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Sources for part 1(Judean and Christian Identities in the Context of Associations)

Josephus: Roman authorities ("Julius Caesar") speak of Judean "societies," or thiasoi (ca. 46 BCE)

Julius Gaius, Praetor, Consul of the Romans, to the magistrates, council and people of Parion (or Parium), greeting. The Judeans (Jews) in Delos and some of the neighbouring Judeans, some of your envoys also being present, have appealed to me and declared that you are preventing them by statute from observing their national customs and sacred rites. Now it displeases me that such statutes should be made against our friends and allies and that they should be forbidden to live in accordance with their customs and to contribute money to common meals and sacred rites, for this they are not forbidden to do even in Rome. For example, Gaius Caesar, our consular praetor, by edict forbade religious societies (thiasoi) to assemble in the city, but these people alone he did not forbid to do so or to collect contributions of money or to hold common meals. Similarly do I forbid other religious societies (thiasoi) but permit these people alone to assemble and feast in accordance with their native customs and ordinances . . . if you have made any statutes against our friends and allies, you will do well to revoke them because of their worthy deeds on our behalf and their goodwill toward us (Josephus, Antiquities 14.213–216; trans. from Ralph Marcus in the Loeb Classical Library, with adaptations).

Philo: Augustus views synagogues as "synods"

While I have a great abundance of evidence to show the wishes of your great-grandfather Augustus I will content myself with two examples. The first is a letter which he sent to the governors of the provinces in Asia, as he had learnt that the sacred first-fruits were treated with disrespect. He ordered that the Judeans (Jews) alone should be permitted by them to assemble in synagogues (synagōgia). These gatherings (synodous), he said, were not based on drunkenness and carousing to promote conspiracy and so to do grave injury to the cause of peace, but were schools of temperance and justice where men while practising virtue subscribed the annual first-fruits to pay for the sacrifices which they offer and commissioned sacred envoys to take them to the temple in Jerusalem. Then he commanded that no one should hinder the Judeans from meeting or subscribing or sending envoys to Jerusalem according to their ancestral practice. For these were certainly the substance if not the actual words of his instructions (Philo, Embassy to Gaius 311–313; trans. from F.H. Colson in the Loeb Classical Library, with adaptations).

Judean group as a "synod" and a "people" in an inscription

Menandros son of Apollonides arranged for the renovation of the building -- in the section from the inscription-plaque to the east --  for the people (laos) and the synod which are gathered around Dositheos son of Theogenes (IJO II 26, from Nysa, probably dating to the first century BCE).

Non-Judean ("pagan") synagogues in the inscriptions

The male and female society-members (thiasitai kai thiasitides) crowned Stratonike, daughter of Menekrates, who was priestess of Cybele and Apollo in the 178th year, with a publicly announced crown painted (or inscribed) on a stele, together with another publicly announced crown in the synagogue of Zeus, having loved goodness (IApamBith 35, from Apamea near Kyzikos, likely 85 CE).

Roman imperial governor, Pliny the Younger, writes about the Christians as a "superstition" and in the context of associations (hetaeriae)

10.96 Pliny to Trajan

It is my custom, Sire, to refer to you in all cases where I am in doubt, for who can better clear up difficulties and inform me? I have never been present at any legal examination of the Christians, and I do not know, therefore, what are the usual penalties passed upon them, or the limits of those penalties, or how searching an inquiry should be made. I have hesitated a great deal in considering whether any distinctions should be drawn according to the ages of the accused; whether the weak should be punished as severely as the more robust, or whether the man who has once been a Christian gained anything by recanting? Again, whether the name of being a Christian, even though otherwise innocent of crime, should be punished, or only the crimes that gather around it?

In the meantime, this is the plan which I have adopted in the case of those Christians who have been brought before me. I ask them whether they are Christians, if they say "Yes," then I repeat the question the second time, and also a third -- warning them of the penalties involved; and if they persist, I order them away to prison. For I do not doubt that -- be their admitted crime what it may -- their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy surely ought to be punished.

There were others who showed similar mad folly, whom I reserved to be sent to Rome, as they were Roman citizens. Later, as is commonly the case, the mere fact of my entertaining the question led to a multiplying of accusations and a variety of cases were brought before me. An anonymous pamphlet was issued, containing a number of names of alleged Christians. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians and called upon the gods with the usual formula, reciting the words after me, and those who offered incense and wine before your image -- which I had ordered to be brought forward for this purpose, along with the regular statues of the gods -- all such I considered acquitted -- especially as they cursed the name of Christ, which it is said bona fide Christians cannot be induced to do.

Still others there were, whose names were supplied by an informer. These first said they were Christians, then denied it, insisting they had been, "but were so no longer"; some of them having "recanted many years ago," and more than one "full twenty years back." These all worshiped your image and the god's statues and cursed the name of Christ.  But they declared their guilt or error was simply this -- on a fixed day they used to meet before dawn and recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god. So far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, they swore to keep from theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and not to deny any trust money deposited with them when called upon to deliver it. This ceremony over, they used to depart and meet again to take food -- but it was of no special character, and entirely harmless. They also had ceased from this practice after the edict I issued -- by which, in accord with your orders, I forbade all societies (hetaeriae).

I then thought it the more needful to get at the facts behind their statements. Therefore I placed two women, called "deaconesses," under torture, but I found only a debased superstition carried to great lengths, so I postponed my examination, and immediately consulted you. This seems a matter worthy of your prompt consideration, especially as so many people are endangered. Many of all ages and both sexes are put in peril of their lives by their accusers; and the process will go on, for the contagion of this superstition has spread not merely through the free towns, but into the villages and farms. Still I think it can be halted and things set right. Beyond any doubt, the temples -- which were nigh deserted -- are beginning again to be thronged with worshipers; the sacred rites, which long have lapsed, are now being renewed, and the food for the sacrificial victims is again finding a sale -- though up to recently it had almost no market. So one can safely infer how vast numbers could be reclaimed, if only there were a chance given for repentance.

10.97 Trajan to Pliny

You have adopted the right course, my dear Pliny, in examining the cases of those cited before you as Christians; for no hard and fast rule can be laid down covering such a wide question. The Christians are not to be hunted out. If brought before you, and the offence is proved, they are to be punished, but with this reservation -- if any one denies he is a Christian, and makes it clear he is not by offering prayer to our gods, then he is to be pardoned on his recantation, no matter how suspicious his past. As for anonymous pamphlets, they are to be discarded absolutely, whatever crime they may charge, for they are not only a precedent of a very bad type, but they do not accord with the spirit of our age.

 (Pliny the Younger, Epistles 10.96-97; trans. from W.S. Davis, Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. [Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13], with adaptations; public domain).

Sources for part 2 (Familial Dimensions of Group Identity)

Paul addresses members of his congregations using fictive familial language

You remember our labour and toil, brothers; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.  You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers.  As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12, trans. from NRSV, with adaptations).

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Have heart-felt affection toward one another with brotherly love (τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι). Honor one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10, NIV, with adaptations)

Members of an association in Cilicia address fellow-members as "brothers"

(column a = lines 1-20) Rhodon son of Kydimasas, Selgian, and those with him: Pyramos son of Pyramos, Selgian, Mindyberas son of Arestes, Selgian, Aetomeros Manis, Lylous son of Menos, Selgian, Ketomaneis son of Kibrios, Zezis son of Oubramis, Kendeis son of Zenonis, Aigylis son of Oubramis, Dinneon son of Pigemis, Selgian. This is our common memorial and it is not lawful for anyone to bury another body here. But if anyone buries another here let him pay a pair of oxen and three mina (= 100 drachmai) to Zeus, three mina and a pair of oxen to Apollo, and three mina to the people. But if anyone should go up and wish to sell his common ownership, it is not lawful . . .  (column b = lines 21-35)  For it is not lawful to sell from abroad (or, possibly: sell outside the group), but let him take from the common treasury 30 staters and let him depart. But if some brother wants to sell, let the other brothers (adelphoi) purchase it. But if the brothers so wish, then let them receive the coins mentioned above and let them depart from the association (koinon). But whenever someone dies, and has no one to carry out the funeral. . .
(IKilikiaBM II 201, from Lamos, first century CE). 

Members of an association in Lycia honour a member with "heart-felt affection"

The society (thiasos) set up this grave for Masa, society-member, on account of heart-felt affection (philostorgia) (TAM II 640, from Tlos in Lycia).

A "synod" in the Bosporus region headed by a "father" honours its own "brother"

To good fortune!  Those gathered around the priest Valerius son of Nikostratos and Kallistron, father of the synod, and the rest of the synod-members set up this epitaph for their own brother, Symphoros son of Philippos (CIRB 104, from Iluraton, mid-second century CE).

"Father" of the Judean synagogue at Stobi in Macedonia

. . . [Claudius] Tiberius Polycharmus, also (called) Achyrius, the father of the synagogue at Stobi, having lived my whole life according to Judean custom, in fulfilment of a vow have donated the rooms to the holy place, and the dining-room (triclinium) with the four-sided colonnade (tetrastoa) out of my personal accounts without touching the sacred funds at all.  All the right of all the upper rooms of the building and the ownership is to be held by me, Claudius Tiberius Polycharmus, and my heirs for life.  If someone wishes to make changes beyond my decisions, he shall give the roof tiles of the upper rooms of the building, it will be done by me and my heirs (IJO I Mac1; trans. from IJO, with adaptations, late-second or early-third century CE).

Polycharmos, the father, made a vow ( IJO I Mac3).

"Mother of the synagogue" at Rome

Here lies . . . ia Marcella, mother of the synagogue of the Augustesians. May (she?) be remembered (?). In peace her sleep (IEurJud II 542; trans. by Noy from IEurJud).

Sources for part 3 (Identity and Acculturation among Ethnic Associations)

Judean associations at Hierapolis

A Judean family and the "people of the Judeans"

The grave and the burial ground beneath it together with the base and the place belong to Aurelia Glykonis, daughter of Ammianos, and her husband Marcus Aurelius Alexander Theophilos, also known as Aphelias, of the Judeans. They will be buried in it, but it is not lawful for anyone else to be buried in it. If this is violated, the guilty one will pay a fine of 1000 denaria to the people of the Judeans. A copy of this inscription was placed in the archives (IJO II 206 = IHierapMir 5; late-second or third c. CE).

The "settlement of the Judeans"

This grave and the surrounding place belong to Aurelia Augusta, daughter of Zotikos. In it she, her husband, who is called Glykonianos, also known as Hagnos, and their children will be buried. But if anyone else is buried here, the violator will pay a fine of 300 denaria to the settlement of the Judeans who are settled in Hierapolis (τῇ κατοικίᾳ τῶν ἐν Ἱεραπόλει κατοικούντων Ἰουδαί|ων) and 100 denaria to the one who found out about the violation. A copy of this inscription was placed in the archives of the Judeans (IJO II 205 = IHierapMir 16; mid to late second c. CE).

The "Most Holy Synagogue"

The grave and the place around it belong to Aur. Heortasios Julianus, Tripolitan, Judean, now living in Hierapolis.  In it he and his wife, Glykonis, will be buried, and let their children be buried here as well.  It is not lawful for anyone other to be buried in it.  If someone does such things, he will pay two silver coins to the most holy synagogue" (IJO II 191, side b = IHierapMir 14, side b, third or fourth c. CE).

The Glykon family grave and guilds at Hierapolis

This grave and the burial ground beneath it together with the surrounding place belong to Publius Aelius Glykon Zeuxianos Aelianus and to Aurelia Amia, daughter of Amianos Seleukos. In it he will bury himself, his wife, and his children, but no one else is permitted to be buried here. He left behind 200 denaria for the grave-crowning ceremony to the most holy presidency of the purple-dyers (τῇ σεμνοτάτῃ προεδρίᾳ τῶν πορφυραβάφων στεφα|νωτικο[ῦ]), so that it would produce from the interest enough for each to take a share in the seventh month during the festival of Unleavened Bread. Likewise he also left behind 150 denaria for the grave-crowning ceremony to the sanhedrin of carpet-weavers, so that the revenues from the interest should be distributed, half during the festival of Kalends on eighth day of the fourth month and half during the festival of Pentecost. A copy of this inscription was placed in the archives (IJO II 196 = IHierapMir 23, revising CIJ 777; late-second or early-third century).

Sources for part 4 (Group Interactions and Rivalries)

Aelius Aristides reflects rivalries over the superiority of a god

And people exceptionally make this god alone a full partner in their sacrifices, summoning him to the feast and making him both their chief guest and host, so that while different gods contribute to different banquets, he is the universal contributor to all banquets and has the rank of mess president for those who assemble at times for his sake. . . he is a participant in the libations and is the one who receives the libations, and he goes as a guest to the revel and issues the invitations to the revellers, who under his guidance perform a dance . . . (Or. 45.27-28; trans. from C.A. Behr, P. Aelius Aristides: The Complete Works [Leiden: Brill, 1981-86]).

Grave-inscription illustrating notions of belonging and attachment to the association

I, who at one point set up a monument of the leader of the society-members, lie here, I who first observed zeal and faith towards the society (thiasos). My name was Menophilos. For honour’s sake these men have set up this grave-inscription. My mother also honoured me, as well as my brother, children and wife (IManisaMus 354; 180 or 234 CE; trans. from IManisaMus, with adaptations).

Law attempting to curb multiple memberships in associations

1. Marcianus, Institutes, Book III.

(2) It is not legal to join more than one association authorized by law, as has been decided by the divine brothers. If anyone should become a member of two associations, it is provided by a rescript that he must select the one to which he prefers to belong, and he shall receive from the body from which he withdraws whatever he may be entitled to out of the property held in common (The Digest of Justinian  47.22.1; trans. from S. P. Scott, The Civil Law, X-XI, Cincinnati: Central Trust, 1932; public domain; italics mine).

 

Ethnic stereotypes and accusations against cultural minority groups

Anti-associations and cannibalism in fiction: Lollianos' A Phoenician Story

Meanwhile another man, who was naked, walked by, wearing a crimson loincloth, and throwing the body of the pais (child or servant) on its back, he cut it up, and tore out its heart and placed it upon the fire. Then, he took up [the cooked heart] and sliced it up to the middle. And on the surface [of the slices] he sprinkled [barley groats] and wet it with oil; and when he had sufficiently prepared them, [he gave them to the] initiates, and those who held (a slice?) [he ordered] to swear in the blood of the heart that they would neither give up nor betray [--------], not [even if they are led off to prison], nor yet if they be tortured (PColon 3328, B 1 Recto, lines 9-16; trans. from Stephens and Winkler, Ancient Greek Novels, The Fragments: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary [Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1995], 338-341).

Livy on the Greek worshippers of Bacchus / Dionysos at Rome

[A Greek of humble origin's] method of infecting people’s minds with error was not by the open practice of his rites and the public advertisement of his trade and his system; he was the hierophant  of secret ceremonies performed at night. . . From the time when the rites were held promiscuously, with men and women mixed together, and when the license offered by darkness had been added, no sort of crime, no kind of immorality, was left unattempted. There were more obscenities practiced between men than between men and women. Anyone refusing to submit to outrage or reluctant to commit crimes was slaughtered as a sacrificial victim. To regard nothing as forbidden was among these people the summit of religious achievement (Livy, Hist. Rom. 39.8, 13, written in the time of Augustus; trans. from H. Bettenson, Livy: Rome and the Mediterranean [Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976]).

Accusations of human sacrifice and cannibalism against Judeans

In [his work on The Jews, Damocritus] states that they used to worship an asinine golden head and that every seventh year they caught a foreigner and sacrificed him.  They used to kill him by carding his flesh into small pieces (F.Gr.Hist. III, C730; trans. by M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism [Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1976], 1.531).

[Apion's tale of a fat escapee who supposedly reached king Antiochus:] He said that he was a Greek and that, while travelling about the province for his livelihood, he was suddenly kidnapped by men of a foreign race and conveyed to the temple; there he was shut up and seen by nobody, but was fattened on feasts of the most lavish description. . . Finally, on consulting the attendants who waited upon him, he heard of the unutterable law of the Judeans, for the sake of which he was being fed.  The practice was repeated annually at a fixed season.  They would kidnap a Greek foreigner, fatten him up for a year, and then convey him to a wood, where they slew him, sacrificed his body with their customary ritual, partook of his flesh, and, while immolating the Greek, swore an oath of hostility to the Greeks (Against Apion 2.91-96; trans. from Thackeray in the Loeb Classical Library).

Judeans accuse non-Judeans

For whether performing ritual murders of children or secret mysteries or frenzied revels connected with strange laws, they [Canaanites or Phoenicians as representative of non-Judeans] no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either kill one another by treachery or grieve one another by adultery (Wisdom of Solomon 14:23-24; NRSV).

Accusations against followers of Jesus

[According to Caecilius, the initiation of new members in the Christian groups involved the following practice:]  An infant, cased in dough to deceive the unsuspecting, is placed beside the person to be initiated. The novice is thereupon induced to inflict what seems to be harmless blows upon the dough, and unintentionally the infant is killed by his unsuspecting blows; the blood – oh, horrible – they lap up greedily; the limbs they tear to pieces eagerly; and over the victim they make league and covenant, and by complicity in guilt pledge themselves to mutual silence (Minucius Felix, Oct. 9.5-6; trans. from Glover and Rendall in the Loeb Classical Library).

Christians accuse other Christians

Jesus came to [them] another day.  They said to [him], "Teacher, we saw you in a [vision], for we saw great [dreams] [this] night that has passed."  [He said], "Why have [you] [. . .] have gone into hiding?"  Then they [said, "We saw] a great [temple with a large] altar [in it and] twelve men -- we say that they are priests.  And a name <missing line> There was a crowd of people waiting at that altar {at that altar} [until] the priests [finished] [making] the offerings.  [But] we waited."  Jesus said, "What are [the priests] like?"  They [said, "Some] were [. . .] [for] two weeks.  [Others] were sacrificing their own children. Others (were sacrificing) their wives as a gift, [and] they were humiliating each other. Some were sleeping with men. Some were [committing murder]. Yet others were committing a number of sins and lawless acts.  And the men standing [beside] the altar [were] calling upon your [Name].  And while taking part in all their murderous deeds, the sacrifices burned there."  And after they had said this, [they] were quiet because they were troubled.  Jesus said to them, "Why are you troubled?  Truly, I say to you, all the priests who were standing beside that altar were calling upon my Name.  And also I say to you, my Name has been written upon this [. . . ] of the generations of the stars by the human generations, [and] they have planted in my Name fruitless trees shamefully."  Jesus said to them, "You are those you saw who presented the offerings upon the altar.  That one is the god you worship, and the twelve men you saw are you.  And the animals that were brought for sacrifice are those you saw, who are the crowd of people that you lead astray.  Beside that altar [. . .] will stand and in this way he will make use of my Name.  And generations of the impious will remain faithful to him (Gospel of Judas 37.20-40.6; trans. from April D. DeConick, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says [New York/London: Continuum, 2007, 70-73).

Now in telling these stories and similar ones, those who associate with the Nicolaitans for 'knowledge' have lost the truth and have not merely perverted their converts' minds.  They have also enslaved their bodies and souls to fornication and promiscuity.  They even foul their assembly, if you please, with dirt from promiscuous fornication; and they eat and handle both human flesh and uncleanness.  I would not dare to utter the whole of this if I were not under a kind of compulsion, from the excess of my spirit of grief at the futile things they do.  . . They [Phibionites or Borborites] extract the fetus at the stage appropriate for their enterprise, take this aborted infant, and cut it up in a trough shaped like a pestle.  And they mix honey, pepper, and certain other perfumes and spices with it to keep from getting sick, and then all the revellers in this herd of swine and dogs assemble, and each eats a piece of the child with his fingers. . . (Epiphanius, Panarion 26.3; trans. from F. Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis [Leiden: Brill, 1995], 86-87).