1 and 2 Maccabees

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are two of the most important works relating to Jewish history during the Greek period (see Jewish History: Greek Period). Virtually all that we know about Seleucid rule, the Maccabean revolt and the rise of the Hasmonean kingdom come from them. Their value is further enhanced in that they seem to have been written relatively soon after the events they purport to describe. As examples of Jewish literature, they take their place alongside the many other writings of the Second Temple period that did not become a part of the Hebrew canon, though they feature among the deuterocanonical writings in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox canons.

The two books are independent writings but cover a good deal of the same ground. First Maccabees begins with the accession of Antiochus IV (175–164 b.c.), under whose reign great changes rocked the Jewish community in Judah, and ends with the accession of John Hyrcanus (135–104 b.c.) to the high priesthood and leadership of the nation, thus covering almost fifty years. Second Maccabees begins with the reign of Seleucus IV (187–175 b.c.) and ends before the death of Judas Maccabeus in 162 b.c., thus embracing the much shorter period of about a quarter of a century. Apart from the fact that both are fiercely pro-Maccabean and overlapping for one of the most significant periods of the revolt, the aims and content of the two books are quite different in many ways.

1. First Maccabees

2. Second Maccabees

1. First Maccabees.

In the text itself there is no indication of who wrote the book; however, it is evident that the author was a devotee of the Hasmonean dynasty who justifies and extols the exploits of the Maccabean brothers. Since the book ends at the beginning of John Hyrcanus's reign, it is likely to have been completed sometime during that ruler's reign, perhaps about 125 b.c. (some scholars would date it to the beginning of Alexander Janneus's reign, or about 100 b.c.). It has been argued that a number of the battle scenes show the knowledge of an eyewitness (Bar-Kochva, 158–62, though this has been disputed by Schwartz, 37 n. 64). However, even if this argument is correct, this may only indicate sources used by the author, not that the author himself had been the witness to the battle.

The style of the Greek text indicates that it was composed originally in Hebrew. No certain portions of that text are extant; the story is referred to in rabbinic literature, but these allusions do not indicate that the text of the book was known at this time. Some textual difficulties in the Greek have been resolved by attempting to determine the Hebrew text behind the translation. The nature of the narrative indicates that the author used narrative texts of the OT (e.g., Joshua, 1 and 2 Samuel) as a model for his account. Although piety and theology are not as intrusive in 1 Maccabees as in 2 Maccabees, they are there in a low-key but pervasive manner. God is not referred to directly but as “heaven” (e.g., 1 Macc 3:18; 4:10). Judas and the people pray before battle and even read the law (1 Macc 3:44–54). Heaven gives victory to the righteous even over great odds (1 Macc 3:18–22).

The book contains a summary of the origin and process of the Maccabean struggle, climaxing in the statement of independence in 1 Maccabees 14:27–47 and the affirmation of Maccabean leadership. In 1 Maccabees 1 there is a brief account of the preliminary events, beginning with Alexander the Great's invasion, but it quickly skips to the time of the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes when Jewish apostates built a gymnasium and followed Greek ways. Then Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, issued a decree imposing the Greek way and set up an “abomination of desolation” in the temple.

In 1 Maccabees 2 the resistance began under Mattathias, but he soon died. First Maccabees 3–4 describe Judas's fight against the Syrian armies in which he finally retakes the temple and reconsecrates it, ending the abomination of desolation. The continuing story of Judas and his fight to prevent the envious Gentiles from wiping out the Jews is related in 1 Maccabees 5–8. Judas's death is recounted in 1 Maccabees 9:1–22, and Jonathan's story is told in 1 Maccabees 9:13–12:53. Simon's story follows in 1 Maccabees 13–14, and one might have thought that the book would end here; Josephus's copy may have done just that, for in the Antiquities he follows 1 Maccabees closely almost to the end of chapter 13 but then picks up another source for the continuing story of the Hasmoneans. First Maccabees 15–16 form a sort of epilogue about the rest of Simon's reign, describing recognition of the new Jewish state by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus VII Sidetes and by envoys from Rome. However, Antiochus VII then reneged on his acknowledgment of Jewish independence and was defeated by an army led by John Hyrcanus, Simon's son. The book ends with the death of Simon and the accession of John to the office of high priest.

The story thus focuses on the Maccabean family, especially the three brothers who each led the people in turn. It is mainly a chronological narrative of events without reflection on what they mean. No clear reason is given for Antiochus's attack on the Jewish religion, and the rightness of the Maccabean actions is taken for granted. The persuasive strength of the book lies in its apparent ingenuousness: it seems straightforward and honest. But this is a part of its rhetoric of persuasion. A simple narrative also allows the writer's own perspective to prevail without intrusion on the reader's consciousness. The book is very pro-Maccabean, though it does not particularly favor Judas in the way that 2 Maccabees does. Although Judas is given a central position, the phrase “Judas and his brothers” or other phrases in which Judas acts in concert with others occur frequently (1 Macc 3:25, 42; 4:16, 36, 59; 5:16, 25, 28, 63, 65). When those not a part of the Maccabean family attempt to take the lead, disaster invariably befalls them (1 Macc 5:55–62). Each Maccabean brother is chosen in turn by “the people” (1 Macc 3:2; 9:28–31; 13:1–9; 14:27–47).

Much has been made of the David-and-Goliath-like nature of the conflict and the victories of a small group of Jews against a great empire. This is a part of the myth created by the book. As has been well demonstrated (Bar-Kochva), the victories of Judas were not miraculous but usually fit the normal military criteria for success. In a few cases, defeats have been treated as victories (e.g., 1 Macc 4:28–35 par. 2 Macc 11). The success of the Maccabees was due neither to supernatural intervention nor to superhuman powers on the part of the Jewish fighters. Judas's greatest achievement was in building up and training a regular army skilled in the conventional military techniques of the Hellenistic period. His brother Jonathan's achievements were in exploiting the divisions in the Seleucid dynasty to his own ends.

The book also makes a close association between ancient Israel and the Jewish nation of the second century. The term Israel is used frequently as a designation of the Jewish people, especially in a religious or ideological context. The ideological nature of the usage is indicated by the fact that none of the alleged treaties or letters relating to outsiders use anything but “Jews” (e.g., 1 Macc 8:23–32; 10:18–20, 25–45; 11:30–37; 12:6–23; 13:36–40; 14:20–23; 15:2–9, 15–21).

The figure of Antiochus IV looms large in both books, in which his actions are described in satanic terms. First Maccabees presents him as one who is determined to Hellenize his kingdom and replace all local customs with Greek ones (cf. 1 Macc 1:41–42), and many modern scholars have referred to his Hellenizing policy. However, this statement in 1 Maccabees is not supported by other sources. There is no evidence that Antiochus was a particular champion of Hellenization or that he had a policy of suppressing native customs (Bickerman, 30–31). Nor is there any indication that he had a special interest in the Jews; the initial approach to Hellenize Jerusalem came from the Jews themselves (see Hellenistic Judaism). Yet Antiochus did issue a decree forbidding Judaism, at least in Judah itself, and persecuted those who disobeyed. Why he issued this decree is still debated, but it occasioned one of the greatest religious crises for the Jews of antiquity (see Jewish History: Greek Period).

First Maccabees is also an important source for establishing the chronology of Jewish history for the period. It has become widespread in the past fifty years to date the Maccabean revolt to 167–164 b.c. This is a complex calculation, based on the Seleucid dating used in both books, though we now know that Antiochus died in November-December 164 b.c.. However, it has been recently argued that the correct dating is 168–165 b.c., in line with an earlier generation of scholars (Grabbe 1991).

Of particular interest are a number of documents and letters allegedly quoted in 1 Maccabees 8 and 1 Maccabees 10–15, including a treaty with Rome and letters between Hasmonean and Seleucid rulers and even with the king of Sparta. Most of the letters have been accepted as genuine, though whether the original wording is preserved is a question since they would have been translated into Hebrew and retranslated into Greek. The two main documents questioned are the supposed treaty with Rome made by Judas (1 Macc 8:23–32) and the letter from the Spartan king (1 Macc 12:20–23). Although a treaty between Rome and the Maccabean state was eventually concluded, the question is whether it was as early as the time of Judas. Many scholars feel it was not until at least the time of Simon. It also seems likely that Jonathan wrote to the king of Sparta, but whether he had a reply and whether this is it are two questions still very much disputed.

One of the most puzzling groups in the book are the Asidaioi or Hasidim (1 Macc 2:42; 7:13; 2 Macc 14:6). Hardly has another group about which so little is known been so used in theories and historical reconstructions. Apart from the fact that they were “mighty warriors” (ischyroi dynamei), we know hardly anything about them (Davies). The Greek word probably represents Hebrew ḥesed, which can mean “pious.” It may be that Hasidim was a term not referring to members of a specific narrow sect but a more generic term applied to anyone exhibiting certain characteristics of piety or a particular attitude toward the law. In 2 Maccabees 14:6 the term is applied to Judas Maccabeus, though we cannot be sure that the term is being used in exactly the same way it is in 1 Maccabees. In the end, we must be careful not to build significant theories on a group about which we really know so little.

2. Second Maccabees.

Superficially, 2 Maccabees seems to be a shorter version of 1 Maccabees, since it covers a shorter period of time, yet there are significant differences not only of content but also of outlook and approach. The book is divided into two clear parts: 2 Maccabees 1:1–2:18 is made up of parts of several letters written by the Palestinian community to the Jews in Egypt, calling on them to celebrate the “Feast of Tabernacles in the month of Kislev” (i.e., Hanukkah; see Festivals and Holy Days); 2 Maccabees 3:1–15:39 describes the events of Jewish history, beginning with an episode in the reign of Seleucus IV and ending with Judas Maccabeus's defeat of the Seleucid general Nicanor in the spring of 162 b.c. Second Maccabees 3 is a sort of pre-Maccabean episode that tells how Seleucus IV sent an officer to confiscate the treasury of the Jerusalem temple but was prevented by divine intervention. The rest of the book is on the events leading up to the Maccabean revolt and on the revolt itself. Second Maccabees 4 describes the Hellenistic reform in which Jason took the high priesthood from his brother Onias (III), built a gymnasium and turned Jerusalem into a Greek polis. Second Maccabees 5:1–6:11 describes how Jewish worship was suppressed by Antiochus IV. We then come to a description of several martyrdoms in 2 Maccabees 6:12–7:42. Second Maccabees 8–15 is devoted to the exploits of Judas, ending with the great victory over Nicanor.

According to 2:19–31, 2 Maccabees is an epitome or abridged version of a five-volume history of Jason of Cyrene; unfortunately, nothing else is known of this Jason beyond what can be gleaned from 2 Maccabees itself. It is clear, however, that the book was composed originally in Greek and is not a translation like 1 Maccabees. It is debated as to whether the letters that begin the book (2 Macc 1:1–2:18) were a part of Jason's work or were added only to the epitome. Nevertheless, in the present book they form an integral part of the story and message, and they may be a key to its genre.

The exact genre of the book has been debated. It fits the genre of apologetic historiography in many ways, especially in that it defends and exalts a native tradition while using Greek rhetoric to do so (cf. Sterling, 16–19, though he does not explicitly discuss 2 Maccabees in this context; van Henten 1997, 20). It has been argued that it is “temple propaganda” (Doran), possibly against the temple of Leontopolis in Egypt founded by Onias IV after his father Onias III was murdered (Josephus Ant. 12.9.7 §387, though Doran rejects the idea that it is directed against the Leontopolis temple). One of its aims is to commend the celebration of Hanukkah to the Jews of Egypt. This has led to the argument that the book originated as a Jewish parallel to a well-known Hellenistic literary convention, the recommendation to celebrate a soteria festival (“salvation festival”). The soteria festival was a local celebration well-known in the Greek world in which the deliverance of a city from grave danger was accomplished by the god(s) and the people, fighting against a foreign power, and was celebrated both by inviting a wide group of neighbors to participate and also by composing a history to chronicle the deliverance (van Henten, 47–50, 248–54, 263–65). If this is correct, 2 Maccabees 1:1–2:18 forms the letter of invitation and 2 Maccabees 3–15 is the document chronicling the event being celebrated.

Since the letter prefacing the book is dated to “year 188 [of the Seleucid era]” or about 125 b.c., the book is no earlier than this time. The book also presupposes Jewish independence, which did not become a reality until the reign of John Hyrcanus (135–104 b.c.). However, the Romans are referred to favorably throughout the book, suggesting it was before they were seen as an enemy, which was the view after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 63 b.c. There seems no reason not to assign the date to a time near 125 b.c., that is, the late second century, or approximately the same time as 1 Maccabees.

Several characteristics of 2 Maccabees distinguish it from 1 Maccabees. As already noted, the main focus is on Judas Maccabeus, who is singled out as a great Jewish hero in a way that he is not in 1 Maccabees. Mattathias is ignored, and very little is said about the other brothers. It is Judas who leads the successful restoration of the temple cult and the destruction of the Syrian army. The author has deliberately told the story to end on a high note with his victory over Nicanor, which was not all that long before Judas's death, rather than because he did not know of Judas's death. By the time that 2 Maccabees was written, the story of Judas's death would have been well known, yet it is ignored even though it came not long after the defeat of Nicanor. Another important theme is that of martyrdom. The last part of 1 Maccabees 6 and especially 1 Maccabees 7 go into painful and even gruesome detail about the deaths of several individuals, especially the mother and her seven sons. This section is extremely important to the book, however, because the deaths of the martyrs are essential for the recovery of Judah. The sins of the Jews have created a breach between them and God, and before future obedience can be given its due the old breach must be repaired. The blood of the martyrs is a vital ingredient for this reconciliation (cf. van Henten, 27).

One section that is widely misunderstood is that of the Hellenistic reform (primarily 1 Macc 4). This episode is often misinterpreted because of the bias of the book itself as well as that of many modern scholars. The initial event was illegal: Jason took the high priesthood from his brother by offering a large sum of money to Antiochus. He also obtained permission to found a gymnasium and turn Jerusalem into a Greek city, or polis. Yet from all we can tell, Jason remained firmly committed to the traditional Jewish religion, however much the Greek lifestyle may have been adopted in other respects by some Jews (see Grabbe 1992, 277–81; Grabbe 2000).

The book quotes letters in 1 Maccabees 1:1–2:18, 9 and 11. The first letter (1 Macc 1:1–10a) is probably authentic, but 1 Maccabees 1:10b–2:18 seems to be made of parts of several letters (van Henten, 37). The letters of 1 Maccabees 11 have been widely accepted, but questions remain. Some find a problem with the letter of Antiochus IV (1 Macc 9:19–29), not that he withdrew the decree prohibiting the practice of Judaism but that some aspects of the letter do not fit known Seleucid correspondence. Probably the most questionable is the alleged letter of Antiochus V to Lysias (1 Macc 11:22–26). The dates on the other letters are also a problem, which makes the sequence of letters difficult to sort out; a variety of schemes have been proposed (Grabbe 1992, 262).

See also Jewish History: Greek Period; Judea; 3 and 4 Maccabees.

Bibliography. B. Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabeus: The Jewish Struggle Against the Seleucids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); J. R. Bartlett, 1 Maccabees (GAP; Sheffield Academic Press, 1998); E. J. Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees (SJLA 32; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979); P. R. Davies, “Hasidim in the Maccabean Period,” JJS 28 (1977) 127–40; R. Doran, Temple Propaganda: The Purpose and Character of 2 Maccabees (CBQMS 12; Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association, 1981); J. A. Goldstein, 1 Maccabees (AB 41; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976); idem, 2 Maccabees (AB 41A; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983, 1985); L. L. Grabbe, “The Hellenistic City of Jerusalem,” in Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman Cities, ed. S. Freyne (Royal Irish Academy; London: Routledge, 2000); idem, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, 1: Persian and Greek Periods; 2: Roman Period (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992); idem, “Maccabean Chronology: 167–164 or 168–165 BCE?” JBL 110 (1991) 59–74; J. W. van Henten, The Maccabean Martyrs as Saviors of the Jewish People: A Study of 2 and 4 Maccabees (SJSJ 57; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997); S. Schwartz, “Israel and the Nations Roundabout: 1 Maccabees and the Hasmonean Expansion,” JJS 42 (1991) 16–38; G. E. Sterling, Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephus, Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography (NovTSup 64; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992).

L. L. Grabbe

Adultery, Divorce

This article covers in turn divorce, adultery and other irregular sexual unions that contemporary Christian ethicists and (in most cases) ancient Jews and Christians would have classed as deviations from the marital ideal (see Marriage).

1. Divorce

2. Adultery

3. Other Irregular Unions

1. Divorce.

Divorce was common in the Roman world (Carcopino, 95–100), and under Roman law, children normally remained with their fathers (Pomeroy, 158, 169). Although the early republic probably granted divorces only under the most extreme circumstances (Plutarch Rom. 22.3), by the first century some writers said that only a coward would fail to divorce a troublesome wife (Plutarch Virtue and Vice 2, Mor. 100E). Probably as late as the middle republic women could still not divorce their husbands (McDonnell), but by the imperial period a Roman woman could get a divorce as easily as her husband could (Verner, 40). Either party could unilaterally terminate a marriage; because Roman law deemed private consent essential to the marriage union, it accepted lack of mutual consent in favor of continuing the marriage as sufficient grounds to dissolve it (O'Rourke, 181). Such divorces involved no stigma; dying or divorcing husbands sometimes even arranged new marriages for their ex-wives (Pomeroy, 64).

Diaspora Judaism often followed local customs, and wealthy Jewish aristocrats often followed Greek custom (Josephus Ant. 20.7.2 §143; 20.7.3 §§146–47). But in most of Palestinian Judaism only the husband could initiate the divorce, except under extreme circumstances in which a court would require him to terminate the marriage at his wife's demand. Since a divorced woman might bear some social stigmas in Palestinian Jewish society (Safrai, 791), women probably did not seek divorce frequently.

Palestinian Jewish husbands could divorce for virtually any reason (e.g., Josephus Ant. 4.8.23 §253, though this is not to imply that the average husband was looking for excuses to divorce his wife). They could divorce their wives for disobedience (Sir 25:26; Josephus Life 76 §426; m. Ketub. 7:6; ’Abot R. Nat. 1A) or for burning the bread (m. Giṭ. 9:10; Sipre Deut. 269.1.1). The agreement of a variety of sources on this matter suggests that the school of Shammai, which accepted only unfaithfulness as valid grounds for divorce—a standard charge in the dissolution of marriages—held the minority opinion in Palestinian Jewish culture at this point, although they were generally the dominant Pharisaic school in Jesus’ day. Further, even Shammaites accepted as legally valid those divorces enacted for reasons with which they disagreed (see Keener, 39–40). The exception clause to Jesus’ divorce saying in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 probably accepts but radicalizes the Shammaite position (Keener, 38–40; see DJG, Divorce).

Because the very term for legal divorce meant freedom to remarry, it was understood that without a valid certificate of divorce a woman was not free to remarry (e.g., Josephus Ant. 4.8.23 §253; m. Giṭ. 2:1). The basic element of the Jewish divorce contract was the phrase “you are free,” permitting the wife's remarriage (m. Giṭ. 9:3; CPJ, 2:10–12 §144); Paul employs the same formula for believers abandoned by unbelieving spouses (1 Cor 7:15; see DPL, Marriage and Divorce, Adultery and Incest).

In the imperial period remarriage was the usual practice after divorce or widowhood (see Marriage). It was thought that in ancient times widows did not remarry (Pausanius Descr. 2.21.7), but this was no longer common in the empire. Failure to remarry could demonstrate exceptional commitment: dying Alcestis begs her husband not to remarry (Euripides Alc. 305–25); Isis vowed never to marry after Osiris's death (Diodorus Siculus Bib. Hist.. 1.22.1). Objections to the remarriage of widowers would have been fewer in the imperial period (Gardner, 82; O'Rourke, 180; y. Ketub. 9:8 §4; after widowhood it remained an ideal in some circles [cf. Walcot]), though some opposed remarriage after becoming a widower because stepmothers were considered unhealthy for the children (Diodorus Siculus Bib. Hist.. 12.14.2–3).

“Husband of one wife” (lit., “one-woman man”) in 1 Timothy 3:2 does not likely address monogamy per se (see Marriage). But neither may it exclude a divorced or widowed man who has remarried, because the former wife is no longer considered his wife (fidelity to the current wife is most likely in view). A document can prohibit the husband from intercourse with another woman while his wife lives (P. Tebt. 104.18–19) yet recognize that she can be divorced and hence no longer count as his wife (P. Tebt. 104.27–30; P. Eleph. 1.6–7). Likewise, a one-husband wife was one so faithful that her husband lacked reason to ever divorce her (e.g., in Horsley §8, pp. 33–34; Keener, 87–95; for far more detail and fuller documentation from the ancient sources concerning divorce in general, see Keener).

2. Adultery.

Here we survey some ancient Mediterranean views concerning adultery, pagan attributions of such activity to deities, reports about punishment of adultery by human agents and reports about its punishment by divine agents.

2.1. Ancient Mediterranean Views on Adultery. The various sources on adultery in the Roman Empire provide different portraits regarding the frequency and treatment of adultery: laws varied from one ruler to another; historians and biographers often provided deliberate models of feminine virtue; satirists recycled gossip and political propaganda (see especially Richlin). Taken together, however, these diverse sources can provide us a general picture of feelings toward adultery in the ancient Mediterranean world.

A wide range of Jewish sources strongly condemned adultery (e.g., Sent. Syr. Men. 45–46; Tr. Shem. 7:15; 9:9; 10:16; Asc. Isa. 2:5; Num. Rab. 9:11) and could epitomize evil deeds especially by adultery (Pseudo-Philo Bib. Ant. 2.8). But while Jewish people often proved skeptical of Gentiles’ fidelity to their marriages (Wis 14:24; Sib. Or. 3.594–95), most Greeks and Romans strongly condemned adultery as well (e.g., Athenaeus Deipn. 4.167e). The charge of adultery represented a serious insult against another man's morality (Pseudo-Cicero Invective Against Sallust 5.15–6.16; Cornelius Nepos 15 [Epaminondas], 5.5). Mediterranean societies viewed a wife as her husband's exclusive property in terms of her sexuality. Hence any other man's use of that property was wife stealing (Artemidorus Oneir. 3.11; Epictetus Disc. 1.18.11; Pseud.-Phoc. 3; Sib. Or. 1.178; 3.38, 204; 5.430).

Adultery was shameful (e.g., Diodorus Siculus Bib. Hist.. 12.21.2; Seneca Dial. 2.18.2), even for kings (Alexander 3 in Plutarch Reg. Imp. Apophth. Mor. 179E). A minority of philosophers regarded it as acceptable in some situations (Diogenes Laertius Vit. 2.99). Most philosophers, however, regarded adultery as wrong (e.g., Epictetus Disc. 2.4; 2.10.18; 2.18.15), though they might not seek to prevent it (Epictetus Disc. 1.18.12; 3.3.12) or punish those who practiced it (Epictetus Disc. 1.18.5–6). Dramatists complained about the shamefulness of wives’ adultery (Euripides Hipp. 403–18) and warned that they must fear exposure to their husbands (Euripides Hipp. 415–18). The behavior also brought shame on the wronged husband (e.g., 2 Enoch 71:6–11; cf. Gilmore, 4), as is the case in some Middle Eastern societies today (Delaney, 40).

The jibes of satirists like Horace (Sat. 1.2.38, 49, 64–110; 2.7.46–47; Ep. 1.2.25–26; Odes 1.15.19–20), Martial (Epigr. 2.47, 49; 6.45.4; 9.2) and Juvenal (Sat. 1.77–78; 2.27–29, 68; 6.133–35, 231–41) indicate that public sentiment was against such behavior. Such insults could be harsh: Martial charges that the wife of Candidus is common property of the Roman people (Epigr. 3.26.6); Zoilus will not get caught solely because he is impotent (Epigr. 6.91). Sallust complains that Sempronia viewed nothing as cheaply as sexual restraint (Catil. 25.3–4). Some writers would not have limited their objection against relational infidelity to heterosexual unions; one male character in a novel could complain when another male character seduces the first character's younger boyfriend (Petronius Sat. 79).

Nevertheless, adultery seems to have been quite common; following hyperbolic conventions of societal critique, some authors complained that it characterized most women (Seneca Dial. 12.16.3; Plutarch Bride 46, Mor. 144E-F) or that chastity had left the earth (Juvenal Sat. 4.1–20). The Greek philosopher Bias reportedly said that one who married a beautiful woman would have to share her (Aulus Gellius Noc. Att. 5.11.2). Exaggerating to underline his point, Seneca complains that those who do not commit adultery make themselves conspicuous, that adultery has become the favorite means of betrothal, that it is difficult to find a woman so ugly that she must settle for only two illicit partners a day, and that the only value of husbands to most wives is to provoke the wives’ illicit partners (Seneca Ben. 1.9.4; 3.16.3). Dio Cassius reports with favor the witty retort of a British captive mocked for alleged polyandry: we mate openly with the best men, but you Roman women sleep around in private with the worst (Dio Cassius Hist. 77.16.5). The evidence does not suggest that many aristocratic men were caught in the act, however (see Rawson, 33).

Women were to avoid undue contact with men other than their husbands (see Head Coverings §; 1); even today in some traditional Middle Eastern societies, if a man is alone with a woman for more than twenty minutes people assume they have shared intercourse (Delaney, 41). Josephus considered women by nature prone to unfaithfulness (War 2.8.2 §121), and this view was probably held more widely in the Mediterranean world (Diodorus Siculus Bib. Hist.. 1.59.3–4), though the resistance of virtuous women to adultery was also recognized (Dionysius of Halicarnassus Ant. Rom. 4.66.2–4.67.1). Jewish men also were to avoid the company of women, which could lead to desire or the appearance of it (Sir 9:9; 42:12; m. Abot 1:5; ’Abot R. Nat. 14 §35B; b. Ber. 43b, Bar.; y. Soṭa. 7:1 §2; Gen. Rab. 48:20; 63:7).

2.2. Divine Examples of Adultery. Prominent members of the Greek and Roman pantheon failed to set an example of sexual morality. Though even the gods were supposed to obey the laws about adultery, the god of lust inflamed Zeus to break them (Apuleius Met. 6.22). Zeus's adulteries with mortals pervade Greek and Roman mythology (Sophocles The Searchers frag. 212–15; Euripides Antiope 69–71; Pirithous frag. 22–24), though occasionally a mortal woman outwitted him and escaped (Apollonius of Rhodes Arg. 2.946–54). Hera did not cooperate willingly with his activities; she quit going to bed with Zeus for a year because of his infidelities (Homeric Hymn 3, to Pythian Apollo 343–44). After Zeus raped a nymph (Ovid Met. 2.434–37), Hera punished the nymph for adultery (Ovid Met. 2.477–88), just as she punished willing partners (Ovid Met. 3.261–72; Appian &Rom.Hist. 12.15.101) and sometimes their relatives (Ovid Met. 4.416–530). Zeus had to hide Dionysus from Hera until his birth (Euripides Bacch. 94–98).

Pagan deities seduced (Ovid Met. 2.714–47; 3.260–61) and were prepared to rape mortals when they encountered resistance to their sexual advances (Ovid Met. 3.1–2; 14.765–77); some even raped and abducted young girls (Ovid Met. 5.391–408) or boys (Virgil Aen. 1.28; Ovid Met. 10.155–219) and might punish a nymph who protested such injustice (Ovid Met. 5.409–37). (On occasion nymphs also raped boys—Apollonius of Rhodes Arg. 1.1226–39; Ovid Met. 4.368–79.) Apollo got Leucippus killed so he could sleep with Daphne (Parthenius Amat. Nar. 15.3); he slew one of his human mistresses for sleeping with a man (Ovid Met. 2.603–11). Nevertheless, many ancient thinkers regarded such portraits of divine immorality as ridiculous (Seneca Dial. 7.26.6; Pliny Nat. Hist. 2.5.17); early Christian apologists made much of such stories (Athenagoras 20–22; Theophilus Autol. 1.9; Pseudo-Clementines 15.1–19.3). The behavior of deities sometimes set precedent for human culture (Diodorus Siculus Bib. Hist.. 1.27.1; Achilles Tatius Leuc. 1.5.5–7), so it is hardly surprising that Jewish writers sometimes connected Gentiles’ worship of these deities with Gentile men's own sexual behavior (Josephus Ag. Ap. 2.35 §§244–46, 275; Rom 1:23–25).

2.3. Human Punishments for Adultery. Shame was a common penalty in the ancient world (e.g., Plutarch Quaest. Graec. 2, Mor. 291F), but the Romans punished adulterers with banishment or yet more severe penalties (Seneca Ben. 6.32.1; Quintilian Inst. Orat. 7.1.7; Richlin, 228); Augustus banished his own daughter for her public adultery (Seneca Ben. 6.32.1). In some stories, a hero might slay a married woman who made sexual advances toward him (Euripides Stheneboea frag.); a landowner might also demand an adulterer's imprisonment (Achilles Tatius Leuc. 6.5.3–4). Moralist historians eagerly recounted the story of an honorable Roman matron who chose to slay herself if forced to violate her marriage covenant (Diodorus Siculus Bib. Hist.. 10.19.3; Dionysius of Halicarnassus Ant. Rom. 4.66.2–4.67.1; Livy Hist. 1.58.1–12; Dio Cassius Hist. 2.11.16–19); a woman might go to great lengths to disprove the charge of adultery (Appian &Rom.Hist. 7.9.56). Harsh punishments for female adultery are also not uncommon in traditional societies (Mbiti, 193, 275; Barnouw, 23; Firth, 119, 475–77; Nukunya, 70–71).

The deadly anger of a husband against an adulterer was by this time proverbial (Prov 5:20, 23; 6:26–35; 7:22–27; 22:14; Phaedrus Fables 3.10.27–28; b. Ned. 91b). In classical Athens, a husband might do whatever he wished to an adulterer caught in the act, as long as he did not use a knife (Demosthenes Against Neaera 66, Or. 59; Plutarch Solon 23.1; Diogenes Laertius Vit. 6.1.4; Xenophon Hiero. 3.3), and people could treat an adulterous woman as they wished short of death (Demosthenes Neaer. 86; Orat. 59). A Roman man who caught his wife and her illicit partner in the act could slay them immediately, though only if he found the adulterer in his house (Quintilian Inst. Orat. 7.1.7; Paulus Opinions 2.26). Augustus's legislation forbade the father killing the adulterer without also killing the daughter, which probably meant that in most cases neither would die; but such restrictions did not apply to the husband (Gardner, 7; O'Rourke, 181–82). Augustus made adultery a matter of civil law because he regarded the health of families as essential to that of the larger society (see Treggiari).

Nevertheless, the aggrieved husband might choose to divorce his wife (Apuleius Met. 9.27–28). He might accept a monetary payment in exchange for the adulterer's life (Aulus Gellius Noc. Att. 17.18); some reportedly practiced mutilation (Martial Epigr. 2.60, 83; 3.85). Jewish and Roman law alike required a husband who learned of his wife's affair to divorce her immediately (Gardner, 89; Safrai, 762); if he failed to do so, Roman law allowed him to be prosecuted for the offense of lenocinium—pimping (Justinian Dig. 48.5.1; Gardner, 131–32; Richlin, 227; Rawson, 33–34). In practice, however, a romance suggests that a man deeply in love with his wife on learning of her adultery might wish his own death (Chariton Chaer. 1.4.7), though in a fit of rage he might also assault his wife (Chariton Chaer. 1.4.11–12).

Like Romans, at least some Jews regarded tolerance of adultery as pimping (Pseud.-Phoc. 177). Pharisees of the Shammaite persuasion reportedly permitted divorce if the husband caught his wife in adultery, but the more liberal Hillelites allowed it if the husband merely suspected it (p. Soṭa. 1:1 §2). Although rarely implemented in this period, biblical law mandated death for adultery (Deut 22:22; Lev 10:10; Jub. 30:8–9; Pseudo-Philo Bib. Ant. 25.10; Josephus Ag. Ap. 2.201, 215; Sipra Qed. pq. 10.208.2.4; for actual punishments for adultery see Ilan 1996, 135–41), as had other ancient legal collections (e.g., Hammurabi 129).

A double standard regarding gender existed. In old Rome husbands could kill wives found in adultery without a trial, but the wife could not do the same to her husband (Aulus Gellius Noc. Att. 10.23.4–5). Under the lex Julia the wife could not charge her husband with adultery (Justinian Cod. 9.1). Honorable Roman men could sleep with unmarried women provided they were not of honorable lineage, but aristocratic Roman women could sleep only with their husbands (Pomeroy, 160).

The double standard also applied to the way historians evaluated their traditions; although monogamy was the norm (see Marriage), a man's multiple sexual relations with unmarried women were seen as far less serious than a married woman's infidelities because adultery was specifically a matter of stealing the wife's affections. Thus the empress Messalina, wife of Claudius, perhaps rendered arrogant by honors early in her husband's reign (see Wood), became a notable and negative public example of adultery; by contrast, a biographer might excuse the legendary Romulus, because unlike Theseus he did not rape women (Plutarch Comp. Thes. Rom. 6).

Although Zeus slept with numerous mortals (e.g., Euripides Pirithous frag. 22–24), he terribly destroyed a mortal who boasted that he had slept with Hera (Euripides Pirithous frag. 1–13). At the same time, a philosophical tradition might warn that husbands unfaithful to their wives would be tortured in the realm of the dead (Diogenes Laertius Vit. 8.1.21), and a moral tradition had long condemned unfaithfulness to one's wife (Isocrates Nicocles/Cyprians 40, Or. 3.35).

The double standard also existed in traditional Jewish sources (Swidler, 148–54; Wegner, 50–54), although it was sometimes qualified (Sent. Syr. Men. 246–47). It may be such a double standard that a biblical author addressed by juxtaposing the story of Judah and Tamar with that of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (Gen 38–39). Joseph became a familiar Jewish model for resisting adultery (e.g., Jub. 39:5–9).

2.4. Divine Punishments Against Adulterers. Most peoples believed in divine punishments against adulterers, often in addition to human ones. Thus those slain for adultery were consigned to Tartarus, the part of the realm of the dead that included torture (Virgil Aen. 6.612). Suitors courted Penelope while Odysseus remained alive because they feared neither the gods nor human wrath (Homer Odys. 22.39–40). As Clytemnestra slew Agamemnon through her adultery (Euripides El. 479–81), so the immortals would slay her (Euripides El. 482–83). Many traditional societies expect divine punishment for adultery (Mbiti, 268–69).

Jewish sources promised divine punishment against adulterers (e.g., Jer 7:9–14; 23:14–15; Hos 4:2–3; Mal 3:5; Pss. Sol. 8:8–10; Sib. Or. 3.764–66; cf. Acts Jn. 35). Sages could warn that God would openly punish the secret adulterer (Sir 23:21). By the first century at least some Jewish writers understood the biblical ordeal of bitter waters (Num 6:12–15) as causing a slow death to the adulteress (Josephus Ant. 3.11.6 §273). Many came to believe that the offspring of an adulterous union would betray the evil act because the child would look like the father (Pseudo.-Phoc. 178; t. Sanh. 8:6; Pesiq. Rab Kah. 11:6; Lev. Rab. 23:12; Num. Rab. 9:1; Probably Wis 4:6; see also some pagan sources: Aristotle Pol. 2.1.13, 1262a; Juvenal Sat. 6.595–601). Jewish novels could report the death of adulterers or fornicators in response to the prayers of the righteous (T. Abr. 10A; 12B). Paul also believed that God would avenge adulte