Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Sparta-Israel Conference

WHAT HAS SPARTA TO DO WITH JERUSALEM? JEWS AND GREEKS EXPLORE LONG, DEEP RELATIONSHIP. A conference in Sparta that looked at the rich history between the two peoples (VETTE J. DEANE, Jerusalem Post).
The Present: The conference

A friendship was renewed in the heat of early September between the Byzantine ruins at Mount Taygetos and Ancient Sparta.
“Sparta-Israel Conference: Renewing an Ancient Friendship” was attended by members of B’nai B’rith’s “Philon” lodge of Athens, B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, the Municipality of Sparta and the Greek-Israeli Cooperation Institute. The main objectives of the September 4-6 conference were analyzing “historical and cultural aspects of the ancient friendship between the Spartan kings and the high priests of Israel” and “promoting future cooperation between Greece and Israel on development, tourism and cultural issues.”

But the conference also covered ancient history:
The Past: The letters

A far more ancient dispute arose during the conference – the letters from First and Second Maccabees, non-canonical Jewish books written in the Hasmonean period. This correspondence between Jews and Sparta was used as the inspiration for the conference in the hope of creating a narrative that can serve as a basis for future Israeli and Greek cooperation. However, the letters’ authenticity was and still is disputed.

The correspondence in question is in 1 Maccabees 12, not 2 Maccabees. You can read it at the link. Really, how hard would it have been to check that and give a correct reference?

I'm pretty sure the only reference to Sparta ("The Lacedaemonians") in 2 Maccabees is in 5:9, also mentioned in the article.

I don't have a view either way on the question of the authenticity of the letters. But at minimum the letters, even if they aren't authentic, show concern for Greek-Jewish relations in the Hellenistic period.

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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