After the 10 tribes were conquered by Assyria, many may have maintained very different traditions from the Judean Aliyah. What happened to those divisions of the nation of Israel, and are there any known remnants of those cultures?

I don’t know a lot about this, so someone may be able to correct me. There is still a Jewish community in the region referred to in the New Testament as Samaria. They accept only the Torah and not the other parts of the Tanakh.  It’s really hard to know if they have any connection to the Jewish community that lived there before the Assyrian destruction, though one tradition suggests that Jews remained there and eventually merged their traditions with those of Assyrian settlers. Others reject that idea and believe that the Samaritans settled in the region after the exile with their own version of the Torah. Nehemiah tells the story of a schism among the exiled settlers who returned to Israel, so some argue that the post-exile Samaritans split off from Nehemiah’s Jerusalem group. 

Are there records of Jews remaining in Assyria and Babylon after the Jerusalem community returned to Judah? Theoretically, but I’m not aware of any scholarship on the subject.

The Elephantine community in Egypt (approx. 500-400), the earliest diaspora group I’m aware of, were probably Aramean residents who left Samaria by the 6th c. BCE. We know th ey were polytheists but tried to follow the Torah and observe Jewish holidays. Aramean is a language and culture associated with Syria after Alexander the great and covered parts of Assyrian, Turkey, and Lebanon. It was widely spoken in the northern part of Israel during New Testament times. The language persisted until the 7th c. CE, Jesus and his followers spoke it and some parts of Daniel were written in it. But were the Elephantine group Jewish from way back, or did they convert to Judaism later in history? What I’ve read suggests the latter. At any rate, the Jerusalem group advised them on Torah matters (they did not have their own Torah) but seemed to consider them a separate group for whom some Torah laws did not apply.

There were plenty of Jewish diaspora groups around the empire by the Hellenistic period and, again, I’m not sure how they got there. Here is more about them: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-diaspora/. And obviously, after the fall of Rome, Jewish communities have lived all over Euope, Asia, Africa, and later the Americas.

It is likely that the bible contains remnants of northern traditions. For example, parts of Genesis and Exodus use northern place names. The mountain Moses got the commandment on is referred to as either Sinai or Horeb. The documentary hypothesis, which we’ll learn more about in this class, argues that “Horeb” was the name used by northern writers while “Sinai” was the name used by southern writers. They believe northern versions of the story were woven together with southern versions after the exile. Deuteronomy also uses “Horeb,” suggesting to some scholars that Deuteronomy was northern in origin. Many of the stories of Shechem in Genesis may have come from the north, where sacred sites date back several thousand years before the earliest Israelite settlements. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *