Greek Genres and Jewish Authors
Negotiating Literary Culture in the Greco-Roman Era
448 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2020
The ancient world, much like our own, thrived on cultural diversity and exchange. The riches of this social reality are evident in the writings of Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Jewish authors drew on the wide range of Greek literary conventions and gave fresh expressions to the proud traditions of their faith and ethnic identity. They did not hesitate to modify and adapt the forms they received from the surrounding culture, but their works stand as legitimate participants in Greco-Roman literary tradition.
In Greek Genres and Jewish Authors, Sean Adams argues that a robust understanding of ancient genre facilitates proper textual interpretation. This perspective is vital for insight on the author, the work’s original purpose, and how the original readers would have received it. Adopting a cognitive-prototype theory of genre, Adams provides a detailed discussion of Jewish authors writing in Greek from ca. 300 BCE to ca. 135 CE—including New Testament authors—and their participation in Greek genres. The nine chapters focus on broad genre divisions (e.g., poetry, didactic, philosophy) to provide studies on each author’s engagement with Greek genres, identifying both representative and atypical expressions and features.
The book’s most prominent contribution lies in its data synthesis to provide a macroperspective on the ways in which Jewish authors participated in and adapted Greek genres—in other words, how members of a minority culture intentionally engaged with the dominant culture’s literary practices alongside traditional Jewish features, resulting in unique text expressions. Greek Genres and Jewish Authors provides a rich resource for Jewish, New Testament, and classical scholars, particularly those who study cultural engagement, development of genres, and ancient education.
2 Jewish Epic Poetry
3 Other Jewish-Greek Poets
4 Didactic Literature
5 Jewish Philosophical Treatises
6 Jewish Novelists
7 Jewish Historians
8 Jewish Biographers
9 Concluding Observations
This sophisticated and extraordinarily wide-ranging study by one of today’s leading scholars on Greco-Roman genres reveals thorough familiarity with the primary literature of Greco-Roman antiquity and modern scholarly discussion. It clearly traces Jewish adaptation of Greek genres and provides an important foundation for studies of genres in early Judaism and Christianity.~Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary
Using sophisticated tools of analysis, Adams here offers a comprehensive assessment of the genres selected, blended, and adapted by ancient Jewish authors writing in Greek. This is the first of its kind, unmatched in range and depth, and a remarkable achievement.~John Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University
Sean Adams’ book promises to shed light on both philological and scribal practices for what kind of learning went on in the Jewish scholastic schools of Alexandria, rabbinic study houses, and the formation of Alexandrian early Christianity, e.g., the worlds of Origen and Clement of Alexandria. This book is about Jewish-Greek antiquity but has significant and remarkable resonances for a contemporary audience in the land of Israel in an Aramaic- and Hebrew-speaking environment. The book exemplifies the author’s brilliance and his personal commitment to his fields of New Testament and Hellenistic Jewish culture and text and ancient rhetoric and literature. The methodological frameworks he offers to biblical and non-biblical texts shed tremendous light on the role and function of teaching, literature, and cultural influence in ancient Jewish texts. He helps us understand the formation of canonical and non-canonical texts by studying their pedagogical and generic function. His work respectfully and boldy challenges current scholarship as he exposes the presuppositions underlying much of the existing scholarship on paideia and assembles material and literary evidence for his novel view.~Hindy Najman, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Bible, University of Oxford
In Greek Genres and Jewish Authors, Sean Adams admirably advances our knowledge of ancient Jewish-Greek writers and the literature they produced. Adams undertakes his analysis of literary genres with nuance and sophistication. This book will become a must-read for anyone interested in those Jews who wrote in Greek and participated in Greek genres and literary forms. A wide-ranging and impressive work of scholarship.~Benjamin G. Wright, University Distinguished Professor, Lehigh University