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Confessing Incest to a Rabbi: A Talmudic Story in Its Zoroastrian Context*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2014

Yishai Kiel*
Yale University


A fascinating anecdote preserved in the Babylonian Talmud (b. ῾Abod. Zar. 17a) tells the story of a woman who comes before Rav Hisda and discloses to him that her younger son is the product of incestuous intercourse she has performed with her older son. Rav Hisda, in turn, rather than instructing her with regard to her penance, orders the preparation of her shrouds, thus indicating that her death is inescapable and imminent. Although the nature of the encounter between Rav Hisda and the sinner is not explicit in the story itself, the passage is situated within the Babylonian Talmud in the context of a broader legal and theological discussion centered on the penitential requirements for a person seeking to turn away from minut (heresy).

Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 2014 

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An earlier version of this article was presented on March 1, 2012 at Harvard University, during my visit at the Center for Jewish Studies as a Harry Starr fellow. The article benefited from the invaluable comments of Prods Oktor Skjærvø, Yaakov Elman, Shaye Cohen, Jay Harris, Bernard Septimus, Marc Saperstein, David Stern, Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal, Meir Ben-Shahar, Zvi Septimus, Dov Weiss, and Ari Finkelstein.


1 The transcriptions and translations of all Pahlavi texts cited in the article were done by the author with the generous help of Prods Oktor Skjærvø. The following lists the editions of the Pahlavi works cited throughout the article: Tavadia, Jehangir C., Šāyist nē Šāyist: A Pahlavi Text on Religious Customs (Hamburg: De Gruyter, 1930; [hereafter abbreviated ŠnŠ])Google Scholar; de Menasce, Jean, Le troisième livre du Dēnkart (Bibliothèque des œuvres classiques persanes 4; Travaux de l’Institut d’études iraniennes de l’Université de Paris 5; Paris: Klincksieck, 1973 [the Dēnkard is hereafter abbreviated Dk.])Google Scholar; Williams, Alan V., The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg (2 vols.; The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters: Historisk-filosofiske meddelelser 60; Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1990 [hereafter abbreviated PRDD])Google Scholar; Safā-Iṣfahānī, Nezhat, Rivāyat ī Ēmēd ī Ašawahistān: A Study in Zoroastrian Law (rev. ed.; Harvard Iranian Series 2; Cambridge: Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, 1980Google Scholar [hereafter abbreviated REA]); Moazami, Mahnaz, Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Videvdad: Transcription, Translation, and Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 2014 [hereafter abbreviated PV])Google Scholar; Shaked, Shaul, The Wisdom of the Sasanian Sages (Dēnkard 6) (Persian Heritage Series 34; Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1979)Google Scholar; Jaafari-Dehaghi, Mahmoud, Dādestān ī Dēnīg, Part 1: Transcription, Translation and Commentary (Studia Iranica 20; Paris: Association pour l’avancement des études iraniennes, 1998 [hereafter abbreviated DD])Google Scholar; Kotwal, Firoze M. and Kreyenbroek, Philip G., The Hērbedestān and Nērangestān (4 vols.; Paris: Association pour l’avancement des études iraniennes, 1992–2009 [the Hērbedestān is hereafter abbreviated Hb.])Google Scholar; Macuch, Maria, Das sasanidische Rechtsbuch “Mātakdān i Hazār Dātistān” (Teil II) (Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 45; Wiesbaden: Kommisionsverlag Franz Steiner, 1981Google Scholar [hereafter abbreviated MHDA]); eadem, Rechtskasuistik und Gerichtspraxis zu Beginn des siebenten Jahrhunderts in Iran. Die Rechtssammlung des Farroḫmard i Wahrāmān (Iranica 1; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993 [hereafter abbreviated MHD]); and Anklesaria, Behramgore Tahmuras, The Pahlavi Rivāyat of Ādurfarnbay (2 vols.; Mumbai: Bhargava and Co., 1969Google Scholar [hereafter abbreviated RAF]).

For a recent summary and reevaluation of scholarly opinions concerning the rabbinic discourse of minut, see Schremer, Adiel, Brothers Estranged: Heresy, Christianity, and Jewish Identity in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) 324Google Scholar.

2 New York adds: .

3 New York: .

4 The usage of the demonstrative pronouns in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic is discussed in Siegal, Elitzur Bar-Asher, “Non-anaphoric Uses of the Demonstrative Pronouns in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic,” Leshonenu 74 (2012) 229–66 [Hebrew]Google Scholar.

5 Note the shift from Aramaic to Hebrew. On some possible implications of this shift in language see Margoliot, Eliezer, “Hebrew and Aramaic in the Talmud and Midrash,” Leshonenu 27 (1962–1963) 2033 [Hebrew]Google Scholar; Friedman, Shamma, “A Critical Study of Yevamot X with a Methodological Introduction,” in Texts and Studies: Analecta Judaica (ed. Dimitrovsky, H. Z.; 2 vols.; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1977) 1:275441 [Hebrew]Google Scholar; and idem, Talmudic Studies: Investigating the Sugya, Variant Readings and Aggada (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2010) 3–56 [Hebrew].

6 The sinner is probably referring to herself in the third person. It is possible, however, that someone else is accusing her, but then we must prefer the reading (“they said to him”) and not (“she said to him”) as attested in the Paris ms.

7 The phrase , which indicates the preparation of one's shrouds, appears also in b. Roš Haš. 17a; b. Mo>ed Qaṭ. 27b; and b. Nid. 37a. This phrase seems to parallel the Palestinian equivalent , which appears in y. Šeb. 4:2, 35b and y. B. Bat. 3:3, 13b. A discussion of this phrase is found in Rosenthal, Eliezer S. and Lieberman, Shaul, Yerushalmi Neziqin: Edited from the Escorial Manuscript with an Introduction by E. S. Rosenthal, Introduction and Commentary by S. Lieberman (Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1983) 180–81Google Scholar.

8 Munich adds the following words from the second version of the story: .

9 Munich: .

10 Munich: .

11 New York: .

12 New York omits.

13 New York: ; Munich: .

14 b. ῾Abod. Zar. 17a (ms Paris 1337).

15 The phrase also occurs in t. Šabb. 15:17 (ed. Saul Lieberman, The Tosefta [4 vols.; New York and Jerusalem: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2002] 2:75) in the sense of a “light” mitzvah, but cf. y. Pe’ah 1:1, 15d; y. Qidd. 1:7, 61b.

16 Some of these contexts are examined in Yishai Kiel, “Reading Incest in the Babylonian Talmud in Light of Zoroastrian Law and Ideology,” Jewish Law Annual (forthcoming).

17 See especially m. Mak. 3:1 and b. Mak. 14a.

18 t. ῾Abod. Zar. 8:4; y. Yebam. 11:2, 12a; Gen. Rab. 18:5 (eds. Jehudah Theodor and Hanoch Albeck, Midrash Bereshit Rabba: Critical Edition with Notes and Commentary [Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1965] 165–66); and b. Sanh. 57b–58b.

19 See, e.g., y. Sanh. 5:1, 22c; y. Sanh. 9:1, 26d; y. Yebam. 11:1, 11d; Gen. Rab. 84 (ed. Theodor and Albeck, 1026); Gen. Rab. 51 (ed. Theodor and Albeck, 537–41); b. Hor. 10b; b. Naz. 23a; and b. B. Qam. 38b.

20 b. Yebam. 97b. For an attempt to read this passage in a Zoroastrian context, see Ahdut, Eli, “Jewish-Zoroastrian Polemics in the Babylonian Talmud,” in Irano-Judaica: Studies Relating to Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages (ed. Shaked, Shaul and Netzer, Amnon; 6 vols.; Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1981–2008) 4:34–36Google Scholar; Schremer, Adiel, Male and Female He Created Them: Jewish Marriage in the Late Second Temple, Mishnah and Talmud Periods (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Centerx, 2003) 173–76Google Scholar.

21 For a brief history of the field, see Herman, Geoffrey, “Ahasuerus, the Former Stable-Master of Belshazzar, and the Wicked Alexander of Macedon: Two Parallels between the Babylonian Talmud and Persian Sources,” AJSR 29 (2005) 283–97, at 288CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Secunda, Shai, “Reading the Bavli in Iran,” JQR 100 (2010) 310–42, at 318Google Scholar; and Yishai Kiel, “Selected Topics in Laws of Ritual Defilement: Between the Babylonian Talmud and Pahlavi Literature” (Ph.D. diss., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2011) 3–6.

22 See, e.g., the remarks of Hayes, Christine, Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) 324Google Scholar.

23 For this method of “unearthing” non-rabbinic concerns in rabbinic literature see, e.g., Kalmin, Richard, “The Formation and Character of the Babylonian Talmud,” in The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period (ed. Katz, Steven T.; vol. 4 of The Cambridge History of Judaism; Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 855Google Scholar. Shaye Cohen pointed out to me that, in light of the “Christian” context of the adjacent talmudic stories of Elazar b. Dordya and R. Eliezer in b. ῾Abod. Zar. 16b–17a, it is likely that the Rav Hisda story also displays non-rabbinic concerns. On the Christian context of the R. Eliezer story see Boyarin, Daniel, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999) 2266Google Scholar and Schäfer, Peter, Jesus in the Talmud (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007) 4151Google Scholar. On the monastic context of the Elazar b. Dordya story, see Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, “Literary Analogies in Rabbinic and Christian Monastic Literature” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2010) 202–49.

24 On this notion, see Bar-Asher Siegal, “Literary Analogies,” 234–37.

25 t. Kippurim 4:8–9 (ed. Lieberman, 252–53); m. Yoma 8:7; b. Šebu. 13a; b. Šebu. 39a; b. Ker. 7a; b. Yoma 86a; Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishma῾el, Masekhta de-bahodesh 7 (ed. Hayim Shaul Horovitz and Israel Abraham Rabin, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishma῾el [Jerusalem: Mekitze Nirdamim, 1997] 227–28); Sifre Zuṭa, Naso (ed. Hayim Shaul Horovitz, Siphre d’Be Rab, Fasciculus primus: Siphre ad Numeros adjecto Siphre Zutta [Jerusalem: Shalem, 1992] 248); y. Yoma 8:7 45b; y. Yoma 8:8, 45b–c; y. Sanh. 10:1, 27c; y. Šeb. 1:9, 33b; and b. Yoma 86a.

26 See, e.g., t. Kippurim 4:14–15 (ed. Lieberman, 254–55); y. Yoma 8:9, 45c; and b. Yoma 87b.

27 That is, at least with regard to matters that do not involve transgression against other people. See b. Ber. 34b; b. Soṭah 32b; and b. Yoma 86b.

28 Notably, in b. Sanh. 25a we find Rav Nahman and Rava, the prominent rabbinic authorities of Mehoza, discussing the punitive procedures that ought to be imposed upon an animal slaughterer who intentionally distributed non-kosher meat. Moshe Beer points out that the very fact that the rabbis are the ones who instruct the sinner how to repent in this instance is itself a novelty (“On Penances and Penitents in the Literature of Hazal,” Zion 46 [1981] 159–81, at 168–69 [Hebrew]). It seems, however, that unlike the story in b. ῾Abod. Zar. 17a, where the woman comes to Rav Hisda on her own initiative seeking spiritual guidance—and therefore the involvement of the rabbi is essential—the story in b. Sanh. 25a addresses a case where the rabbis are forced to intervene in the penitential procedure of a sinner since he is distributing non-kosher meat to others, and thus the extent of his sincerity and remorsefulness needs to be determined by someone other than the sinner himself. In this case, moreover, there is no disclosure of sins but, rather, the sages are discussing among themselves whether or not the animal slaughterer can resume his previous office. The story in b.Abod. Zar. 17a is thus distinct in the sense that it depicts disclosure of sins to a rabbi, in which case the rabbi instructs the sinner how to repent for her sins.

29 Lev 20:11, 18:7–8.

30 m. Sanh. 7:4. For the rabbinic classification of sinners who must be put to death by stoning, see Shemesh, Aharon, Punishments and Sins: From Scripture to the Rabbis (Magnes: Jerusalem, 2003) 101–7 [Hebrew]Google Scholar.

31 For the relative severity of various capital punishments, see m. Sanh. 9:2–3; Shemesh, Punishments, 35–56.

32 See Reuven Kipperwasser, “Midrashim on Kohelet: Studies in their Redaction and Formation” (Ph.D. diss., Bar-Ilan University, 2005) 247–50 [Hebrew]; Shamma Friedman, “Historical Aggadah in the Babylonian Talmud,” in Saul Lieberman Memorial Volume (Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1993) 154–55 [Hebrew].

33 Eccl. Rab. 1:8 (ms Vatican 291). There are no significant variants in the other textual witnesses.

34 b. Šabb. 31a, for instance, contains several conversion stories with a similar backdrop.

35 See, e.g., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (ed. Everett Ferguson, Michael P. McHugh, and Frederick W. Norris; 2 vols.; 2nd ed.; Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 1839; New York: Garland, 1997) 1:273–74; 2:891–93.

36 Samuel, Judah ben, Sefer Hasidim: According to the Parma Manuscript (ed. Wistinetzki, Judah and Freimann, Jakob; Frankfurt am Main: Wahrmann, 1924; repr., Jerusalem: Sifre Vahrman, 1969) sec. 43 (p. 41); 630 (p. 169)Google Scholar; and 52–53 (pp. 44–45) [Hebrew]; Dan, Joseph, R. Yehudah Hehasid (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 2006) 9499 [Hebrew]Google Scholar; Marcus, Ivan, “The Penitential Writings of the Hasidim of Ashkenaz,” in Studies in Jewish Mysticism, Philosophy, and Ethical Literature Presented to Isaiah Tishby on his Seventy-fifth Birthday (ed. Dan, Joseph and Hacker, Joseph; Magnes, Jerusalem:, 1986) 369–84 [Hebrew]Google Scholar.

37 Dan, Yehudah, 99; Marcus, “Penitential Writings,” 370–73.

38 One may suggest perhaps that the woman in the story is simply consulting Rav Hisda with a legal matter, in which case the consultation of a rabbi would be natural. In b. Nid. 45a, by comparison, a woman inquires of R. Akiva whether or not she is permitted to marry a priest, after having disclosed to him that she has engaged in voluntary sexual intercourse before the age of three. In this case, the disclosure of the woman's sins is clearly not intended to be a “confession,” but rather a means for resolving a practical legal concern. It appears, however, that in contrast to b. Nid. 45a, in which the legal question is straightforward in the talmudic text (“What is my status in terms of priesthood?”[]), the woman who comes before Rav Hisda does not present a legal question. She simply states: “My younger son is from my older son.” Had a legal issue been at stake, we would have expected some sort of legal question, or at least some sort of legal response on the part of Rav Hisda. The lack of any “legal” terminology in this context, I would argue, strengthens my interpretation of the story in b. ῾Abod. Zar. 17a as a story of “confession to a rabbi.”

39 Recent years have seen a growing awareness among scholars of the significance of Christian material in general, and Syriac Christianity in particular, for the study of the Babylonian Talmud. See, e.g., Gafni, Isaiah M., “Nestorian Literature as a Source for the History of the Babylonian Yeshivot,” Tarbiz 51 (1981–1982) 567–76 [Hebrew]Google Scholar; Naomi Koltun-Fromm, “Jewish-Christian Polemics in Fourth-century Persian Mesopotamia: A Reconstructed Conversation” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1994); eadem, Hermeneutics of Holiness: Ancient Jewish and Christian Notions of Sexuality and Religious Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); eadem, “Aphrahat and Rabbis on Noah's Righteousness in Light of the Jewish-Christian Polemic,” in The Book of Genesis in Jewish and Oriental Christian Interpretation (ed. Judith Frishman and Lucas van Rompay; Traditio exegetica graeca 5; Louvain: Peeters, 1997) 57–71; Naeh, Shlomo, “Freedom and Celibacy: A Talmudic Variation on Tales of Temptation and Fall in Genesis and Its Syrian Background,” in The Book of Genesis in Jewish and Oriental Christian Interpretation (ed. Frishman, Judith and van Rompay, Lucas; Traditio exegetica graeca 5; Louvain: Peeters, 1997) 7389Google Scholar; Becker, Adam H., “The Comparative Study of ‘Scholasticism’ in Late Antique Mesopotamia: Rabbis and East Syrians,” AJSR 34 (2010) 91–113Google Scholar; Schäfer, Peter, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “A Rabbinic Translation of Relics,” in Ambiguities, Complexities and Half-Forgotten Adversaries: Crossing Boundaries in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Kimberly Stratton and Andrea Lieber; forthcoming); and Bar-Asher Siegal, “Literary Analogies.”

40 On the collection of the sayings of the desert fathers, see Ward, Benedicta, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection (London: Mowbray, 1981)Google Scholar; Burton-Christie, Douglas, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)Google Scholar; Gould, Graham, The Desert Fathers on Monastic Community (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993) 917; and Bar-Asher Siegal, “Literary Analogies,” 47–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41 Ward, Sayings, 93–94; eadem, Signs and Wonders: Saints, Miracles and Prayers from the 4th Century to the 14th (Collected Studies 361; Hampshire, U.K.: Variorum, 1992) 41; and Elm, Susanna, Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994) 258Google Scholar.

42 Ammonas 8 (ed. Ward, 23).

43 However, according to some textual witnesses, the talmudic story can also be interpreted in this manner.

44 Some of these elements are present perhaps in other monastic traditions, but not in the story about the fornicating girl, which bears other similarities to the Babylonian passage.

45 The younger part of the Avestan corpus was probably crystallized (orally) during the first half of the first millennium b.c.e. See especially Skjærvø, Prods Oktor, “Avestan Quotations in Old Persian? Literary Sources of the Old Persian Inscriptions,” in Irano-Judaica: Studies Relating to Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages (ed. Shaked, Shaul and Netzer, Amnon; 6 vols.; Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1891–2008) 4:1–64Google Scholar; idem, “The Antiquity of Old Avestan,” Nāme-ye Irān-e Bāstān: The International Journal of Ancient Iranian Studies 3 (2003–2004) 15–41.

46 On repentance in Zoroastrianism, see Asmussen, Jes P., Xuāstvānīft: Studies in Manichaeism (Acta theologica Danica 7; Copenhagen: Prostant Apud Munksgaard, 1965) 26112Google Scholar; Kiel, Yishai, “The Systematization of Penitence in Zoroastrianism in Light of Rabbinic and Islamic Literature,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 22 (2008) [2012] 119–35Google Scholar; and idem, “Penitential Theology in East Late Antiquity: Talmudic, Zoroastrian, and East Christian Reflections,” JSJ 45 (2014) 551–83.

47 On the office of the rad see Kreyenbroek, Philip G., “On the Concept of Spiritual Authority in Zoroastrianism,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 17 (1994) 115Google Scholar.

48 This division is reminiscent of the rabbinic distinction between sins committed against one's fellow humans and sins committed against God. See m. Yoma 8:9; Shaked, Shaul, “Items of Dress and Other Objects in Common Use: Iranian Loanwords in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic,” in Irano-Judaica: Studies Relating to Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages (ed. Shaked, Shaul and Netzer, Amnon; 6 vols.; Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1981–2008) 3:109 n. 53Google Scholar; Jany, Janos, “Criminal Justice in Sasanian Persia,” Iranica Antiqua 42 (2007) 347–86, at 355CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Macuch, Maria, “On the Treatment of Animals in Zoroastrian Law,” in Iranica Selecta: Studies in Honour of Professor Wojciech Skalmowski on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday (ed. van Tongerloo, A.; Silk Road Studies 8; Turnhout: Brepols, 2003) 173–74Google Scholar.

49 ŠnŠ 8.1 (ed. Tavadia, 104).

50 ŠnŠ 8.14 (ed. Tavadia, 111).

51 On the notion of not despising penitents for their sins, see further Dk. 6.13, 14, 228 (ed. Shaked, 69, 88–89). The rabbis similarly forbid the practice of “reminding” penitents of their sins. See Sifra, Behar 4:2 (ed. Isaac Hirsch Weiss, Siphra d’Be Rab [Vienna: Schlossberg, 1862] 107b); m. B. Meṣ 4:10; and b. B. Meṣ. 58b.

52 This element is reminiscent of the seal of confession in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

53 ŠnŠ 8.9 (ed. Tavadia, 107).

54 ŠnŠ 8.10 (ed. Tavadia, 108).

55 ŠnŠ 8.11 (ed. Tavadia, 108).

56 For the role of religious knowledge in Zoroastrian priestly authority see Kreyenbroek, “Spiritual Authority,” 1–5; Moulie Vidas, “Traditions and the Formation of the Talmud” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2009) 134–92; and Kiel, Yishai, “The Authority of the Sages in the Babylonian Talmud: A Zoroastrian Perspective,” Shnaton Hamishpat Ha’ivri 27 (2012–2013) 131–74 [Hebrew]Google Scholar.

57 See, e.g., ŠnŠ 2.81–82 (ed. Tavadia, 60).

58 Jany, “Criminal Justice,” 367–70.

59 Thus according to ŠnŠ 2.107–8 (ed. Tavadia, 67–68) and PV 3.14 (ed. Moazami, 75–81), margarzān sinners have no purification and redemption for “eternity,” while ŠnŠ 8.5–6 (ed. Tavadia, 105–6) and ŠnŠ 8.18 (ed. Tavadia, 113) prescribe a process of expiation for margarzān sinners. See Jany “Criminal Justice,” 348–61.

60 ŠnŠ 8.5 (ed. Tavadia, 105–6); cf. ŠnŠ 8.2 (ed. Tavadia, 104).

61 ŠnŠ 8.6 (ed. Tavadia, 106). For the sidōš ceremony see PRDD 15a5 (ed. Williams, 1:81, 2:27– 28); DD 13.2, 40.5 (ed. Jaafari-Dehaghi, 60–61, 170–71); and REA 26.6 (ed. Safā-Iṣfahānī, 187–88).

62 ŠnŠ 8.21 (ed. Tavadia, 114).

63 The main Pahlavi texts concerning xwēdōdah are Dk. 3.80 (ed. de Menasce, 85–90; Prods Oktor Skjærvø, The Spirit of Zoroastrianism [Sacred Literature Series; New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2011] 202–7); PRDD 8 (ed. Williams, 2:11–17); REA 22, 27–30 (ed. Safā-Iṣfahānī, 156–58, 190–98); Hb. 6.7 (ed. Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, 45); Hb. 2.9 (ed. Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, 32–33); MHD 44.8–14 (ed. Macuch, 303–4, 319–20), 104.9–11 (ed. Macuch, 618, 626), 105.5–10 (ed. Macuch, 640, 647); MHDA 18.7–12 (ed. Macuch, 41, 164–65); and RAF 20.1–2, 143.1–4 (ed. Anklesaria, 56, 121–22). A comprehensive discussion of xwēdōdah can be found in Prods Oktor Skjærvø, “Marriage II: Next-of-Kin Marriage in Zoroastrianism,” in Encyclopedia Iranica, n.p., accessed July 31, 2014,; and Yishai Kiel, “Reading Incest in the Babylonian Talmud.”

64 Mēnōy Xrād 3.4–5.

65 This, in fact, is the earliest attestation of the term xwēdōdah in Middle Persian. On Kerdīr's inscriptions, see Back, Michael, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften. Studien zur Orthographie und Phonologie des Mittelpersischen der Inschriften zusammen mit einem etymologischen Index des mittelpersischen Wortgutes und einem Textcorpus der behandelten Inschriften (Acta Iranica 18.3; Textes et mémoires 8; Tehran: Bibliothèque Pahlavi, 1978) 384479Google Scholar; Gignoux, Philippe, Les quatre inscriptions du mage Kirdīr. Textes et concordances (Collection des sources pour l’histoire de l’Asie centrale pré-islamique 2; Studia Iranica 9; Paris: Association pour l’avancement des études iraniennes, 1991)Google Scholar; Mackenzie, David N., “Kerdir's Inscription,” in The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam, Naqsh-I Rustam 6, the Triumph of Shapur I (Together with an Account of the Representations of Kerdir) (ed. Herrmann, Georgina; Iranische Denkmäler 13.2; Iranische Felsreliefs 1; Berlin: Reimer, 1989) 35–72Google Scholar; Skjærvø, Prods Oktor, “‘Kirdir's Vision’: Translation and Analysis,” Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran 16 (1983) 269306Google Scholar; and idem, “Counter-Manichean Elements in Kerdīr's Inscription: Irano-Manichaica II,” in Atti del terzo congresso internazionale di studi “Manicheismo e Oriente cristiano antico.” Arcavacata di Rende, Amantea, 31 agosto5 settembre 1993 (ed. Luigi Cirillo and Alois van Tongerloo; Manichaean Studies 3; Louvain: Brepols, 1997) 313–42. See also the literature cited in Shaked, Shaul, Dualism in Transformation: Varieties of Religion in Sasanian Iran (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1994) 35Google Scholar.

66 Mackenzie, “Kerdir's Inscription,” 59; Gignoux, Quatre inscriptions du mage Kirdīr, 64–65, 72.

67 Skjærvø, “Next-of-Kin.”

68 PRDD 8c1–2 (ed. Williams, 1:50–51, 2:11).

69 On this passage see Yishai Kiel, “Study Versus Sustenance: A Rabbinic Dilemma in Its Zoroastrian and Manichaean Context,” AJSR 38.2 (2014) 1–28.

70 Hb. 2.9 (ed. Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, 32–33).

71 Dk. 5.9.13–14.

72 ŠnŠ 8.18 (ed. Tavadia, 113); cf. REA 29 (ed. Safā-Iṣfahānī, 197–202); Bamanji, ErvadDhabhar, Nusserwanji, The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz and Others: Their Version with Introduction and Notes (Mumbai: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, 1932) 210–11Google Scholar.

73 PRDD 8b1 (ed. Williams, 1:50–53, 2:11). See also ibid., 134 n. 8; Persian Rivāyats (ed. Dhabhar, 210).

74 I discussed the possibility of acculturation in this case with Yaakov Elman, who agreed with my reading of the passage. For other instances of “sexual acculturation” in Sasanian Babylonia, see Elman, Yaakov, “‘He in His Cloak and She in Her Cloak’: Conflicting Images of Sexuality in Sasanian Mesopotamia,” in Discussing Cultural Influences: Text, Context, and Non-Text in Rabbinic Judaism (ed. Ulmer, Rivka; Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2007) 129–63Google Scholar.

75 The interpretation of this encounter in Eccl. Rab. suggests that the woman was a non-Jew who sought to convert to Judaism, and not an acculturated Jew. While this is probably not the original meaning of the talmudic story, even if one were to insist on this interpretation, the passage could still be read as a counternarrative to the Zoroastrian doctrine of xwēdōdah.

76 PRDD 8a1 (ed. Williams, 1:48–49, 2:10).

77 The use of the term minut in reference to Zoroastrianism should not surprise us. There are in fact other examples of such usages in the Babylonian Talmud, in which minut seems to refer specifically to Zoroastrianism and not to Christianity or some form of Judeo-Christianity. For a recent example, see Secunda, “Reading the Bavli in Iran,” 310–42.

78 Cf. Videvdad 3.41–42.

79 According to PRDD 8a1 (ed. Williams, 1:49, 2:10).

80 The ties (paywand) and connections that already exist between relatives and members of the same family are believed to be multiplied and strengthened by uniting with those relatives sexually. See for instance Dk. 3.80.3 (ed. de Menasce, 85).

81 PRDD 8d1 (ed. Williams, 1:52–53, 2:12).

82 Dk. 3.80.21–22 (ed. de Menasce, 88–89; Skjærvø, The Spirit, 205). For a similar passage see PRDD 8d4 (ed. Williams, 1:53, 2:12); Ahdut, “Jewish-Zoroastrian Polemics,” 36.

83 Ahdut, “Jewish-Zoroastrian Polemics,” 34–36.

84 See Yishai Kiel, “Reading Incest in the Babylonian Talmud.”