Jewish Social Life Term Paper

Pages: 18 (5878 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Alfred Edersheim attempts to transport the reader into the land of Palestine during the time of Jesus and his apostles. He does so in an effort to give readers a sense of the historical events and day-to-day life that occurred contemporaneously with the life of Christ. Furthermore, Edersheim believes that his description of Palestine during this time period illuminates the truth of the statements in the New Testament. Furthermore, Edersheim uses historical events to show that Jesus differed from others of his time period, and was a unique individual. Edersheim builds upon that to demonstrate several different points: first, that Jesus was the Son of God; second, that Jesus was Jewish; and third, that Jesus signaled a departure from traditional Judaism.

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In the first chapter, Edersheim begins by describing Palestine during the time of Jesus. He explains that ancient Palestine did not resemble modern Palestine. Ancient Palestine had a different physical appearance, geographical makeup, and social and religious makeup than modern Palestine. In contrast to the arid desert that is modern Palestine, ancient Palestine was a beautiful and prosperous place. In fact, one scholar of the time period believed that Palestine of that time fulfilled God's promise of a land of milk and honey. Palestine had abundant sources of fruit trees, grain, produce, fish, animals, and birds. Furthermore, Palestine was a Holy Land. Its capital was Jerusalem and it was the worldly embodiment of Israel and the center of Judaism. Furthermore, Palestine was the center of Jewish traditional law and Jewish learning. In fact, the land itself gave Jews a connection to God, because those buried in Palestine where to be the first to enjoy everlasting life. Therefore, the modern state of Israel, which is thought to fulfill God's promise to the Jews, might be the closest political and physical approximation to the ancient state of Palestine.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Jewish Social Life Assignment

In the first chapter, Edersheim also discusses the difficulties scholars have in reconstructing ancient Palestine. The complete desolation of the country has made it almost impossible to determine where specific events occurred. In fact, the desolation is so complete that modern scholars cannot even determine the locations of ancient buildings. Furthermore, the physical details of the land such as the terrain and the soil have changed over time. Therefore, Palestine's gift has been spiritual realities, not physical locations. In addition, the boundaries of Palestine have been constricted over time and have never reached the extent of God's promise to Israel. Although he does not go into tremendous detail about how political changes have impacted the face of ancient Palestine, Edersheim does indicate that centuries of warfare in the land have helped destroy some of the physical evidence that may once have existed to support the stories detailed in the Bible.

Edersheim goes on to discuss the political and religious makeup of ancient Palestine. First, he describes that the dispersed tribes had returned to Palestine, and that the controversy about the ten tribes raged even in ancient Palestine. At the time of Christ's birth, Palestine was under the suzerainty of Rome and was governed by Herod the Great. After Herod's death, Palestine was divided into various dominions. Furthermore, Jews petitioned Rome, asking that Herodians not be appointed King. Rome refused the request and Archelaus, Herod's appointed successor, took vengeance on the Jews. Archelaus was deposed and Judea joined Syria. Palestine's political boundaries had it arranged into four territories: Galilee, Samaria, Judaea, and Peraea. Although Judaea was the most prominently Jewish area, Galilee had the most material wealth and also had a large Jewish population.

In chapter two, Edersheim discusses Jews and Gentiles in the Holy Land. First, he states that the boundary lines were not clearly demarcated. However, the boundaries were important because they affected religious obligations or privileges of a district. There were ten degrees of holiness in Palestine, and everything outside of Palestine was considered unholy. In fact, Jews were to avoid contact with those things outside of Israel. However, those lands conquered by King David, and referred to as Syria or Soria were considered as holy as Palestine. However, there were differences in the lands. For example, Galilee and Judaea each had their own legal customs and rights. The distinctions between the various areas are important to Christians because the first Gentile church was established just outside of Israel. Another point made by Edersheim is that even within the land, Hebrew was not used as the main language; instead, the people spoke Aramaean, which was heavily influenced by Greek and Latin. Edersheim goes on to explain little details of daily life, such as coins with heads on them, which demonstrated the foreign influence in Israel. It is important to understand that Israel experienced a tremendous foreign influence because, while Jews attempted to remain somewhat isolated from outside cultures, they were a conquered people and had to assimilate into larger society.

In chapter three, Edersheim goes on to discuss the land of Galilee during the time of the Lord. He makes it clear that Galilee was materially wealthy, while Judaea was considered spiritually wealthy. As a result, many Rabbinists from Judaea demonstrated contempt to those from Galilee. Compounding this problem was the fact that the Galilean highlands played host to a lot of outlaws. Galilee also contained the caravan road, which connected Damascus with Ptolemais. Therefore, Galilee played host to people from throughout the region. Nazareth was in Galilee, and it not only sat on the main road, but also played host to priests. Furthermore, the Galilean temperament seemed well-suited for receiving Christianity because they were considered warm-hearted, impulsive, conscientious, and earnest. Edersheim also indicates that it may have been significant that God chose a woman from Galilee, rather than from Judaea, to carry the Christ.

In chapter four, Edersheim goes on to discuss traveling in Palestine, during the period in question. Palestine contained several important roads. Five of the roads were Judaean and radiated to or from Jerusalem. The sixth road was not primarily Jewish, but instead connected Damascus with Rome and passed through Galilee. Palestine also contained a number of secondary roads. The roads were kept in good repair and many of them required tolls; clergy would have been exempt from paying those tolls. Israel was distinguished for its hospitality, and hospitality was considered a religious duty and obligation. In addition, Palestine had hostels and inns, for the housing of strangers and for public dining, drinking, and gaming. It was in these inns that Herod's spies were able to get the opinion of the people. It resulted in the people being under a form of martial law, with severe punishments for believed transgressions. Jews were responsible for paying various civil taxes, which became increasingly onerous under the Romans. This financial devastation helped contribute to the fact that Christ's disciples were chosen from among the lowest of the people. This choice differed from some aspects of traditional Judaism, which helped limit Jewish leadership to those in the middle and upper classes.

In chapter five, Edersheim talks about life in Judaea. At that time, Judaea was the inner sanctuary of Judaism. Jews awaited the Messiah and the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, which lent an air of expectation to the region. However, they expected the Messiah to wreak vengeance, rather than come with his message of love. The Rabbis did not share the Messianic expectations, and resisted, not only the new Church, but any similar movements. There was a fear of Rome, which led to some unique relationships between Rabbis and the Roman oppressors. Furthermore, the question of what cities were Jewish was important for the sake of rituals. However, these boundaries were difficult to fix and were subject to change because Israel was under foreign influence. Furthermore, Edersheim points out that when Jews sought to assert their independence, the occupiers would strike back with violence, which often resulted in a redistribution of Jews in the area.

Edersheim discusses Jewish homes in chapter six. He makes the point that the distinction between Jews and Gentiles was not merely a religious distinction, but was also a social distinction. The actual construction of streets, the arrangement of homes and other buildings, and the habits of the people set them apart from other people. First, a quorum of ten men was required for worship. Men could not compel their wives to move from a town to a township, or vice-versa. Edersheim goes on to give a snapshot of life in both townships and towns. The townships had strict political, police, and sanitary rules and regulations. One unique aspect was that people gathered on rooftops. In fact, rooftops were gathering places, guest rooms, and provided venues for travel. Jewish home life was also about obligations. For example, parents and children had mutual duties to each other. According to Edersheim, one interesting aspect of those mutual duties was that a child's duty to a parent lasted longer and was more in-depth than a parent's duty to a child. This facet bears… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Jewish Social Life" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Jewish Social Life.  (2006, July 23).  Retrieved December 2, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Jewish Social Life."  23 July 2006.  Web.  2 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Jewish Social Life."  July 23, 2006.  Accessed December 2, 2021.