History of the Jewish People

History 282, 282H; JWST 234, 234H

Fall Term 2009
Mon/Wed 11:00 - 11:50 a.m.
Engineering (Martin Hall) 1202

Required & Suggested Texts | Course Calendar | Class Requirements| Honors Section |Additional Resources



Professor Bernard Cooperman; cooperma@umd.edu; Taliaferro #2130; 301-405-4271.
Office hours: Mon 3:00 - 4:00; Fri 10:00 - 11:00 and by appointment


Laura Shaw Frank; "The Ballroom" on the 3rd floor, Francis Scott Key Hall lfrank@umd.edu
Office hours: Mon 1–2; Wed. 10–11 and by appointment
Joshua Furman; 3111 Francis Scott Key Hall jfurman@umd.edu
Office hours: Mon 1–2; Thurs 3–4 and by appointment
Please note: The TAs do not have telephones at their desks. If you call the History Dept. general number (301-405-4265), the secretaries will try to pass on a message if they happen to see the TA, but this is clearly not a reliable method of maintaining contact. It is best to use email or to contact your TA in person.

Required Texts

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (New Revised Standard Version) Third edition.

Efron, John et al. The Jews. A History (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2009).

Niditch, Susan. Ancient Israelite Religion (New York: Oxford, 1997)

Rampolla. Pocket Guide to Writing in History. 6th edition

Recommended Texts

Barnavi, Eli. Historical Atlas of the Jewish People (New York: Schocken Press, 1992). This is an excellent reference tool not only for its maps but also for the running chronology it provides.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Engllish Usage (Springfield, MA: 1994).

Finkelstein, Israel, and Silberman, Neil. The Bible Unearthed (New York: Touchstone, 2001)

Jaffee, Martin. Early Judaism. Religious Worlds of the First Judaic Millennium (Bethesda: University Press of Maryland, 2006)

Biale, David. Cultures of the Jews. II: Diversities of Diaspora (New York: Schocken, 2002)

Other articles and primary sources will be available on-line. Check back to this syllabus for links and further information.

One of each of the following books should be part of your permanent library and should be kept on your desk or on a bookshelf where they are handy. Buy the best ones you can. They will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Remember that careers are made by your command of language and broken by your lack of it. Give yourself all the help you can get

A writing/style guide. This will guide you in researching, writing, and proof-reading your papers for the course. There are dozens of these guides on the market. Diana Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual, 3rd ed. (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000) is a very good one. We have asked the bookstores to order Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 6th ed. (Beford/St. Martin's, 2009) for your convenience.

A dictionary. Preferably an etymological one that gives the roots of words. The "spell checker" that comes with many word processors is NOT a dictionary and is not sufficient. As a UMd student, you have on-line access to the Oxford English Dictionary (affectionately known as "the mother of all English dictionaries" through the database collection at the library. Use it often; familiarizing yourself with the OED is one of those rites of passage required in order to become a full-fledged member of English-language literate society.

A thesaurus. A list of synonyms and antonyms that you should consult often to strengthen your writing stylistically and to define and nuance your ideas. There are many available, including computerized ones—especially handy when you are using a word processor. (If you are online, Merriam-Webster offers a good one.) The thesaurus built into a word processor like Microsoft Word is not intended for college-level writing and may not be good enough. Never write a paper without a thesaurus.

A usage manual. This is a handy volume which combines features of dictionaries and style manuals with lots of other information you always wanted to know. A good usage manual will tell you which form of a word is preferable ("insubstantial" or "unsubstantial"), what the fine difference is between two, almost identical words ("intellectual" and "intelligent"), when a word is best avoided ("I worked relatively hard today" only begs the question: "relative to what?), what preposition to use after a given verb ("forbid to" or "forbid from"), and when to use a given grammatical or syntactic form. My personal favorite is H. W. Fowler, Fowler’s Modern English Usage (Oxford, 1996), but there are many other good ones. Paul M. Lovinger, Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style (2002) had the advantage of focusing on American usage, but seems to have gone out of print. I asked the bookstore to stock Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (Springfield, MA: 1994). Try to keep your manual beside your bed. It is an instant cure for insomnia. Read one or two entries each night and ... poof! you're asleep!

As the semester goes on, I will try to build up a list books that may prove useful and add them to the syllabus here. The list will include titles mentioned in class, and so I will to keep them more or less in the order of the lecture topics. Please feel free to suggest other books, articles or websites you found interesting and helpful.

Heinlein, Robert. Waldo, and Magic, inc. (New York: New American Library, 1950) McK PZ3.H364 Wal 1970 This science fiction classic raises some fascinating questions about how we organize knowledge.

Michael Meyer, ed. Ideas of Jewish History (New York: 1974). McK DS115.5.M48. An overview of how historians have understood the field.

Graetz, Heinrich. The Structure of Jewish History and Other Studies, ed. Ismar Schorch. Though he wrote in the 19th century, this influential historian revolutionized the way Jews understood their own history. His ideas of periodization and causality are still challenging and useful.

Maccoby, Hyam. Judaism on Trial (Oxford: Littman Library, 1982).

Course Calendar

Mon., Aug 31 Introduction: Issues in Jewish History

The nature of historical research; specific problems of Jewish historiography

The Biblical Period

Wed., Sept. 2 The Patriarchal Age. The Bible as an Historical Source

The social background of the Patriarchs; archaeology and the Bible; archives of Mari and Nuzi; Martin Noth and the "history of traditions"

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 1.

Oxford Bible: Book of Genesis, chapters 11-50.

Oxford Bible: Essays. "The Ancient Near East and Ancient Isreal to the Mid-first Millennium BCE." pp. 507-514.

Mon., Sept. 7 Labor Day: No Classes

Wed., Sept. 9 The Exodus, Conquest & the Formation of the People

The archaeological record and the tribes; differing accounts in Joshua and Judges 1; the indigenous population; the rule of the Judges; a shared historical mythology; kingship and the house of David c. 1000 BCE

Oxford Bible: Book of Joshua, chapters 1-12 and 23-24; Book of Judges, chapters 1 and 19-21.

Barnavi: pp. 4-11

Rendsburg, Gary A. "The Genesis of the Bible." (The text is available in pdf format as #114 of Dr. Rendsburg's published articles, listed on his biographical website, and I have also posted it on on ELMS.

Mon., Sept. 14 The Divided Monarchy

Two kingdoms; religion and politics in the North; King Hezekiah, religion in the South under the influence of Isaiah; Jehoiakim and Jeremiah; Zedekiah

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 2.

Oxford Bible, 1Samuel chapters 8-12; 2Samuel chapters 1-7; 1Kings, chapter 11-12.

Barnavi: 14-25

Finkelstein, I. and Silberman N.A., The Bible Unearthed, chapters 7-8, pp. 169–225. (Available on ELMS.)

Wed., Sept. 16 The Rise of Biblical Religion

Layers of biblical text; the biblical account of the development of the religion; the 'Josian reform' (622 BCE) and Deuteronomy; monotheism; covenant; law; prophecy; centralization of the cult; the devaluation of sacrifice

Oxford Bible, Deuteronomy, chapters 12 & 16; 2Kings, chapters 22-23; 2Chronicles, chapter 34.

Susan Niditch, Ancient Israelite Religion, chapter 1, pp. 3-33.(These pages are available online.)

Mon., Sept. 21 The Babylonian Exile and Return

The gradual transfer of population to the East; life in Babylonia; the nature of Judaism in the East; temples outside of Judea? Ezra; the Persian period

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 3.

Oxford Bible, 2 Kings 24 & 25:7-21; Jeremiah, chapters 29:5-7, 39:1-10 and 52:1-6; Psalms 137; Daniel 6:11

Oxford Bible. "The Persian and Hellenistic Period" pp. 514-519.

Recommended: Purvis, James D., "Exile and Return," in Hershel Shanks, ed., Ancient Israel, pp. 201–230. Study Questions

The Hellenistic Period To the End of the Second Temple

Wed., Sept. 23 The Spread of Hellenism in the East

Alexander the Great 356-323 BCE; Hellenism; changed importance of Judea; the debate among historians over the impact of Hellenism on Jewish culture (Bickerman; Tcherikower); Ecclesiastes; Ecclesiasticus (Ben-Sira); Book of Jubilees; Song of Songs; Passover Haggada

Barnavi: 34-35; 44-47

Recommended: Levine, "The Age of Hellenism," in Shanks, Ancient Israel, pp. 231-264. (Available on-line).

Oxford Bible, Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach, Prologue and chapter 1

Mon., Sept. 28 Yom Kippur. No class

Wed., Sept. 30 The Hellenistic Diaspora and Judea to 70 C.E.

Hasmoneans: The Nature of their Rebellion and Rule

Barnavi: 36-41

Oxford Bible, The First Book of Maccabees and Daniel, chapters 8 and 11.

ASSIGNMENT #1 DUE - Please submit two copies of the paper.

Mon., Oct. 5 Sectarian Judaisms and Breakaway Communities.

Sadducees and Pharisees; The Essenes and the Social Message of Qumran; Early Christians; The emergence of "rabbinic Judaism" and its relation to Hellenism; Mythologies and realities of Roman conquest; Herod (37—4 BCE); building; pagans and Jews in Judea; attitudes of the Jews towards Rome; Julius Caesar and diaspora Jewry

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 4.

Barnavi: 42-43; 48–55.

Oxford Bible, "Gospel According to Mark": New Testament, pp. 56-92; "The Acts of the Apostles": Chapter 28:17 to the end, and "The Letter of Paul to the Romans": Chapters 2-4.

Recommended: Martin S. Jaffee, Early Judaism, Chapter 4.

Wed., Oct. 7 Roman Domination and Jewish Rebellions

Class and other Tensions among the Jews; Causes of the Revolt; Titus and the Destruction of the Second Temple

Barnavi: 48-56

Oxford Bible. "The Roman Period," pp. 519-525

Click here for the Israel Museum's interactive website of late-Second Temple (Herodian) Jerusalem.

Mon., Oct. 12 Mid-Term #1


The Talmudic Era Through the 6th Century C.E.

Wed., Oct. 14. Talmudic Era

Historians' debate over periodization; tremendous restructuring of the faith and people; centrality of the land of Israel; patriarchate; rebellions under Trajan and Hadrian; Rabbi Akiva and other scholars; R. Judah the Prince and the Mishna; Amoraim; comparison of the two Talmuds; recent scholarship

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 5.

Barnavi: 56-59; 62-67

Mon., Oct. 19 Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism

Shift to a book-centered religion; Torah and halakha; role of the synagogue; martyrology; messianism and the emergence of Christianity

Recommended: Martin S. Jaffee, Early Judaism, Chapter 6.

Wed. Oct. 21 The Talmudic Period (cont.)

The Medieval Period From the Spread of Islam to the 16th Century

Mon., Oct. 26 In the Christian World

Impact of Christianity in the West; the Shift to Charters; Inevitable Tensions; Blood libel; Crusades; Black Death; Host Desecration; Expulsions; Impact of Protestant Reformation; Burning of the Talmud and the Ghetto
Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 7.

Barnavi: 68-71; 78-79; 94-95; 104-111; 118-119.

Ambrose and Gregory the Great on the Jews

Charters to Jews: (a) Speyer (1084) ; (b) Duchy of Austria (1244)

The Crusaders and the Jews (a) Mainz (Mayence; 1096).(b) Rachel & Her Children

Medieval Anti-Jewish Beliefs

The Blood Libel (a) Williamof Norwich (1144; written 1173); (b) Blois (1171)

Innocent III and the Lateran Council of 1215

Martin Luther: On the Jews and their Lies (1543) excerpts

Wed., Oct. 28 In the Christian World (cont.)

Mon., Nov. 2 In the Christian World (cont.)

Wed., Nov. 4 In the World of Islam. People of the Book; Dhimmi Status; Tax Laws and Changing Economic Function

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 6.

Barnavi: 74-77; 80-93

The Pact of Omar

Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, pp. 40-94. (Available on-line through McKeldin course reserves. There are two files: chapter 3 [called "The Best Years"] and chapter 4 [called "The Long Twilight"]).

Mon., Nov. 9 In the World of Islam. (cont.)

Wed., Nov. 11 Second Mid-Term

Mon., Nov. 16 Self-Government and Religious Authority

Image of Self-rule; Exilarchs and Ge'onim; Karaism and the Challenge to Authority; Communal Organization in Christian Europe

Marcus, #38: 209-213; #47: 262-269. (Available on-line).

Wed., Nov. 18 Medieval Jewish Thought and Spirituality in Islamic & Christian Contexts

Halakha; Philosophy and Theology; Polemic; Saadia Gaon; Judah ha-Levi; Moses Maimonides; Poetry and Grammar; Biblical Interpretation; Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism)

Biale, Cultures of the Jews, II, chapters 1, 2, 3.

Marcus, #39: 214-218; #52: 289-294; #57: 323-329; #59 (On Samuel ha-Nagid); #60 (RaSHI - Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac); #61: pp. 344-346; #62: pp. 347–351; #63 (Ethical Wills); #74 (Medieval Exegesis, pp. 412–416); #75 (Maimonides on Art and Charity: pp. 417-419). (Available on-line).

Mon., Nov. 23 Medieval Thought (cont.)


Wed., Nov. 25 The End of the Medieval Era. Expulsions and their Impact.

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 8.

Barnavi: 120-121; 130-149

Mon., Nov. 30 Early Modern Jewries : Ottoman, Polish and Italian; Converso Patterns

Barnavi: 120-121; 130-149.

Wed., Dec. 2 Early Modern Jewries (cont.)

Mon., Dec. 7 Messianic Movements

Efron et al., The Jews, chapter 9.

Recommended: Stephen Sharot, Messianism, Mysticism, and Magic, chapters 7-8: "The Sabbatian Movement," pp. 86­1

Wed., Dec. 9 Review

Wed., Dec. 16 Final Exam 8am–10am in our regular classroom

Class Requirements

  1. Attendance at all classes and discussion sections is mandatory.
  2. Lectures assume that you have already read the assigned readings for that day or week. Quizzes in section and class will be based, for the most part, on the assigned readings. You may be called upon in any lecture to discuss or outline the relevant reading. Enjoy.
  3. Quizzes will be given, in section, almost every week. There will also be at least one "surprise" quiz given in lecture. No make-up quizzes will be given to any students who arrive late or who do not attend the section in which a quiz is given. Only your top ten quiz grades will count.
  4. Assignment #1: a 3-5 page analysis of an issue in biblical religion based on Susan Niditch, Ancient Israelite Religion. The exact assignment will be handed out in class. Your paper is due in class September 30. Please submit two copies.

  5. Assignment #2: (a) A 4-5 page analysis of an important aspect of Jewish history and/or thought between the destruction of the Second Temple and the end of the seventeenth century. the talmudic era down to the beginning of the modern period (approximately 1700). The analysis must be based on at least two scholarly articles. (b) A one-paragraph treatment of a web site dealing with the same topic you treated in (a). Due in class, Wednesday, November 23.

  6. Mid-Term Exams are based on the material in the lectures and readings. The first exam will cover material given Aug.31-Sept. 30. The second exam will cover material given Oct 8-Oct. 29. The final exam will consist of two parts: a set of questions like those on the mid-terms covering the material given from Nov. 1 to the end of term, and a set of cumulative questions which require review of the entire course. The cumulative questions on the final will be drawn in part from a set given to students for home study.
  7. The course grade will be constructed as follows:
  8. Professor Cooperman and the teaching assistants will have posted office hours for meetings with any student. If these office hours do not meet your schedule, please feel free to make an appointment for some other time. Remember that we are at least as lonely as Maytag repair men and are happy to meet with you.

Additional Resources

There are a number of videos in the library collection which are relevant to the topics covered in this course. You are urged to view these as a convenient method of putting the lectures into context. For example, the library owns a copy of the PBS series "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews." Broadcast originally to much fanfare in 1984, this series was reissued on 3 DVDs in 2001 with added translated documents and other interactive materials. (Ask for it at Non-Print Media in Hornbake Library, DVD DS117.H47 2001). Four of the nine programs address the time period covered by this course.

Program I - A People is Born (3500 B.C.E. - 6th century B.C.E.)

Program II - The Power of the Word (6th cent. B.C.E. - 2nd cent. C.E.)

Program III - The Shaping of Traditions (1st - 9th centuries C.E.)

Program IV - The Crucible of Europe (9th - 15th centuries C.E.)

In 2008, the PBS television series Nova did a two-hour show about the relation of archaeology and the Hebrew Bible, showing many of the sights and interviewing many archaeologists and historians who work on the period. You can watch all 13 "chapters" of "The Bible's Buried Secrets" (as well as find a great deal of extra material) at the show's website.

The much-discussed book The Bible Revealed Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silbrman and was also made the subject of a five-part documentary The Bible Unearthed that you can watch in Non-Print Media in Hornbake library (BS621.B49 2005).

"The Disputation." The 1263 debate between Rabbi Moses ben Nahman and Pablo Christiani, a Jew who had converted to Christianity, is conveniently translated in the volume Judaism on Trial edited by Hyam Maccoby (BM535 .D52 1991). Maccoby also authored a screen play about the famous debate which was produced for Channel 4 television in England starring Christopher Lee. You can watch it online from a campus computer (http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/871) using RealPlayer. There is also a video recording of a Washington production of the play directed by Nick Olcott and starring Theodore Bickel available at the Performing Arts Library—ask for WAP 0123). Highly recommended.

Documentary films prepared by the Tel Aviv Museum of the Diaspora provide pleasant introductions to various topics. See for example Kehilot Bi-Ymei ha-Beynayim (Jewish communities in the Middle Ages) (DS135.B2 K4 1996), Jews in Medieval Spain (DS 135.S7 J486 1996), Communities in Exile on Salonika and Fes (DS135.M8 K44 1995) in Non-Print Media in Hornbake Library. All films are in English. The 1992 documentary Acts of Faith is available online from campus at http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/976.


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