The most complete definition of sanctified war and of its principles and methods in ancient Israel is found in chapter 20 of Deuteronomy. Here God dictates to Moses and the Israelites the rules for the war to be waged against the pagan Seven Nations residing in Canaan, the land that God had promised to Israel. Deuteronomy 20 proved to be a most vital and influent literary model until the period between the two Jewish revolts against Rome: according to the narratives of 1 and 2 Maccabees, Josephus, and the Megillat Antiokhus, the Maccabees and the Hasmoneans conducted their wars for independence and expansion of Israel in rigorous keeping with the divine commands for warfare against pagans that are listed in Deuteronomy 20; these are fully reconfirmed in the Temple Scroll from Qumran as well. After the momentous defeat of the second Jewish revolt, the new rabbinic leading class became concerned that Scripture might no longer be used to legitimate any patriotic drive within Israel. Rabbinic literature therefore testifies to a gradual, methodical effort to defuse the belligerent message of Deuteronomy 20 on different levels: i. the choice of the books that were to be accepted as canonical Scripture; ii. the interpretation of Scripture; iii. liturgy and homily.

I have tried to show how chapter 20 of the book of Deuteronomy remained a vital and influential literary model until the end of the period of the wars against Rome. The authors of 1 and 2 Maccabees, Josephus and the Megillat Antiokhus recount the independence war of the Maccabees and the expansionist wars of the Hasmoneans as rigorously following the divine commandments listed in the biblical source. The Temple Scroll from Qumran, too, fully reconfirms the Deuteronomic regulations for war against the pagans. But after the catastrophic conclusion of the second war against Rome, and at pace with the emergence and gradual predominance of the rabbinic version of Judaism, the new leading class took care that sacred scripture could not by any means be used to legitimate any nationalist drive within Judaism. Therefore the rabbis excluded from their biblical canon both the books that narrated the epic of the Maccabees and the Hasmoneans, and the books that projected liberation for Israel in an eschatological perspective, like the War Rule from Qumran and many other apocalyptic works patterned after the violent prophetic imagery of the ‘day of Yhwh’ and its final battle. In this perspective, Deuteronomy 20 was a potentially dangerous text. Still, by then it had already been part of the canonical Torah for centuries. It could therefore no longer be defused by simply excluding it from the canon of scripture; it required a thorough reworking in the realm of exegesis.

From Bad Example to Good Advice: Reading and Reworking Deuteronomy 20 in Late Antique Judaism

Capelli, Piero
2022-01-01

Abstract

The most complete definition of sanctified war and of its principles and methods in ancient Israel is found in chapter 20 of Deuteronomy. Here God dictates to Moses and the Israelites the rules for the war to be waged against the pagan Seven Nations residing in Canaan, the land that God had promised to Israel. Deuteronomy 20 proved to be a most vital and influent literary model until the period between the two Jewish revolts against Rome: according to the narratives of 1 and 2 Maccabees, Josephus, and the Megillat Antiokhus, the Maccabees and the Hasmoneans conducted their wars for independence and expansion of Israel in rigorous keeping with the divine commands for warfare against pagans that are listed in Deuteronomy 20; these are fully reconfirmed in the Temple Scroll from Qumran as well. After the momentous defeat of the second Jewish revolt, the new rabbinic leading class became concerned that Scripture might no longer be used to legitimate any patriotic drive within Israel. Rabbinic literature therefore testifies to a gradual, methodical effort to defuse the belligerent message of Deuteronomy 20 on different levels: i. the choice of the books that were to be accepted as canonical Scripture; ii. the interpretation of Scripture; iii. liturgy and homily.
Creative Fidelity, Faithful Creativity. The Reception of Jewish Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Capelli - Deut. 20 Naples (2022).pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: Versione dell'editore
Licenza: Accesso libero (no vincoli)
Dimensione 2.5 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
2.5 MB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in ARCA sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3718693
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact