Why did the Jews blame themselves for the Babylonian crisis? Is it possible that they thought they did something wrong and broke their laws when in actuality no such thing happened?

I love your question. I would definitely argue that Deuteronomy comes along and is read into history retroactively. Many scholars believe the historical texts from Joshua through kings were edited by Deuteronomists (that is, people who believe all bad things come from disobeying the rules in Deuteronomy, especially worship of foreign gods and marrying foreign […]

Many texts had contradicting ideas on how the Jewish people should live among foreigners. Of the different views of how the Jewish people should live among others, was there one that was more popular, and what makes it so?

After the exile, I think the dominant view was probably that Jews should live separately even when living in foreign lands and under foreign rules. Ezra and Nehemiah emphasize the separation through avoiding foreign marriage (so with marriages contracted in Babylon, one presumes the wife would have to show she was descended from Judahites), which […]

How do the historical contexts of the Deuteronomy writings reflect the challenges faced by the Hebrew people during the Babylonian invasion?

To clarify, the major prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel were prophecying during the initial Babylonian conflict, which begans in the 600s BCE. Jeremiah seems to have been predicting the destruction of Judeah by Babylon or in some places explaining why it is happening, while Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon, dictating to a scribe named Baruch. Isaiah […]

Why is Jonah taught to Christian children without its satirical undertones? Do Christians intentionally teach stories highlighting rather than opposing assimilation?

Well, this is one of my favorite questions, and I don’t know for sure, but I do think that Jonah is palatable for the same reason that Luke is Christians’ favorite gospel–they are both highly sympathetic to non-Jews. Luke goes so far as to tell the story of the prodigal son in which the youngest […]

Regarding the Greek additions to Esther, added for Hellenized Jewish readers: Why would using her skills to help her people not be enough? 

I loved your question. I too would have thought Esther’s sacrifice would be enough, but by the Greek period, Hellenized Jews seemed to think Esther was more whore than hero. Perhaps that was because of her sexual training and the Greek emphasis on female virginity. (Hestia, Artemis, and Athena were considered virgins, and Greeks even […]

If the Catholic religion discourages individuals reading sacred texts themselves and encourages receiving guidance from a priest, how do modern-day Catholics and Jews view Nehemiah’s charge to the Hebrew people to read the text themselves?

I apologize in advance for anything I get wrong when I answer your question. First of all, I think that people mainly listened to the bible more than reading it. I do think the Jews were more literate, and more likely to be literate, than many members of the ancient near East. But there couldn’t […]