Private Associations and Jewish Communities

In a recent web ‘edition’ of Review of Biblical Literature ( John S. Kloppenborg has a review of a book published in 2019 on ancient associations:

Benedikt Eckhardt, ed.
Private Associations and Jewish Communities in the Hellenistic and Roman Cities
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 191
Leiden: Brill, 2019. Pp. vi + 227. Cloth. $126.00

This volume also contains an article on Philo which especially caught my interest: Kimberley Czajkowski’s “Jewish Associations in Alexandria?” (pp. 76–96), as I myself had an article  published on Philo and the associations as far back as in 1995 (T. Seland, ‘Philo and the clubs and associations of Alexandria,’ in John S. Kloppenborg & Stephen G. Wilson, ed., Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World. London/New York: Routledge, 110-145). As far as I have been able to observe, not much have been written on Philo and the associations in recent years; hence another study is welcome. Alas, however, I have not been able to see this new article/volume as my access to libraries are somewhat restricted by location. But Kloppenborg evaluates Czajkowskis’s contribution thus:

Kimberley Czajkowski’s “Jewish Associations in Alexandria?” (76–96) makes several critical points for understanding Philo’s polemic against synodoi and thiasoi in Flaccus. Politeuma were, in the first place, fiscal rather than strictly ethnic associations. Hence, the Judean politeumata in Alexandria and elsewhere (and the Phygian and Lycian politeumata) were not co-terminus with the entire Judean (or Phrygian, Lycian) populations of Egyptian cities. With the Roman reduction of Egypt to a province, the politeumata, originally military settlements, lost their public and military features and became essentially private associations. If some Judeans in Alexandria were constituted as a politeuma, as the Letter of Aristeas (§310) claims, these would have similarly been reduced to the status of private associations. It is in this context that Czajkowski discusses Philo’s polemic against thiasoi and synodoi, arguing that Philo was exercised to assert that Judean synodoi were not associations that merely used the pretext of religion to have drunken orgies. They genuinely assembled religionis causa and hence constituted collegia licita that should not
fall under Flaccus’s ban on associations.

It should be mentioned that this volume also contains another article that might touch upon Philo: “Les communautés juives de la Diaspora dans le droit commun des associations du monde gréco-romain” (97–114).

Hopefully, I will be able to get my hands on that article/volume in not a too distant future.