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Monday, 30 November 2015

Jewish by Observance

Starting from his own baseline again, Cohen says:

You might reasonablty conclude that people you see observing Jews laws are Jews. The Romans understood that the observance of Jewish laws was an essential aspect of Jewishness ... it is clear that if someone wanted to be treated as a Jew by the state he had to behave as a Jew - that is, observe Jewish laws.

He points out that in antiquity, Jewish behaviour did not look like the forms of Jewish behaviour that are caricatured today - way of speaking, gestures, etc. - but not eating pork, not working on Shabbat and attending synagogue.

What makes Jews dinctive, and consequently what makes "judaizers" distinctive, is the observance of the ancestral laws of the Jews.

But the widely repeated Talmudic statement, "Anyone who denies idolatry is called a Jew" (b. Megillag 13a) opens the gates rather wider. Even being a vegetarian could get you classed as a Jew. Cohen concludes:

There is abundant evidence that in the first centuries of our era some - perhaps many - gentiles, whether polytheist or Christian, attended Jewish synagogues, abstained from work on the Sabbath, and perhaps observed other Jewish rituals as well ... Even people who, on account of their observance of Jewish laws, were widely regarded as Jews and called Jews were not necessarily Jews and did not necessarily seed themselves as Jews. The observance of Jewish laws was perhaps a somewhat more reliable indicator of Jewishness than presence in a Jewish neighbourhood or association with known Jews, but it was hardly infallible.

Posted By Jonathan, 9:01am Comment Comments: