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Judaism/Judaisms: An Introduction to Religious Jewish History from 586 BCE to 640 CE

Judaism/Judaisms: An Introduction to Religious Jewish History from 586 BCE to 640 CE  

30 teaching hours, equivalent to 5 ECTS

 Feb 12 – Feb 16

Dr. Meir Ben Shahar


Dr. Ben Shahar was born Jerusalem. He studied and received His Ph.D. in Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He teaches at the Department of Jewish History at the Hebrew University and Sha\’anan College. His primary research interests are historical consciousness in ancient Judaism, rabbinic literature, Second Temple literature and Josephus.


Course Description

During the Second Temple period there were different approaches regarding the nature of Judaism, the identity of the Jews and the nature of the religious act. At the end of a long and complex process, Rabbinic Judaism was created as practically the exclusive religious option in the Jewish world. The course will review the theological approaches and the Halakhic praxis of the various competing groups which were active during the Second Temple period. We will start with the question of \’who is a Jew\’ in the age of Restoration (Return to Zion) and the separation between the Jews and the Samarians. We will then deal with the various sects of the Second Temple: Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes of various kinds. We will learn about the nature of Diaspora Jewry and specifically the institution of the synagogue which can be identified with this Judaism. We will explore the beginnings of Christianity and the eventual separation from Judaism. Finally, we will analyze the characteristics of Rabbinic Judaism as they are expressed in Talmudic literature. The course will also require a fully researched term paper. You may choose your own topic (anything related to “Ancient Jewish History”), but do not hesitate to consult with me concerning topic or bibliography; you are also invited to submit preliminary drafts on an informal basis if these are ready on time. Term papers will be due at the last session of the course.  

To participate in the course, please contact Paideia at info@paideia-eu.org.