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Master of Arts (MA)
Garfinkle, Steven J.
Neem, Johann N.
In this project I argue for a diachronic approach to Jewish identity that takes into account their experiences as imperial subjects under the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Seleucid Empires. By looking at how the Jews engaged with imperialism and identity as a process that spans these different imperial regimes, we can construct a clearer image of Jewish identity in antiquity.
I argue that Jewish identity must be examined as an ongoing process that was aided by literature and propelled by imperialism. Their identity as Jews was centered on one key idea: a separateness from others that was based in a Covenantal relationship with YHWH. As the Jews sought to maintain that separateness they renegotiated their identity as different threats arose with shifting imperial authority.
The Hebrew Bible is the end product of a long process of changes. It preserves centuries of history, prophecy, and poetry, all telling the story of a people and their God. But it is not a merely a record. These texts were intentionally created in response to their experiences as imperial subjects. By the second century BCE, these texts serve as the foundation of Jewish identity. Current historiography tends to address Jewish identity in the Hellenistic periods. However, their Jewish identity was threatened and shaped by imperialism long before the Hellenistic period.
Western Washington University
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Russell, Abigail L. (Abigail Lynn), "A Malleable Strength: The Formation of Jewish Identity in Response to Imperialism in Antiquity" (2017). WWU Graduate School Collection. 586.