred King is revitalized as the life-force of the tanist drains away. In the latest versions, the sacrifice is eliminated altogether as the High God informs the participants that he despises and has forbidden human sacrifice. In Greek mythology the High God's agent is usually a divine or semi-divine being like Herakles.

The Great Goddess often expresses herself in these myths and others as a trinity consisting of the virgin, the matron, and the crone, who in later patriarchal mythologies are reduced to the Fates (Moriae in Latin) or to the Furies (euphemistically called the Eumenides). James Frazer and Robert Graves discuss the Sacrificial King and the Great Goddess in detail in The Golden Bough and The White Goddess respectively.

The Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament incorporate or retain a vestige of the Sacrificial King myth in the accounts of the Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Studying these Biblical stories in parallel with the Greek myth of Athamas, Nephele and Ino helps to elucidate the underlying mythological substratum of the Jewish and Christian Bibles and its application to questions of the covenantal and royal legacy that the Maccabees seized by force.

From the standpoint of mythological analysis, Abraham of the Bible and Athamas of the Greek myths are married to the triple goddess in disguise. The Biblical triple goddess consists of Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah. Traditional Jewish midrash (exegesis) tries to explain Keturah away as Hagar under another name. The Greek triple goddess consists of Ino and Nephele, who are the wives of Athamas, and Helle, who is the daughter of Athamas and Nephele. The Greek Athamas is an obvious variant of Adam, but Adam in the ancient Canaanite myths is also the Red Man (Edom) of Hebron, who is replaced in the Bible by Abraham. Abraham is originally the high father Av Ram but is also Av Raham or Av Rahab (by a pun or labial consonant transformation as sometimes occurs in Semitic languages).

Av Rahab is the father of the Sea Monster or Poseidon. Worship of Poseidon at inland Hebron seems unlikely, but the ancient glass industry at Hebron was explained by Phoenician settlers or immigrants. If Biblical Abraham or mythic Athamas is associated with Poseidon, at least one of his wives should be a sea goddess or nymph, and indeed Ino is transformed into the sea goddess, Leukothea (White Goddess). In Greek mythology, sea goddesses and nymphs are associated with laughter or mirth probably because sailors often perceive dolphins as laughing. Sarah is Abraham's wife, who laughs when the birth of Isaac is promised. Nephele (cloud), who bears an heir, and Helle (spark?), who is driven to flight, act in some ways like Hagar while the name Nephele is associated with the meaning of Keturah (incense).

Nephele is the mother of Phrixos (thrilling, causing shivers) just as Hagar is the mother of Ismael, a wild-onager of a man.+

In order to guarantee that her sons Leachos and Melicertes will inherit their father's kingdom, Ino bribes an oracle to tell Athamas that Phrixos and Helle must be sacrificed to save the Athamas' kingdom from famine.

Just at the moment that Athamas is about to sacrifice Phrixos, a magical golden ram appears to rescue him. Phrixos and Helle climb onto the back of the ram, who flies them toward the east. Helle falls off and drowns while flying over the straights now called Hellespont after her. The ram lands with Phrixos in Aea where Phrixos sacrifices the ram to thank Zeus for his rescue. Phrixos gives the golden fleece to Aeetes the King of Aea. The ram undergoes an apotheosis to become the constellation Aries.

In some sense the Greek version is closer to the common Islamic interpretation that Abraham nearly sacrifices Ismael (the Adha) and not Isaac (the Akeidah) as the Bible describes, but the identity of the near victim is not so important as the idea of associating the transfer of the Abrahamic covenant with the near sacrifice that sanctifies the near victim and his descendants. The issue of the transfer of the covenant became important in Judea as the decadent and brutal Hasmonean heirs were supplanted by the even more brutal and corrupt Herodian dynasty.

The Hasmoneans were basically usurpers, but they could claim a Judean and priestly heritage. The Herodians were usurpers of usurpers and traced their origins to the pagan priests of Idumea. As the Judean kingdom collapses in tyranny, its peoples reinterpret the idea of the Covenant of Israel and begin to look for a more personal salvation in lieu of the failed experiment in national political salvation.

The Biblical concept of the suffering servant was an important source of comfort during the crises and oppression of Herodian Judea. The suffering servant lives according to the Law and loves God even as he suffers under unbearable and unjust burdens, Yet the suffering people of Israel could hope that they would receive God's ultimate mercy in the same way that God favored Joseph, who was sold into slavery, then rose to the pinnacle of power in Egypt, and in the end saved Israel and the Children of Israel.

For much of the population of Greco-Roman Palestine, the apocalypse and destruction of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE represented a recapitulation of the conquest and apocalypse of the Southern Kingdom and the destruction of the First Temple as described in scripture. In the aftermath of the devastation and as real memory of the Persian imperial period faded, many among the population of Palestine began to analogize themselves with the scriptural depiction of the post-apocalyptic Judahite "surviving remnant" that returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian Captivity not as haughty rulers but as humble aspirants to holiness and began to develop a new "surviving remnant" theology that quickly split into three separate currents defined by three very different understandings of Jesus.

The most conservative reaction to Jesus rejects granting him any status as prophet or messiah. This stream of thought develops into Talmudic Judaism and opposing proto-Karaite religious factions, which eventually crystallize as Rabbinic and Karaite Judaism around the 10th century CE. Even though this spiritual current characterizes Jesus as a bastard, a charlatan and a magician, and even though it takes pride in the belief that the Sanhedrin ordered the execution of Jesus, it accepts much of the teachings of Jesus and his followers but tends to ascribe them to sages that lived before Jesus was born.

Another conservative reaction, which eventually becomes Constantinian Christianity, reintegrates and evolves many of the religious, political and spiritual ideas current in Greco-Roman Palestine at the time of the Hasmoneans and the Herodians. This stream of thought combines together
  • the suffering servant concept, which has some affinities to the much later Rabbinic Jewish concept of torah lishmah (studying and observing the Torah for its own sake without thought of a [covenantal] reward),
  • the idea of a Messiah, the son of Joseph,
  • the Hasmonean messianic narrative that connects with the idea of the Messiah, the son of David, and
  • the mythology of the sacred or sacrificial king
in order to understand the mission of Jesus the Savior, who is according to Christian scripture both the son of Joseph and descended from the lineage of David. The complexity of this interpretation of Jesus is disconnected from the simplicity and directness of his message of piety and righteousness.
The New Testament epistles develop the idea that the perfect sacrifice of Jesus transcends the incomplete sacrifice of Isaac and that the Abrahamic Covenant is renewed and reformulated for Jesus' followers, who now constitute the true Israel.

In the Christian nativity story, the birth of Jesus at approximately the winter solstice in a festival of lights in a fulfillment of the star prophecy provides a new resolution for the calendrical cycle of the Jerusalem Temple Religion. Developing a new understanding of the sacred calendar became critical with the destruction of the Temple and the concomitant collapse of the associated religious system.

In Christian interpretation of the sacred calendar, the second Jerusalem Temple becomes irrelevant except as a symbol of corruption that must be overcome, and Jesus is the miraculous child born at the time of the festival of lights in the cold of winter, which represents death as well as Golah. The child grows into the sacred king, who triumphs over mortality and brings everlasting life to his followers when he undergoes apotheosis as the true sacrificial king in the spring of liberation. Passover no longer simply frees the Israelites from the yoke of servitude and the burdens of exile but becomes the Easter celebration of the liberation of mortal men and women from the curse of death as long as they live justly and emulate Jesus, the suffering servant of God. Robert Graves's novel King Jesus can serve as an introduction to the thought processes underlying Jesus' mythographic transmogrification as long as one keeps in mind that it is a learned and very poetic form of prose fiction and neither history nor classical scholarship.

The most radical reaction, whose ideas Islam expresses, rejects the mishmash of apocalyptic, covenantal, and mythological ideas that transformed Jesus from a prophet and completely human messiah to the humble people of the land into an invincible divinity, who harrows Hell.

The Prolegomena to the Qur'an by al-Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Musawi al-Khu'i (as translated by Abdulaziz A. Sachedina) describes on p. 48 the revolutionary nature of the third stream of thought as it is embodied in the Qur'an:
...we find that the Qur'an is different from the two Testaments in all respects, and that it purifies the two Testaments from the delusive imagination and myths that filled the Testaments and the other sources of education at that time.
God speaking through the Qur'an simply discards the mythological core incorporated into the Hebrew and Christian Bibles by forbidding the intercalation of the lunisolar sacred calendar.

The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year)- so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: that is the straight usage. So wrong not yourselves therein, and fight the Pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.

Verily the transposing (of a prohibited month) is an addition to Unbelief: the Unbelievers are led to wrong thereby: for they make it lawful one year, and forbidden another year, in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by Allah and make such forbidden ones lawful. The evil of their course seems pleasing to them. But Allah guideth not those who reject Faith.

(Intercalation is the mechanism that kept the seasons at relatively fixed periods within the calendar.)

While modern religious people tend to be unaware of the critical importance of the calendar to belief and spirituality in Greco-Roman times,++ the calendar issue was still so important in the 7th century CE that Muhammad reiterated the prohibition of the lunisolar sacred calendar in his farewell sermon on Mount Arafat.+++

The Qur'an eliminates the sacred king mythology so critical to Christian understanding of Jesus from the story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son. The story simply becomes a witness to faith in God on the part of both Abraham and his son.

Most Muslims reasonably assume that the son is Ismael because the festival of the sacrifice (`Idu-l-Adha) commemorates this test of faith (December 19th this year) in such close connection with the Hajj during which Muslims empathize with the anguish of Hagar as she seeks water for her son Ismael as he is dying of thirst.

The Qur'anic version of the expulsion of Hagar differs from the story told in the Bible. Jealously between co-wives does not play the pivotal role that it does in the Bible or in the myths of Athamas, Ino, and Nephele. Abraham simply obeys God's command to send Hagar and Ismael to Arabia. The commentators give propagation of monotheism as the purpose, but Ismael can only truly freely choose to follow God's command alongside Abraham in the ultimate test of faith (al-adha) if he and his mother are removed from the influence of Abraham and if Ismael is given reason to distance himself from his father.
All together, the Qur'anic story of Hagar and Ismael, `Id al-Adha, and the Hajj tells us to remember and to care for the child and mother that are left alone with no sustenance just as God hears their cries. It is a good message for a season that is perhaps overly focused on the commercialization of the birth of the miraculous child Jesus and of the miraculous "victory" of the Maccabees over Hellenistic Syrians.**

It is hardly surprising that the chosen messenger to whom the Quran was conveyed was himself an orphan and that the city of his birth is founded on the site to which Hagar and Ismael journeyed and where Ismael was dying of thirst until God provided the Zamzam Well located today in the Masjid al-Haram in Makka. By the same "b" "m" interchange previously mentioned, Makka is identified with Bakka (equivalent to Hebrew bekheh), which describes the anguished weeping of Hagar.
Zamzam Well
Slightly off center to at the bottom left.


$ In New Statesman - Lost in a muddle of greetings (13 December 2007), Andrew Stephens discusses the American approach to winter holidays and its spread to the UK. He decries the Americanization of the British holiday season even as he misdescribes the historical developments that led to the way Americans celebrate winter holidays today.
Stephens rather obnoxiously fails to point out in his article that the modern commercialization of Christmas is very much a creation specifically of Jewish-owned department stores while the issue of Jewish participation in Christmas celebrations in schools was sent to the courts under the cover of Atheist plaintiffs in more or less the same way that the David Project found non-Jewish James Policastro to shill for its extremist Jewish or Zionist racial and religious hatred against Arabs and Muslims during the Roxbury Mosque conflict.

* On December. 3, 2007 Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine was published to the Web. While Hitchens' ignorant religion-bashing, which includes an attack on Christianity as well as Judaism, was probably fun to write, the article neither increases mutual understanding among believers and non-believers, nor does it explain the texts, nor does it elucidate in any reasonable way the history and major spiritual questions of the Greco-Roman period under question.
Because he would rather pander his own prejudices than find the truth, Hitchens accepts the traditional Rabbinic Jewish Hanukkah story at face value instead of applying the sort of skepticism to which he would subject an official report or press release from the Bush administration.

In misexplaining the history of Hanukkah, Hitchens acts on behalf of the left rather as Victor Davis Hanson misdepicts classical history in the service of the right-wing and especially on behalf Zionist Neocons.

# This story has many variants, and the major festivals are not always in the spring and the winter. In Lebanon among the Phoenicians, the Semitic version of the myth of Adonis and Venus was celebrated in the late summer. Adonis is the Greek version of the Hebrew God-name Adonai. Venus, who is the Greek Aphrodite and the Semitic Astarte, from whom the name of the Festival of Easter is derived, is the Great Goddess directly but ambivalently incorporated into the primary Olympian pantheon. Hesiod claims Aphrodite was born of sea foam while Homer identifies her parents as Zeus and the non-Olympian Titan goddess Dione. Homer emphasizes her foreign character by calling her the Cyprian, and in the Iliad the Trojans worship the Great Goddess as Aphrodite.

+ The wild-onager is the sacred beast of the Egyptian god Set, who is identified with Greek god Poseidan even though Set is more commonly a desert than a sea god. Set murders Osiris yearly.

++ The religious calendar issue today is rather like the debate over the choice of a gold or silver standard in late 19th century America. It was a burning conflict then with tremendous economic impact and effects on the lives of many Americans, but the public of 21st century America is for the most part completely unaware of this historically extremely important political debate.

+++ The rejection of the traditional ordering of the Semitic alphabet for the new Arabic alphabet created in the latter half of the 7th century CE probably reflects a similar effort to purge the Islamic religion of esoteric mythic mysteries that could otherwise have been associated with the letters of the text of the Qur'an. Vestiges of the mysteries of Semitic sacred alphabet survive in the retention of traditional numerical values for the letters of Arabic alphabet, and numerology of the Quran remains popular with some Muslims just as some Jews try to find esoteric meanings in the Hebrew Bible by numerological methods.
** In some sense, Christian observance has corrected the omission of abandoned women and children from the observance of Christmas. Before he was commercialized as Santa Claus, Bishop Nicholas of Myra, who is known today as Saint Nicholas even though he was never canonized, has become associated with the holiday in part because of his legendary gift-giving, which included providing the dowries for three motherless girls, who would otherwise have been sold into prostitution. Nicolas is the patron saint of Beit Jala, Palestine, where masses celebrate him according to the Gregorian calendar on December 19th, which is December 6th on the Julian Calendar.


Muhammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Myth by Jaroslav Stetkevych is an interesting attempt to reconstruct pre-Islamic Arabian myth.

Imperialism and Jewish Society: 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World) (Paperback) by Seth Schwartz.

James, the Brother of Jesus by Robert Eisenman contains a lot of nonsense, but the author provides a lot of material from the primary sources.

Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook is often cited in order to refute it. The authors attempt to construct a coherent history of early Islam without the use of any traditional Islamic sources.

Crossroads to Islam by Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren may have been written with the intent of "debunking" Islam, but the information the book supplies tends to support the hypothesis of a connection between Christian Judaism and the mission of Muhammad. Christian Judaism was probably the predominant form of religion among the Palestinian peasantry from the late second through the fourth century CE. It combined the beliefs of Second Temple Judaism with the acceptance of Jesus as a prophet and as a completely human messiah.

The Beginnings of Jewishness by Shaye Cohen provides some useful background information, but the book is uneven. Cohen may confuse cause and effect. He dates some phenomena too late and others too early.

The oeuvre of Jacob Neusner also provides useful information about the Talmudic form of Judaism in the Greco-Roman
period through the 10th century CE, but he takes texts at face value much too much. Seth Schwartz provides some correction to Neusner's uncritical assumptions.


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