Hyam Maccoby

Hyam Maccoby whose books include Judaism on Trial and The Sacred Executioner, teaches at Leo Baeck College, London.


Gospel Truth

2 January 1997

William Klassen (Letters, 20 February) complains justly of Professor Kermode’s incomprehension of the important point that the term usually translated as ‘betrayed’ actually means ‘handed over’. I myself pointed out in Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil (1992) that the Greek term paradidomi means not ‘betray’ but ‘hand over’. I also pointed out that the first occurrence of...

For Azazel

10 March 1994

Michael Haslam says correctly that a scapegoat is expelled, not sacrificed (Letters, 24 March). He also points out that frequently in myth there is both a victim and a scapegoat, and that the two figures may be closely related as brothers or even twins. Examples are Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, Set and Osiris, Mot and Baal, Loki and Balder.Mr Haslam fails to notice that the scapegoat is sent away...

The Game of Death

11 June 1992

A.D. Nuttall (LRB, 11 June) argues that Greek tragedy was non-religious, by which he appears to mean that the myths that provided its plots had lost all religious efficacy. Here he opposes the view of Gilbert Murray and Jane Harrison and others that the tragedies still functioned as enactments of the sacrificial death of Dionysus. Nuttall says that Pentheus in the Bacchae cannot be intended as a Dionysus...

Talmudic Pun

13 February 1992

Sheldon Rothblatt, in his interesting article ‘Education and Exclusion’ (LRB, 13 February), reports Suzanne Klingenstein as pointing to a similarity between the two words ‘freedom’ and ‘bondage’ in Hebrew, ‘since both shared the same root’. This statement (whether it arises from Klingenstein or only from Rothblatt’s report of her) is not correct. Perhaps the mistake arose from a misinterpretation...

Scribing the Pharisees

Hyam Maccoby, 9 May 1991

One of the preoccupations of New Testament studies since the 19th century has been to reconsider the bitter attacks on the Pharisees found in the Gospels, in the light the Jewish rabbinic writings. The portrayal of the Pharisees as hypocrites and persecutors, and of their religion as obsessionally ritualistic and legalistic, has played a great part in Christian anti-semitism throughout the ages. Shakespeare, for example, never having met a practising Jew in his life, gave Shylock the characteristics of the Gospel Pharisees, from the remark ‘How like a fawning publican he looks!’ (Luke 18.10) to the elaboration of the allegedly Pharisaic insistence on the letter of the law.

The day the golem went berserk

David Katz, 10 January 1983

A hoary Jewish joke tells of the Jew who is asked to write an essay on the elephant, and returns with a paper entitled ‘The Elephant and the Jewish Question’. The Jewish tendency to...

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Jesus and Cain

Edmund Leach, 2 December 1982

I must declare an interest. Since Hyam Maccoby makes no attempt to disguise his prejudices, I will start by declaring my own. The first is respectable. I dislike phoney scholarship....

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