Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Josephus and Jewish Ethnonyms: Evaluating Jason Staples's Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism

I'm on to present a paper at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies annual meeting at Congress in Toronto next Monday. I put the abstract together in January on a hunch, in the hopes that a deadline would force me to finish a book I wanted to read, and prime the writing pump. Since I didn't make nearly as much progress as I wanted over the semester, it also made a gauntlet of a winter-spring that much more demanding. Right now, however, I'm grateful because at least in a few moments over the last intense week of research and writing, the chance to concentrate on a single intellectual puzzle long enough to make headway has felt strangely like a mental vacation. 

The abstract is not quite what I would say now that I have a more-or-less complete rough draft in hand, but it is close enough to what the paper is still trying to do that I will post it here in case anyone is interested:

In The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism (CUP, 2021), Jason Staples argues that instead of being mutually interchangeable terms for the same group, “Israel” referred to the “tribes of the biblical northern kingdom” or to “the twelve-tribe covenantal people,” while Ioudaios (and cognates) designated a “subset” of this larger group associated with the southern tribes and the biblical kingdom of Judah. This paper will test Staples’s proposal against the evidence in Josephus. I will consider Josephus’s explanation for his own shift in terminology within the narrative context of the Antiquities; reevaluate the dueling claims of Ioudaioi and Samaritans in Antiquities books 9 and 11; and examine the labels Josephus uses to designate both those who returned from exile and those who remained “beyond the Euphrates.” We will see that within Josephus Ioudaios could still serve as a label for the people as a whole, including descendants of the northern tribes.

I may have more to say once the draft is revised and the paper is presented.