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Jewish-Christian Dialogues on Scripture in Late Antiquity
Heretic Narratives of the Babylonian Talmud


  • Date Published: August 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316646816

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About the Authors
  • Stories portraying heretics ('minim') in rabbinic literature are a central site of rabbinic engagement with the 'other'. These stories typically involve a conflict over the interpretation of a biblical verse in which the rabbinic figure emerges victorious in the face of a challenge presented by the heretic. In this book, Michal Bar-Asher Siegal focuses on heretic narratives of the Babylonian Talmud that share a common literary structure, strong polemical language and the formula, 'Fool, look to the end of the verse'. She marshals previously untapped Christian materials to arrive at new interpretations of familiar texts and illuminate the complex relationship between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity. Bar-Asher Siegal argues that these Talmudic literary creations must be seen as part of a boundary-creating discourse that clearly distinguishes the rabbinic position from that of contemporaneous Christians and adds to a growing understanding of the rabbinic authors' familiarity with Christian traditions.

    • Introduces new parallels for both Rabbinic and Christian disciplines: Christian scholars will discover rabbinic parallels, and rabbinic scholars: Christian parallels
    • Contributes to recent academic research showing a complex process of 'parting of the ways' of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity
    • Provides unprecedented interpretations of famous Talmudic passages in light of previously untapped Christian materials
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Michal Bar-Asher Siegal unpacks several narrative dialogues in the Babylonian Talmud that have been previously misunderstood or deemed unexplainable. By reading them on the background of Christian polemics, this study succeeds in resurrecting the lively debates tucked away in these brief stories. This book combines an engaging prose style, methodological rigor, and creative insight, to recreates a previously unknown world of Christian-Jewish polemics in Babylonia. These dialogues come alive for the first time in centuries thanks to Bar-Asher Siegal's careful analysis. I feel like she has uncovered the ruins of a city long buried and that we can now hear for the first time the voices of these ancient polemicists - both their overt attacks as well as their subtle jabs and sarcastic wit.' Richard Hidary, Yeshiva University, New York

    'A heretic approaches a rabbi and asks a question about Scripture. 'Fool' answers the rabbi, and then he wins the ensuing argument by a knockout. Who were the 'fools' and who had the Full Torah? How much did the Babylonian Talmud know about the burning issues of Christian biblical interpretation and theology? Of Christian readings of verses and motifs? Did the rabbis imagine themselves as participating in discussions on such matters? With Christians? Minim? Heretics? Perhaps with themselves? These are just a few of the questions which Michal Bar-Asher Siegal examines in this new and riveting work on literary contacts between rabbinic and Christian tradition in the Babylonian Talmud as seen through minim narratives and the lens of Christian writings.' Joshua Schwartz, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316646816
    • length: 238 pages
    • dimensions: 214 x 138 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.32kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Mimin stories in the Talmud: introductory discussion
    2. 'A fool you call me?': On insult and folly in Late Antiquity
    3. 'He who forms the mountains and creates the wind': Amos 4:13 and the Jewish-Christian argument in b. Ḥullin 87a
    4. 'Rejoice, O barren one who bore no child': Isaiah 54:1 and the Jewish-Christian argument in b. Berachot 10a
    5. 'The best of them is like a brier': Micah 7:4 and the Jewish-Christian argument in b. 'Eruvin 101a
    6. 'He has drawn off from them': Hosea 5:6 and the Jewish-Christian argument in b. Yevamot 102b
    7. Reflections.

  • Author

    Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
    Michal Bar-Asher Siegal is a senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel and an elected member of the Israel Young Academy of Sciences. Her first book, Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge, 2013) received the 2014 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award. She is also the co-editor of numerous volumes: The Faces of Torah: Studies in the Texts and Contexts of Ancient Judaism in Honor of Steven Fraade, (2017) and Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (2017).

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