Sunday, June 18, 2006

Jew or Judean?

Related to Mark Goodacre's concern about pluralizing the word "Judaism" is the proper translation for Ioudaios itself. While I agree with Mark that taking pains to pluralize (so as to underscore diversity) is over-cautious, the question of whether we should speak of Jew/Judaism or Judean/Judahism remains an important one.

There are good and bad reasons for preferring the latter, but I think good wins out. Properly speaking, Jews refer to the adherents of beliefs and practices associated with the Mishnah rather than the temple cult of Judea. Only by the third century had a Jewish religion really emerged, or a common pattern of religion irrespective of locale. The predecessors of the Jews, the Judeans, were localized and provincial, with a very different pattern of religion based on the temple cult. Given that the temple's destruction in 70 CE was "the ancient world's equivalent of a nuclear explosion" (Donald Akenson, Saint Saul, p 62) -- forever changing the religion of the chosen people -- we should take seriously distinguishing between Judeans and later Jews.

"Judean" (Ioudaios) is an admittedly slippery term; K.C. Hanson and Douglas Oakman list five possible meanings depending on context: (1) the inhabitants of Judah, distinct from Galilee, Samaria, Perea, Idumea, etc; (2) all the inhabitants of Palestine, including Galilee, Samaria, Perea, Idumea, etc; (3) all those in the Mediterranean and Middle-East with ethnic connections to Judah; (4) all those professing allegiance to the state religion of Judah (even if converts); (5) the elites of Judah (as opposed to peasants). (See Palestine in the Time of Jesus, p 176)

It's the relationship between (1) and (2) which mostly concerns us here. I think scholars will continue to resist using "Judean" for Ioudaios simply because it's covenient in English to have two words -- "Judean" for those only who lived in Judea (1), "Jews" for everyone (2, 3, and/or 4). But as Philip Esler says, our convenience is besides the point, when we have a first-century historian himself who resists such covenience. Citing Josephus' War 2:43, Esler says:
"In a context where it is necessary to refer to both groups, Jospehus does not designate the diaspora representatives by some other name [Galileans, Idumeans, Pereans, etc.] but invents a periphrasis to describe those who do live in Judea. Accordingly there is no justification for refusing to translate all representatives of this people as 'Judeans' just because some live in Judea. Rather, when referring to the latter group we should follow the example of Josephus and employ a periphrasis." (Conflict and Identity in Romans, pp 67-68)
Esler, however, offers another reason for preferring "Judeans" over "Jews", and one that leaves me cold:
"It is arguable that translating Ioudaioui as 'Jews' is not only intellectually indefensible...but also morally questionable. To honor the memory of these first-century people it is necessary to call them by a name that accords with their own sense of identity. 'Jews' does not suit this purpose, both because it fails to communicate the territorial relationship they had with the land of Judea and its temple and because it inevitably imposes on them associations derived from the troubled, indeed, often terrible history of the Jews. As long as the temple -- the sacred heart of the land and its chief attraction -- stood, and even between 70 CE and 135 CE when there was a hope that it might be rebuilt, 'Judeans' is the only apt rendering in English of Ioudaioui." (Ibid, p 68)
Well...yes and no. The territorial relationship the chosen people had with the temple is important for historical reasons, and with historical precedents (as the Josephus passage indicates), but not because inaccurate terminology becomes somehow immoral or disrespectful. Frankly I think this idea is a bit ridiculous, and it obviously smacks of political correctness.

In sum, I do believe that "Judean" is the preferred term for Ioudaios as long as we're speaking of a time when the temple, or a realistic hope for its rebuilding, remained alive and well. Having just said that, I should say it's not an issue I feel compelled to crusade over -- and indeed I use "Jew", "Jewish", and "Judaism" all the time, not only as a lazy covenience, but especially when talking to laypeople. Until more scholars and bible translators follow suit, using the proper term will come across as confusing to some, and anal to many.

Tying this back to Mark Goodacre's initial concern, I agree with both him and Michael Bird that whatever term we use -- whether Jew/Judaism or Judean/Judahism -- we should eschew pluralizing the religion, because it gives the misleading impression that there were no common denominators holding the admittedly diverse Judean groups together.

UPDATE: Carl Conrad comments on the B-Greek mailing list. Thanks to Wayne Leman for the link.

UPDATE (II): Jack Elliott strengthens my convictions in his powerful essay "Jesus was neither a 'Jew' nor a 'Christian'".


Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Thanks for dealing with this important translation topic, Loren. I have linked to your post from the BBB. Carl Conrad of the b-greek discussion list gave a heads up about your post in a b-greek message.

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Thanks for noting this, Wayne.

Blogger Rafael V. Rabinovich said...

The English word "Jew" is a phonetic rendering of "Ju", short for "Judean". Why, indeed, there is no distinction in Hebrew between a Jew and a Judean.

In the book of Esther the Israelites in exile are refered to as "הַיְּהוּדִים", "the Jews". The Greek text that followed could only honor the original Hebrew wording.

What is interesting, as was pointed out by the late Rabbi M. Kahane, is that the Land of Israel would change names under the Roman conquest, from Judea to Palastina (Palestine). Where it not for that, today we would be reading in the news about a conflict between "Judean Arabs" and Jews.

As of English goes, let's keep it clear:

"Judahite" -- technical term for a member of the ancient kingdom of Judea.

"Judean" -- from the area of Judea, belonging to or related to that region.

"Jew" -- a member of the People of Israel. Name used at least since the Babylonian Exile, and there after. Hence, "Jewish people" is exchangable with "People of Israel", "Children of Israel", "Israelites".

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this debate quite interesting. In the next (November) edition of Journal for the Study of Judaism, Steve Mason will have an article dealing with a similar issue, particularly on the meaning of Ioudaios and Ioudaizein. I think this will be a fruitful contribution to this debate.


Michael Helfield (Grad Student, York University)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with the term for Jewish now meaning,Children of Israel, The term Jew has been incorrectly used for many centuries. Palestinia, only referred to Judea. Furthermore, the twelve tribes of Israel only one housed Ju's, the tribe of Judah. To be a Ju one was a descendant of Judah, King David, King Solomon and Jesus were part of this bloodline. Therefore, they were Jus. Also, if you were from the tribe of Judah, one was a Ju.
Finally, if one resided in Judea, one was a Ju. All the others, were from different tribes. If you were from the tribe of Levi, one was a Levite, if one was from the tribe of Benjamin, one was a Benjamite.

It's pretty logical to understand.
As many people are ignorant in today's society, it's important to understand and know where terms orginiate.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The term "jew" was created by the rothschilds to hide who they really are (german nazi's who changed their last name from Bauer), to conceal this fact and to purposely confuse the masses about who the real Ju's are. This mass manipulation worked, you see it here, and you see and read how uneducated many of the "jews" are, especially the fake jews who call themselves "ashkenazi or khazar jews", these people are of satan EPRIOD, as PER GOD! REV. 2:9, he even uses the term "jews", to indicate who the fake ones are! The rothschilds are sick and pathetic cowards who hide behind groups and teh best group to hide behind is the FAKE JEWS, becasue so many are so confused by this and think them to be one in the same and ARE NOT, and I say that clearly for the mronic fake jews who write here that there is no difference, says their deceitful father satan! Ju's are of GOD, as are the 12 tribes! These ashkenazi fake jews like the rothschilds, most banksters, most social media sites, communications technology, you know all of these RICH corporations owned by RICH fake JEWS,as PER GOD (Rev. 2)who not only called the "jews" out by their fake name but also by the fact that "thou art rich", Knew what these fake jews would do, and so he named them specifically in the revelations "jews" and not his real children Ju's! This is why israHELL is constantly murdering innocent people all over the world, murder our children and murders teh REAL Ju's! Also note that Talmudic Jews are truly satans children whether they know it or not, theyar following the teachings of satan! This racist and sick "bible" is so destructive to man kind, that it can only be of satan, as are the "jews" so destructive to man-kind on behalf of satan (again, whether they know it or not), it is obvious who they belong to, as GOD said, t"the synagogue of satan" "those of which say they are jews but are not" The "jews and the jesuits are one in the same destructive murdering criminals who are desperate and adomant about taking over the world for satan! They are all working together, the rothschilds built the counterfeit state israHELL, teh rockefeller's helped and created satans UN and they are the banking cartel that screwed the world and are about to try and cotnrol all of us or kill us trying to take the world over for satan! FACT PEOPLE WAKE UP!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He who has eyes let him see, he who has ears let him hear.
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,

Amen, Christian Soldier


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