Half a century ago, the primary contours of the history of the Jews in Roman times were not subject to much debate. This standard account collapsed, however, when a handful of insights undermined the traditional historical method, the method long enlisted by historians for eliciting facts from sources. In response to these insights, a new historical method gradually emerged. Rewriting Ancient Jewish History critiques the traditional historical method and makes a case for the new one, illustrating how to write anew ancient Jewish history.
At the heart of the traditional historical method lie three fundamental presumptions. The traditional historical method regularly presumes that multiple versions of a text or tradition are equally authentic; it presumes that many ancient Jewish sources are the products of largely immanent forces of cloistered Jewish communities; and, barring any local grounds for suspicion, it presumes that most ancient Jewish texts faithfully reflect their sources and reliably recount events. Rewriting Ancient Jewish History unfurls the failings of this approach; it promotes the new historical method which circumvents the flawed traditional presumptions while plotting anew the limits of rational argumentation in historical inquiry. This crucial reappraisal is a must-read for students of Jewish and Roman history alike, and a fascinating case-study in how historians should approach their ancient sources.
Amram Tropper provides his readers with an exceptionally thoughtful guide to the methods required for valid use of the primary literary evidence for the history of the Jews in Roman times, with a series of pertinent case studies discussed in full and with admirable clarity.
- Martin Goodman, Oxford University, UK
A study of this type has been long overdue. Amram Tropper skillfully explains the advances in Josephean historiography and Talmudic methodology of the last half century and makes the first systematic and thoroughly compelling case for moving beyond the "traditional historical method." Tropper’s straightforward, polemic-free, and lucid presentation of the "New Historical Method" for the study of the Jews in the Roman Period will be welcomed by Judaic Studies scholars and by ancient historians, many of whom will be convinced that a consensus is finally emerging among specialists in this era.
- Stuart S. Miller, University of Connecticut at Storrs, USA
Table of Contents
Part I: Authenticity
Chapter 1: Can Multiple Versions of a Text be Equally Authentic?
Part II: Hermeneutics
Chapter 2: The Rabbis as Unusual Romans
Part III: Credibility
Chapter 3: An Introduction to Credibility: On Sources, Credibility and Corroboration
Chapter 4: Recovering Josephus’s Sources
Chapter 5: Josephus and History
Chapter 6: The Traditional Historical Method on the Credibility of Rabbinic Literature
Chapter 7: The Collapse of the Traditional Presumptions about Rabbinic Literature
Chapter 8: The New Historical Method on the Credibility of Rabbinic Literature: Three Case Studies
Part IV: Conclusion
Chapter 9: On Hillel the Elder’s Rise to Greatness