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Ralph Marcus

MARCUS, RALPH (1900–1956), U.S. scholar of Hellenistic Judaism. Born in San Francisco the son of the talmudic scholar Moses Marcus, Marcus was educated at Columbia, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Law in the Apocrypha (1927), and at Harvard where he studied with Harry A. Wolfson (1925–27). He taught at the Jewish Institute of Religion, at Columbia (1927–43), and at the University of Chicago (1947–56).

Marcus is best known for editing, translating, and annotating four volumes of Josephus and two of Philo in the Loeb Classical Library series. His notes show an unusual wealth of lexical and historical knowledge, and his translations are accurate and lucid. His invaluable appendixes on select points in Josephus are careful, critical monographs. His bibliographies in these volumes and in separate works (PAAJR, 16 (1946/47), 97–181; Jewish Studies in Memory of G.A. Kohut (1935), 463–91) show his mastery of the literature and his critical acumen. He successfully undertook the extraordinarily difficult task of translating Philo's Quaestiones et Solutiones from the Armenian and restored the Greek in numerous places.

Marcus' lexicon to Josephus, continuing the work of Thackeray, reached the letter epsilon. His 62 articles excel in etymologies, grammatical and lexical points, and in utilizing his vast knowledge of the various languages of the classical and Jewish worlds. Marcus intended to write a history of the Jews during the Second Temple period, and many of his most fertile ideas for future work in the field are found in his "The Future of Intertestamental Studies" (in: H.R. Willoughby's The Study of the Bible (1947), 190–208). Marcus also wrote semi-popular articles on Hellenistic Judaism for L. Finkelstein's The Jews and L.W. Schwarz's Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People as well as for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the controversy between H.A. Wolfson and E.R. Goodenough on Philo, Marcus strongly supported Wolfson's contention that Philo closely parallels Pharisaic Judaism (Review of Religion, 13 (1949), 368–81). Toward the end of his life Marcus became much involved in the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls. He connected the Qumran Covenanters with the Essenes and discerned in them a strong gnosticizing flavor.


G.E. von Grunebaum, in: JNES, 16 (1957), 143–4; BRE, 3 (1958), 44–46, a list of his works.

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