Divergent Views of Diaspora in Ancient Judaism

Our project investigates the earliest stage of the Jewish diaspora (597-331 BCE). Applying newly developed theory from Diaspora Studies, a key goal of the project is to identity and map all textual depictions in the Hebrew Bible and in archival sources from Egypt (the Elephantine Papyri) and Babylonia (e.g. the Al-Yahudu documents).

Evelyn de Morgan: “By the waters of Babylon” (1882-1883) (from Wikimedia Commons)
Evelyn de Morgan: “By the waters of Babylon” (1882-1883) (from Wikimedia Commons)
The Jewish diaspora, the oldest documented still-existing diaspora, emerged more than 2,600 years ago. A cursory reading of the earliest evidence we have – the Hebrew Bible and some historical records – suggests that there were divergent attitudes to living abroad. In fact, the texts do not agree on a series of central issues: whether to remain or return to the ‘homeland’, whether to collaborate with host authorities or oppose them, and whether to preserve old customs or create new religious practices.
Our main research questions are: How do biblical and non-biblical sources depict and reflect Jewish life abroad? What strategies do the texts promote for surviving in foreign countries? We hope to make a pioneering contribution to biblical research by identifying, mapping, and understanding the different textual depictions of the earliest Jewish diaspora communities. Furthermore, we hope to develop a new model of the divergent views of homeland and diaspora that sheds light on the dynamics of conflicting opinions on Jewish identity in these formative centuries.
The conceptual framework of the project comes from Diaspora Studies, applying theories and methodologies from research on modern instances of the phenomenon. We focus on four major topics, including generational consciousness, the issue of return, interaction with host authorities, and religion.
The Independent Research Fund Denmark and its Sapere Aude programme fund the project and it runs from August 2022 to January 2026.


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Alexiana Dawn Fry Postdoc +4535323169 E-mail
Frederik Poulsen Associate Professor +4535322835 E-mail
Ida Hartmann Postdoc   E-mail
Kacper Jakub Ziemba Postdoc +4535334338 E-mail


Frederik Poulsen
Associate Professor of the Old Testament
Faculty of Theology
University of Copenhagen
E-mail: fpo@teol.ku.dk

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