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Title: The economy of the Temple of Jerusalem and its clergy in the Hellenistic period
Author: Baesens, Viviane Françoise
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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The Temple of Jerusalem was a very stable and traditional institution from the economic point of view during the whole of the so-called Second Temple period. The clergy with its strict hierarchy was the prominent class in Jewish society. Although the Temple apparently possessed no estates extensive enough to keep its personnel, as other Graeco-Roman sanctuaries did, it had a great economic impact on Jewish life. It exacted significant taxes from its worshippers, both for the needs of the cult and those of the building with its appurtenances, and for the support of its clergy, the only temple to do so in the Hellenistic period. The revenues from the main Temple-tax proper, the 8{8pax?ov or half-shekel, were enormous, especially in the last decades of the Hellenistic pe1iod, thanks to the great contribution from the Diaspora. They were complemented by numerous donations and votive-offerings. Private individuals also stored their fortunes in the sanctuary. The Temple incomes far exceeded its various expenditures, so that the Temple treasure was very large and consequently fell victim to the plundering of many foreign rulers and officers throughout time. The missing funds and objects were always speedily replaced thanks to the strong attachment of the Jews to their sole national sanctuary. Specific dues, both flat rates and proportional, in kind and money, were also handed over to the priests and Levites, the highest of which was a straight 10% of all crops, the so-called 'first tithe'. Although not unbearable on its own, perhaps around 26% of the value of an average peasant's crops in total, the whole religious tribute was a heavy burden when added to the very oppressive royal taxation of the Macedonian kings which was taking a minimum of 40% of the crops, plus a tribute and a multiplicity of other low-level taxes, out of a province which was not as fertile as Egypt or Mesopotamia, leaving the peasants with approximately 30% of their crops after payment of both systems. Under the Hasmonean rulers, however, it is likely that both taxation systems fell to a more tolerable level. The Temple, being a paramount customer for all kinds of goods, boosted both the internal and the international trade of the province of Judaea. The Judaean trade, especially that of Jerusalem, was also greatly boosted by the Temple three-yearly mass pilgrimage from the Judaeans and perhaps from Herod onwards also from the Diaspora, and by the religious obligation to spend the 'second tithe' in Jerusalem.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral