Crucifixion of the Jews: Book 2

Historian John Gager on The Grego–Roman View of the Jews pre–Christian Era

The Greek and Roman Encounter with Judaism


 “In the Greco–Roman world, the earliest and most abiding view of the Jews was as a nation of philosophers. Theophrastus (c. 300 BCE), Megasthenes (c. 300 BCE), Clearchus of Soli (c. 300 BCE), Hermippus of Smyrna (c. 200 BCE), and Ocellus Lucanus (second century BCE) all associate Judaism with the traditions of ancient philosophy.1A similar image appears among Hellenistic ethnographers. Hecataeus of Abdera (c. 300 BCE) as well as numerous authors cited by Josephus in his Against Apion indicate a strong and appreciative interest in Jewish history and culture throughout the Hellenistic period. In short, there is considerable evidence to substantiate Martin Hengel’s observation that ‘down to Posidonius [c. 50 BCE]…the earliest Greek witnesses, for all their variety, present a relatively uniform picture: they portray the Jews as a people of philosophers.’”2

1 For a discussion of these authors see Stern, Authors, vol. I, pp. 8–17

(Theophrastus); pp. 45–52 (Megathenes, Clearchus); pp. 93–96 (Hermippus),and pp. 131–133 (Ocellus).

2 M. Hengel, Hellenism and Judaism (Philadelphia, 1974). p. 255.

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