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Baruch

(193 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] According to Biblical tradition, he was Jeremiah's companion and scribe. A highly significant figure in early Jewish tradition. In the apocryphal Book of B., he appears foremost as a preacher who calls Israel to penance but also promises consolation. In the B. writings (for instance in SyrBar and GrBar, Ethiop. B. apocalypse), B. predominantly acts as a prophetic recipient of revelation, who can even be superior to Jeremiah when telling him about God's decision (SyrBar 10,1ff). B.…

Circumcisio

(346 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Circumcision (Hebrew mûla, mîla; Greek περιτομή; peritomḗ; Latin circumcisio), the removal of the foreskin of the male member, was originally an apotropaic rite widespread amongst western Semitic peoples that was performed at the onset of puberty or prior to the wedding (cf. Exodus 4,26 Is. 9,24f; Jos. 5,4-9; Hdt. 2,104,1-3). As this custom was not known in Mesopotamia, circumcision became a distinguishing feature between the exiled people and the Babylonians during the time of Babylonian…

Exilarch

(195 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The Exilarch (Aramaic rēš alūṯā, ‘Head of the diaspora’) was the leader of the Babylonian Jews and the official representative at the court of the Parthian king in the Talmudic and Gaonic periods ( c. 3rd-10th cents. AD). This institution, which claimed its origins in the House of David, was probably introduced during the administrative reforms of Vologaeses. I. (AD 51-79) [3]. The first certain details about the office date from the 3rd cent. (cf. yKil 9,4ff [32b]). The Exilarch had authority primarily in juridic…

Saboraeans

(71 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (from Hebrew śābar, 'consider', 'verify', 'reason' ). Term for those Jewish Talmud scholars of the 6th/7th cents. AD who carried out the final editing of the Babylonian Talmud (Rabbinical literature) and copiously amplified it with more extensive chapters. The Saboraeans followed the Tannaites (late 1st - early 3rd cents. AD) and the Amoraim (3rd-5th cents. AD). Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) Bibliography G. Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch, 81992, 205-207.

Adonai

(107 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Literally: ‘my Lords’. The plural suffix presumably recurs as an adjustment to the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, which is grammatically a plural form. When early Judaism tabooed the divine name Yahweh for fear of an abuse of its utterance (cf. i.a. Ex 20.7), adonai became a substitute. Thus, the Septuagint expresses the name ‘Yahweh’ as the divine predicate ‘Lord’ (κύριος; kýrios). The  Masoretes ( c. 7th-9th cents. AD), who initially set the text of the Hebrew Bible which only consisted of consonants and supplied its vowels, vocalized the tetra…

Ethnarchos

(155 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The title ethnarchos was given by the Romans to both Hyrcanus II (63-40 BC) and the son of Herod, Archelaus (4 BC-AD 6) (Hyrcanus II by Caesar 47 BC cf. Jos. Ant. Iud. 14,192ff.; Archelaus by Augustus after Herod's death, cf. Jos. Ant. Iud. 17,317). Formal expression was thus given to the designated person's rule over the Jewish people, while at the same time deliberately avoiding the title of king (cf. Jos. Ant. Iud. 20,244). The head of the Jewish community in Alexandria, who is s…

Karaites

(286 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The K. are a group within Judaism which emerged in the 2nd half of the 8th cent. AD under the leadership of Anan, a member of the exilarch family ( Exilarch), who was passed over when the exilarch was appointed in the year 767. The basis of Karaite beliefs (the K. being split up into subgroups) is the recognition of the Jewish Bible (Hebrew miqra) as the only foundation of the faith (hence, the term K. which is derived from Hebr. qaraʾim or bne/ baʿale-ha-miqra). In so doing, the K. called into question the validity of the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism, the so-c…

Levites

(434 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] According to the Chronistic History ( Bible), the Levites - clearly distinguished from the priests - form a type of clerus minor who are entrusted with the supervision of the Temple courtyards, provision rooms with cult equipment, sacrifices and offerings as well as being active as singers, musicians and gatekeepers and assisting the priests in the sacrificial service. Various genealogies document internal disputes and rivalries. The details of the history of the Levites can be clarified only with dif…

Amoraim

(84 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The term Amoraim (from Hebr. amar, ‘to say, comment’) describes in the traditional periodization those rabbinic teachers who worked both in Palestine and Babylon in the period from the finalization of the Mishna ( c. AD 200) to the time when the Babylonian Talmud was essentially completed, except for a few final revisions ( c. AD 500). They commented on the interpretations of the early  Tannaites, who have more authority in tradition. Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) Bibliography G. Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch, 81992.

Jezira, Sefer ha-

(259 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew ‘Book of creation’). Attempt at a systematic description of the fundamental principles of the world order. This Hebrew text, comprising only a few pages and extant in three different recensions, was probably written between the 3rd and 6th cent. and thus is one of the oldest texts of Jewish esoteric writing. In the first part, the ten original numbers, and in the second part the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are presented as elements of creation through whose c…

Masorah, Masoretes

(494 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Since the Hebrew alphabet is a consonantal alphabet and thus does not write any vowels, written words can often be pronounced and interpreted in various ways. In order to solve this problem, individual consonant letters were used also as vowel letters ( matres lectionis) from early on (so called plene writing; cf. Aramaic documents from as early as the 9th century BC or the Shiloah inscription from the 7th century BC). Furthermore, in order to secure the pronunciation of the holy text definitively, the so-called Masorah (‘tradition’, from Hebrew msr, ‘to pass down’) w…

Death, angel of

(231 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew Malakh ha-mawet). Figure of Rabbinical angelology, can be identified with  Sammael or  Satan (e.g. bBB 16a). The angel of death, given by God the power over life and death, stands at the side of someone who is dying. If that person opens his or her mouth in fright, the angel casts a drop of gall from his sword into the open mouth, whereupon death occurs (bAZ 20b). Up until the sin of the golden calf (Ex 32,1-24), the angel was intended only for the peoples of the world, beca…

Elisha ben Abuja

(158 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Eliša b. Abuja). Jewish scholar of the first half of the 2nd cent. AD, in the Rabbinic literature considered a prototypical apostate and probably therefore bearing the name Aḥer (Hebrew ‘the Other’). However, Rabbinic legendary tradition attributes to him a number of very different heresies: the reference in bHag 15a, according to which he believed in the existence of two heavenly powers, seems to point to Gnostic ideas ( Gnostics); according to yHag 2,1 (77b), he is supposed to …

Diaspora

(418 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The term diaspora (Greek διασπορά; diasporá, ‘scattering’) refers to Israelite or rather Jewish settlements outside Palestine. The main reason for their formation was the  deportation of the population as a consequence of military conquest; but alongside that, flight for political reasons, emigration in response to economic hardships, as well as expansion of trade also played a part. Despite considerable cultural differences, the country of Israel and in particular the temple in Jerusa…

Aqiba

(149 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Rabbi A. ( c. AD 50-135), an important Jewish teacher in the time of  Jabne, often appears as an opponent of rabbi Yishmael in discussions on the interpretation of Scriptures. He plays a significant role in the context of early esoteric traditions (see the tale of the four who entered Paradise; bHag 14b par.). He allegedly proclaimed Bar Kochba the Messiah of Israel (‘Star of Jacob’; cf. Num 24,5), which provoked objections because of the primarily anti-apocalyptic tendency of the ea…

Zion

(288 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Ζιών/Ziṓn or Σιών/Siṓn, fem.; Lat. Zion, masc., fem. or neutr.). The Hebrew proper noun Z. was originally the name for the citadel of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem on the southeastern karst hill above the source of the Gihon, which was conquered by David [1]. The Hebrew text explains the phrase 'Fortress of Z.' ( meṣudat ṣijjōn) as 'David's City' (2 Sam 5:7; cf. 1 Kg 8:1; for the distinction from the remainder of the city cf. 2 Sam 6:10; 6:12; 6:16). After the expansion of Jerusalem under Solomon the name could also be applied to th…

Judith

(331 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Ιουδιθ, Iudith, Iudit). The Book of J., which has come down to us only in Greek and (dependent on it) in Latin and belongs to the Apocrypha ( Apocryphal literature), goes back to a Hebrew original. In a politically and militarily difficult situation, with the inhabitants of the mountain city of Betylia besieged by Nebuchadnezzar's commander  Holofernes, and consequently suffering from lack of water, Judith, a young, rich and pious widow, appears. After admonishing the people to tru…

Genizah

(356 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] In Judaism, a genizah (‘safekeeping’, from Aramaic gnaz, ‘to hide’) is a repository for books which are no longer in use but which contain the name of God, or for ritual objects, in order to prevent misuse or profanation. Such rooms were frequently found in synagogues; if the synagogue itself was demolished, the books and objects were ‘interred’ in the cemetery. Of particular importance amongst the multitude of genizahs in the Jewish world is the genizah of the Esra synagogue in Fusṭāṭ (Old Cairo), whose academic evaluation was due mainly to the British…

Mamre

(392 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Mentioned in the Bible (probably from the Hebrew root mr, ‘become fat, fatten’, as ‘place that is fat/fattens’; Greek Μάμβρη/ Mámbrē; Latin Mambre) as an oak grove where Abraham [1] built an altar (Gn 13:18), and where, as he played host to three men, interpreted as a divine apparition, the birth of his son Isaac [1] was announced to him (Gn 18). According to Biblical indications, the place is identical with Hebron (thus Gn 23:17 etc.; but cf. Gn 13:18: ‘in’ or ‘near Hebron’). M. has been located in t…

Eliezer ben Hyrkanos

(214 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos ( c. end 1st/early 2nd cent.) is one of the most frequently mentioned Tannaites in the Mishnah and Talmud. Records of his life have survived in numerous legends: he only found his way to the Torah after the age of twenty and left the home of his wealthy parents to devote himself to studying the Torah as one of the disciples of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkais. There he was noted because of his outstanding exegetical abilities, which were so remarkable that they eve…
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