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Foreigners and Their Food

Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law

David M. Freidenreich
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Foreigners and Their Food
    Book Description:

    Foreigners and Their Foodexplores how Jews, Christians, and Muslims conceptualize "us" and "them" through rules about the preparation of food by adherents of other religions and the act of eating with such outsiders. David M. Freidenreich analyzes the significance of food to religious formation, elucidating the ways ancient and medieval scholars use food restrictions to think about the "other." Freidenreich illuminates the subtly different ways Jews, Christians, and Muslims perceive themselves, and he demonstrates how these distinctive self-conceptions shape ideas about religious foreigners and communal boundaries. This work, the first to analyze change over time across the legal literatures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, makes pathbreaking contributions to the history of interreligious intolerance and to the comparative study of religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95027-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

      That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

      And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

      And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

      The work of hunters is another thing:

      I have come after them and made repair

      Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

      But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

      To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

      No one has seen them made or heard them made,

      But at spring mending-time we find them there.

      I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;


    • 1 Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
      (pp. 3-16)

      A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

      Complete the joke as you will, the punch line that interests me is already implicit in the first sentence. Priest–minister–rabbi jokes are clichés in early twenty-first-century American culture, and there is nothing especially surprising or funny about the fact that these members of the clergy would walk into a bar together—the punch line comes as that scenario unfolds. Until recently, however, the scenario itself would have been inconceivable, for a host of reasons. This study focuses on one...

    • 2 “A People Made Holy to the Lord”: Meals, Meat, and the Nature of Israel’s Holiness in the Hebrew Bible
      (pp. 17-28)

      Recounting Joseph’s meal with his brothers in Egypt,Genesisgoes out of its way to describe the unusual seating arrangements: “They served [Joseph] by himself, and [his brothers] by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; for the Egyptians could not dine with the Hebrews, since that would be an abomination to the Egyptians” (Gen. 43.32). The narrator also makes a point of noting that while Joseph served as Potiphar’s personal attendant, Potiphar left all of his possessions in Joseph’s care “except for the food which [Potiphar] ate” (39.6). The Egyptians, we are told, adhere to commensality-based...


    • 3 “They Kept Themselves Apart in the Matter of Food”: The Nature and Significance of Hellenistic Jewish Food Practices
      (pp. 31-46)

      Alexander the Great’s conquest of Judea (332 b.c.e.) marks the beginning of a new era in which Judaism, in its various forms, encounters, engages, and reflects in its literature the influence of Hellenistic thought and culture.¹ Shaye J.D. Cohen traces “the beginnings of Jewishness” to this era, as it is in this period that Judaism comes into being as a religious rather than a solely ethnic identity.² The redefinition of Jewish identity that occurs during the period of Hellenistic cultural dominance, which extends well into the beginning of the Common Era, necessitates a reimagining by Hellenistic Jews of the distinction...

    • 4 “These Gentile Items Are Prohibited”: The Foodstuffs of Foreigners in Early Rabbinic Literature
      (pp. 47-64)

      Judean literature from the Hellenistic era reflects the existence of norms absent from earlier Biblical texts: Jews ought not share food with gentiles, and they ought not eat food prepared by such foreigners, especially if that preparation involved the worship of foreign deities. By marking the difference between Us and Them and, moreover, by hindering interaction between insiders and outsiders, these norms serve the social function of preventing undue assimilation. They also construct a sense of Jewish distinctiveness and gentile otherness within a Hellenistic culture that treated identity as mutable and granted little credence to traditional claims regarding Israel’s holiness....

    • 5 “How Nice Is This Bread!”: Intersections of Talmudic Scholasticism and Foreign Food Restrictions
      (pp. 65-84)

      Jewish foreign food restrictions first appear in Judean literature of the centuries following Alexander the Great’s conquest. These restrictions reflect, in part, an effort to preserve the distinctiveness of Jewish identity within the Hellenistic world by means of separating Jews from gentiles and gentile practices. The Sages inherit these rules, the underlying notion that food practices distinguish Us from Them, and the even more fundamental concept of a binary classification of humanity into Jews and non-Jews (that is, gentiles).

      As we observed in chapter 4, the Mishnah and the Tosefta ascribe to foreign food restrictions a very different set of...


    • 6 “No Distinction between Jew and Greek”: The Roles of Food in Defining the Christ-believing Community
      (pp. 87-100)

      The first adherents of what we now call Christianity were, of course, Hellenistic Jews from Judea and the surrounding provinces. Like the early Sages, they inherited not only the Jewish scripture but also Jewish ideas and practices of their time and place. Among the latter are the notion of a binary distinction between holy Jews and mundane gentiles, a distinction marked in no small measure by differences in dietary practice, and Judean restrictions that limit access to otherwise permissible food associated with foreigners. Belief that Jesus was the messiah (Greek:christos), however, radically affected the manner in which these Jews...

    • 7 “Be on Your Guard against Food Offered to Idols”: Eidōlothuton and Early Christian Identity
      (pp. 101-109)

      The earliest advocates of the gentile mission could not have imagined the impact that their outreach would have on the composition of the Christ-believing community, its self-definition, and its attitudes toward the Jews and gentiles who remained outside its bounds. Because this mission proved far more successful than efforts to persuade Jews to accept Jesus as the messiah, the Christ-believing community and its leaders increasingly hailed from gentile backgrounds. These individuals rejected the religious traditions of their ancestors, but they did not regard their new religious identity as Jewish either. On the contrary, they understood themselves to be “neither Jew...

    • 8 “How Could Their Food Not Be Impure?”: Jewish Food and the Definition of Christianity
      (pp. 110-128)

      Anti-Jewish rhetoric is entwined in the very formation of Christianity. In the words of Miriam S. Taylor, this rhetoric reflects “an internal logic in which the invalidation of Judaism emerges as a theoretical necessity in the appropriation of the Jewish God and the Jewish Bible for the church. . . . The church’s portrayal of Judaism is expressed in terms of a dualism opposing Christians and Jews which is built into the very logic and into the very structure of Christian teaching.”¹ The Church Fathers perceive holiness in zero-sum terms: only one religious community can stand in a unique relationship...


    • 9 “Eat the Permitted and Good Foods God Has Given You”: Relativizing Communities in the Qur’an
      (pp. 131-143)

      Qur’anic dietary laws, like those of the Hebrew Bible and the early Christian community, express their adherents’ relationship to God without in the process segregating the Qur’an’s community of “believers” from outsiders.¹ Like early Christian counterparts, Qur’anic discourse functions as a means of defining these believers in contrast to idolaters on the one hand and Jews on the other—communities associated with distinct dietary practices.² Indeed, both the limited set of meat-related regulations endorsed by the Qur’an and its rhetoric regarding the Jews and their more extensive dietary norms closely resemble those articulated by Christian authorities.³

      Given our recent encounter...

    • 10 “‘Their Food’ Means Their Meat”: Sunni Discourse on Non-Muslim Acts of Animal Slaughter
      (pp. 144-156)

      The importance of food practices as a marker of Islamic identity, implicit in the Qur’anic passages we examined in the previous chapter, is made explicit in a ḥadith (an orally transmitted account of a statement) ascribed to the Prophet Muḥammad: “Whoever recites our prayers and worships in the direction of ourqiblahand eats the meat of our slaughtered animals, that person is a Muslim who has the protection of God and the protection of His messenger.”¹ This ḥadith, which appears as the epigraph to the present unit, encapsulates the definitional issues inherent in Islamic discussions regarding animal slaughter. Jews...

    • 11 “Only Monotheists May Be Entrusted with Slaughter”: The Targets of Shi‘i Foreign Food Restrictions
      (pp. 157-176)

      In sharp contrast to their Sunni counterparts, who carefully distinguish Scripturists from Magians when discussing acts of animal slaughter, classical Shi‘i authorities make a point of treating all non-Muslims alike with respect to their foodstuffs. Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī (d. 1066/7), regarded as the last and greatest of the early Imāmī authorities, authored the definitive expression of Imāmī opinions regarding the food of foreigners, one that aptly summarizes classical Zaydī attitudes as well.¹

      Ritual slaughter may not be performed by non-Muslims. Whenever an unbeliever of any sort of unbelief—whether a Jew, Christian, Magian, or idolater—performs the act of...


    • 12 “Jewish Food”: The Implications of Medieval Islamic and Christian Debates about the Definition of Judaism
      (pp. 177-196)

      The final part of this work builds upon the conclusions regarding the emergence of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic foreign food restrictions developed in earlier chapters. Explicitly comparative in nature, the case studies in the following chapters depart from the single-tradition focus that characterizes each of the preceding parts. For these reasons, it is appropriate to preface the present chapter with a synopsis of the conclusions of parts I–IV and an introduction to all three of the remaining chapters.

      Foreign food restrictions, like all aspects of culture, are both products and shapers of the human imagination. As Peter L. Berger...

    • 13 Christians “Adhere to God’s Book,” but Muslims “Judaize”: Islamic and Christian Classifications of One Another
      (pp. 197-208)

      The Qur’an’s prohibition against consuming blood, carrion, pork, and that over which a name other than God’s has been invoked came to pose a significant challenge, albeit for very different reasons, to both Sunni and Latin Christian systems for classifying humanity. Latin Christians reject observance of ingredient-based dietary law and regard such behavior as manifesting flagrantly the denial of Christian doctrine. Medieval scholars of canon law imagine that Jews alone persist in distinguishing between permitted and prohibited foodstuffs and perceive adherence to dietary laws as a uniquely Jewish phenomenon: gentiles are supposed to eat all foods, just as Christians do....

    • 14 “Idolaters Who Do Not Engage in Idolatry”: Rabbinic Discourse about Muslims, Christians, and Wine
      (pp. 209-226)

      R. Yosef Karo’sShulḥan ‘Arukh(published 1565/6), regarded as the final and most definitive of the medieval Rabbinic law codes, contains a curious statement in its discussion of laws regarding foreign wine. In the course of rehearsing the long-standing prohibitions against consuming and deriving benefit both from wine made by gentiles and from Jewish wine touched by gentiles, R. Karo addresses the status of wine prepared or touched by “idolaters who do not engage in idolatry” (Shulḥan ‘Arukh,YD124.6). This oxymoronic phrase encapsulates the complex history of medieval Rabbinic efforts to situate Muslims and Christians within a traditional classificatory...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 227-282)
    (pp. 283-306)
    (pp. 307-312)
    (pp. 313-325)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-326)