Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shaye Cohen on Paul's Use of the Term "Judaize"

The following comes from Cohen's book "The Beginnings of Jewishness":

pg. 175  "The verb ioudaizein, 'to judiaize,' consists of two elements:  the noun stem iouda- and the verb stem -izein.  The verb then is of the same class as medizein, 'to medize,' attikizein, 'to atticize,' and numerous other such verbs that are securely attested in classical, non-Jewish, non-Christian Greek.  I shall first study this verb family as a whole and then turn to the specific meanings of ioudaizein...
Verbs in the -izein family have three basic meanings:  (a) to give political support (a political meaning); (b) to adopt customs or manners (a cultural meaning); (c) to speak a language (a linguistic meaning)....The verbs refer not to a change of essence but to a change of behavior, not 'to be' but 'to be like.'"

pg. 181  "In Jewish Greek the word ioudaizein appears only four times.  The first instance is the Greek version of Esther 8:17.  Here is the Hebrew text as translated in the New Jewish Version:

And in every province and in every city, when the king's command and decree arrived, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday.  And many of the people of the land professed to be Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

'Professed to be Jews' translates the Hebrew mityahadim.  The simple meaning of the Hebrew (and, I think, of this English translation) is not that many non-Jews converted to Judaism but that they pretended to be Jews:  they professed themselves to be something they were not.  They did so because they feared for their lives; the Jews had just been given carte blanche by the king to kill their enemies, and therefore many gentiles pretended to be Jews in order to protect themselves.  The Greek translation of the crucial verb is perietemonto kai ioudaizon, 'they were circumcised and judaized.'  Many scholars have understood this to mean 'they were circumcised and became Jews'--that is, converted to Judaism--but this cannot be right, because, as I discussed above, -izein verbs indicate a change in behavior ('to be like'), not a change in essence ('to be')...Surely the Greek means that the gentiles either sided with the Jews (a political meaning) or adopted Jewish customs and manners (a cultural meaning)...
Paul uses the verb in Galatians 2:14 in his attack on Peter: 'If you although a Jew (Ioudaios), live in the gentile manner and not Jewishly (ethnikos kai oukh ioudaikos), how can you compel gentiles to judaize?'  The structure of the sentence makes clear that 'to judaize' here means 'to live Jewishly,' to follow the customs and manners of the Jews.  (Similarly, ioudaismos in Galatians 1:13-14 means the observance of Jewish traditions.)...The verb seems to be used in a general sense:  when gentiles adopt any distinctively Jewish customs and manners, they judaize."

1 comment:

  1. I wrote about the subject on my blog in August 2010 here:

    Check also part 2.