"What's In a Name?" David Miller on Jews and Judeans
Here's a good blog series to kick off the new year: David Miller's "What's In a Name?" covering the Jew-Judean debate. His conclusion:
"We do not have an English word that does justice to the meaning of Ioudaios. 'Jew' captures the religious, cultural and sometimes the narrow ethnic aspects of the word, but misses the strong geographical element. Translating Ioudaios by 'Jew' also distinguishes the word unjustifiably from other ethnic nouns. 'Judaean' by contrast, captures the tight connection between the people and their homeland, but to a modern ear misses the religious and cultural aspects of the ancient term. 'Judaean' might help avoid anachronism, although the danger of anachronism will always linger. 'Judaean' also lacks continuity with the ongoing tradition of contemporary Judaism...Unfortunately, I do not have a handy catch-all alternative to 'Judaism.'Frankly I don't understand the first paragraph. The term "Judean" captures both the geographical and ethnic dimensions we need, and that's why it's the preferrable translation. And no one is denying a continuity between Judeans and later Jews (any more than a continuity between Israelites and later Judeans). "Judeanism" is perfectly suitable.
"I do not think either translation is wrong. I lean towards Judaean in academic settings because its very unfamiliarity encourages more careful reflection on what would have been meant by the term in antiquity. On the other hand, I have no desire to be innovative or to follow the latest fad in my use of terminology. The important thing is to explain the semantic range underlying the word behind our English translation."
But I like the second paragraph. David is right about fads; nothing is more treacherous to the intellect. We shouldn't be retranslating words for political reasons, and as I've pointed out already, that is unfortunately what some of our best scholars -- on both sides of the debate -- have been doing.