Through an innovative synthesis of narrative critique,
oral-formulaic study, folkloric research, and literary analysis,
Kristen H. Lindbeck reads all the Elijah narratives in the
Babylonian Talmud and details the rise of a distinct, quasi-angelic
figure who takes pleasure in ordinary interaction.
During the Talmudic period of 50-500 C.E., Elijah developed into
a recognizable character quite different from the Elijah of the
Bible. The Elijah of the Talmud dispenses wisdom, advice, and, like
the Elijah of Jewish folklore, helps people directly, even with
material gifts. Lindbeck highlights particular features of the
Elijah stories, allowing them to be grouped into generic categories
and considered alongside Rabbinic literary motifs and non-Jewish
traditions of late antiquity. She compares Elijah in the Babylonian
Talmud to a range of characters-angels, rabbis, wonder-workers, the
angel of death, Christian saints, and even the Greek god Hermes.
She concludes with a survey of Elijah's diverse roles from medieval
times to today, throwing into brilliant relief the complex
relationship between ancient Elijah traditions and later folktales
and liturgy that show Elijah bringing benefits and blessings,
appearing at circumcisions and Passover, and visiting households
after the Sabbath.
Subjects: Religion, Sociology
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