[quote author=“Acher”]About the time of the destruction of the Temple there were 7 to 8 million Jews in the world, one-tenth of the population of the Roman Empire, only a third of whom lived in Palestine.
I would have to see more data to support these numbers. I have never seen any estimate of the numbers of Jews in the Roman empire at that time, so I have nothing to go on, but I’d like to see something to back this up.
The Jewish diaspora was geographically large, but from what I have always seen, small in numbers of people, and even smaller still in the number of exclusively practicing Jews.
Other large population centers were in Babylon and in Egypt. This was a time of ferment in the religion, with many factions, each advocating its own interpretation of historical Judaism.
Yes, and actively integrating into the local cultures and adopting beliefs and practices of the other religions as well.
The destruction the Jewish Temple and state in the first two centuries of this era was a crisis that spurred the evolution of Judaism.
Yes, but there were many before this as well. The conquest of Alexander the Great, the end of the Hasmonean period, not to mention many internal struggles during the 2nd century BCE to 1st century CE.
This Judaism survived and flourished, not because or in spite of Christianity, but in parallel to it.
I don’t think that’s a statement anyone can support. To think that the survival of Judaism I had nothing to do with the dominance of Judaism II is just plain nonsense.
Prior to the rise of Christianity, all of Europe and the Mediterranean was religiously pluralistic, with the exception basically of a core of Jews. Judaism, while exclusive, was surrounded by pluralism. Every basically except the Jews accepted the worship of any and all gods. Different people and places favored certain gods or traditions, but there was nothing that said that a Roman couldn’t worship the Egyptian god Ra and also worship the Greek god Dionysus, and also worship the Roman god Jupiter.
Indeed this pluralism was actually a strength of the “pagan” system. One of the crises within Judaism was dealing with this pluralism, and Jews throughout the diaspora, while still calling themselves Jews and still engaging in some Jewish practices, also worshiped at the pagan temples, and also celebrated pagan holidays and also worshiped pagan gods.
This was one of the sources of conflict within Judaism, just like today in America there are Jews, especially of mixed marriages, who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
Judaism was indeed being watered down and splintering during the few hundred years prior to Christianity.
When Christianity became dominant, though, it was also an exclusivist religion.
Not only did Christianity eliminate all of the other cultural competitors, but it established universal religious exclusivity, such that Jews, while oppressed, actually got the insulation that they wanted.
Prior to Christianity Jews were never insulated. They had to sort of try to insulate themselves, but the pluralistic world was always encroaching. With the rise of Christianity, that stopped, and Judaism developed from that point on in isolation and an insulated environment.
That period of isolation and insulation definitely strengthened Judaism, beyond it’s condition prior to that situation.
Example of one of many 3rd century synagogues that incorporated pagan imagery:
Prior to the destruction of the Temple there were no synagogues in Palestine, but after its destruction individual synagogues were built. Indeed most of the old synagogues found from prior to the 5th century contain pagan imagery.