Phil Harland discusses and recommends Steve Mason’s new article: Steve Mason, “Jews, Judaeans, Judaizing, Judaism: Problems of Categorization in Ancient History,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 38 (2007) 457-512. [I can't get my hands on that article, so am trusting Harland's reading]. According to Harland, “Mason convincingly argues that Ioudaioi (traditionally translated “Jews”) and related terms should be understood in terms of ethnic groupings in antiquity. For the Hellenistic and Roman periods (at least until the third century CE) we should be speaking of “Judeans”, not “Jews”, and of “Judean customs” or practices, not “Judaism”.” In light of this discussion, can this affect our understanding of 1 Thess 2:14-16?
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from those Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.This surely softens the blow of what many have seen as problematic. But does it capture the essence of what Paul was suggesting? Given the contrast with “Gentiles” it does appear to make more sense of the passage, since Paul is not suggesting that all Gentiles have refused his message, and therefore he is not suggesting that all Judeans were involved in the death of Jesus. Is this plausible? Any objections?