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    Amit, Aaron 2012. The “Halakhic Kernel” as a Criterion for Dating Babylonian Aggadah: Bavli Ḥullin 110a–b and Parallels. AJS Review, Vol. 36, Issue. 02, p. 187.

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  • Volume 4: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period
  • Edited by Steven T. Katz, Boston University

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    The Cambridge History of Judaism
    • Online ISBN: 9781139055130
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488
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Book description

This fourth volume of The Cambridge History of Judaism covers the period from 70 CE to 640 CE (the rise of Islam). It deals with the major historical, political and cultural developments in Jewish history and the history of Judaism in this crucial era during which Judaism took on its classical shape. It provides discussion and analysis of all the essential subjects pertinent to an understanding of this period, and is especially strong in its coverage of the growth and development of rabbinic Judaism and of the major classical rabbinic sources such as the Mishnah, Jerusalem Talmud, Babylonian Talmud and various Midrashic collections. In addition, it surveys the early encounter of Judaism and Christianity from both the Jewish and Christian sides and describes the rise of Jewish mystical literature, the liturgical literature of the developing synagogue, the nature of magical practices in classical Judaism and Jewish Folklore.

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' … there are in this volume a good number of essays that are outstandingly clear and informative, wisely constructed and well documented … They achieve a happy medium between what is suitable for a monograph and what belongs in a short encyclopaedia.'

Source: The Times Higher Education Supplement

'All credit, … to the editor, Steven T. Katz for his successful … task. … An additional bouquet to Cambridge University Press for supporting the work.'

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

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Page 1 of 2


  • 1 - Political, social, and economic life in the Land of Israel, 66–c. 235
    pp 23-52
    • By Seth Schwartz, Department of History, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.003
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The failure of the Jewish revolt against Rome brought about a comprehensive transformation of life in Palestine: the old political system was replaced by direct Roman rule, the Roman army became a permanent presence, the size of the population and the ratio of Jews to pagans changed. This chapter explores how the norms of the Graeco-Roman city partly supplemented and partly replaced, as elsewhere in the High Roman Empire, native norms as the cultural ideal. For the Bar Kochba Revolt, the only accounts surviving are the highly folkloristic tales in rabbinic literature and brief notices in the works of Christian and pagan writers. The failure of the Jewish revolts, the consequent geographical dislocation of large numbers of Jews, the centralizing character of Roman rule, and the undeniable prosperity and success of the Empire, all conspired to transform Roman Palestine into a conventional eastern province, normal in its social, economic, political, and even religious life.
  • 2 - The Diaspora from 66 to c. 235 ce
    pp 53-92
    • By Allen Kerkeslager, Department of Theology, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Claudia Setzer, Department of Religion, Manhattan College, New York, Paul Trebilco, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Otago, Dunedin, David Goodblatt, Department of History, University of California, San Diego
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.004
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter describes cultural differences and Roman administrative boundaries that distinguished the Jewish communities of Egypt from those in Cyrenaica. Recent works on Diaspora Judaism have said little about western North Africa. The physical remains for the period 66-235 CE are meager compared to the richness of evidence from Egypt and Cyrenaica. The earliest extant synagogue, at Hammam-Lif, dates from the late fourth or early fifth century. Evidence for Jewish communities in Asia Minor begins in the third century BCE and continues through the sixth century CE and beyond. Sources preserved by Josephus attest to the role of individual Babylonian Jews in local politics before 70. For the years 70-235, the issue of Jewish self-government in Babylonia is reduced to the question of whether one can find evidence of the exilarchate in this era. Relatively ample evidence is available on the Babylonian Exilarch from the amoraic through Islamic eras.
  • 3 - The uprisings in the Jewish Diaspora, 116–117
    pp 93-104
    • By Miriam Zeev, Department of History, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheva
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.005
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Towards the end of Trajan's reign, violent Jewish uprisings erupted in several places in the Mediterranean world. The situation had become more tense in Roman times, and twice earlier in Trajan's days, in 112 and in the summer of 115, armed attacks had been perpetrated by Greeks against Jews, the last of which may definitely be considered a direct cause of the Jewish uprising. The summer of 116 is the one period in antiquity when the Jews in different places in the Diaspora took up arms at approximately the same time. In Mesopotamia, the Bar Kochba rebellion seemed to be part of a general movement of local peoples meant to prevent Roman conquest, whereas in Libya, Egypt, and Cyprus the Jewish attacks seemed to be directed not so much against the Roman government as against their Gentile neighbors.
  • 4 - The Bar Kochba Revolt, 132–135
    pp 105-127
    • By Hanan Eshel, Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.006
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The fourth decade of the second century CE witnessed the outbreak and apex of the final Jewish uprising against Roman rule in Palestine. Named the Bar Kochba Revolt for its leader, its details remain shrouded in mystery. This chapter describes the revolt's direct causes, the geographical extent of Bar Kochba's regime and whether it included Jerusalem, and the magnitude of the Roman reaction. It also describes Bar Kochba's leadership style and administration, his state's borders, Jewish observance under wartime conditions, and the strong Roman reaction. Judaean desert documents provide a glimpse of Bar Kochba's administrative system. The list of Roman forces that participated in suppressing the Bar Kochba Revolt, compiled on the basis of epigraphic sources, assists in a tentative assessment of their magnitude. The Roman sense of having won a great victory emerges from Hadrian's second acclamation as imperator sometime after 135, following the revolt's suppression.
  • 5 - The legal status of the Jews in the Roman Empire
    pp 128-173
    • By Amnon Linder, Department of History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The legal status of the Jews in the Roman Empire was determined, as a result, by a three-tiered system of laws. First and highest was the Common law, based on the principles of personality and territoriality. Second, a special law instituted by the appropriate organs of the non- Jewish society, Jewry law. The third tier in this system was the Jewish law, the halachah. The diversity of the Common law practiced by the Jews in the Land of Israel during the pagan period is reflected in the heterogeneity of the judicial system that applied it. By the close of the pagan period the Common law in the Land of Israel was highly heterogeneous, including a substantial component of Jewish law with its particular legislative and judicial institutions. The Christianization of the institutional framework of the Roman Empire inevitably implied the conversion of the existing legal system in accordance with Christian values and objectives.
  • 6 - Jewish art and architecture in the Land of Israel, 70–C. 235
    pp 174-190
    • By Eric Meyers, Department of Religion, Duke University, Durham
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.008
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The plethora of literary and geographical references to pre-70 CE synagogues, worship, Torah-reading, administrators, and functionaries, despite the dearth of archaeological remains in Eretz Israel, reveals the centrality of the institution of the synagogue to Jewish life before and after 70 CE. Extensive remains of domestic space from pre-70 Jerusalem fit effectively with patterns of Jewish housing found in Galilee later. The evidence of Jewish art and architecture from the latter part of the Early Roman Period, approximately 70-135 CE, through the Middle Roman Period supports the most obvious conclusion that the process of hellenization continued its steady advance on the material culture of ancient Palestine. The example of Jewish tombs and burials seems to reflect a slightly more acquisitive attitude toward borrowing from Graeco-Roman culture, especially in the design of tombs, sarcophagi, and ossuaries. The Bar Kochba era represents the last period of explicit Jewish art on the coins of ancient Palestine.
  • 7 - The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple: its meaning and its consequences
    pp 191-205
    • By Robert Goldenberg, Department of History and Judaic Studies, State University of New York, Stony Brook
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.009
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by a Roman army in the year 70 CE, approximately halfway through a fierce seven-year struggle between Jewish rebels and the Empire. This apparent act of sacrilege became controversial almost at once and has remained that way since that time. Once the Temple was destroyed, it was never rebuilt. Regarding the history of Judaism, the most important reactions to the destruction of the Temple were those that found expression in the voluminous literary output of the early Rabbis. The Mishnah's predominant response to the destruction of the Temple centered on acting as if the disaster had never occurred; the document's relentlessly ahistorical tone allows it to speak as though the Temple were still intact, its cult functioning as in centuries past. In later centuries, the transformation of Jewry into a religious communion was accelerated by the increasing dominance of Christian ways of thinking in the Roman world.
  • 8 - The origins and development of the rabbinic movement in the Land of Israel
    pp 206-229
    • By Hayim Lapin, Department of History, University of Maryland
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.010
  • View abstract
    Summary
    For the period covered in this chapter, between 70 CE and the middle decades of the fourth century, rabbis in Palestine appeared to be a numerically small group of religious experts with limited influence. Recent generations of historians have learned to disentangle the question of rabbinic origins from the history of the Second Temple period. The historiography of the rabbinic movement is almost entirely dependent upon rabbinic literature. Patristic, legal, and epigraphic evidence raises the possibility that rabbis in Palestine had emerged as a group with some prominence by late antiquity. The Mishnah, in its extended legal sweep and more specifically in its citation, adaptation, and appropriation of existing source material, may be read as a grand formalization of rabbinic Torah. Literacy correlated in complicated ways with wealth and social status in the Roman world, and little information is available about the social functions and cultural capital of specifically Hebrew or Aramaic literacy in Roman period Palestine.
  • 9 - The canonical process
    pp 230-243
    • By James Sanders, Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Center and Claremont School of Theology, California
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.011
  • View abstract
    Summary
    At some point during the early history of rabbinic Judaism there emerged a tripartite Hebrew Bible known by the Hebrew acronym TaNak, which stands for Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim, that is, Pentateuch, Prophets, Writings. This was similar to but different from the first testament of the double testament Greek Bibles being used at the same time in Christian communities throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Several canons of Christian Scripture of differing contents exist, ranging from the eighty-one-book Ethiopian Orthodox canon to the sixty-six-book Protestant canon. A number of references in ancient Jewish literature indicate the beginning of the Jewish tripartite canon, starting with the Torah and the Prophets. A tenet of rabbinic Judaism that separated it from other forms of Judaism was the rabbinic belief that prophecy or divine revelation/intervention in history ceased in the Persian period. Adaptability and stability must balance each other for the canonical process to be effective.
  • 10 - The beginnings of Christian anti-Judaism, 70–C. 235
    pp 244-258
    • By Peter Richardson, Department and Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.012
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Anti-Judaism was found mainly in areas where Christianity was strong, especially in cities with mixed pagan and Jewish populations and places where religious rivalries were more likely to be expressed openly. Numerous studies of Christian origins have revealed that early Christian anti-Judaism played a substantial role in pointing ultimately towards anti-Semitism. The letter of James was typical of some Christian Jewish documents in Judaea/Palestine in first through the middle second century CE, including antagonism towards a faith-alone understanding of Christian behavior. It engaged in no polemic against Judaism; quite the opposite: it shared essentials with Judaism. Christian communities in the Holy Land were deeply influenced by their origins within Judaism. Like Syria, Asia had large cities containing significant Jewish communities. The collection of documents from Nag Hammadi included several from Egypt. Mainstream Christian documents from Egypt tended to divide Christianity from Judaism.
  • 11 - The rabbinic response to Christianity
    pp 259-298
    • By Steven Katz, Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies and Department of Religion, Boston University
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.013
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The rabbinic sources of the mishnaic era provide very little information on the subject and what information is supplied is almost always subject to dispute as to its exact meaning and historical value. Despite the variety of halachic practices found in the Jewish community in the first century, Christians threatened the Torah principle more seriously than other organized groups in Judaism. The missionary impulse of Christians was bound to antagonize whenever the central symbols of Jewish identity were challenged. Central to a consideration of rabbinic responses to early Christianity is the so-called Birkat ha-Minim. Christianity was of urgent concern to the rabbinic sages between the fall of Jerusalem and the defeat of Bar Kochba. Jewish and other Christians certainly separated themselves for purposes of worship and teaching and social support from the synagogue at an early date, but this was a free choice based on internal Christian needs and wants.
  • 12 - The Mishnah
    pp 299-315
    • By David Kraemer, Department of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.014
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Mishnah, universally attributed to the editorial hand of Rabbi Judah, Patriarch of the Jewish community in Palestine in the late second to the early third century, is the earliest redacted record of rabbinic opinion. Most of the abundant Jewish literature from the late Second Temple period organizes its expression by reference to Scripture. The Mishnah's six orders include: Zeraim, Moed, Nashim, Neziqin, Kodashim and Toharot. The way one interprets the Mishnah's rhetoric concerning its relationship with Scripture depends upon the capacities of its assumed audience. A variety of factors suggest powerfully and unambiguously that the Mishnah was formulated for rabbinic sages and their disciples and not for a mass audience. Because it was formulated more than a century after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, perhaps the Mishnah's most surprising feature is the proportion of its laws dedicated to the Temple cult.
  • 13 - The Tosefta
    pp 316-335
    • By Paul Mandel, Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of Haifa
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.015
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Tosefta is larger in scope than the Mishnah, being approximately three times as long, containing a considerable amount of aggadah as well as halachah. The language of the Tosefta is mishnaic Hebrew, and the Rabbis mentioned in the mishnaic corpus are also found in the Tosefta, with notable additions. The Tosefta text has survived in three manuscript copies from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, as well as in citations in medieval rabbinic authors, and in a collection of fragments from the Cairo Genizah. Among the manuscript versions, the Vienna manuscript, an early fourteenth-century Spanish manuscript, is the only nearly complete textual witness. The first printed edition of the Tosefta appeared as an appendix to Rabbi Isaac Alfasi's compendium to the Talmud in Venice, 1521-22, and has since been printed in editions of the Babylonian Talmud.
  • 14 - Midrash Halachah
    pp 336-368
    • By Jay Harris, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, Harvard University, Cambridge
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.016
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The term midrash halachah was apparently coined in the nineteenth century. Midrash halachah, or legal interpretation, refers to specifically rabbinic forms of biblical exegesis whose ostensible purpose involves deriving broader and fuller legal conclusions from the text of the Torah. While archaeological and textual data from outside the rabbinic world shed light on important aspects of Jewish life in Palestine in the first through the third centuries, some texts raise interesting questions about the extent of rabbinic authority. Exegesis of the Bible for legal purposes was scarcely an innovation of the Rabbis of the first five Christian centuries. Beyond the texts and translations of the Bible, various religiously and culturally identifiable groups that comprised the intellectual elite of the ancient world all developed systems of exegesis of important texts. Jews and Gentiles alike considered the rabbinic reading of Scripture to represent the epitome of intellectual decadence.
  • 15 - Mishnaic Hebrew: an introductory survey
    pp 369-403
    • By Moshe Bar-Asher, Department of Hebrew Language, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.017
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Mishnaic Hebrew (MH) is the language of the Tannaim and Amoraim in Palestine and Babylonia. The literature of the Amoraim was formed over a period from the end of the third century down to about 500 CE. Most tannaitic texts were redacted in roughly the period 200-50 CE, when Rabbi Judah the Patriarch completed his compilation of the Mishnah. The language reflected in the texts of rabbinic literature is equally known through external evidence, such as the Copper Scroll from Qumran and the letters of Simon Bar-Koseba discovered in the Judaean desert. Down to 200 BCE, the literary language was Biblical Hebrew (BH), even in the late books of the Bible, such as Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther. Most scholars agree that MH originates in the language spoken in various regions of Palestine throughout the period of the Second Temple. Throughout the Second Temple period and for centuries later, Hebrew was in direct contact with other languages.
  • 16 - The political and social history of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel, C. 235–638
    pp 404-430
    • By David Goodblatt, Department of History, University of California, San Diego
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.018
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The chronological boundaries of this chapter are based on well-known events in world history. The year 235 saw the end of the Severan dynasty of Roman emperors, while the Muslim invasion of Palestine began in 634. The fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the suppression of the Second Revolt in 135 were the beginning of the end of a Jewish majority in Israel. They also believed that the steady decline in demographic strength, coupled with an increasingly precarious political standing when the Roman Empire became Christianized, led to a loss of hegemony within the Jewish world. The older historiography tended to accept most of the evidence at face value and combine it all into a harmonizing account of the Patriarchate from its origins to its demise between 415 and 429. The accumulated archaeological and epigraphic evidence and the application of more sophisticated social scientific analysis have contributed to a reassessment of rabbinical status in Late Roman-Byzantine Palestine.
  • 17 - The material realities of Jewish life in the Land of Israel, C. 235–638
    pp 431-456
    • By Joshua Schwartz, Department of Land of Israel Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.019
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter provides a brief presentation of the material realities of Jewish life in the Land of Israel in the Late Roman period. Jewish society in Roman-period Palestine was rural and agricultural. The chapter describes the elements of everyday life relevant to those who lived and worked in rural Palestine. The absence of social stratification produced villages belonging to the lower classes of the socio-economic spectrum. The realities of urban life, much different from those that governed life in the countryside, exerted a significant impact on the lives of city Jews. The cities were more crowded than villages and the population density was greater. In Roman Palestine, the cities were still pagan and the urban Jews came into contact with non-Jews and their urban religious institutions, which presented challenges for urban Jews. The material reality of the Jews reflects their openness to influences outside the immediate confines of Jewish society.
  • 18 - Aramaic in late antiquity
    pp 457-491
    • By Yochanan Breuer, Department of Hebrew Language, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.020
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter presents a broad review of the types of Jewish Aramaic common in the Talmudic era. In this period Aramaic was a spoken language, and many literary works were written in it. The Hebrew and Aramaic languages are related tongues and resemble each other in many ways. They both belong to the northwestern branch of the Semitic language family. The knowledge of Aramaic in the Land of Israel spread with the return of the Babylonian exiles. The chapter presents a survey of Jewish Aramaic after the period of Imperial Aramaic, that is, the Aramaic used during the time of the Tannaim and Amoraim. Aramaic was greatly influenced by the languages spoken in its vicinity. Jewish Aramaic was especially influenced by Hebrew. Jews have spoken many languages over the generations, but, other than Hebrew, Aramaic is undoubtedly the most important language in the history of Jewish culture.
  • 19 - The Diaspora, C. 235–638
    pp 492-518
    • By Leonard Rutgers, Department of Late Antique Studies, Utrecht University, Scott Bradbury, Department of Classical Languages and Literatures, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.021
  • View abstract
    Summary
    In late antiquity, Jewish communities were a common occurrence throughout Italy. Smaller centers and villages in the remoter parts of the Italian countryside became home to well-organized Jewish communities or to groups of Jewish families. The Jewish community of ancient Rome was among the oldest Jewish communities in Italy. A number of medieval legends traced the arrival of Jews in Spain to deep antiquity. The biblical Tarshish was often identified as Tartessus, and it was accepted that Jewish traders had traveled to Spain already under the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Political loyalty was a recurring theme in the Visigothic period, partly because of the threat of internal rebellion and partly because of the stunning successes of Arab armies abroad. The theme of Jewish political treachery became critical under King Egica. Egica applied unprecedented economic pressures on the Jews in his realm.
  • 20 - Jewish archaeology in late antiquity: art, architecture, and inscriptions
    pp 519-555
    • By Lee Levine, Department of Jewish History and Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.022
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The appearance of Jewish art, architecture, and inscriptions increased enormously in the course of antiquity. This chapter describes the most significant remains of Jewish art and architecture from late antiquity. The evidence finds expression primarily in two public frameworks, namely cemeteries and synagogues. Although funerary remains have been found at a number of sites in late Roman and Byzantine Palestine, the most significant and best-preserved are from the necropolis of Bet Shearim. For the first time in the Land of Israel, many depictions of Jewish symbols, particularly the menorah and less frequently the Torah ark are found. Hundreds of inscriptions were found in Jewish catacombs, almost 80 percent in Greek and the remainder in Hebrew with a smattering of Aramaic and Palmyrene. The post-70 development of the synagogue, a Jewish institution par excellence, provided opportunities for creating unique Jewish architectural models. The material culture presents a clear idea of the location and parameters of Jewish settlement at late Roman period.
  • 21 - Jewish festivals in late antiquity
    pp 556-572
    • By Joseph Tabory, Department of Talmud, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.023
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The late Roman rabbinic period may be considered the formative period of Jewish festivals. In the early part of this period some festivals were added to those of the Bible, while in the latter part only fast days were added to the calendar. The written sources for portraying the early history of the festivals are the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the writings of Philo at the beginning of the first century, and the writings of Josephus towards the end of that century. The first day of the month was an important day in the Jewish calendar and the Torah prescribed special sacrifices on that day. The earliest evidence of people gathering together on the Sabbath, found in the Synoptic Gospels, Josephus, and apocryphal sources, is from the time when the Temple still existed. Most of the special dates established in the Second Temple period were connected to the Maccabees and their victories over their enemies.
  • 22 - Rabbinic prayer in late antiquity
    pp 573-611
    • By Reuven Kimelman, Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University, Boston
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.024
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Worship of God in the rabbinic period differs from that of the biblical period in its conceptualization of the synagogue and prayer. Practically, this shift is most noticeable in the role of the synagogue, the content and the modalities of the rabbinic liturgy, the role of the precentor, and that of the priests. Priests got priority in the public reading of the Torah as well as in leading congregational prayer. The single most important innovation of rabbinic liturgy is the focus on divine sovereignty. This is based on conceiving of the relationship to God primarily through the acceptance of divine sovereignty. Rabbinic prayer promoted the idea that the primary way of relating to God was through the acceptance of divine sovereignty, and thus the primary metaphor for the God of Israel is King of the world. This sovereignization of the liturgy was consonant with the emerging theological thinking of the late Roman Empire.
  • 23 - Rabbinic views on marriage, sexuality, and the family
    pp 612-626
    • By Michael Satlow, Program in Judaic Studies and Department of Religious Studies, Brown University, Providence
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.025
  • View abstract
    Summary
    For Palestinian rabbis, as for their Greek and Roman neighbors, the primary characteristic of masculinity was self-control. The issue of self-control largely determined the Palestinian rabbinic approach toward specific sexual activities and partners. The Palestinian rabbinic understanding of marriage similarly resembled that of Greeks and Romans. Landowning Greeks, Romans, and Palestinian Jews all understood the basic unit of society to be the household, a social unit of consumption, production, and reproduction. Rabbinic sources suggest that the common marriagable age of Palestinian men was approximately thirty years old, probably to women in their teens. For Babylonian rabbis, sexuality was a distinct domain of discourse. Palestinian rabbis viewed sexuality as a sub-species or consequence of gender. Babylonian families, like Palestinian, would most likely have seen their Jewishness as obvious: the family was part of a legal and social ethnos and followed ancestral customs that they and others in their community thought were Jewish.
  • 24 - Women in Jewish life and law
    pp 627-646
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.026
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Dead Sea documents are a major source of information regarding Jewish women's legal position. They include two archives that belonged to women, the Babatha archive and that of Salome Komaise, as well as numerous other documents that belonged to Jewish women. Scholars have attempted to harmonize the legal injunctions of the Dead Sea documents with rabbinic rulings found in the Mishnah. The idea that a woman's place is in the home is clearly espoused in rabbinic literature. A major duty envisioned by the Rabbis for the woman at home was the raising of children, particularly when they were very young and dependent on her for sustenance. The rabbinic imagination envisioned the working woman primarily at her spindle or loom. Much of the evidence for the ancient synagogue derives from epigraphic documents from Palestine and the Diaspora and indicates that women were significant donors in the financing of the construction of synagogues.
  • 25 - Gentiles in rabbinic thought
    pp 647-662
    • By David Novak, Department of Philosophy, Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.027
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The rabbinic constitution of Jewish-Gentile relations admitted a definite range of plurality. The biblical categories of Gentiles seem to be: the Amalekites; the seven Canaanite nations; the nations of the world; the Samaritans; slaves; resident aliens and proselytes. Looking at how the Rabbis understood these classes of Gentiles enables one to see the wide range of rabbinic thought about Gentiles, but a range having within it a normatively significant order with inherent criteria of judgment. What distinguished the Amalekites from other political enemies of Israel is that they were unusually cruel, attacking noncombatants indiscriminately. Very much like the commandment to eliminate the Canaanite nations, the commandment actually to eliminate the Amalekites might well have been considered antiquarian by the time of the Rabbis was considered to be still geographically and politically intact. The most important rabbinic innovation regarding Gentile slavery was the requirement that Gentile slaves be converted to what was, in effect, a form of quasi-Judaism.
  • 26 - The formation and character of the Jerusalem Talmud
    pp 663-677
    • By Leib Moscovitz, Department of Talmud, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.028
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Jerusalem Talmud, which is more accurately known as the Palestinian Talmud (PT), is the Mishnah commentary produced in the Palestinian rabbinical academies during the third and fourth centuries CE. Most prominent among the PT's literary sources is the Mishnah. A second major literary source used by the PT is halachic baraitot which closely parallel the Mishnah. Such baraitot are often quite similar to those in the Tosefta, although the PT's baraitot are rarely identical to their toseftan parallels. The most important component of the PT is the halachic comments and discussions of the amoraim. Possible evidence for the existence of earlier Talmudim or redacted units of Talmudic discourse which preceded the final redaction of the PT is provided by the rare but significant phenomenon of "nested sugyot". Babylonian teachings cited in the PT frequently differ from their parallels in the Babylonian Talmud in wording, attribution, and content.
  • 27 - The late midrashic, paytanic, and targumic literature
    pp 678-698
    • By Avigdor Shinan, Department of Hebrew Literature, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.029
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter describes an important segment of the spiritual-literary activity of the Sages in the Land of Israel in the period beginning with the completion of the Mishnah in c. 200 CE and ending with the conquest of the Middle East by the Muslims. The question of where the aggadic literature, the targum and the piyyut, were created involves geographical and social-institutional issues. Two principal institutions, the synagogue and the house of study, influenced the Sitz im Leben of the aggadic, targumic, and poetic creativity in the Land of Israel. In the synagogue, Jews gathered in order to study Scripture, to pray, and to listen to sermons. The piyyut and the targum were created and flourished first of all in the synagogue, while aggadah existed both there and in the house of study. The great freedom exhibited by the Rabbis in their midrashic activity produced countless aggadic traditions resembling a giant upside-down pyramid with a small apex, the Bible.
  • 28 - Jewish magic in late antiquity
    pp 699-720
    • By Michael Swartz, Professor of Hebrew and Religious Studies, Ohio State University
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521772488.030
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The study of Jewish magic has important historical value outside the light it sheds on the religious nature of ancient Jewish society. Understanding Jewish magic additionally allows one to understand a major component of the lives and ideas of the rabbinic class. Anthropologists and historians of religion have come to question whether the mere use of the term "magic" prejudices the reader to accept the phenomenon under study as more primitive or inferior to official religious expression. This chapter begins with a brief account of the evidence in talmudic literature of magic and rabbinic discourse concerning this phenomenon. Since magical texts themselves are the best witnesses to the nature of magic, the chapter follows with a survey of the worldviews, rhetoric, and ritual practices embedded in amulet texts from Palestine, Babylonian magical bowls, heikhalot literature, and other esoteric sources from the rabbinic period.

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