5 March 2003

Jewish History Tables

By David Steinberg


Home page http://www.houseofdavid.ca/


Table 1 - Time/Events Chart for the Levant

Table 2 - Phases of Israelite-Jewish History

Table 3 - Some Differences between the Hellenistic Philosophical-Scientific World View and that Reflected in the Torah

Table 4 - Being Rational in Context; Four Rational Responses to Drought

Table 5 - Variables making for Rapid Hellenization

Table 6 - Phases of Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism




Table 1

Time/Events Chart for the Levant

 From the Early Bronze Age to End of Byzantine Period

(c. 3150 BCE- c. 638 CE)



Political Situation

Cultural Situation

Early Bronze (3300-1950 BCE)

Rise of Cities

- Development of writing. N. Syria influenced by Mesopotamia; coastal areas by Egypt

- Ebla archives           

End of Early Bronze (2200-1950 BCE)

- Destruction of cities.

- Amorite penetrations


---------------------Major discontinuity---------------------

Middle Bronze (1950 -1539 BCE)

- Reestablishment of cities great wealth

- Cosmopolitan city states under suzerainty of Egypt (in south) and Hittites (in north)

- classical Canaanite culture

- origin of much of Ugaritic literature

- Age of the Patriarchs (if they were historical figures)

Late Bronze (1539-1250 BCE)

Moses c. 1350 BCE (if the Biblical traditions have a substantial historical kernel)

- Wide trade especially with Aegean

- Ugarit archives

- Birth of Monotheism (if the Biblical traditions have a substantial historical kernel)

Late Bronze-Iron I Transition (1250-1035 BCE)

- Massive invasion of Anatolia and whole Levant.

- collapse of Hittite Empire

- Egyptian rule ends in Syria-Palestine

- Philistines take over southern coast of present day Israel

- except in Phoenicia (Lebanese coast), Canaanite city states go under probably to a combination of invasion, internal decay and revolution

- proto-states of Israel, Ammon, Moab, Edom

- period of the Judges

- Neo-Hittite states in North Syria; Aramean states elsewhere

- Canaanite culture continues unbroken only in Phoenicia

- Aegean imports cease

- Aramean culture and language established in Syria and south-eastern Anatolia

- Israelite culture, indicated by the four-room-house, in highlands of Judea, Samaria, Gilead and Galilee

- Israelites adopt Canaanite language and literary traditions

Iron I (1035-928 BCE)

- Kingdom of Saul (1035-1017 BCE)

- United Israelite Monarchy (1017-928 BCE)

Latter part of this period:

- beginnings of Israelite historiography

- stories of the Judges

- importing administrative system and wisdom tradition and literature from Egypt

Iron II (928-586) BCE

- separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah

- Assyrian Destruction of Kingdom of Israel (734-712 BCE)

- exile of Kingdom of Israel ruling class and some foreign settlers brought to Samaria

- much of Book of Psalms composed

- First Isaiah, Amos, Hosea


- Deuteronomic Reform in Judah under Josiah (628-609 BCE)

- proclaiming of core of Deuteronomy as the Law of Israel.  Beginning of transition from Israelite Religion to Judaism

- Deuteronomic History (Deuteronomy- 2 Kings)

- Jeremiah


Exile from Judah (597-582 BCE) and the destruction of Jerusalem (586 BCE)

- Book of Lamentations

- end of scribal schools with literary traditions going back to Bronze Age

- Start of Ezekiel’s ministry


Babylonian Exile

- Start or completion of redaction of Torah

- ditto much of rest of Hebrew Bible

Persian Rule 538-332 BCE

Some Babylonian Jews Return to Rebuild Judah and Jerusalem starting 538 BCE

- Proclamation of the Torah and the Law of Israel. Judaism is born (see below)

- Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles

- poverty with slow recovery

- conflict with Israelites who never went into exile

- cultural continuation of attenuated pre-exilic culture

Alexander’s Conquest 332 BCE – 167 BCE

Rule by Hellenistic dynasties first the Egyptian Ptolemies (301-219 BCE) and then the Syrian-based Seleucids (219-.

- Commencement of 1000 years of Greek language and culture throughout the region.  Cultural impact pervasive and complex

- Samaritan Temple built

Maccabean Revolt from 167 BCE

- Independence re-established

- conquest and forced conversion of Idumeans in the northern Negev-Hebron-Beer Sheba-Arad area and of the Arab Iturians in Upper Galilee

- exile of populations of the Greek cities in Trans-Jordan (northern Gilead)

- rise of eschatology

- belief in afterlife and possible resurrection

- rise of Hasidim who were probably precursors of Pharisees and Essenes

- Book of Daniel

- revival of history writing First and Second Books of Macabees

128 BCE

Jewish king John Hyrcanus, destroyed the Samaritan temple

Samaritans and Jews permanently alienated

63 BCE

Roman conquest i.e. end of independence


40 BCE-44 CE

Herod and his heirs. Client State of Rome


44 CE-636 CE

Direct Roman Rule pagan (44 CE-313 CE), transitional Christianizing (313 CE- c. 350 CE), Christian (c. 350 CE-636 CE)


67-70 CE

Jewish rebellion against Rome.  Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple

- End of Sadducees and Essenes

73-133 CE

Rabbinic Centre in Yavneh

- development of Rabbinic Judaism out of Pharisaic Judaism

- start of formulation of Proto-Mishnah

- fixing of Biblical Canon and Biblical text

133-135 CE

Bar Kokhba rebellion which ends in movement of Jewish center to Galilee in wake of Roman eviction of all or most Jews from Judea


c. 200 CE

Publication of Mishnah

Centre of Rabbinic productivity moves to Babylonia.  Eretz Israel continues as second most important center.

3 rd century CE (mainly 220-284 CE)

Great Crisis of Roman Empire

- inflation

- civil wars and invasions

4th century CE

- Roman Empire gradually Christianizes

- Roman Christian persecution of Jews and Samaritans

- severe decline in Jewish population

- Jerusalem Talmud[1] completed c 390 CE

- Genesis Rabba completed

- except for liturgical poetry, Eretz Israel ceases to be major center of Jewish cultural productivity

- Jews and Samaritans minor element in population of Eretz Israel*

425 CE

Patriarchate Abolished


638 CE

Arab Muslim Conquest

 Arabic starts to become main Jewish language in Palestine, Egypt and Iraq


Table 2

Phases of Israelite-Jewish History







Historical sources

1. Early Israelite Religion (c. 1200 to 1006 BCE)


None known

some form of early Aramaic of Canaanite Dialect

- Collapse of Egyptian control of Canaan

- Establish of Israelite peasant communities in unoccupied hill country of Canaan

- Philistines occupy coast of Canaan

- establishment of Ammonite, Edomite, Moabite, Aramean kingdoms

none except mute archaeology

2. Late Israelite Religion - First Temple until Deuteronomic Reform[2] (1006 - c. 621BCE)

- Local high places

- Prophets and casting of lots to determine divine will

- no written Torah

Latter part of this period:

- beginnings of Israelite historiography

- stories of the Judges, early cores of - Psalms, First Isaiah, Amos, Hosea

- importing administrative system and wisdom tradition and literature from Egypt

Canaanite Dialects = Biblical Hebrew

- United Kingdom of David (c. 1004-970 BCE) and Solomon (c. 970-928 BCE) succeeded by kingdoms of Israel (c. 928-732 BCE) and Judah (c. 928-587 BCE)

- Assyrian hegemony and destruction of Kingdom of Israel (732 BCE)

critical reading of Tanach especially: Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers; Judges-2 Kings; literary prophets

3. Transition I - Deuteronomic Reform Period (c. 621- 587 BCE) - Transition Late Israelite to Early Judaism

- First attempts to centralize sacrifice in Jerusalem and establish written Torah

- Probable great increase in importance of prayer to compensate for loss of local sacrificial worship.

- core of Deuteronomy made basis of covenant on which Judah refounded

- early version of Deuteronomic History (Deuteronomy-2 Kings)

- Amalgamation of traditions preserved at shrines in the areas of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin and the Joseph tribes.  Probably huge loss of diverse traditions previously maintained in shrines, particularly in Galilee and Gilead.

- collapse of Assyria at end of 7th century BCE and rise of Babylonia and Media-Persia

- Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and Temple 587 BCE.

2 Kings, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah

4. Transition II - Exile and Early Post-Exilic (587- approx 400 BCE) - Phase I - Theocracy

- Torah=Pentateuch becomes central to Judaism rise of interpretation of Torah to establish God’s will

- Decline of prophecy

- all leadership devolved on the Priests who led the cult, interpreted the Torah and acted as agents of the foreign empires i.e. keeping things quiet and ensuring taxes paid

- Completion of redaction of Torah

- ditto much of rest of Hebrew Bible

- Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles

Late Biblical Hebrew increasingly replaced by Aramaic

- 538 BCE King Cyrus of Persia, who had conquered Babylon, permitted the exiles to return to Jerusalem.

- c. 514 BCE Second Temple dedicated.  Construction took 23 years.


- Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah.  At that point mainstream Judaism lost interest in history

5. Early Judaism Phase I (c. 400-c. 170 BCE)

- Kohelet, Proverbs

Palestinian Aramaic majority language throughout Eretz Israel with Proto-Mishnaic Hebrew also spoken in rural areas of Yahud-Judaea (until 135 CE), and Greek (after 332 BCE) in Greek cities spread throughout country except in Judaea proper.

- Hellenistic period opens with Alexander’s conquest 332 BCE

- Start of major Hellenization of Jewish society

- 175 BCE Seleucid persecution begins

- Josephus main source

6. Early Judaism Phase II (c. 170 BCE-70 CE). Hellenization, Seleucid Oppression, Maccabean Uprising, Independence and Roman Domination

- rise of sects and chronic religious conflict

- belief in afterlife (first in 2 Macabees) and martyrdom

-  Pharisees develop dogma of Oral Torah and seize control of interpreting the Law from priests

- constant warfare

- forced conversions - Samaritan Schism

- Jews against all (Arabs, Samaritans, Greeks etc)

- Jews call in Romans to decide their civil strife

- Daniel

- 1 and 2 Macabees

- closing of Canon of Tanach


- 168 BCE the Maccabean revolt led 20 years later to an 80-year period of Judean political independence.

- 63 BCE to 637 CE Roman-Byzantine Control.  Early period using Herodian puppet kings.

- 67 to 70 CE Rebellion Against Rome.  Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple.

Josephus only source for most of periods except for Maccabean uprising when we have 2 and 1 Maccabees (cover 187-134 BCE).  Even where other sources exist, they can only be understood within framework presented by Josephus.

7. Rabbinic Judaism in Roman-Hellenistic Setting in Eretz Israel (70 CE- c. 350 CE)

Pharisees develop into Rabbinic Judaism which is spread to Babylonia with the Mishnah and eventually becomes Normative Judaism

- Mishnah c. 200 CE

- Palestinian Talmud: the productive work ended with destruction of academies in 351 CE.  Final redaction between 351 and 500

- 70 CE to mid-fourth century control by basically tolerant pagan Rome

- Mid fourth century – 638 CE Christian Roman-Byzantine Empire persecutes Jews and Samaritans.

- mostly Rabbinic literature

8. Rabbinic Judaism in Zoroastrian cum pagan setting in Babylonia (southern Iraq) (200 - c. 600 CE)

- Mishnah carried to Babylon soon after completion c. 200 CE.  From that point into 10th century leadership of Rabbinic study was in Babylon. 

- Babylonian Talmud redacted 6th century CE

Babylonian Aramaic

- Jews living under tolerant, feudal Iranian Parthians 247 BCE to 226 CE. Babylonian Jewry took little part in Rabbinic tradition in this period.

- Iranian Sassanian Rule 226-651 CE. Sassanians less tolerant built strong state. Babylonian Jewry took over leadership of Rabbinic tradition.



Table 3

Some Differences between the Hellenistic Philosophical-Scientific World View and that Reflected in the Torah (For background see)

Nb. Hellenistic Philosophical-Scientific world view was the property of very small elite within the larger Greek-speaking community during the Hellenistic-Roman period.  Jewish folk beliefs probably diverged significantly from those reflected in the Torah in most periods.



Hellenistic Philosophical-Scientific

Judaism as Reflected in the Torah

Centrality of Man vs. Centrality of God

Man is at the center and “Man is the measure of all things” (Protagoras)

Theocentric - man’s task is to serve God.


The gods in Greek traditional polytheistic religion were capricious and not particularly ethical.  The sole requirement was to believe that the gods existed and to perform ritual and sacrifice, through which the gods received their due. The very unsatisfactory nature of this religion[3], from an ethical viewpoint, opened the way to secular science of ethics[4].

Greek philosophers, with their demythologized world view (see), could only fit in the divine if the gods were removed from the material world and man.

Ethical Monotheism

Law – Divine or Secular?

Law (nomos) is to suit society.  It can be made and changed by the society.

Law (Torah) is God’s revelation regarding how God wants people to live.  It cannot be changed by society in theory though it is adaptable in practice.

Secular or Theocratic Rule?

Democracy, and other secular forms of government, follow from above.

Theocracy by authorized interpreters of God’s law.

Ethics[5] also called moral philosophy the discipline concerned with what is morally good and bad, right and wrong. The term is also applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles.

The Sophists, Plato and Aristotle[6] produced the preeminent early ethical thinking in Greece.  In the Hellenistic-Roman era, Middle-Platonism[7], the Stoicism[8] and Epicurianism[9] and finally, from the third century, Neoplatonism became dominant.  Starting in the mid-fourth century, Christian theology gradually took over the field in the Roman world.

“Unlike the ethical system of Greek philosophy, which seeks to define virtues (who is courageous, generous or just, etc.), the bible demands of every human being, and behave virtuously toward his fellow man, and is not concerned with abstract definitions.”[10] In the Torah, however, behaving virtuously is equal to obeying God’s Law regardless of whether we would view specific laws as moral, social or cultic[11].

Source of Knowledge

N.b. The incompatibility of the Greek concept of Nature, as being governed by immutable natural laws, and the scriptural belief in miracles[12] was a major issue for medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian philosophy.


- Reason is the key to finding the truth about anything – ethics, nature of man, the natural world.  Popular beliefs and commonly-held opinions to be rejected as sources of knowledge.

- Nature is demythologized.  Nature is governed by immutable natural laws. It is to be studied and can be understood using logic and generalized theory[13].  Though nature could be understood, the Greeks did not assume, unlike modern Western culture, that understanding could lead to control of nature and the world around them.  The major exception to this fatalistic approach was astrology[14].

The general Torah approach is:

-          The Torah tells you everything you need to know – the rest should be left to God[15];

-          If the community and individual are in God’s favor, god will ensure that everything will be fine with the community and individual;

-          Sacred tradition is binding.

Since God created and maintains everything, natural phenomena, and everything else, should be admired as testimony to God’s providence and greatness.  It should not be analyzed.


Greek medicine was scientific in that it combined close observation with generalized non-mythological theories of how the body operates[16]..

Sickness is divine punishment due to sin.  Accordingly, resorting to a physician is a sign of faithlessness.  The proper response to sickness would be repentance, prayer, sacrifice, fasting.  During Talmudic times medicine was accepted but it was strictly a collection of cures unrelated to generalized theories on how the body operates.

View of History

-          Beginnings of scientific history.  The Greek historians looked for human and non-mythological reasons for events[17].

-          This leads to a sense of uncertainty and lack of confidence in the future – bad luck, uncontrollable actions of enemies etc. can destroy our future and there is no supernatural salvation in the real world.

-          Salvation History – the relationship with God and God’s Law must explain everything.

-          This leads to a sense of confidence in the future – i.e. if the Jews follow the Torah God guarantees a good future.

Role of Reason

Philosophy – rational thought to gain knowledge.

Israel is told what it needs to know.  Before Deuteronomic Reform God’s expectations were through traditional law and prophetic messages.  After the acceptance of the Torah through exegesis of the Torah.


Table 4

Being Rational in Context

Four Rational Responses to Drought




Rational Action


-          Lack of Rain due to rain god (Baal) being defeated by god of death and senility (Mot)

-          Sacrifices can strengthen Baal in his war against Mot thus enabling Baal to send rain

Sacrifice to Baal


-          God made and controls weather

-          If God does not send rain it is because the Jews have not properly kept the Torah law – either ritual or moral;

-          Prayer, fasting, sacrifice and self-amendment can turn away God’s anger and win God’s favour.

-          When God’s favour is won God will send rain. 


Self-examination, prayer, fasting, sacrifice

Hellenistic Philosophical-Scientific world view

-          Drought is due to immutable natural laws.

-          Study nature to understand why the drought has happened

-          Enjoy yourself since there is nothing that you can due to affect the drought.

Western Scientific world view

-          Drought is due to immutable natural laws.

-          These laws, once understood, can be manipulated to society’s advantage

-          Study nature to understand why the drought has happened;

-          Figure out how people can intervene to improve the situation

-          Take action e.g. seed clouds


Table 5

Variables making for Rapid Hellenization  (For background see)


Variables making for Rapid Hellenization


Fastest – being in Alexandria or other major center of Greek culture.  Any urban center promoted Hellenization

Slowest – rural areas in Palestine and Babylonia


Literacy in Greek


Upper of middle

Nature of Work

If work involved Roman authorities in the east it had to be conducted in Greek within Hellenistic social norms.


Almost the whole Diaspora outside Babylonia spoke Greek – even in Rome itself.  A large minority of Jews in Palestine spoke Greek as their main language and many others, with varying degrees of fluency, were bilingual Aramaic-Greek. Naturally, speaking and thinking in Greek promoted Hellenization.


In Palestine the impact of Hellenization widened and deepened century by century from the fourth century BCE until the seventh century CE.  From the mid-fourth century CE the impact of the Greek Christian Church was important.


Table 6

Phases of Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism (For background see)



Impact On Normative Jewish Tradition[1]

Other Impact


Alexander the Great to the Maccabean uprising (c. 335 - 180 BCE)

A possible impact of Greek mores was to lower the status of Jewish women

Kohelet may be influenced by Greek philosophy[18] and may even be seen as confronting the ancient Near Eastern Wisdom tradition, as exemplified in the Biblical Book of Proverbs, with Greek Skepticism.

Greek architecture, language, names, the military, government and social forms


Judea was autonomous, theoretically ruled, out of the way province within the great Hellenistic empire of the Ptolemies' (Egypt), and then that of the Seleucids (Syria-Mesopotamia)

Maccabean uprising to the Destruction of the Temple (mid-second century BCE – 70 CE)

The Selucid persecution led to an explosion of new varieties of Judaism – Apocalyptic Judaism, Hasidim (not to be confused with the modern mystical variety), Essenes, Sadducees, Pharisees and no doubt others. 

Pharisees adopted and adapted Hellenistic elements[19]:

- Hellenistic, possibly Stoic, hermeneutical method[20]

- - Resurrection parallel to Greek immortality of soul and judgment of dead;

- Self-government institutions including Sanhedrin[21]

- Pharisees were an association of unrelated men bound by common interests who met for common meals and whose main institutional tie was the school – similar to Hellenistic philosophical schools and Hellenistic religious associations (thiasoi)[22].

- Possibly development of the synagogue[23]

-          Hellenistic Jewish literature.

-          Philo [24]– had no impact on normative Judaism but formed the basis for early Christian theology

-          Josephus

-          Independence mid-second to mid-first centuries BCE

-          Indirect or direct Roman rule there after.  Romans strongly supported Greek language and culture

Destruction of the Temple to the close of the Palestinian Talmud (70 – mid fourth century CE) 


The Palestinian rabbis of 70-650 CE were exposed to Greek art and architecture, Roman and Greek government and institutions, street philosophy and spoken Greek[25].  Few rabbis would have had a Greek education or be knowledgeable about Greek literary culture including science and philosophy.

- Rabbinic literature included many references to elements of popular Hellenistic culture including popular stoic philosophy, elements of logic, and certain data from Greek science but not its outlook, assumptions and scientific method[26] i.e. the really valuable part was not absorbed by Jewish tradition at this time.

- Liturgical forms including piut and, possible the Shma’ and ‘Amidah[27]

- the seder[28]

- legal forms such as ketubah[29]

- from Plato’s theory of ideas the concept that the soul possesses perfect knowledge before birth

- Stoics and rabbis had social similarities.  Both were scholar-officials involved in legal exegesis.  From Stoicism – possibly hermeneutical principles[30] and Stoic values, not in Bible, held by rabbis include: health; simple life; self-improvement; fortitude; work ethic; imitatio dei, generosity; theory vs. practice; good vs. merely valuable; and such literary images as life being a deposit in trust.


-          Basically tolerant pagan Roman rule until mid fourth century

-          Persecuting Christian Roman rule thereafter

Between Saadia Gaon (882-942 CE; Egypt and Iraq) and Moses Maimonides (1135-1204; Spain, North Africa, Egypt)

Greek philosophy, science, medicine and mathematics absorbed via Arabic translations[31] and, to some extent, via Arab Muslim commentators[32].  In science and philosophy, Jewish scholars absorbed the data and, more importantly, method, world view and pre-suppositions. Also absorbed were more dubious works e.g. Hermetica, astrology.

In their philosophy of nature… Hellenistic and medieval Jewish thinkers… for the most part… adopted the view that the universe is governed by immutable laws…. However, the philosophical view of nature posed problems for the traditional Jewish (and Muslim and Christian) view as expressed in the Bible and Talmud.  For traditional Judaism the universe did not run according to set immutable laws.  Rather God directly regulated the workings of the universe that he had created, insuring that events would lead to the specific goal He had in mind.  The medieval Jewish philosopher, unable to give up this view of nature completely, sought in his philosophies of nature to reconcile the biblical and Talmudic concepts of creation and miracles with the theories of secular philosophy.”[33]

Greatest Greek philosophical influences were Aristotle, Plotinus[34] and Plato in that order.

Neoplatonic writers included: Solomon Ibn Gabirol; Bahya ibn Paquda; Moses and Abraham ibn Ezra; Judah Halevi.  The most important Aristotelian[35] was Maimonides.

Most important items:

- Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah was the main conduit for entry of Greek science and philosophy into rabbinic legal tradition[36].  The code itself is based on Greek logic and codification principles. The 14 volumes in this work encompass the full range of Jewish law, as formulated for all ages and places. It completely reorganizes and reformulates the laws in a logical system. It opens with a section on systematic philosophical theology, derived largely from Aristotelian science and metaphysics, which it regards as the most important component of Jewish law.


- Neo-Platonism[37] fusing with older Jewish Mystic tradition to form Kabbalah[38]

- Bahya ibn Paquda’s Neo-Platonic and Islamic Sufi influenced Hovot ha-Levavot (Duties of the Heart) was the founding work of Jewish ethical or pietistic literature[39] and has strongly influenced subsequent works and the lives of pietistic groups such as the Musar Movement.

- Judah Halevi’s Neo-Platonic influenced Kuzari and Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed have an ongoing influence on traditional Jews. 

The greatest syntheses of Greek and Jewish thought are Maimonides works – Guide to the Perplexed and Mishneh Torah[40].

Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed and Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s classic Neo-Platonist work – Fountain of Life (Latin - Fons Vitae, Hebrew - Mekor Haiim). Guide to the Perplexed and Fountain of Life were studied by Christian philosopher-theologians during the Middle Ages.

Within the context of Arab-Islamic culture. This period coincides with the apogee and subsequent decline of the Abbasids.  Arab-Islamic culture, including science and philosophy declined rapidly after the beginning of the 13th century.

12th Century Provence

“The confrontation between the Gnostic tradition contained in the Bahir and the neoplatonic ideas concerning God, His emanation, and Man’s place in the world, was extremely fruitful, leading to the deep penetration of these ideas into earlier mystical theories.  The Kabbalah, in its historical significance, can be defined as the product of the interpenetration of Jewish Gnosticism and neoplatonism.” G. Sholem col. 520.




See also Qumran Timeline: Incorporating Egyptian, Israelite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite, Persian, and Roman Reference Timelines



[1] Normative here refers to the Rabbinic literary tradition which remained normative in Rabbinic circles until the beginning of the 19th century, and in traditional circles, until the present.  It is not always possible to distinguish borrowing from parallel development in the shared Hellenistic milieu or just the use of Greek terminology for a Jewish concept.

[2] “As Assyria's hold on Israel weakened, Josiah waged a campaign against foreign cults and had their altars and idols removed from the Temple. He called for a return to the observance of Mosaic Law, based on the book of the Law discovered in the Temple of Jerusalem (c. 622 BC), believed to be the same book as the law code in the Book of Deuteronomy. Rural sanctuaries and fertility cults were destroyed and the worship of Yahweh (the God of Israel) was centralized at Jerusalem.” From Encyclopedia Britannica.

[3] From Encyclopedia Britannica article on Science, History of – “There seems to be no good reason why the Hellenes, clustered in isolated city-states in a relatively poor and backward land, should have struck out into intellectual regions that were only dimly perceived, if at all, by the splendid civilizations of the Yangtze, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Nile valleys. There were many differences between ancient Greece and the other civilizations, but perhaps the most significant was religion. What is striking about Greek religion, in contrast to the religions of Mesopotamia and Egypt, is its puerility. Both of the great river civilizations evolved complex theologies that served to answer most, if not all, of the large questions about mankind's place and destiny. Greek religion did not. It was, in fact, little more than a collection of folk tales, more appropriate to the campfire than to the temple. Perhaps this was the result of the collapse of an earlier Greek civilization, now called Mycenaean, toward the end of the 2nd millennium BC, when a dark age descended upon Greece that lasted for three centuries. All that was preserved were stories of gods and men, passed along by poets, that dimly reflected Mycenaean values and events. Such were the great poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, in which heroes and gods mingled freely with one another. Indeed, they mingled too freely, for the gods appear in these tales as little more than immortal adolescents whose tricks and feats, when compared with the concerns of a Marduk or Jehovah, are infantile. There really was no Greek theology in the sense that theology provides a coherent and profound explanation of the workings of both the cosmos and the human heart. Hence, there were no easy answers to inquiring Greek minds. The result was that ample room was left for a more penetrating and ultimately more satisfying mode of inquiry. Thus were philosophy and its oldest offspring, science, born.”

[4] “The Greek looked out upon the world through an atmosphere singularly free from the mist of allegory and myth: the contrast between the philosophy of the East and the first attempts of the Ionian physicists is as striking as the difference between an Indian jungle and the sunny, breeze-swept shores of the Mediterranean.  Greek Religion exercised hardly more than an indirect influence on Greek philosophy. Popular beliefs were so crude as to their speculative content that they could not long retain their hold on the mind of the philosopher. Consequently, such influence as they directly exercised was antagonistic to philosophy. Yet it was the popular beliefs which, by keeping alive among the Greeks an exquisite appreciation of form and an abiding sense of symmetry, did not permit the philosopher to take a partial or an isolated view of things. In this way Greek religion indirectly fostered that imperative desire for a totality of view which, in the best days of Greek speculation, enabled Greek philosophy to attain its most important results.” http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/hop01.htm

[5] From Catholic Encyclopedia “As ethics is the philosophical treatment of the moral order, its history does not consist in narrating the views of morality entertained by different nations at differnt times; this is properly the scope of the history of civilisation, and of ethnology. The history of ethics is concerned solely with the various philosophical systems which in the course of time have been elaborated with reference to the moral order. Hence the opinions advanced by the wise men of antiquity, such as Pythagoras (582-500 B.C.), Heraclitus (535-475 B.C.), Confucius (558-479 B.C.), scarcely belong to the history of ethics; for, though they proposed various moral truths and principles, they dis so in a dogmatic and didactic, and not in a philosophically systematic manner. Ethics properly so-called is first met with among the Greeks, i.e.in the teaching of Socrates (470- 399 B.C.).”

[6] Aristotle’s ethics are based on his view of the universe. He saw it as a hierarchy in which everything has a function. The highest form of existence is the life of the rational being, and the function of lower beings is to serve this form of life.

[7] From Encyclopedia Britannica “the various kinds of Platonism can be said to have in common is an intense concern for the quality of human life—always ethical, often religious, and sometimes political, based on a belief in unchanging and eternal realities, independent of the changing things of the world perceived by the senses. Platonism sees these realities both as the causes of the existence of everything in the universe and as giving value and meaning to its contents in general and the life of its inhabitants in particular. It is this belief in absolute values rooted in an eternal world that distinguishes Platonism from the philosophies of Plato's immediate predecessors and successors and from later philosophies inspired by them—from the immanentist naturalism of most of the pre-Socratics (who interpreted the world monistically in terms of nature as such), from the relativism of the Sophists, and from the correction of Platonism in a this-worldly direction carried out by Plato's greatest pupil, Aristotle”

[8] From Encyclopedia Britannica “Perhaps the most important legacy of Stoicism, however, is its conviction that all human beings share the capacity to reason. This led the Stoics to a fundamental sense of equality, which went beyond the limited Greek conception of equal citizenship. Thus Seneca claimed that the wise man will esteem the community of rational beings far above any particular community in which the accident of birth has placed him, and Marcus Aurelius said that common reason makes all individuals fellow citizens. The belief that human reasoning capacities are common to all was also important, because from it the Stoics drew the implication that there is a universal moral law, which all people are capable of appreciating. The Stoics thus strengthened the tradition that sees the universality of reason asthe basis on which ethical relativism is to be rejected. … Both Stoic and Epicurean ethics can be seen as precursors of later trends in Western ethics: the Stoics of the modern belief in equality.”

[9] From Encyclopedia Britannica “Epicurus developed his position systematically. To determine whether something is good, he would ask if it increased pleasure or reduced pain. If it did, it was good as a means; if it did not, it was not good at all. Thus justice was good but merely as an expedient arrangement to prevent mutual harm. Why not then commit injustice when we can get away with it? Only because, Epicurus says, the perpetual dread of discovery will cause painful anxiety. Epicurus also exalted friendship, and the Epicureans were famous for the warmth of their personal relationships; but, again, they proclaimed that friendship is good only because of its tendency to create pleasure. Both Stoic and Epicurean ethics can be seen as precursors of later trends in Western ethics… the Epicureans of a Utilitarian ethic based on pleasure.”

[10] Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 6 cols. 933-934, Keter 1972

[11] see Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith “… we believe that the entire Torah which is found in our hands today is the Torah which was given through Moses, and that it is all of divine origin.  This means that it all reached him from God in a manner that we metaphorically call “speech”.  The exact quality of that communication is only known to Moses … to whom it came, and that he acted as a scribe to whom one dictates….And there is no difference between: And the sons of Ham were Cush … or And his wife’s name was Mehetabel… or I am the Lord, or Hear, O, Israel, the Lorod our God, the Lord is One.  For all are of divine origin and all belong to the Law of God which is perfect, pure, holy and true..  for this reason, in the eyes of the Sages, there was no greater unbeliever and heretic than Manasseh, because he thought that  that in the torah there were grain and chaff and that these chronicles and narratives have no value at all, and that Moses said them on his own”  Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah Tractate Sanhedrin trans. Fred Rosner 1981, p.

[12] “…the definition of the miracle by the philosopher Hume: ‘A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature…’…This view does not coincide with that of biblical literature, which does not know of the concept of nature…(to the scriptures) miracles…are an integral component of God’s rule in his world” Zakovitch, Yair. The concept of the miracle in the Bible (English translation), Shmuel Himelstein. Tel Aviv : MOD Books, c1991. P21

[13] From  Sambursky, Samuel, The physical world of the Greeks; translated from the Hebrew by Merton Dagut ; with a new preface by the author, Princeton University Press, 1987, c1956.

p 16

“On Why it is said that the Greeks “invented” science.

In short, because they introduced the notions of natural causality and rational proof; because they tried to eliminate what they considered to be supernatural elements from their explanations for natural phenomena, because they made (often unobserved and sometimes unobservable) connections between phenomena and ordered them into parts and wholes or causes and effects (rather than just amassed observations), and because they tried to think their way rationally (which does not mean logically or sensibly to modern tastes) through the perceived order of observed phenomena.  The belief in natural causation with consequent natural effects was matched by a belief that knowledge precedes by reasoning from intellectual premise to rational conclusion.”


“… (The) law of causality…. States that there is conformity with law throughout nature; nothing is arbitrary, there is a necessity for everything, as we see in the regular occurrence of all phenomena.  Without this necessity, no accumulation of experience would be possible…. Its success in the realm of theoretical physics provides the fullest confirmation of the general law.

The conception of general conformity with law existing in nature is contained in Greek philosophy from the beginning.”

[14] From Encyclopedia Britannica “Astrology is a method of predicting mundane events based upon the assumption that the celestial bodies—particularly the planets and the stars considered in their arbitrary combinations or configurations (called constellations)—in some way either determine or indicate changes in the sublunar world. The theoretical basis for this assumption lies historically in Hellenistic philosophy and radically distinguishes astrology from the celestial omina (“omens”) that were first categorized and cataloged in ancient Mesopotamia. Originally, astrologers presupposed a geocentric universe in which the “planets” (including the Sun and Moon) revolve in orbits whose centres are at or near the centre of the Earth, and in which the stars are fixed upon a sphere with a finite radius whose centre is also the centre of the Earth. Later, the principles of Aristotelian physics were adopted,according to which there is an absolute division between the eternal, circularmotions of the heavenly element and the limited, linear motions of the four sublunar elements: fire, air, water, earth.”

From Koester, Helmut, Introduction to the New Testament, Fortress Press ; Berlin [Germany] ; New York : De Gruyter, c1982.p. 380

“…astrology began its victorious advance, advertising its ability to disclose the relationship of human fate to the powers of the stars.  Thus astrology and magic became allies, because magic had always understood its craft as an intervention into the mysterious network of the powers of nature and cosmos.  Things celestial and terrestrial, stars and human beings, sould and body, spirit and matter, word and sacrament, names and gods – all were seen as corresponding parts of the same”scientific” conformity to the principles of the universe.”

[15] Deut 30:10-14 – “if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, `Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, `Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Deut. 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

[16]The historical role of Hippocrates and his successors was the liberation of medicine from both religion and philosophy. Occasionally, as in the treatise on "Regimen," prayer is advised as an aid; but the page-by-page tone of the (Hypocratic) Collection is a resolute reliance upon rational therapy. The essay on "The Sacred Disease" directly attacks the theory that ailments are caused by the gods; all diseases, says the author, have natural causes. Epilepsy, which the people explained as possession by a demon, is not excepted: "Men continue to believe in its divine origin because they are at a loss to understand it. . . . Charlatans and quacks, having no treatment that would help, concealed and sheltered themselves behind superstition, and called this illness sacred in order that their complete ignorance might not be revealed." The mind of Hippocrates was typical of the Periclean time spirit-imaginative but realistic, averse to mystery and weary of myth, recognizing the value of religion, but struggling to understand the world in rational terms. The influence of the Sophists can be felt in this move for the emancipation of medicine; and indeed, philosophy so powerfully affected Greek therapy that the science had to fight against philosophical as well as theological impediments. Hippocrates insists that philosophical theories have no place in medicine, and that treatment must proceed by careful observation and accurate recording of specific cases and facts. He does not quite realize the value of experiment; but he is resolved to be guided by experience.” THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION: PART II NT THE LIFE OF GREECE: Being a history of Greek civilization from the beginnings, and of civilization in the Near East from the death of Alexander, to the Roman conquest By Will Durant, SIMON AND SCHUSTER, NEW YORK, Pp. 343-344

[17] “The origin of Greek historiography lies in the Ionian thought of the 6th century. The Ionian philosophers were doing something unprecedented: they were assuming that the universe is an intelligible whole and that through rational inquiries men might discover the general principles that govern it. Hecateus of Miletus, the most important Ionian predecessor of Herodotus, was applying the same critical spirit to the largely mythical Greek traditions when he wrote, early in the 5th century, “the stories of the Greeks are numerous and in my opinion ridiculous.” Herodotus was more of a traditionalist, but he introduced his work as an “inquiry”” Encyclopedia Britannica

[18]  See Hengel, Martin, Jews, Greeks and barbarians : aspects of the Hellenization of Judaism in the pre-Christian period; [translated by John Bowden from the German], SCM Press, c1980. p. 121

[19] The best general coverage of the topic fourth century BCE to fourth century CE is in Levine.

[20] See Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998. pp. 113-116

[21] See Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.pp. 84 ff.

[22] See Hengel, Martin, Jews, Greeks and barbarians : aspects of the Hellenization of Judaism in the pre-Christian period; [translated by John Bowden from the German], SCM Press, c1980. p. 121

[23] See Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.pp. 141-142

[24] See Amir (Neumark), Y, Philo Judaeus  article in Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 13 cols. 409-415, Keter 1972; and an interesting summary statement in Koester, Helmut, Introduction to the New Testament, Fortress Press ; Berlin [Germany] ; New York : De Gruyter, c1982. p. 280

[25] On the adaptation of Greco-Roman elements to Jewish use see Fischel, H. A., Essays in Greco-Roman and Related Talmudic Literature, Ktav, 1977 pp. XVIII-XXIII

[26] From Sambursky, Samuel, The physical world of late antiquity, Routledge and Kegan Paul, [c1962] pp. ix-x

“In the history of Greek science one has to distinguish between two parallel developments: on the one hand scientific achievements  in the technical sense, comprising all the factual discoveries and inventions in mathematics, astronomy and the physical and biological sciences, and on the other hand scientific thought, aiming at the formation of comprehensive theories and the philosophical foundation of a scientific world-picture.   The development of science proper, taken in the first sense… faded out after the second century AD…. Scientific thought, however, continued… until the last Neo-Platonists in the middle of the sixth century AD. … In ancient Greece the scope of experimental research remained restricted because the Greeks, with very few exceptions, failed to take the decisive step from observation to systematic experimentation.  Thus hardly any links were formed between the few branches of science that developed, and they did not expand sufficiently to produce a coherent and interdependent system…. The scientific world-picture of Aristotle… became dominant in Greek and medieval thought.  In fact, it is one of the three major world views in the history of science, being followed after a long interval by that of Newton which has since been replaced by that of relativity and quantum physics.”

[27] See Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

pp. 164-166

[28] See Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

pp. 119-124


[29] See Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

pp. 116-119


[30] The way in which the Rabbis built up … Talmudic law by means of an exegesis of the relatively few provisions contained in the Bible is still a mystery…. Orthodox Jews affirm that the methods used by the Rabbis and the results reached by them are of Sinaitic origin: God revealed them all to Moses during the forty days Moses stayed with him, and Moses, though not writing them down, transmitted them to Joshua, Joshua to the elders and so on. This dogma goes back to the Talmud itself …. But it is precisely in this province of 'legal science' that may be found the really important points of contact between the Talmud and other Hellenistic creations.

The thesis here to be submitted is that the Rabbinic methods of interpretation derive from Hellenistic rhetoric. Hellenistic rhetoric is at the bottom both of the fundamental ideas, presuppositions from which the Rabbis proceeded and of the major details of application, the manner in which these ideas were translated into practice. This is not to detract from the value of the work of the Rabbis. On the contrary, it is important to note that, when the Hellenistic methods were first adopted about 100 to 25 B.C., the 'classical,' Tannaitic era of Rabinic law was just opening. That is to say, the borrowing took place in the best period of Talmudic jurisprudence, when the Rabbis were masters, not slaves, of the new influences. The methods taken over were thoroughly Hebraized in spirit as well as form, adapted to the native material, worked out so as to assist the natural progress of Jewish law. It is the kind of thing which mutatis mutandis, happened at Rome in the same epoch…. However, in its beginnings, the Rabbinic system of hermeneutics is a product of the Hellenistic civilization then dominating the entire Mediterranean world..

There were, then, these diametrically opposed views: the Pharisaic, according to which the authority of the fathers must be unconditionally accepted, and the Sadducean, according to which the text alone was binding, while any question not answered by it might be approached quite freely, in a philosophical fashion. In this situation, Hillel declared that Scripture itself included the tradition of the fathers; and that it did so-here he took a leaf out of the other party's book-precisely if read as, on the most up-to-date teaching of the philosophical schools, a code of laws ought to be read. There existed, he claimed, a series of rational norms of exegesis making possible a sober clarification and extension of legal provisions. If they were applied to Scripture, the opinions expressed by the fathers would be vindicated, would turn out to be logical, not arbitrary; and in fact, he contended, some measuure of traditional, Rabbinic authority would always remain indispensable-not everybody was in a position to judge the merits of a doctrine approved by the experts…. His first public debate before the Pharisaic officers on the question whether the paschal lamb might be slaughtered even if Passover fell on a Sabbath--culminated in the demonstration that what he concluded from the Bible by means of his system of interpretation coincided with the traditional ruling. It was then that the Pharisees made him their leader and accepted his innovation…. He not only created the basis for a development of the law at the same time orderly and unlimited, but also led the way towards a bridging of the gulf between Pharisees and Sadducees.

On the one hand, he upheld the authority of tradition. Actually, in a sense, he increased it: as, for him, the traditional decisions were all logical, necessary inferences from the Bible, they were equal in rank to the latter….

First, the fundamental antithesis he tried to overcome was that between law resting on the respect for a great man, on the authority of tradition, and law resting on rational, intelligible considerations. This antithesisis common in the rhetorical literature of the time. His contemporary Cicero distinguishes between arguments from the nature of the case and arguments from external evidence, that is to say, from authority….

Secondly, Hillel claimed that any gaps in Scriptural law might be filled in with the help of certain modes of reasoning-a good, rhetorical theory.…

Thirdly, the result of such interpretation was to be of the same status as the text itself, was to be treated as if directly enjoined by the original lawgiver. This view also can be paralleled….

Fourthly, Hillel's assumption of 'a written Torah and an oral Torah' is highly reminiscent of the pair … ius scriptum and ius non scriptum (or per manus traditum

Fifthly, there is an idea which at first sight looks the exclusive property of the Rabbis, for whom the Bible had been composed under divine inspiration: the lawgiver foresaw the interpretation of his statutes, deliberately confined himself to a minimum, relying on the rest being inferable by a proper exegesis. (It is this idea which gradually led to the doctrine that the oral Law no less than the written is of Sinaitic origin: God, by word of mouth, revealed to Moses both the methods by which fresh precepts might be derived from Scripture and all precepts that would ever be in fact derived.) But even this is a stock argument of the orators.

Sixthly, it is the task of a lawgiver to lay down basic principles only, from which any detailed rules may be inferred. Just so, Cicero, in the imaginary role of a legislator, announces that 'the statutes will be set forth by me, not in a complete form-that would be endless but in the form of generalized questions and their decisions'….

Seventhly, it is the task of a lawgiver, if he wants to regulate a series of allied cases, to choose the most frequent and leave the others to be inferred on the ground of analogy. …

Hillel's jurisprudence, then, i. e. his theory of the relation between statute law, tradition and interpretation, was entirely in line with the prevalent Hellenistic ideas on the matter. The same is true of the details of execution, of the methods he proposed to give practical effect to his theory. The famous seven norms of hermeneutics he proclaimed, the seven norms in accordance with which Scripture was to be interpreted… betray the influence of the rhetorical teaching of his age….

In conclusion, attention may be drawn to four points that should be borne in mind when these matters are pursued in greater detail.

First, the influence of Hellenistic philosophy was not confined to the period of Hillel. It had started before; and it went on afterwards, in an increasing degree, for a long time. The systems of interpretation advocated by Ishmael and Akiba some 150 years later can be understood only against the background of the rhetorical teaching of the time….

Secondly, the influence of Hellenistic philosophy was not confined to the domain of interpretation. Such fundamental matters as the distinction between mishpatim, rational, natural laws, 'commandments which, were they not laid down, would have to be laid down,' and huqqoth, inexplicable laws, 'commandments which the evil impulse and the heathens refute,' are not of purely Jewish origin; and even the teaching that 'you have no right to criticize the huqqoth' was probably a commonplace before Plato…. Students of Roman law are familiar with the statements by Julian, 'It is impossible to give reasons for everything that our forefathers laid down,'and by Neratius, 'Wherefore it is not correct to inquire into the reasons of what they laid down, otherwise much that is secure would be undermined.'

From "Rabbinic Methods of Interpretation and Hellenistic Rhetoric" by David Daube, from Hebrew Union College Annual, vol. 22, pp. 239-264. 1949.

The hermeneutical rules for interpreting classical Greek literature that were in vogue in Hellenistic rhetorical circles were well known, especially in a major cultural center such as Alexandria. These rules, which include inferences a minori ad maius, inferences by analogy, and so on, were widely used among Greek rhetors and appear in the third-century C.E.Tosefta; their introduction into Pharisaic circles is attributed to Hillel, who lived at the end of the first century B.C.E. What are we to make of this coincidence between Greek and Jewish intellectual circles?

Almost a half century ago, D. Daube and S.Lieberman addressed this issue, each adopting a very different position. Lieberman, an avowed minimalist, admits that the terminology itself was borrowed. The rules appearing in both Jewish and Hellenistic traditions are identical; Hillel rendered into Hebrew terms that had already been in use for generations among the Greeks. However, the polemic between Daube and Lieberman is not whether the rabbis borrowed the terms themselves, but whether they also appropriated the hermeneutical methodology associated with these terms. Daube adopts a maximalist position, claiming that these rules were first introduced into rabbinic circles under the influence of Greek models. …

Was this type of hermeneutical activity indeed practiced within Pharisaic (or any other Jewish) circles before the first century B.C.E.? There is no indication of this in any earlier source, either biblical or postbiblical. Nor do we encounter any indirect evidence. We know of no exegesis that might be best explained by assuming the existence of these hermeneutical rules. Later biblical books have some material that appears to be based on a midrashic interpretation of earlier sources, as do a number of books from the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Qumran scrolls. However, in none of these instances have traces of hermeneutical rules been detected! Thus, Lieberman's assertion that midrashic methods similar to those of the Greeks were to be found among Palestinian sages remains an assumption only. Probably whatever midrashic activity did take place among the early Pharisees was intuitive and strictly ad hoc, with no theoretical underpinning as the later hermeneutical rules provided.

Thus, it is very possible that this area of midrashic activity among Pharisees began to develop significantly and dramatically only in Hillel's time with the aid of well-defined Greek hermeneutical rules that not only widened the parameters of such inquiry but also, by their very crystallization, motivated others to work in a similar fashion. If this be granted, then Hillel himself may well have been associated with such an innovation, and in all probability he appropriated both the methodology and terminology….

From  Judaism and Hellenism in Antiquity: Conflict or Confluence? By Lee I. Levine, University of Washington Press, SEATTLE & LONDON, 1998

[31] From Lindberg, David  C., The Beginnings of Western Science, University of Chicago Press, 1992 p. 168-180

“The translation of Greek and Syriac works into Arabic… became serious business under Harun ar-Rashid (786-809)….  By the year 1000 AD, almost the entire corpus of Greek medicine, natural philosophy and mathematical science had been rendered into usable Arabic versions…. The scientific movement in Islam was both distinguished and durable … by the end of the ninth century translation activity had crested and serious scholarship was under way.  From the middle of the ninth century until well into the thirteenth, we find impressive scientific work in all the main branches of Greek science being carried forward throughout the Islamic world.  The period of Muslim preeminence in science lasted for 500 years – a longer period of time than has intervened between Copernicus and ourselves.”

[32] From http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/timeline12.html “Various Jewish scholar wrote and translated scientific and mathematical works from Arabic to Hebrew.  These include: Abraham ben Ezra… Maimonides… Johannes Hispalensis … Samuel ben Abbas, an unknown Jew of England who wrote 'Mathematicum Rudimenta'”

[33] Ivry, A. L., in article Nature, Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 12 cols. 888-889, Keter 1972

[34] From the Encyclopedia Britannica “As far as is known, the originator of this distinctive kind of Platonism was Plotinus (AD 205–270)… Plotinus, like most ancient philosophers from Socrates on, was a religious and moral teacher as well as a professional philosopher engaged in the critical interpretation of a long and complicated school tradition. He was an acute critic and arguer, with an exceptional degree of intellectual honesty for his, or any, period; philosophy for him was not only a matter of abstract speculation but also a way of life in which, through an exacting intellectual and moral self-discipline and purification, those who are capable of the ascent can return to the source from which they came. His written works explain how from the eternal creative act—at once spontaneous and necessary—of that transcendent source, the One, or Good, proceeds the world of living reality, constituted by repeated double movements of outgoingand return in contemplation; and this account, showing the way for the human self—which can experience and be active on every level of being—to return to the One, is at the same time an exhortation to follow that way..”

[35] Aristotle and the Peripatetic School

1.       Aristotle’s writings fall int two categories:

a.       Exoteric Works – largely poetic dialogues modeled after Plato and designed for publication.  Only fragments of these remain

b.       Esoteric Works  these are Aristotle’s works as we know them.  They probably originally lecture notes which accounts for their difficult abbreviated nature.  They seem to have been originally confined to the archives of philosophical schools.  The esoteric works were published by Andronicus of Rhodes in the mid-first century CE, i.e. almost 300 years after Aristotle’s death.

2.       Peripatetic School

Aristotle’s School, known as the Peripatetic School, continued afte his death with its primary interest being natural science, along with the composition of character studies, especially of poets and philosophers.

3.       Aristotle’s Influence

  • Aristotle’s influence before the Roman Imperial period, say early first century CE, was minimal.  Evern his ethics were unappreciated because their applicability seemed too linked to the vanished world of the polis.  Perhaps a measure of the differing esteem enjoyed by Plato and Aristotle is that it is believed that we still posess all of Plato’s writings whereas about 80 percent of Aristotle’s have been lost.
  • The Ancient Aristotle, like the Ancient Galen and the Ancient Ptolomy in their fields, was one among a network of scholars working in science and philophy in the Hellenistic-Roman period (say 350 BCE – 250 CE).  Psychologically and practically this bears no relation to these men as unchallengable authorities in their fields in the Muslim and Christian Middle Ages when they slotted into an intellectual culture based on absolut authorities – for the Christians - God, the Bible, the Church; for the Muslims – Allah, the Koran, Muhammad.  It is ironic, that Aristotle, the empiricist, should have become the unchallengable authority on science in the Middle Ages; doubly so as he was ignored until after the creative period of Greek Science.

[36]  Following quoted from Twersky, Isadore, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah), Yale University Press, 1980; Twersky, Isadore, A Maimonides Reader, Behrman 1972; Goldstein, B. R, Maimonides, article Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 11 cols. 754-782, Keter 1972

 “The influence of Maimonides on the future development of Judaism is incalculable.  No spiritual leader of the Jewish people in the post-talmudic period has exercised such an influence both in his own and subsequent generations…. In his philosophic views Maimonides was an Aristotelian… and it was he who put medieval Jewish philosophy on a firm Aristotelian basis.  But in line with contemporary Aristotelianism his political philosophy was Platonic.”

“It is repeated emphatically in the Mishnah Torah, where Maimonides extols the wise men of Greece and insists upon the indispensability of their scientific writings:

… all this is part of the science of astronomy and mathematics, about which many books have been composed by Greek sages – books that are still available to the scholars of our time.  But the books which have been composed by the sages of Israel… have not come down to us. But since all these rules have been established by sound and clear proofs, free from any flaw and irrefutable, we need not be concerned about the identity of their authors, whether they were Hebrew prophets or Gentile sages.  For when we have to do with rules and propositions which have been demonstrated by good reasons and have been verified to be true by sound and flawless proofs, we rely upon the author who has discovered them or has transmitted them, only because of his demonstrated proofs and verified reasoning.”

“Furthermore, Maimonides’ halakic formulation, which grafts philosophy onto the substance of the Oral Law, dovetails perfectly with his view on the history of philosophy.  In common with many medieval writers, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, Maimonides is of the opinion that Jews in antiquity cultivated the science of physics and metaphysics, which they later neglected for a variety of reasons, historical and theological.  He does not, however, repeat the widespread view, as does hal-Levi, that all sciences originated in Judaism and were borrowed or plagiarized by the ancient philosophers…. Maimonides does not care to trace all philosophical wisdom back to an ancient Jewish matrix.  His sole concern is to establish hokma as an original part of the Oral Law, from which it follows that the study of the latter in its encyclopaedic totality – that is, Gemara – includes philosophy.  This position – a harmonistic position unifying the practical, theoretical, and theological parts of the law – which Maimonides codified in Mishneh Torah.

“In one broad generalization, we may say that the Mishneh Torah became a prism through which reflection and analysis of virtually all subsequent Talmud study had to pass,  There is hardly a book in the broad field of Rabbinic literature that does not relate in some way to the Mishneh Torah.”

[37] Neo-Platonism was also fundamental to the development of Christian theology and Islamic Sufism and had a close relationship to Aristotelianism.  The following is from the Encyclopedia Britannica  “Relationship to Neoplatonism. Aristotle's works were adopted by the systematic builders of Neoplatonism in the 3rd century AD. Plotinus, the school's chief representative, followed Aristotle wherever he found a possibility of agreement or development, as he did in Aristotle's theory of the intellect. And Plotinus' pupil Porphyry, the first great harmonizer of Plato and Aristotle, provided the field of logic with a short introduction (Isagoge). … Neoplatonism dominated the school of Athens, where, apart from logic, Aristotle's writings were destined to be studied mainly as a basis for philosophical disputations.”

[38] “From the beginning of its development, the Kabbalah embraced an esoterism closely akin to the spirit of Gnosticism, one which was not restricted to instruction in the mystical path but also included ideas on cosmology, angelology and magic.  Only later, and as a result of the contact with medieval Jewish philosophy, the Kabbalah became a Jewish “mystical theology,” more or less systematically elaborated.  This process brought about a separation of the mystical, speculative elements from the occult and especially the magical elements…. The confrontation between the Gnostic tradition in the Bahir and neoplatonic ideas concerning God, His emanation, and man’s place in the world, was extremely fruitful, leading to the deep penetration of these ideas into earlier mystical theories.  The Kabbalah in its historical significance, can be defined as the product of the interpenetration of Jewish Gnosticism and neoplatonism.” From Scholem, G, Kabbalah article in Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 10 cols. 489-653, Keter 1972

[39] From Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 6 cols. 922-925, Keter 1972 – “There is no specific ethical literature as such in the biblical and talmudic period insofar as a systematic formulation of Jewish ethics is concerned.  Even the Wisdom literature of the Bible, though entirely ethical in content, does not aim at giving a systematic exposition of this science of morals and human duties, but confines itself to apothegms and unconnected moral sayings.  The same is true of tractate Avot, the only wholly ethical tractate of the Mishnah…. The beginnings of Jewish ethical literature in the Middle Ages are rooted in the development of Jewish philosophy of that period”

[40] “…the orderly shaping of material scattered through the vast talmudic literature in a properly coherent pattern-all this in itself owes much to Maimonides' philosophical approach. More directly, Maimonides formulates his philosophical, theological, and ethical views as part of the halakhah, giving them the same authority and stating them with the same precision as the topics traditionally associated with the law. For the first time in Jewish legal codification, Maimonides presents the laws under highly revealing headings, such as Hilkhot yesodei hatorah ('The Laws of the Foundations of the Torah'), or Hilkhot deot ('The Laws of Ethical Conduct'). In the former section Maimonides presents Aristotelian physics and metaphysics and in the latter section his advocacy of the golden mean (the 'middle way'), in exactly the same manner as he presents all the details of the law in other sections of his code. Each detailed statement is a halakhah, a rule for the regulation of thought and belief as well as of practice. Maimonides believed that his philosophical views were true, and that truth has the sanctity of Torah; so he had no hesitation in taking the further step of incorporating into the halakhah the truths of which he had become convinced.We consider first Maimonides' Hilkhot yesodei hatorah, in which he Elaborates on the cosmological ideas of his day, holding that contemplation of the marvels of the universe leads to love and worship of the Creator. The doctrine of the spheres and their music is described. The spheres are disembodied intelligences, their motion in their revolution around the earth being evidence of the power of the Prime Mover. Furthermore, to the consternation of traditional talmudists, Maimonides identifies Aristotelian physics and metaphysics with, respectively, the Talmudic ma’aseh bereshit ('The Work of Creation') and maaseh merkavah ('The Work of the Chariot'); applying a talmudic statement to his own purpose, he gives these a far higher priority than the 'debates of Abbaye and Rava'. It is only when we realize that the phrase 'the debates of Abbayeand Rava' stood in Mimonides' day for the whole range of taditional talmudic-halakhic studies that his radicalism becomes fully apparent. Paradoxically, the supremacy of philosophy and theology over halakhah has here itself become part of the halakhah, since Maimonides gives this supremacy halakhic status by incorporating it into his code.” From A TREE OF LIFE: Diversity, Flexibility, and Creativity in Jewish Law (SECOND EDITION) by LOUIS JACOBS, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2000 p. 43