BAR 37:01, Jan/Feb 2011
Why Paul Went West: The differences between the Jewish diasporas
In the Hellenistic period, Jews were living all over the then-known world. Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, however, provided a central unifying force binding this extensive Jewish world together. After the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., this was no longer so. The centerpiece was gone. The diaspora of Jews in the east developed very differently from the diaspora in the west. The eastern diaspora extended from Trans-Jordan to Babylonia; the western diaspora included Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, the south of France, the Mediterranean islands, Egypt and some other sites in north Africa such as Cyrene. In reality, there were two different diasporas, a western diaspora and an eastern diaspora. This division has been little appreciated by scholars until recently.1 The division cannot be doubted, however, as we shall see.