Judaism and the Jewish World

The history of the Jews and their religion in Late Antiquity was formed in reaction to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Roman forces at the end of the Jewish revolt of AD 66–70. Jews never lost a desire to see the rebuilding of the Temple, but by the third century they were beginning to find other ways to worship; and by the end of Late Antiquity rabbinic Judaism was well established in the main centres of Jewish population.

Jews were expelled from Jerusalem itself in AD 135, when the province of Judaea was renamed ‘Syria Palaestina’, but they continued to live in the land of Israel in large numbers during this period, as well as in a diaspora scattered both in many parts of the Mediterranean world and in Babylonia. Hostility to Rome for the destruction of the Temple did not prevent Jews within the Roman and Byzantine empires integrating into mainstream culture, but the christianisation of the empire, and not least the adoption of Palaestina as a Christian Holy Land, relegated Jews to a marginal position within the state. Their situation was very different in Babylonia, where, under Sasanian rule, Jews were granted a great deal of independence.

This is a formative period of Jewish history, and Jewish Studies have a substantial presence in Oxford, both within the University’s Oriental Institute, and at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in the Clarendon Institute, Walton Street. The Centre also offers Visiting Fellowships, with accommodation on the estate. Oxford is particularly strong in the study of Greek-speaking Jews within Roman society, and of the relations between rabbinic traditions and those of the Christian Church.

Graduate courses

Students wishing to obtain a research degree (the D.Phil. or M.Litt.) within the area of Jewish Studies will generally do so within Oxford’s Faculty of Oriental Studies.

Oxford also offers courses that include an intensive teaching element, for those wishing to acquire essential skills (for instance in ancient languages) alongside a knowledge of late antique Judaism.

The one-year M.St. in Jewish Studies includes a substantial element of language work in Hebrew, and can be focused on the history and literature of Jews and Judaism in Late Antiquity.

A more specialised course, on Jewish history and culture up to the beginning of the fifth century AD, is available through the two-year M.Phil. in Jewish Studies in the Graeco-Roman Period. This course is suitable for those who can already work with quite complex texts in Hebrew.

Oxford also offers a one-year M.St. in Theology.

See also Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies