Children and Childhood in Light of the Demographics of the Jewish Family in Late Antiquity

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The demography of the Jewish family is indispensable for the study of the nature of Jewish childhood in late antiquity. Demography in this context refers to the probable mortality rate, fertility rate and average age of first marriage for the Jews of our period. Together these demographic factors create a model of the duration and rhythm of the life-course; a model of the skeletal structure of the ancient Jewish family. We explore below the nature of Jewish childhood in late antiquity in light of the portrait of the family that emerges from a study of ancient family demographics.

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... But much more work can be done to describe the relationship between time, gender and embodiment in Jewish texts. Along related lines, work on life-cycles, rites of passage, and aging could also be explored more fully, ideally without the constraints of presuming a single model of progressive development (Tropper 2005;Rubin 2008;Krakowski 2017;Balberg and Weiss 2018;Sivan 2018;Brener 2018). ...
Despite the apparent finality of Heschel’s pronouncement, in 1951, that Judaism is a ‘religion of time’, the past two decades have seen renewed scholarly interest in the relationship between time, time-keeping, and forms of temporality in Jewish culture. This vibrant engagement with time and temporality in Jewish studies is not an isolated phenomenon. It participates in a broader interdisciplinary examination of time across the arts, humanities and sciences, both in the academy and beyond it. The current article outlines the innovative approaches of this ‘temporal turn’ within ancient Judaism and Jewish studies and reflects on why time has become such an important topic of research in recent years. We address a number of questions: What are the trends in recent work on time and temporality in the fields of ancient Judaism and Jewish studies? What new insights into the study of Judaism have emerged as a result of this focus on time? What reasons (academic, historiographical, technological and geopolitical) underpin this interest in time in such a wide variety of disciplines? And finally, what are some new avenues for exploration in this growing field at the intersection of time and Jewish studies? The article identifies trends and discusses key works in the broad field of Jewish studies, while providing more specific surveys of particular developments in the fields of Second Temple Judaism, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic literature, and some medieval Jewish sources.
Cambridge Core - Ancient History - Papyri and the Social World of the New Testament - by Sabine R. Huebner
Throughout antiquity, there was little that could be called distinctively “Jewish” about families of Jews. The Hebrew Bible contains few prescriptions about family life, and although the evidence is sparse, Jewish family structures appear largely to have been similar to those of the wider cultures in which Jews often lived. This is not, however, to say that there were no instances in which Jews marked their family structures or practices as loci of Jewish identity, distinct from prevailing norms.
Procreation, the commandment to bear offspring, is frequently noted as one of the central obligations in Judaism. Both because of the centrality of the commandment to procreate in the book of Genesis and because of the contrast between Jewish culture in antiquity and its sister religion, Christianity, the obligation to marry and have children is identifi ed with one of the core obligations of the Jewish people. As such, children and childhood, which follow from the duty of procreation, can be expected to be central to the social organization of the Jewish people. Yet, while in practice Jews throughout history lived their lives as part of a family framework, and these families all aspired to raise children and educate them, there is little literature until the early modern period that discusses how these goals are to be attained. The Jewish religion is organized around a body of Jewish teaching often called the Torah but which in fact consists of the Bible (Old Testament), the Oral Law (Mishnah and Talmud), and expansions on these literatures that vary in shape and form expanding and reinterpreting the basic texts. Historically considered, one can say that Judaism is a combination of three central ideas-belief in God, God's revelation of the Torah to Israel, and Israel as the people who obey the Torah as part of their obedience of God. Although the interpretation of these ideas has changed over time, the ideas themselves have remained constant.1 Judaism as a religion is organized around precepts that dictate the way every man and woman should conduct their everyday lives and contains many directives regarding all areas of life, including procreation, childrearing, education, and fi nancial support of children. As such, traditional Jewish sources abound with discussions of various aspects of childhood and childrearing, and when examining sources on these issues over a long period of time, one can see both the change and the continuity that characterizes discussions of this topic. Since Jews have lived under the rule of other nations and religions from antiquity until modern times, one can also discern the divergences in Jewish tradition and examine these changes in light of the cultures within which the Jews lived. Throughout history, whether in antiquity when Jews were sovereign over themselves, or after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) when Jews lived among other nations, Jewish culture always existed alongside other cultures. Whether among Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, or Muslims, Jews were part of their surrounding cultures, absorbing and transforming ideas they learned from their neighbors and reinterpreting and explaining their traditions in light of the values they discerned around them. The Jewish tradition in its turn also helped shape neighboring religions and cultures, and constant dialogue between Jews and their surrounding cultures existed. Jewish communities were scattered throughout the Mediterranean basin and all over Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa until the late Middle Ages. With the discovery of the Americas, Jews migrated to the new world as well, bringing their traditions and methods of education with them. The texts in this chapter will provide a look at many of these different areas. Although some texts refer to Near Eastern biblical and Hellenic cultures, the two religions with which the Jewish tradition is in dialogue for the longest time are Christianity and Islam. Since Christians and Muslims recognized the Hebrew Bible as part of their traditions as well, and reinterpreted these texts for their own purposes, these are the religions with whom Jews argued and agreed over scripture and its practical implications. This chapter will focus on childhood in premodern Judaism from biblical times until the early modern era. After the onset of the Enlightenment in early modern Europe and with the secularization of Jewish culture fi rst in Western Europe then in Eastern Europe and in the Ottoman Empire, Jewish conceptions of childhood and especially Jewish education underwent additional changes. The emancipation of Jews in European countries in the nineteenth century further challenged traditional frameworks. Modern Jewish education has differed from country to country on the basis of educational trends and fads in each country. Moreover, the branching out of different religious movements within Judaism, and especially the growth of the Reform and Conservative movements since the nineteenth century, make it diffi cult to discuss the tremendous variety of ideas and practices. The wide variety of scholarship in these directions is suffi cient to demonstrate the different trajectories in which attitudes toward children, childhood, and education have blossomed. As a result, these developments deserve separate treatment and the challenges the modern period present are only hinted at in this chapter.2 Since Judaism is a religion of precepts, many discussions of children and childhood can be found in connection with religious obligations. Thus, for example, procreation, childhood rituals, religious education, and observance of Jewish ritual precepts are all discussed and debated at length in traditional sources, with explanations of what should and should not be done. These sources are evidence of both practice and belief concerning children and childhood. In this chapter, the sources presented seek to display the richness of the different genres in which these topics were discussed-Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, biblical and Talmudic commentaries, Midrash, legal rulings, moral advice, tractates on education, poetry, and stories. Although not all these genres discuss childhood during all of the periods covered here, I have sought to bring together a representation of the various kinds of texts. As noted, textual discussions are organized around precepts. Two examples will serve as a means of illustrating the methods employed in the sources. A fi rst example is that mentioned above, reproduction, or the importance of reproducing a community of believers. When examining the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" (pru urvu) one must begin with the book of Genesis, where it is outlined twice. God commands Adam and Eve to "Be fertile and increase, fi ll the earth and master it; and rule the fi sh of the sea, the birds of the sky and all the living things that creep on earth" (Doc. 1-4).3 This command is reiterated after the fl ood, when God commands Noah and his sons: "Be fertile and increase and fi ll the earth" (Doc. 1-5). This directive continues and outlines a new relationship with nature that is not part of our subject at hand, ordering that the fear of man will be upon all beasts of the earth. Jewish authorities in later generations not only understood this command as an order to procreate and to abstain from celibacy but also saw procreation as a fundamental component of the Jewish religion.4 This obligation raises many questions both practical and theoretical. How many children must a person have to fulfi ll this requirement, and whose obligation is it to procreate-men, women, or both? If one's children die, can one still claim he or she has fulfi lled this obligation? As we shall see, religious authorities argued over whether men and women had the same obligation to procreate, since men were commanded twice while woman was instructed to do so only once, and women were then excluded from the directive to Noah and his sons (Doc. 1-13). If a couple cannot have children and procreation is the central purpose of marriage, must a childless couple divorce (Doc. 1-10)? And when a child is born what must parents do for him or her and what must the Jewish community do if a parent is not present?5 All these obligations are interpreted in Jewish sources from the Bible through the codifi cation of the oral law in the Mishnah and Talmud and then expanded in commentaries on these classic texts.6 Midrashic texts, organized around biblical verses but incorporating pieces of the Oral Law, developed at the same time as the Oral Law itself and then continued to be written and recompiled throughout medieval times. Exegesis on the Bible, the Talmud, legal (halakhic response), and other literature led Jewish authorities to discuss conceptions of sex, the nature of childhood, education and rearing (both religious and commercial), and legal obligations of children toward their parents as well as those of parents toward their children.
This article reviews the state of scholarship on Jewish marital and divorce practices. It focuses on the legal institutions that govern marriage and divorce - such as the kettubah - their demographics, and the customs and rituals that were connected to them.
The high incidence of infant mortality in Late Antiquity encouraged patristic reflections about the fate that awaited these children. This article focuses upon a group of sixth-century theologians who argued that infants, regardless of their baptismal status, were akin to martyrs and monks in their claim to salvation. Jacob of Serugh in particular considered each newborn a new Adam, divinely formed and ready to inherit paradise. Jacob's and his contemporaries' views differ considerably from earlier patristic thought on this subject. What prompted such a change? This article argues that the reason for the status boost the untimely departed enjoyed in parts of the Christian East involves the increasing presence of children in the liturgy of these churches. The youths whose feast days feature prominently in late ancient martyrological calendars were celebrated as much for their purity as for their sacrifice. Liturgical language that had been reserved initially for child-martyrs like the Holy Innocents thus came to describe ordinary infants as well, resulting in a de facto re-appraisal of theological anthropology.
This article shows how the people in Roman-Byzantine Palestine understood issues of group affiliation and identity. It starts with a review of the scholarship on the demography of Palestinian Jews. It presents the demography of Palestinian Jews, and studies the population numbers that were recorded in ancient sources. In the next section, the discussion focuses on population growth and the Jewish settlements in Palestine. It also considers the regional concentration of the Jews, the problems of religious separation, and the changes that occurred during the Byzantine period.
Who is my neighbor? As our world has increasingly become a single place, this question posed in the gospel story is heard as an interreligious inquiry. Yet studies of encounter across religious lines have largely been framed as the meeting of male leaders. What difference does it make when women's voices and experiences are the primary data for thinking about interfaith engagement? Engendering Dialogue pursues this question with original work on women in mission, the secular women's movement and women in interreligious dialogue today. These new sites of consideration provide fresh ways of thinking about our being human in the relational, dynamic messiness of our sacred, human lives. The first part of each chapter details the historical, archival and ethnographic evidence of women's experience in interfaith contact through letters, diaries, speeches and interviews of women in interfaith settings. The second part of each chapter considers the theological import of these experiences, placing them in conversation with modern theological anthropology, feminist theory and theology. Thus, the insights offered in Engendering Dialogue come almost exclusively from listening to and culling the theological reflections from women across the faith traditions of the world. Grounded in women's experience of motherhood, women's struggle for rights and women's interfaith friendship, this investigation offers new ways of conceptualizing our being human. The result is an interreligious theology, rooted in the Christian story but learning also across religious lines.
Many religious traditions attempt to regulate the sexual practices of their members. Generally, their main tool for doing so is prescribing with whom one may or may not have intimate relations. Forbidden partners might include, for example, members of the same sex, relatives, or people of other religious and ethnic groups. Additional methods for defining how and when intimate relations are permissible are also not unheard of. For example, sexual relations using certain positions or occurring on certain days or hours or in certain places might be declared sinful. The three main Bible-related religious traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all have in their toolboxes these various regulatory instruments; many other religious groups use them as well.
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Skeletal remains of nearly 100 infants found in a Late Roman-Early Byzantine sewer at the site of Ashkelon, on the Israeli coast were examined. Attention focused on the reason for their presence in the sewer, and alternative hypotheses for the absence of normal burial that were considered included an epidemic or massacre. Detailed examination of bones and teeth showed all the infants to be neonates. The absence of neonatal lines on the teeth suggests that they died within a day or two after birth. The absence of older infants demonstrates that the sewer was not used for infant burial in general, and may have been used specifically for disposal of unwanted infants.
PIP This study examines the propostion that infanticide is a terminal abortion procedure, practiced when abortion attemps fail, or when the decision to kill an infant is based on characteristics that can be observed only after birth. Infanticide is defined as the deliberate killing of a child by any realistic means including exposure, but excluding accidental or magical means of death. Data on infanticide in 57 societies was collected to determine 1) when infanticide was performed (most often at birth), 2) who performed it (most often the mother), and 3) what kinds of infants were the victims (most often the illegitimate, twins or triplets, and the weak and deformed). There is also data on the time of the birth ceremony, who performed the ceremony, and who received it. It is found that infanticide takes place before the infant's birth ceremony and that the reasons for abortion and infanticide are similar. The victims of infanticide are viewed as fetuses and not newborns. The authors conclude that the majority of societies practicing infanticide do so for reasons that probably benefit women and apparently do not harm them. Appended to the article is a table of categories for coding data on infanticide by each society studied.