Bickerman, Elias Joseph

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BICKERMAN, ELIAS JOSEPH (1897–1981), historian. Bickerman was born in Kishinev, Russia, and studied at the University of Petrograd (Leningrad). In 1918 he escaped to Germany, studied at the University of Berlin until 1926, and taught there from 1929 until 1932, when he emigrated to France. He was chargé de cours in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes from 1933 to 1940 and in the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique from 1937 on. After the German conquest of France he again escaped, this time to the United States. There he taught at the New School for Social Research and the Ecole Libre in New York (1942–46), was research fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary (1946–50), taught at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles (1950–52), and was professor of ancient history at Columbia University (1952–67). After his retirement from Columbia he taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Bickerman wrote innumerable articles in scholarly journals in many fields of ancient history, notably law, religion (especially Judaism), epigraphy, chronology, and the political history of the Hellenistic world. Outstanding among his many books are Der Gott der Makkabaeer (1937); The Maccabees (1947; also as part 2 of his From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees, 1962), which revolutionized the historical understanding of the Maccabean revolt; Institutions des Séleucides (1938); and Chronology of the Ancient World (1968) – the last two being the fundamental works on their respective subjects. He also wrote The Ancient History of Western Civilization (1976); Studies in Jewish and Christian History, vol. 3 (published in 1986); and The Jews in the Greek Age (published in 1988).

add. bibliography:

A. Momigliano, Essays on Modern and Ancient Judaism (1994).

[Morton Smith]