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Genesis 34 in Jewish Writings of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods

  • Reinhard Pummer (a1)


In a very interesting and perceptive article, John J. Collins has reexamined Theodotus' epic Περι ᾽Iουδαίων. As opposed to the opinion that was prevalent until recently, i.e., that Theodotus was a Samaritan, Collins attempts to show that he was not only not a Samaritan, but that, on the contrary, his poem was directed against the latter group. He characterizes Theodotus as “a militant and exclusivist Jew” (p. 102) who nevertheless “composed one of only two surviving Jewish epics in the Greek language” (p. 102); this confirms, according to Collins, Tcherikover's view that the Hasmoneans were opposed to the Greeks for political reasons but did not reject Greek culture. Theodotus defends his Jewish nationalism through the medium of Greek epic poetry.



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1 Collins, John J., “The Epic of Theodotus and the Hellenism of the Hasmoneans,” HTR 73 (1980) 91104. Page numbers in parentheses within the text of the present article refer to Collian's article.

2 This view was or is held by the following authors: Freudenthal, J., Alexander Polyhistor (Breslau: Skutsch, 1875) 99100;Schürer, E., A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (Edinburgh: Clark, 1897) 2/3. 225;Wendland, P., review of A. Ludwich, De Theodoti carmine Graeco-Iudaico in Berliner philologische Wochenschrift 19 (1899) 900901;Büchler, A., Die Tobiaden und die Oniaden (Wien: Hölder, 1899; reprint ed., Hildesheim: Olms, 1975) 150 n. 147; H. St. Thackeray, J., trans., Josephus (LCL; London: Heinemann, 1926) 1. 250 n. a;Montgomery, J. A., The Samaritans (Philadelphia, 1907; reprint ed., New York: Ktav, 1968) 285;Riessler, P., Altjüdisches Schrifttum ausserhalb der Bibel (Heidelberg: Kerle/Kühling, 1928; reprint ed., 1966) 1339;Buchler, A., “Traces des idées et des coutumes hellénistiques dans le Livre des Jubilés,” REJ 89 (1930) 341, 344;Bickermann, E., Der Gott der Makkabäer (Berlin: Schocken/Jüdischer Buchverlag, 1937) 125; ET: idem, The God of the Maccabees (Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 32; Leiden: Brill, 1979) 82;Bull, R. J., “A Note on Theodotus' Description of Shechem,” HTR 60 (1967) 224;Meeks, W. A., The Prophet-King (NovTSup 14; Leiden: Brill, 1967) 219;Purvis, J. D., The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect (HSM 2; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1968) 13 n. 21;Denis, A.-M., Introduction aux Pseudépigraphes grecs d'Ancien Testament (SVTP 1; Leiden: Brill, 1970) 272;Wacholder, B.-Z., “Theodotus,” EncJud 15 (1972) 1102; idem, Eupolemus (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, 1974) 285;Hengel, M., Judaism and Hellenism (London: SCM, 1974) 1. 69, 89, 266.

3 Theodotus' Samaritan affiliation had already been doubted by Ludwich, A., De Theodoti carmine Graeco-Iudaico (Königsberg, 1899) 5 and 7, and by R. Laqueur, “Theodotus, n. 21,” PW 5 A/2 (1934) 1958. It was rejected by Stählin, O., “Die hellenistisch-jüdische Literatur,” in Geschichte der griechischen Literatur (ed. Christ, W. von and Schmid, W.; Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 8; München: Beck, 1920) 2/1. 607, and Gutman, J., “The Epic on Shechem,” in The Beginnings of Jewish-Hellenistic Literature (Jerusalem, 1958) 1. 246 (Hebr.). Recently Kippenberg, H. G. (Garizim und Synagoge [Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten 30; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1971] 84) and Charlesworth, J. H. (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research [Septuagint and Cognate Studies 7; Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1976] 210) have shown that Samaritan provenance of Theodotus is unlikely, as Collins notes (“Epic,” 94 n. 4). See also Pummer, R., “The Book of Jubilees and the Samaritans,” Eglise et Théologie 10 (1979) 174–75.

4Book of Jubilees,” and “Antisamaritanische Polemik in jüdischen Schriften aus der intertestamentarischen Zeit,” BZ (forthcoming).

5 For the text and translation, see Colson, F. H. and Whitaker, G. H., Philo (LCL; London: Heinemann, 1932) 4. 264–65.

6 Text and translation: Ibid., 5. 240–47.

7 Cf. Charlesworth, Pseudepigrapha, 170, with further references. Ch. Dietzfelbinger (Pseudo-Philo: Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum [mimeographed dissertation; Göttingen, 1964] 191–95) dates the work between A.D. 70 and 132. P. M. Bogaert (in Harrington, D. J. et al., Pseudo-Philon: Les Antiquités bibliques [Paris: Cerf, 1976] 2. 74) concludes that in all probability the work was composed before the Jewish War. Recently, A. Zeron argued for a much later dating, i. e., after the Bar Kochba revolt or even after the 3d/4th cent. A.D. (Erwägungen zu Pseudo-Philos Quellen und Zeit,” JSJ 11 [1980] 5052).

8 Translation: James, M. R., The Biblical Antiquities of Philo (New York: Ktav, 1971 [1917]) 97.

9 Charles, R. H. (The Book of Jubilees or the Little Genesis [London: Black, 1902; reprint ed., Jerusalem: Makor, 1972] 179, and The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament [Oxford: Clarendon, 1913] 2. 58) mentions the passage in De mig.; in both places he points out that “in the late rabbinic tradition, however, Simeon and Levi are judged more in accordance with the sentence pronounced upon them in Gen. XLIX.” Kippenberg (Garizim, 89–90) discusses the same works as Collins. Charlesworth has deplored the frequent neglect of Pseudo-Philo by scholars (Pseudepigrapha, 171).

10 In T. Levi 5.3–4 and 6.8, the Shechemites' destruction is said to have been God's will.

11 Charles, in his notes on Jub 30.2–6 (Book of Jubilees, 179) has drawn attention to this, as has, more recently, Thomas, J., “Aktuelles im Zeugnis der zwölf Väter,” in Studien zu den Testamenten der Zwölf Patriarchen (ed. Eltester, W.; BZNW 36; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1966) 78. For further literature, see Pummer, “Antisamaritanische Polemik,” n. 22.

12 Book of Jubilees, LIII, where he enumerates the passages in Jubilees that either omitted or changed certain biblical stories that were considered inappropriate. This situation changed again in the later Jewish literature (see n. 9 above).

13 Cf. Hengel, M., Die Zeloten (Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Spätjudentums und Urchristentums 1; Leiden/Köln: Brill, 1961) 181234; Thomas, “Aktuelles,” 79.

14 For a detailed discussion of these allusions, see Dubarle, A.-M., Judith (AnBib 24; Rome: Institut Biblique Pontifical, 1966) 1. 137–44; 166–67.

15 Collins adds: “None of these sources admits that the Shechemites had been circumcised before the destruction” (p. 98). Testament of Levi does, of course, record the circumcision (6.6). But Theodotus also seems to imply it. When Emmor and Shechem are told that Jacob cannot give his daughter in marriage unless all Shechemites are circumcised and become Jews, Emmor agrees to persuade his people to accept circumcision. After further explanation about the need for this rite, Emmor goes back to the city and calls upon his subjects to undergo the operation. It is true that the actual circumcision is not reported, but neither is there any indication that the Shechemites did not heed the order of their king. (Cf. Wacholder, Eupolemus, 284: “Jacob's refusal to forego the decree ordained by God to Abraham compels the Shechemites to undergo the rite of circumcision.”) In any event, the mention alone of the demand to agree to circumcision makes the epic different from all other works except for Testament of Levi.

16 A. Spiro's hypothesis that the author wanted to locate the incident “by double-talk” in Corea, on the border of Judaea, is not convincing (Samaritans, Tobiads, and Judahites in Pseudo-Philo. Use and Abuse of the Bible by Polemicists and Doctrinaires,” PAAJR 20 [1951] 319–20).

17 Review of Coggins, R. J., Samaritans and Jews, in ATR 61 (1979) 252. Theodotus himself said that Shechem was occupied by Hebrews when Emmor ruled (αὐτ⋯ν ὑπ⋯ ᾽Εβραίων χατασχεϑ⋯ναι, δυνατεύοντος ᾽Εμμώρ). Collins sees a support for “a typological application [of the phrase ‘inhabitants of Shechem’] to the Shechemites of the Hellenistic age” by Theodotus in “the direct imperative in PE 9.22.2: blapte theos Sikimōn oikētoras, which appeals to God to destroy the people of Shechem” (p. 95). But βλάπτε is not to be seen here as an imperative. It is an Epic imperfect, as is the next verb, ἔτιον; a further imperfect occurs in line 3 of the same section, namely, ⋯δίχαζον. The last verb, (ὠρώρει, is plpf. of ⋯ρνυμι and stands here for ἦν as, e.g., in the Epic poet Apollonius Rhodius of the 3d cent. B.C. (cf. LSJ, 1255). Various translators have understood βλάπτε as perfect or imperfect: Müller, C., Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum (1849) 3. 218 (= PG 21. 723); Riessler, Altjüdisches Schrifttum, 1265; and Gutman, “Epic,” 258. (I want to thank Prof. M. Roussel of the Dept. of Classical Studies, University of Ottawa, for confirming the imperfect meaning of βλάπτε).

18 Montgomery, Samaritans, 157.

19 Cf. esp. Bikerman, E., “Un document relatif à la persècution d' Antiochus IV Epiphane,” RHR 115 (1937) 188223; reprinted in Studies in Jewish and Christian History (AGJU 9; Leiden: Brill, 1980) 2. 105–35;Alon, G., “The Origin of the Samaritans in the Halakhic Tradition,” in Jews, Judaism and the Classical World (orig. Hebr., 1946; Jerusalem: Magnes, The Hebrew University, 1977) 354–73;Delcor, M., “Vom Sichem der hellenistischen Epoche zum Sychar des Neuen Testaments,” ZDPV 78 (1962) 3548; Kippenberg, Garizim, 77–80; Schalit, A., “Die Denkschrift der Samaritaner an König Antiochos Epiphanes zu Beginn der grossen Verfolgung der jüdischen Religion im Jahre 167 v. Chr. (Josephus, AJ, XII, §§ 258–264),” ASTI 8 (1970/1971) 131–83.

20 See the literature quoted above, n. 19.

21 Delcor, “Vom Sichem,” 35–38.

22 Kippenfaerg, Garizim, 79.

23 2 Macc 6:2 is also a disputed passage. The translation “as the inhabitants of the place requested” is by no means certain. But even if it was, 2 Maccabees speaks of Jews and Shechemites as one γένος (cf. 2 Macc 5:22–23 and 6:1–2).

24 Or, if “Sidonians in Shechem” is seen as synonymous with “Samaritans,” that the Samaritans had not discontinued circumcision.

25 After I had completed the first draft of this paper, I found that the same point had been made by Jones, B. W., “Antiochus Epiphanes and the Persecution of the Jews,” in Scripture in Context: Essays on the Comparative Method (ed. Evans, C. D., Hallo, W. W., and White, J. B.; Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series 34; Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1980) 269.

26 While Collins dismisses Kippenberg's (Garizim, 84–85) inference that 2 Macc 5:22–23 points to Samaritan resistance against Antiochus, with the argument that “2 Maccabees does not … record any Samaritan resistance” (p. 99 n. 21; see below, n. 35), he himself has even less ground for his assumption that the Samaritans did not practice circumcision during the Hellenistic persecution, since there is not only no record of it but not even the slightest hint in either 2 Maccabees or Josephus or any other source. It would seem that 2 Macc 5:22–23 is a firmer basis for the hypothesis of Samaritan resistance than the omission of the mention of circumcision of the Shechemites in Dinah's story is for that of the Samaritans' neglect of circumcision.

27 Juynboll, T. G. J., Chronicon Samaritanum, Arabice conscription, cui titulus est Liber Josuae (Leiden: Luchtmans, 1848) chap. 49; ET in Crane, O. E., The Samaritan Chronicle (New York: Alden, 1890).

28 Vilmar, E., Abulfathi Annales Samaritani (Gotha: Perthes, 1865) 150. For a translation of this section, see Bowman, J., Samaritan Documents Relating To Their History, Religion and Life (Pittsburgh Original Texts & Translations 2; Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1977) 161–62.

29 Ed. and trans. Adler, E. N. and Séligsohn, M., “Une nouvelle chronique samaritaine,” REJ 45 (1902) 223.

30 Under Decius (249–51), according to Chronicle Adler.

31 Under Constantius II (337–61), as Vilmar (Abulfathi, LXX) thought.

32 See Adler, “Nouvelle chronique,” 224; Cowley, A. E., ed., The Samaritan Liturgy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1909) 846 lines 1225;Ben-Ḥayyim, Z., The Literary and Oral Tradition of Hebrew and Aramaic Amongst the Samaritan (Jerusalem: The Academy of the Hebrew Language, 1967) 3/2. 258–63 (Hebr.).

33 The source for this passage in Theodotus is Gen 15:19–21 (see Gutman, “Epic,” 257).

34 In his attempt to determine a terminus ante quern, Collins assumes that Shechem still stood when the epic was written, since Theodotus “does not say that it was destroyed or burnt down by the sons of Jacob” (p. 101). But in the last phrase the poem does state (according to Alexander's or Eusebius' summary) that the other brothers helped Simeon and Levi and destroyed the city (χα⋯ τ⋯ν πόλιν ⋯χπορϑ⋯σαι).

35 Already in 1902 E. R. Bevan surmised that, like the Jews, the Samaritans too were “divided into two parties. The letter given by Josephus might have been sent by the Hellenizing party without the whole Samaritan community being involved. A smiliar letter would be quite credible from Menelaus and his friends” (The House of Seleucus [London: Arnold, 1902; reprint ed., London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966] 2. 174 n. 1). Kippenberg expressed the same idea: “Ausserdem dürfte nur ein kleiner Teil der Samar. [itaner] Anhänger eines Synkretisraus gewesen sein. Dass keineswegs alle Samar.[itaner] mit fliegenden Fahnen zu Antiochus übergelaufen sind, lässt 2 Makk 5, 22 erkennen…. Und wie in Jerusalem so muss Antiochus auch an diesem Ort mit Widerstand rechnen” (Garizim, 84–85; the last mentioned inference was already drawn by Montgomery [Samaritans, 78], to whom Kippenberg refers). Collins rejects the hypothesis of a Samaritan resistance since 2 Maccabees does not record any (p. 99 n. 21; see also n. 26 above).

A petition from the Hellenizing party in Jerusalem is taken for granted by Smith, M. (Palestinian Parties and Politics that Shaped the Old Testament [New York/London: Columbia University, 1971] 190). A. Momigliano, on the contrary, not only accepts the equation “Sidonians of Shechem” with “Samaritans,” but also sees in their petition implicitly a proof that the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not ask to have their temple renamed (Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization [Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1975] 107–8). It is futile, of course, to speculate on the matter, since we have no way of reaching any firm conclusions.

36 See Kippenberg, Garizim, 84.


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