Vered NoamJul 6, 2022
Shifting Images of the Hasmoneans
Second Temple Legends and Their Reception in Josephus and Rabbinic Literature
Oxford University Press 2018
The shifting image of the Hasmoneans in the eyes of their contemporaries and later generations is a compelling issue in the history of the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean commonwealth. Based on a series of six Jewish folktales from the Second Temple period that describe the Hasmonean dynasty and its history from its legendary founders, through achievement of full sovereignty, to downfall, Vered Noam's Shifting Images of the Hasmoneans: Second Temple Legends and Their Reception in Josephus and Rabbinic Literature (Oxford UP, 2018) examines the Hasmoneans through the lens of reception history. On the one hand, these brief, colorful legends are embedded in the narrative of the historian of the age, Flavius Josephus; on the other hand, they are scattered throughout the extensive halakhic-exegetical compositions known as rabbinic literature, redacted and compiled centuries later.
Each set of parallel stories is examined for the motivation underlying its creation, its original message, language, and the historical context. This analysis is followed by exploration of the nature of the relationship between the Josephan and the rabbinic versions, in an attempt to reconstruct the adaptation of the putative original traditions in the two corpora, and to decipher the disparities, different emphases, reworking, and unique orientations typical of each. These adaptations reflect the reception of the pristine tales and thus disclose the shifting images of the Hasmoneans in later generations and within distinct contexts. The compilation and characterization of these sources which were preserved by means of two such different conduits of transmission brings us closer to reconstruction of a lost literary continent, a hidden Jewish Atlantis of early pseudo-historical legends and facilitates examination of the relationship between the substantially different libraries and worlds of Josephus and rabbinic literature.