Sexual issues played a significant role in Judaism’s engagement with its Greco-Roman world. This paper will examine that engagement from the Hellenistic Greco-Roman era to the end of the first century CE. In part, sexual issues were a key element of the demarcation between Jews and the wider community, alongside such matters as circumcision, food laws, the sabbath keeping, and idolatry. Jewish writers, such as Philo of Alexandria, made much of the alleged sexual profligacy of their Gentile contemporaries, not least in association with wild drunken parties, same-sex relations, and pederasty. Jews, including the emerging Christian movement, claimed the moral high ground. In part, however, matters of sexuality were also areas where intercultural influence was evident, such as in the shift in the Jewish tradition from polygyny to monogyny, but also in the way Jewish and Christian writers adapted the suspicion, and sometimes rejection, of the passions that were characteristic of some of the popular philosophies of their day, seeing each other as allies in their moral crusade.
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