Book Review: Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society?
AbstractBTBspbtbBiblical Theology Bulletin0146-10791947-7596SAGE PublicationsSage UK: London, England10.1177/0146107912441309e10.1177_0146107912441309eBook ReviewsBook Review: Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society?SimkinsRonald A.Creighton University Omaha, NE 6817852012422101102Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society? By SchwartzSeth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. Pp. + . Cloth, $29.95.© 2012 Biblical Theology Bulletin Inc2012Biblical Theology Bulletin IncWhereas earlier works on Jewish social relations in Greek and Roman antiquity have focused on assimilation or hellenization, Seth Schwartz shifts the focus of this book to integration as a better way of uncovering what was distinctive about Jewish culture. He argues that there was a tension between the social values of the Torah, to which most Jews of the period gave some sort of devotion, and the dominant Mediterranean exchange-based reciprocity that characterized Greek and Roman society and politics. Given this tension, Schwartz explores three textual corpora—Ben Sira, Josephus, and the Palestinian Talmud—addressing the question, “How did the Jews, as adherents of a strongly antireciprocal normative system, cope with life in a world in which institutionalized reciprocity was very hard indeed to escape?” (p. 19).Schwartz lays the theoretical foundation for his textual and social analysis in the first two chapters of the book. He begins by positing two opposing, abstract theories of