Diaspora of Israel

diaspora_map“Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and a commander for the Nations” (Isa 55,4). Israel had fulfilled the role of witness in exile. It remained to do it under a new form, the one of the Diaspora.[1] The exile continued to imply a hope of return: eyes and heart remained fixed on the Promised Land. The Diaspora was to be absolute estrangement: a return is given up or even impossible. In that total poverty, in constant insecurity of threatening pogroms (Cf. Book of Esther) members of the Diaspora could be seen as “the dead of Israel”[2] (Bar 3,4). The only thing left was to stick to the “God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forlorn, saviour of those without hope” (Jdt 9,11). This very poverty will manifest to “whole nation and every tribe to know and understand that thou art God, the God of all power and might” (Jdt 9,14). So, the witness bursts forth all the more clearly and more purified, out of the poverty of the witness. “For he has scattered us among them (the nations) to make his greatness known there … I give him thanks in the land of my captivity and I show his power and majesty” (Tob 13,3-6).

This was no missionary movement deliberate and well programmed. Yet, through this Diaspora in Babylon, in Persia or in Egypt, the imperishable light of faith was to be transmitted[3] (Wis 18,4). The history of the Jewish community in Alexandria should be considered from this point of view. Its vigorous thinking and rich literature are illustrated by the Greek Bible of the Septuagint, its hermeneutic tendencies and the supplements it contains. There is also a whole body of writings of which Philo is only an example among many others. If the Jewish population of Alexandria and its surroundings reached a million,[4] it was not only due to the excess of birth rate over death rate. It was because the witness of this foreign minority made a string impression in that centre of Hellenistic civilization.[5]


[1] Cf. J. Pathrapankal, “Being a Religious Minorities : A Lesson from the Diaspora Jews,” Word and Worship, Vol. 35, no. 3, NBCLC, Bangalore, (2002), 207-227, 212-218.

[2] Cf. M. E. Mills, “Household and Table” Diasporic Boundaries in Daniel and Esther,” CBQ, Vol. 68, no. 3, The Heffernan Press Inc., Massachusetts, (2006), 408-420, 413-414.

[3] Cf. E. B. Borowitz, “The Chosen People Concept as it Affects Life in the Diaspora” Jews and Christians in Dialogue: Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. XII, no. 4, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Philadelphia, (1975), 553-568, 555-558.

[4] L. Legrand, “The Foreigners in the Bible,” in A. A. Xavier and P. J. Titus (eds.), The Word is Near You: Rom 10:8, Vol. III, St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore, (2004), 201-214, 210.

[5] L. Legrand, “The Foreigners in the Bible,” in A. A. Xavier and P. J. Titus (eds.), The Word is Near You: Rom 10:8, Vol. III, St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore, (2004), 201-214, 210.

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