Zeitlin’s masterful work supplies the Megillat Taanit’s text and a translation as well as a deft reading of this source’s utility for the history of the Jews from the Maccabees to the Great Revolt.
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Megillat Taanit as a Source for Jewish Chronology and History in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods was Solomon Zeitlin’s doctoral dissertation, submitted to the faculty of Dropsie College in 1917. Though it is the received title, Megillat Taanit is a misnomer. The text is not concerned with fasts at all but, rather, with days on which fasting is prohibited. With its origins in the military victories of the Maccabees, the concerned dates were set apart for the celebration of the victories of the Jews over the Greeks and later the Romans. The dates cease, understandably, in the year 66 CE with the turning of the tide in the war with the Romans who were under the direction of Vespacian. Zeitlin’s masterful work supplies the text and a translation as well as a deft reading of the source for insight into the history of the Jews from the Maccabees to the Great Revolt.
Solomon Zeitlin (1886-1976) was a profound and prolific scholar of Jewish history and literature of the Second Temple and Tannaitic eras; as well as being a critical commentator on contemporary Jewish issues. He wrote over four hundred articles and several books. Among these notable are his The Rise and Fall of the Judaean State; several articles on Josephus, especially the Slavonic text; as well as many articles on the origins of Christianity and the life and crucifixion of Jesus. He was among the founders (in 1919) of the American Academy for Jewish Research, and was editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review from 1940 till his death. From 1925 he was professor of Rabbinics at Dropsie College. He had previously taught Jewish History at the Rabbinical College (Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary).