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Pentateuch

(576 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (ἡ Πεντάτευχος sc. βίβλος/ hē Pentáteuchos sc. bíblos, literally 'book of five scrolls', Orig. comm. in Jo 4,25; cf. Hippolytus 193 Lagarde; Latin Pentateuchus, Tert. in Isid. orig. 6,2,2). In the Christian tradition, a collective term for the the books Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy at the beginning of the Hebrew Bible. The Jewish tradition, however, refers instead to the spr htwrh, 'book of instruction' (cf. also the NT term νόμος/ nómos, Luke 10:26, or νόμος Μωϋσέως/ n. Mōÿséōs, Acts 28:23) or to ḥmyšh ḥwmšy twrh (literally 'five-fifths of t…

Hekhalot literature

(365 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Hekhalot literature (HL), to which belong, as the most important types, Hekaloth Rabbati (‘the great palaces’), Hekaloth zuṭarti (‘the small palaces’), Maʿase Merkabah (‘the work of the throne chariot’), Merkabah Rabbah (‘the great throne chariot’), Reʾuyyot Yeḥeqkel (‘the visions of Ezechiel’), Massekhet Hekaloth (‘treatise of the palaces’) and the 3rd Henoch, is a testimony to early Jewish mysticism constituted by an ‘experimental knowledge of God won through lively experience’ [4. 4]. One of the most significant motifs…

Seraph(im)

(187 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew sārāf, plural serāfîm, from the verb srf, 'burn'; Greek σεραφιν/ seraphin, Latin seraphin). Old Testament term for the cobra (cf. Egyptian Uraeus). Apart from the natural threat from this animal (Dtn 8,15; Nm 21,9) an apotropaic aspect plays a particular role in the Old Testament tradition: a seraph attached to a pole repels a plague of snakes in the Israelites' camp (Nm 21,7-10) {{6-9 in AV, but not saying this}}. Finds of numerous seals, primarily from the 8th century BC, indicate th…

Aaron

(228 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Post-Biblical traditions of A. are designed to idealize this figure, who appears ambivalent in the Biblical tradition (e.g. the Golden Calf episode), against a background of disputes starting with  Menelaus over the office of High Priest, which had abandoned hereditary succession, and thus affirming that A. (and his successors) were worthy of the office. The  Qumran community, which broke with the Jerusalem community of worship in protest over the progressive desacralization of th…

Masorah, Masoretes

(494 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Since the Hebrew alphabet is a consonantal alphabet and thus does not write any vowels, written words can often be pronounced and interpreted in various ways. In order to solve this problem, individual consonant letters were used also as vowel letters ( matres lectionis) from early on (so called plene writing; cf. Aramaic documents from as early as the 9th century BC or the Shiloah inscription from the 7th century BC). Furthermore, in order to secure the pronunciation of the holy text definitively, the so-called Masorah (‘tradition’, from Hebrew msr, ‘to pass down’) w…

Elisha ben Abuja

(158 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Eliša b. Abuja). Jewish scholar of the first half of the 2nd cent. AD, in the Rabbinic literature considered a prototypical apostate and probably therefore bearing the name Aḥer (Hebrew ‘the Other’). However, Rabbinic legendary tradition attributes to him a number of very different heresies: the reference in bHag 15a, according to which he believed in the existence of two heavenly powers, seems to point to Gnostic ideas ( Gnostics); according to yHag 2,1 (77b), he is supposed to …

Ethnarchos

(155 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The title ethnarchos was given by the Romans to both Hyrcanus II (63-40 BC) and the son of Herod, Archelaus (4 BC-AD 6) (Hyrcanus II by Caesar 47 BC cf. Jos. Ant. Iud. 14,192ff.; Archelaus by Augustus after Herod's death, cf. Jos. Ant. Iud. 17,317). Formal expression was thus given to the designated person's rule over the Jewish people, while at the same time deliberately avoiding the title of king (cf. Jos. Ant. Iud. 20,244). The head of the Jewish community in Alexandria, who is s…

Circumcisio

(346 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Circumcision (Hebrew mûla, mîla; Greek περιτομή; peritomḗ; Latin circumcisio), the removal of the foreskin of the male member, was originally an apotropaic rite widespread amongst western Semitic peoples that was performed at the onset of puberty or prior to the wedding (cf. Exodus 4,26 Is. 9,24f; Jos. 5,4-9; Hdt. 2,104,1-3). As this custom was not known in Mesopotamia, circumcision became a distinguishing feature between the exiled people and the Babylonians during the time of Babylonian…

Bar Pandera

(92 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Figure who is mentioned in connection with magic and idolatry (bShab 104b; bSanh 67b); name of Jesus in rabbinical literature (KohR 1.1,8; tHul 2,22f.; yAZ 2,2 [40d], ySab 14,4 [14d]; KohR 10,5). Detailed research of the various traditions was able to show that B. did not originally belong to the context of anti-Christian polemics, but was only identified secondarily with Jesus during the repressive Byzantine religious politics before the Arabic conquest.  Adversos Judaeos;  Anti-Semitism Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) Bibliography J. Maier, Jesus von Nazareth in d…

Jabne

(183 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Ἰάμνια; Iámnia). City, situated south of modern Tel Aviv. After the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70, it became the new centre in which Judaism reconstituted itself as rabbinic Judaism, initially under Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai and later under Gamaliel [2] II. A first formulation of the material which was later to be incorporated into the Mišna was undertaken here, whereby the aspect of an ordering of the religious life without temple cult and priests, as well as th…

Saboraeans

(71 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (from Hebrew śābar, 'consider', 'verify', 'reason' ). Term for those Jewish Talmud scholars of the 6th/7th cents. AD who carried out the final editing of the Babylonian Talmud (Rabbinical literature) and copiously amplified it with more extensive chapters. The Saboraeans followed the Tannaites (late 1st - early 3rd cents. AD) and the Amoraim (3rd-5th cents. AD). Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) Bibliography G. Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch, 81992, 205-207.

Talmud

(142 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] ('study, learning', from Hebrew lamad, 'learn'). The central work within rabbinical literature, consisting of a) the Mishnah, the oldest authoritative collections of laws of rabbinical Judaism ( c. AD 200) and b) the Gemara, i.e. interpretations of and discussions on the material of the Mishnah. Since in the rabbinical period there were two centres of Jewish scholarship, i.e. Palestine and Babylonia (Sura, Pumbedita), two different Talmudim came into being: the Palestinian (= Jerusalem Talmud; essentially finalized c. AD 450) and the Babylonian (essentiall…

Gaon

(240 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew gāōn, ‘Eminence’, later ‘Excellency’; pl.: Gōnı̄m). Official title of the head of the Rabbinic academies in Babylonian  Sura and  Pumbedita. There the gaons functioned from the 6th cent. AD to the end of the academies in the 11th cent. as the highest teaching authorities (cf. the name of this period as the ‘Gaonic period’). The most important representatives of this office were Amram ben Sheshna (died about AD 875; author of the earliest preserved prayer book), Saadiah be…

Sammael

(188 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew Sammāel). Negative angel figure in Jewish tradition, often identified with Satan. S. is mentioned for the first time in Ethiopic Henoch 6, where he is one of a group of angels that rebels against God (cf. the name Σαμμανή/ Sammanḗ or Σαμιήλ/ Samiḗl in the Greek version). According to Greek Baruch 4,9, he planted the vine that led to the fall of Adam; S. was therefore cursed and became Satan. In the 'Ascension of Isaiah', S. is identified with the figure of Beliar (4,11). Rabbinical literature represents S. in the s…

Gamaliel

(279 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] [1] G. I. »The Old Man«; grandson of Hillel Also called ‘the Old Man’ (died c. AD 50), a grandson of Hillel. G. was a Pharisee ( Pharisaei) and member of the Sanhedrin ( Synhedrion). G., about whom little is known historically (for discussion of the problem, cf. [1]), is thought to have been  Paulus' teacher prior to his conversion to Christianity (Acts 22:3). According to Acts 5:34-39 his intervention saved Peter and other apostles from prosecution by the Sanhedrin. Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) [German version] [2] G. II. Successor to Jochanan ben Zakkai Grandson of [1], a…

Esther

(340 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Ester). The Hebrew Book of Esther, dated to either the end of the Persian or the beginning of the Hellenistic period, recounts (a) the decision that the Persian King Ahasverus (485-465 BC) is said to have taken (cf. especially 3,13), at the urging of the anti-Jewish Haman, one of his most influential officials, to eliminate his kingdom's Jews, and (b) the salvation of the Jews, in which a major part was played by the Jewish E., who had entered the court without being recognized, …

Adam

(322 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The early Jewish and rabbinic traditions of A., the first man whom God created from the dust of the Earth (Hebr. adama) and gave the breath of life (see the Yahwistic account of creation), mainly revolved around the original sin. Early Jewish writing emphasized A.'s original glory (Wisdom 10,1 f.; Sir 49,16; 4 Ezra 6,53 f.) and beauty (Op 136-142; 145-150; Virt 203-205), occasionally even describing him as an angel (slHen 30,11 f.). However, his sin brought death to his descendants (4 Ezra 3,7,21; 7,…

Sambation

(177 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (also Sanbation or Sabbation; Greek Σαββατικός/ Sabbatikós, Jos. BI 7,5). Mythical river, behind which the ten tribes of Israel (Judah and Israel) were said to have been exiled by the Assyrian king Salmanassar. According to Jewish legend, this river had the miraculous property of resting on the Sabbath, while on all other days its current was so strong that it hurled stones (among others, BerR 11,5; cf. already Plin. HN 31,24). Iosephus [4] Flavius describes the river, which according t…

Pumbedita

(140 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew pwmbdyt). Babylonian (Babylonia) city on the Euphrates. According to rabbinical tradition, it was distinguished by the fertile land around it (cf. bPes 88a), and because of its flax production, it represented an important site for the textile industry (bGit 27a; bBM 18b). The epistle of Rav Šerira Gaon indicates a centre for studying the Torah (Pentateuch) there by the time of the Second Temple (520 BC - AD 70). The destruction of Nehardea by the Palmyrans (Palmyra) in AD…

Nazirite, Nazir

(226 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] According to biblical records (Nm 6:1-21), a male or female (cf. Jos. BI 2,313: Berenice) nazirite vowed - normally for a limited period of time - to take up certain ascetic rules of behaviour: abstention from vine products and haircutting, ban on getting impure by touching a dead person (Nm 6:3-12; cf. also the rules in the Mishnah, or Talmud and Tosefta tract Nazir). If the nazirite vow was not, as in the case of Samson (Judges 13,5), taken for life, then it ended, after the deadline set in the vow, with offers of various sacrifices (cf. Ac…
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