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Heresy, Forgery, NoveltyCondemning, Denying, and Asserting Innovation in Ancient Judaism$
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Jonathan Klawans

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190062507

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190062507.001.0001

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Heresy without Orthodoxy

Heresy without Orthodoxy

Josephus and the Rabbis on Dangerous Beliefs

(p.39) 2 Heresy without Orthodoxy
Heresy, Forgery, Novelty

Jonathan Klawans

Oxford University Press

This chapter probes heresiological tendencies in the works of the first-century CE Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus hones in on what he considers dangerous beliefs, such as the denial of providence or renunciation of punishments after death. Josephus’s works prove even more important when considering how he constructs what he calls the “Fourth Philosophy”—rebels whose philosophy is not only dangerous but new. Using many strategies adopted by later Christian heresiologists, Josephus describes this group as recently created, by a named founder, whose distinctive and dangerous ideas are entirely novel, unjustified by scripture or tradition. Examining Josephus as well as some later rabbinic works illustrates the need to separate out heresy from orthodoxy, for in both bodies of literature one can find evidence for heresy without evidence of orthodoxy. Rather, in both Josephus and the rabbis, beliefs deemed dangerous are set against a looser notion of consensus.

Keywords:   consensus, Epicureans, Fourth Philosophy, Josephus, orthodoxy, Pirkei Avot, Zealots

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