Is There a Common Ethic in Second Temple Judaism?
Philo of Alexandria consistently presented houses of prayer or synagogues as schools for theological and ethical training. He wrote: "On the seventh day thousands of schools of prudence, moderation, courage, justice, and all the other virtues are open in every city" (Spec. 2.62). In another context he asked: "For what are our houses of prayer in various cities other than schools of_prudence, courage, moderation, justice, piety, holiness, and every virtue by which our obligations to humanity and to the Deity are understood and properly performed?" (Mos. 2.216). While these statements use philosophy as a lens for Judaism, they also raise important issues. Did Second Temple Jews offer ethical instruction in synagogue services? If so, was there any uniformity in this instruction? Past research has attempted to answer these questions by examining either a single law or a handful of selected laws. In this paper I will attempt to explore a broader, although still limited body of material. In particular, I will examine one important body of teaching from the diaspora and one from the land of Israel. For the diaspora I will use the ethical code that stands behind Pseudo-Phocylides, Philo's Hypothetica 7.1-9, and Josephus__Against Apion 2.190-219. These three texts have enough similarities and differences to suggest that each drew independently from a common ethical tradition. For the material from the land of Israel I will use the Dead Sea Scrolls. My point of orientation will be the ethical code of the diaspora. I will explore whether there are parallels in the Scrolls to determine the extent to which sectarian Judaism in the land of Israel_shared a common ethic with Jews in Alexandria and Rome.