Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's in a name? Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen

In the latest edition of Walter Bauer's venerable Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (ed. F.W. Danker; University of Chicago Press, 2000), Frederick Danker proposes that the Greek word, Ἰουδαῖος (Ioudaios), which had in the past been almost universally translated by the English word "Jew," should be translated "Judean," adding: "Incalculable harm has been caused by simply glossing [Ioudaios] with ‘Jew’, for many readers or auditors of Bible translations do not practice the historical judgment necessary to distinguish between circumstances and events of an ancient time and contemporary ethnic-religious-social realities, with the result that anti-Judaism in the modern sense of the term is needlessly fostered through biblical texts."

This is an unusually prescriptive comment for an academic lexicon. I suspect it may have something to do with Danker's laudable concern, as a Lutheran seminary professor, to remove any basis for anti-Semitism or anti-Jewishness from popular translations of, and preaching on, the New Testament.

No such pastoral concern or hesitation about the contemporary implications of the translation of Ioudaios are evident in the much longer analysis by the Jewish scholar and Harvard Professor, Shaye Cohen. In the third chapter of The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (University of California Press, 1999), Cohen identifies "three basic meanings" of Ioudaios (cf. 70):

(1) Judaean (a function of ethnicity or geography) - Cohen agrees that the Greek term, Ioudaios, "originally, and in antiquity primarily" was an "ethnic-geographic" term "designating the eponymous inhabitants of the land of Ioudaia/Yehudah" (69). Cohen argues that "all occurrences of the term Ioudaios before the middle or end of the second century B.C.E. should be translated not as 'Jew,' a religious term, but as 'Judaean,' an ethnic-geographic term."

Two additional definitions emerged around the time of the Maccabean revolt "out of the clash between Judaism (the ways of the Judaeans) and Hellenism (the ways of the Greeks)...that for the first time allowed gentiles the opportunity to join the Judaean people" (105):

(2) Judaean - a citizen or ally of the Judaean state (a function of politics) - "The first definition was political: the Judaeans form a political community and could extend citizenship even to nonnatives. Such newly enfranchised citizens themselves became Ioudaioi or Judaeans. They still retained their prior ethnicity and much of their prior religion and culture, but they joined the Judaean people and declared loyalty to the God of the Judaeans" (105). The Idumaeans, who were forcibly converted by the now-independent Maccabean ruler, John Hyrcanus I, are a fine example of this political use of the term.

(3) Jew (a function of religion or culture) - Finally, after the Maccabean revolt, the term Ioudaios came to be used, on occasion, specifically for those who venerated the God of the Judaeans and observed his laws. Cohen argues that this distinctively religious use of the term, which corresponds nicely to the meaning of the English word "Jew" first appears in 2 Macc 6:6 and 9:17.
  • "People could neither keep the sabbath, nor observe the festivals of their ancestors, nor so much as confess themselves to be Jews" (6:6).
  • On his death-bed, Antiochus IV vowed that "in addition to all this he also would become a Jew and would visit every inhabited place to proclaim the power of God" (9:17).
Since in the end "Religion overcame ethnicity" (340), these two passages "mark an important turning point in the history of the word Ioudaios and, indeed, in the history of Judaism" (105).

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

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