Monday, November 20, 2017

Review of Hasselhoff and Strothmann (eds.), "Religio licita?"

BRYN MARY CLASSICAL REVIEW: Görge K. Hasselhoff, Meret Strothmann (ed.), "Religio licita?": Rom und die Juden. Studia Judaica, 84. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. viii, 230. ISBN 9783110406559. $126.00. Reviewed by Arco den Heijer, Theological University Kampen (
The introductory chapter situates the book within a number of scholarly debates: the debate on Jewish or Judean identity within the Mediterranean world (is it primarily ethnic or primarily religious, or does it evolve from the one into the other?), the debate on the legal status of the Judeans within the Roman empire and the question how conflictual the relationship between Judeans and other inhabitants of the Roman empire was on a social level. Scholars generally acknowledge the relatively large degree of freedom accorded in a number of decrees to Judeans to live according to their ancestral customs,1 but disagree about the extent to which they could actually participate in Greco-Roman society without getting involved in various kinds of cultural conflict.2

This volume contributes to these debates by collecting a number of essays by leading scholars in the field. The strengths of the book are its detailed attention to the ancient sources and its wide chronological and geographical scope, ranging from the speeches of Cicero to the Judean community of Cologne in the fourth century. However, the book as a whole fails to move forward on the debates mentioned above, both because a number of the contributors have already presented their views in more detail in earlier publications and because the book lacks a concluding chapter that could bring the various contributions together to answer the questions posed in the introduction. Still, the quality of the individual papers is generally high in its argumentative strength and adequate use of the evidence. I cannot discuss all papers in detail, but will highlight some of them.

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