‘… ancient Judaism was complex, capacious, and rather frayed at the edges ….’ – Seth Schwartz
Course description: This course focuses upon the history and literature of the period during which rabbinic Judaism develops and evolves into the classical expression of Jewish religiosity; i.e., from roughly 500 BCE to the mid-600s CE. Special attention will be devoted to the literature produced by the rabbinic Sages in order to introduce students to the basic corpora of oral Torah, as well as to the various ways in which the rabbis read and supplemented written scripture. Some comparative study of contemporary non-rabbinic currents of Jewish religious expression will also transpire.
Texts: You do not need to buy anything from the bookstore. Web links to many of the texts we will need are available on the course website (https://pages.uncc.edu/john-reeves/course-materials/rels-4107/). The following secondary text is required and available to you electronically via Atkins Library:
Seth Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).
Also available electronically via Atkins Library are the following recommended texts for answering questions pertaining to terminology and chronology:
Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (3d ed.; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).
Peter Schäfer, The History of the Jews in the Greco-Roman World (rev. ed.; London and New York: Routledge, 2003).
Supplementary required readings will be assigned or electronically distributed by the instructor as needed.
a. Readings. The nature of this course entails a significant amount of close reading and reflection. Students are responsible for anticipating and completing the reading assignments (outlined below) in a timely manner. Every student is expected to read and critically expound the required work mentioned above in its entirety.
b. Logistics. This class will be conducted synchronously on Zoom for the entire spring 2021 semester. You will never need or be required to come to a campus classroom or office.
c. Seminar presentations/papers. At almost every class meeting, an individual student will be responsible for leading the first half of our collective discussion of that week’s assignment from Schwartz or another assigned author. Students should use the template found later in this syllabus as a rough guide for their presentation. All students (including the discussion leader) will prepare and electronically submit to the instructor before the beginning of class a written summary and brief analysis (maximum length of five  pages) of that week’s reading assignment. The instructor’s evaluation of the student’s collective written summaries/analyses (based on the scale √+ = A-; √ = C+ for undergrads; B- for grads; √- = D for undergrads; C for grads) will comprise 40% of the course grade.
d. Research project. One (1) formal research project to be presented in oral and written form (10-15 double-spaced pages, exclusive of notes and list of sources) that focuses upon a particular topic relevant to the study of early Judaism. A suggested list of topics is provided later in this syllabus; otherwise, in consultation with the instructor, the student should select a topic of individual interest that permits such an extended exposition, analysis, and/or evaluation. The project will be presented orally to the rest of the class (approximately 20 minutes) during the final two class meetings on Thursday, April 22 and 29; a formal written version of the papers must be submitted to the instructor no later than 12:00 PM on Friday, May 7. The research project accounts for 40% of the course grade.
e. Individual involvement. Almost perfect attendance (see below) is an essential requirement for this course. Each class meeting builds upon the knowledge gained during previous meetings. Moreover, in-class discussion, close reading, and analysis by both the instructor and class members comprises a significant portion of every class meeting. Preparation for every class usually involves the completion of a series of assigned readings and/or written assignment(s), and individual students initiate our collective examination and discussion of the weekly topics. Students are expected to contribute in an informed manner to the public analysis and discussion of any assigned topic. The instructor’s assessment of one’s attendance, apparent class preparation, presentations, and informed oral contributions, will constitute 20% of the final course grade.
f. Zakhor (Remember!): Mastery of the assigned readings and diligent class attendance are necessary prerequisites for the successful completion of this course. Each student is responsible for all lectures, class discussions, assignments, and announcements, whether or not he/she is present when they occur.
a. The grading scale used in this course is as follows:
91-95+ A = demonstrable mastery of material; can creatively synthesize
81-90 B = some demonstrable proficiency in control of material & analysis
71-80 C = satisfactory performance of assignments; little or no analysis
61-70 D = inadequate and/or faulty understanding of material
0-60 F = unacceptable work
Graduate students are graded using a scale of A, B, C, and U. A grade of ‘C’ for a graduate student is equivalent to that of a ‘D’ for undergraduates; ‘U’ signals unacceptable graduate-level work.
b. One of the requirements of this course is to complete the work of the course on time. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for late work—an illness or other emergency. ‘Emergency,’ however, does not include your social involvements, travel plans, job schedule, disk, wi-fi, and/or printer failures, the state of your love life, your obligations to other courses, or general malaise over the state of the world. The world has been in a mess as long as anyone can remember, and most of the world’s work is done by people whose lives are a mass of futility and discontent. If you haven’t learned yet, you had better learn now to work under the conditions of the world as it is. Therefore:
1) All unwritten papers and unsubmitted written assignments will be averaged as a 0 in the computation of the course grade. No exceptions will be considered or granted.
2) All papers and written exercises are due on the dates scheduled in the syllabus, or on the date announced by the instructor in class (usually, the following class meeting). ‘Late’ submissions bear the following penalties: one day late/one letter grade; two days late/two letter grades; three or more days late/F. Please note: these ‘days’ are calendar days, not class meeting days. For accounting purposes, letter grades bear the following values: A=95; A-=92; B=85; C+=78; C=75; D=65; F=30. An untyped paper or written assignment automatically receives the grade F, as do those typed papers which violate the required parameters or which the instructor deems physically unacceptable and/or grammatically incomprehensible.
3) Seminar papers fall due on the date announced by the instructor in class. They must be typed, double-spaced, and submitted by email to me in either Microsoft Word or Adobe format prior to the start of the class for which they have been assigned. No physical copies of homework will be accepted or returned. Since we will normally discuss these exercises together in class on that date, it would clearly be unfair to those who submitted their work on time for me to accept ‘late’ work from those who were privy to our in-class discussion. Hence I will not accept ‘late’ homework submissions (even from those of you who were physically absent during our discussion); however, ‘early’ submissions (i.e., before the start of class) are always welcome and will receive full credit.
4) Since your diligent physical participation is critical for the success of this course, attendance at class meetings will be monitored by the instructor. One absence is regrettable; two absences are the limit of tolerability. Three (3) or more absences will result in an automatic F or U for the course. Please note that—with the exception of religious holidays—the instructor does not distinguish ‘excused’ from ‘unexcused’ absences. Unsanctioned late arrivals and early departures will be tallied as absences.
5) I do not post grades on Canvas or use it for grading. You can easily determine your own course progress (or lack thereof) by paying attention to number and quality of the grades you earn and performing the arithmetic required (using the equivalency tables listed above) to generate a ‘rough’ grade average.
6) Policy regarding Audits: the instructor expects auditors (whether formally enrolled as such or not) to meet the same attendance, preparation, and oral participation standards as those students who are taking the course for credit. The instructor does not expect auditors to prepare and submit any written assignments.
c. Assistance and solicitation of criticism is your right as a member of the class. It is not a privilege to be granted or withheld. Do not hesitate to request it nor wait too late in the course for it to be of help.
d. The standards, requirements, and procedures set forth in this syllabus are subject to modification at any time by the course instructor. Notice of such changes will be by announcement in class, or by email, or by changes to this syllabus posted on the course website at https://pages.uncc.edu/john-reeves/course-materials/.
ROUGH COURSE OUTLINE
Introduction to the class (abbreviated)
Questions surrounding identity
Schwartz, Imperialism, 1-16.
Steve Mason, “Jews, Judaeans, Judaizing, Judaism: Problems of Categorization in Ancient History,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 38 (2007): 457-512.
Schwartz, chapter 1
Schwartz, Imperialism, 19-48.
Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 1-18.
No class (spring (?!) break)
Schwartz, chapter 2
Schwartz, Imperialism, 49-99.
Peter Hayman, “Monotheism—A Misused Word in Jewish Studies?” Journal of Jewish Studies 42 (1991): 1-15.
Schwartz, chapter 3
Schwartz, Imperialism, 103-28.
Hayim Lapin, “Epigraphical Rabbis: A Reconsideration,” Jewish Quarterly Review 101 (2011): 311-46.
Schwartz, chapter 4
Schwartz, Imperialism, 129-61.
Jodi Magness, “Heaven on Earth: Helios and the Zodiac Cycle in Ancient Palestinian Synagogues,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 59 (2005): 1-52.
Schwartz, chapter 5
Schwartz, Imperialism, 162-76.
Benjamin G. Wright, “Were the Jews of Qumran Hellenistic Jews?” Dead Sea Discoveries 24 (2017): 356-77.
Schwartz, chapter 6
Schwartz, Imperialism, 179-202.
Daniel Boyarin, “Beyond Judaisms: Meṭaṭron and the Divine Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 41 (2010): 323-65.
Schwartz, chapter 7
Schwartz, Imperialism, 203-14.
Louis H. Feldman, “Proselytism by Jews in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Centuries,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 24 (1993): 1-58.
Schwartz, chapter 8
Schwartz, Imperialism, 215-39.
Martin Goodman, “Religious Variety and the Temple in the Late Second Temple Period and its Aftermath,” Journal of Jewish Studies 60 (2009): 202-13.
Schwartz, chapter 9
Schwartz, Imperialism, 240-74.
Michael E. Stone, “Enoch, Aramaic Levi and Sectarian Origins,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 19 (1988): 159-70.
Schwartz, chapter 10 & conclusion
Schwartz, Imperialism, 275-92.
Jonathan Klawans, “The Essene Hypothesis: Insights from Religion 101,” Dead Sea Discoveries 23 (2016): 51-78.
Research projects (part I)
Research projects (part II)
SOME POSSIBLE RESEARCH PROJECT TOPICS
- Continuity/discontinuity of some biblical precept, custom, etc. into the rabbinic period
- Some aspect of sectarianism during the period of the Second Temple
- Rabbis as ‘holy men’ or ‘saints’—miracle-workers, etc.
- The nature of rabbinic authority as contrasted with another form of late antique social dominance
- Rabbinic knowledge of and interaction with non-Jewish lore or literature
- Attitude of the rabbinic Sages toward representational art
- Comparative study of rabbinic exegesis of scripture with one or more non-rabbinic models
TEMPLATE FOR WEEKLY DISCUSSION LEADERS
Discussion leaders should use the following template as a rough guideline for their seminar presentations:
a. Begin promptly.
b. Call on the instructor for announcements.
c. Present to the class an initial consideration of the assigned topic. Summarize (but do not evaluate yet!) your section’s main arguments and points. Certain key primary texts or institutions may need to be identified and analyzed in view of their importance for the larger argument(s). I would suggest spending no more than twenty to thirty minutes on this.
d. Open the floor for questions and discussion:
Plan A. Invite discussion of any issue of interest pertaining to the assignment.
Plan B. Raise an important issue which you have seen in the text(s) and invite response (now you can evaluate!).
Plan C. Elicit comment on how the text(s) relate to points made in earlier classes and/or other passages from required or supplementary readings.
Plan D. Ask a series of pointed questions deliberately designed to provoke a response.
e. Be prepared to put Plans B-D into operation if Plan A falters.
f. Conclude by pointing to one or two aspects of the class discussion that you consider to have been particularly valuable or productive for further work and consideration.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
Study of the history and literature of early Judaism has spawned a tremendous amount of secondary scholarship—so much that I will not even attempt to provide a short list of important treatments. I will only mention two important reference works which every student of Jewish studies should frequently consult: the new Encyclopaedia Judaica (22 vols.; Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA/Thomson Gale, 2007) conveniently accessible online via the Atkins Library catalog; and H. L. Strack and Günter Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991). These works provide numerous bibliographical suggestions for further reading, and I encourage everyone to learn how to use each of these resources.
 Seth Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 9.
 Note Prov 15:28: לב צדיק יהגה לענות ופי רשעים יביע רעות, which I’m inclined to render as ‘the mind of the devoted (student) contemplates before answering, whereas the mouth of the clueless spews forth worthless nonsense.’