The Hebrew Bible strongly condemns the national apostasy of the ancient Israelites, who again and again reverted to the polytheistic religion and culture from which they emerged. But the first acts of individual apostasy occurred during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes

(c. 175-164 BCE), when many Jews were compelled by this pagan emperor to renounce their worship of God in favor of Greek gods. A passion for Hellenistic culture made serious inroads in Jewish religion and culture until the Maccabean Revolt, which succeeded in restoring Jewish Law and Jewish nationalism. Sporadic apostasy continued, but such abandonment of the Jewish Law was met with harshest condemnation within the Jewish community.

Under later Roman Rule, the Jews were allowed to practice their religion freely under the nominal political rule of a Jewish Tetrarchy. Sectarian movements flourished during this period, none more powerful than the Christian movement which in time separated itself from Judaism altogether. Sectarians and Christians were condemned as apostates. Moreover, such apostasy was condemned in political as well as religious terms because among the Jews, religion and citizenship were fused. Apostasy was seen as a crime against the state as well as a sin against God. The apostate was denied both salvation and citizenship.

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