Master of two nations: Examining Hellenistic Judean identity in the Exagoge of Ezekiel

Sweeney, Mary Frances
During the Hellenistic period, Ptolemaic Alexandria was a thriving intellectual centre, marked by multicultural exchanges. Within this diverse and highly erudite community, Judeans began to avail of an education in Greek paideia. As a result of this education, Judean authors began to express their multifaceted identity by composing sophisticated literary works written in the Greek language, which blended biblical narratives with Hellenic literary forms. This thesis focusses on one such literary work, the Exagoge of Ezekiel, a novel retelling of the Exodus narrative told in the form of a Greek tragedy, and offers a new approach to examining Hellenistic Judean identity. While this text, and many other Hellenistic Judean works, have previously been studied using traditional single-discipline approaches, this approach aims to re-examine the extra-biblical material depicted in the Exagoge and resituate the work within the broader context of the Mediterranean cultural milieu. In particular, it recontextualises the Exagoge amongst works by contemporary Hellenistic Greek authors, such as Callimachus and Theocritus. This recontextualization is accomplished by employing the methods of philology and intertextuality, using comparanda from Hellenic literature. Moreover, this thesis suggests that Ezekiel may be utilising contemporary Alexandrian aesthetics, in particular, the concept of ‘vagueness’ to present a plurality of readings to his audience. By placing this text back into a broader cultural context, this thesis provides a deeper understanding of how the Exagoge reveals the nuanced spaces that exists within multi-layered identities. On the one hand, Ezekiel’s retelling of the Exodus is readily accessible to a Judean audience, yet, on the other hand, Judeans who are familiar with Hellenic literary works may be aware of concealed simultaneous discussions within the Exagoge. These obscured discussions shed light on the contemporary issues of education and identity, which in turn influence the views of our Hellenistic Judean author on the topics of poetic authority, inspiration, and patronage
NUI Galway
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland