secret groups in ancient judaism
Until very recently, the idea of ancient Jewish sciences would havebeen considered unacceptable. Since the 1990’s, Early Modernand Medieval Science in Jewish sources has been actively studied, but the consensus was that no real scientific themes couldbe found in earlier Judaism. This work points them out in detail,and posits a new field of research: the scientific activity evidentin the Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Jewish Pseudepigrapha. Thepublication of new texts and new analyses of older ones revealscrucial elements that are best illuminated by the history of science, and may have interesting consequences for it. The contributors evaluate these texts in relation to astronomy, astrology andphysiognomy, marking the first comprehensive attempt to accountfor scientific themes in Second Temple Judaism. They investigatethe meaning and purpose of scientific explorations in an apocalyptic setting. An appreciation of these topics paves the way toa renewed understanding of the scientific fragments scatteredthroughout rabbinic literature. The book first places the Jewish material in the ancient contextof the Near Eastern and Hellenistic worlds. While the Jewish textswere not on the cutting edge of scientific discovery, they find ameaningful place in the history of science, between Babylonia andEgypt, in the time period between Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Thebook uses recent advances in method to examine the contacts andnetworks of Jewish scholars in their ancient setting. Second, theessays here tackle the problematic concept of a national scientifictradition. Although science is nowadays often conceived as universal, the historiography of ancient Jewish sciences demonstratesthe importance of seeing the development of science in a localcontext. The book explores the tension between the hegemony ofcentral scientific traditions and local scientific enterprises, showing the relevance of ancient data to contemporary postcolonialhistoriography of science. Finally, philosophical questions of thedemarcation of science are addressed in a way that can advancethe discussion of related ancient materials. Online edition available as part of the NYU Library's Ancient World Digital Library and in partnership with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW).