Judaism in Rome and Ephesus

judaism-in-ephesus

When St Paul visited Ephesus around 53 AD, there was a Jewish community at Ephesus for over three hundred years.

At 1st century AD, Jews had spread from their homeland to the Mediterranean and some other places. The oldest Jewish community in Europe is the one in Rome. They were practicing very different religion than their neighbors and as a result of this, Jews were mostly close-knit to protect their faiths and themselves. In Rome, Augustus and Julius Cesar supported Jews to help them to worship as they like and Julius Cesar allowed them to settle anywhere in the Roman Empire. Although they were generally treated with respect, trouble did occur and during the reign of Claudius, Jews had been exiled from Rome two times but than they were allowed to return and continue their independent existence. Each Jewish community worshipped at its own synagogue but the center of their worship is in Jerusalem.

It is known that there have been a substantial Jewish community in Asia Minor since at least the 5th century BC and when St Paul visited Ephesus around 53 AD there was a Jewish community at Ephesus for over three hundred years, but the exact date of the establishment of Jewish community in Ephesus is not known.

Unfortunately there is a little inscriptional evidence for the Jewish community in the ancient city but Ephesus is mentioned as having a synagogue in Acts 19:1 of New Testament. Synagogue hasn’t been found in and around Ephesus but there is a menorah carving on the step of Celsus library.

Source : Ephesus – History, information and pictures of Ephesus Ancient city

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria (Philo Judaeus, Philo the Jew and Yedidia) (c. 20 B.C. – A.D. 50) was a Jewish-Egyptian philosopher of the Hellenistic period, and one of the most important Jewish Philosophers of ancient times.

He tried to fuse and harmonize ancient Greek philosophy and Judaism, using a composite of Jewish exegesis or interpretation of authoritative texts and the art of allegory he had learned from Stoic philosophy. Given the similarity of the resulting combination to Christian teachings, some have argued that Philo is actually the “founder of Christianity” and that he strongly influenced the New Testament.

Philo was a Hellenized Jew born around 20 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt. In addition to his Jewish education, studying the laws and national traditions, he was obviously thoroughly educated in Greek philosophy and culture, as can be seen from his superb knowledge of classical Greek literature. He had a deep reverence for Plato in particular, and clearly had a first-hand knowledge of the prevailing Stoical theories, some neo-Pythagorean works, and at least a passing acquaintance with Cynicism and the moral popular literature.

He appears to have come from a wealthy and prominent family, and to have been a leader in his community, which was at that time the largest Jewish community outside of Palestine. His brother, Alexander Lysimachus, was a very wealthy, prominent Roman government official responsible for collecting dues on all goods imported into Egypt from the East. Philo complained that his official functions even forced him to abandon his studies.

The very few biographical details we have are found in Philo’s own works and in those of the 1st Century Jewish historian, Josephus. The only event that can be determined chronologically was his participation and leadership in the deputation which the Alexandrian Jews sent to the Roman Emperor Caligula in the year 39 or 40 A.D. in order to ask for protection against attacks by the Alexandrian Greeks, to seek relief from anti-Jewish riots promoted by Flaccus, the Roman governor of Alexandria, and also to complain about the introduction of statues of the emperor into the synagogues.

Although this is the latest known fact in Philo’s life, he is assumed to have died around A.D. 50.

Philo’s works may be divided into expositions of Jewish Law, apologetical works and philosophical treatises. His expositions of Jewish Law include the “The Exposition of the Law” (a treatise covering the creation of the world, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, the laws written by Moses and the laws on general virtues); the “Allegorical Commentary on Genesis” (a systematic application of the method of allegorical interpretation, and the chief source of information on Philo’s ideas) and “Questions and Solutions” (a series of questions on each verse of the Mosaic books of the Bible). The apologetical writings include the “Life of Moses” (a résumé of the Jewish Law intended for a larger public), “On Repentance” (a treatise written for the edification of the newly converted), the treatises “On Piety” and “On Humanity”, the “Apology for the Jews” (written to defend his coreligionists against calumnies), the “Contemplative Life” (written to cultivate the best fruits of the Mosaic worship), and the “Against Flaccus” and the “Embassy to Caius” (both intended to establish the truth about the pretended impiety of the Jews). His philosophical treatises include “On the Liberty of the Wise”, “On the Incorruptibility of the World”, “On Providence” and “On Animals”.

Continue reading Philo of Alexandria