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Jean Juster

JUSTER, JEAN (c. 1886–1916), lawyer and historian. Juster, born in Piatra-Neamţ, Romania, studied in Germany and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he was admitted to the bar in 1913. Later, he became an advocate at the Paris Court of Appeal. He died in military action. In 1913 Juster contributed a valuable study of the legal position of the Jews under the Visigothic kings to Etudes d'histoire juridique offertes à Paul F. Girard (2 (1912–13), 275–336). His doctoral dissertations, Examen critique des sources relatives à la condition juridique des juifs dans l'empire romain (1911) and Les Droits politiques des juifs dans l'empire romain (1912), marked the bent of his interests and became the basis of his major work, Les juifs dans l'empire romain: leur condition juridique, économique et sociale (2 vols., 1914). Juster's approach is a legal one, but his goal, as he explains in the preface to his work, is the study of the relations of the Jews, by way of conflict and resolution, to their environment. In this purview fall civic, communal, confessional, national, military, domestic, jurisdictional, economic, social, and sartorial relations. He does not treat "Jewish religion, Jewish morality or Jewish law" per se, but only their external effects on Jewish relations with the Roman world. The investigation of these matters, he explains, involves the utilization of varied sources, and their classification and critical evaluation. The result is an essay "on the Jews in pagan and Christian literature, a tableau of their geographical dispersion and indications of their numerical importance."

Within these limits his work has remained a model of comprehensiveness, clarity, and scholarly documentation. If he errs at all, it is in the sharpness of his judgment stemming from the juridical approach used, but even critics of his method or conclusions find his work an indispensable tool and source of suggestion. This is illustrated in his handling of the Jewish privilegia ("privileges"), in which he takes sharp issue with Theodor *Mommsen, who had argued that the Jewish War of 66–70 C.E. altered the status of all Jews in the empire by transforming their religion from a national cult into a religio licita ("licensed" or "licit religion"), and the individual synagogues into collegia licita ("legalized associations"). Juster denies both parts of the thesis: The natio, or national community, continues to be the basis of the Jewish privileges after, as before, the year 70; the synagogue never became a collegium licitum; it was and remained an institution sui generis.


S.L. Guterman, Religious Toleration and Persecution in Ancient Rome (1951), index; N. Bentwich, in: JQR, 6 (1915/16), 325–36; G. La Piana, in: HTR, 20 (1927), 350ff.; Waxman, Literature, 4 (1960), 777–780.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.