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Letters and CommunitiesStudies in the Socio-Political Dimensions of Ancient Epistolography$
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Paola Ceccarelli, Lutz Doering, Thorsten Fögen, and Ingo Gildenhard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198804208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198804208.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 March 2021

From Me, Jerusalem, the Holy City, to You Alexandria in Egypt, my Sister.…’ (Bavli Sanhedrin 107b)

From Me, Jerusalem, the Holy City, to You Alexandria in Egypt, my Sister.…’ (Bavli Sanhedrin 107b)

The Role of Letters in Power Relations between ‘Centre’ and ‘Periphery’ in Judaism in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Early Islamic Periods

(p.253) 9From Me, Jerusalem, the Holy City, to You Alexandria in Egypt, my Sister.…’ (Bavli Sanhedrin 107b)
Letters and Communities

Philip Alexander

Oxford University Press

The chapter investigates the role of ancient Jewish letters in promoting a shared identity in a polycentric geopolitical situation. This could not be done by coercion: it required diplomacy and persuasion. Alexander explores how Jews based in Jerusalem used letters for the purpose of asserting leadership, starting with the two festal letters at the beginning of 2 Maccabees that invite the Jews in Egypt to adopt the festival of Hanukkah celebrating the rededication of the Jerusalem temple and thus to acknowledge Jerusalem’s primacy. He also finds reflections of Jewish letter-writing in three passages of the book of Acts and reviews the use of letters as transmitted in rabbinic literature. The chapter concludes by suggesting that the genre of responsa, which began to flourish in the Islamic period, developed from exchanges of letters and participated in their ‘soft’ power structures.

Keywords:   Judaism, Diaspora, diplomacy via letters, centre and periphery, 2 Maccabees, Rabbinic literature, Tosefta Sanhedrin, book of Acts, Responsa

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