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Migrating Tales

Migrating Tales: The Talmud's Narratives and Their Historical Context

Richard Kalmin
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw092
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  • Book Info
    Migrating Tales
    Book Description:

    Migrating Talessituates the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, in its cultural context by reading several rich rabbinic stories against the background of Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, and Mesopotamian literature of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, much of it Christian in origin. In this nuanced work, Richard Kalmin argues that non-Jewish literature deriving from the eastern Roman provinces is a crucially important key to interpreting Babylonian rabbinic literature, to a degree unimagined by earlier scholars. Kalmin demonstrates the extent to which rabbinic Babylonia was part of the Mediterranean world of late antiquity and part of the emerging but never fully realized cultural unity forming during this period in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, and western Persia.Kalmin recognizes that the Bavli contains remarkable diversity, incorporating motifs derived from the cultures of contemporaneous religious and social groups. Looking closely at the intimate relationship between narratives of the Bavli and of the Christian Roman Empire,Migrating Talesbrings the history of Judaism and Jewish culture into the ambit of the ancient world as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95899-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. MANUSCRIPTS AND EARLY EDITIONS
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    In recent years scholars have made great progress in situating rabbinic narratives in their late antique cultural context. They have enriched our understanding of rabbinic narratives by reading them against the background of second Temple Jewish literature, the full gamut of classical rabbinic literature, and contemporaneous non-Jewish literatures and cultures. The present book attempts to add depth and nuance to this scholarship by reading several rich rabbinic narratives against the background of nonrabbinic literature of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, most of it Christian in origin. In brief, this book argues that Christian and pagan literature from the...

  8. ONE “Manasseh Sawed Isaiah with a Saw of Wood”: AN ANCIENT LEGEND IN JEWISH, CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM, AND PERSIAN SOURCES
    (pp. 29-52)

    This chapter exemplifies our claim in the introduction (1) that the fourth century began a period of eastern provincial Romanization of Jewish Babylonia, and (2) that the Jews and Christians of late antique Mesopotamia were culturally linked, although at present we are unable to determine how close these linkages were. So close is the relationship in this one case that a story told in a Syriac Christian source holds the hermeneutical key to the interpretation of a Babylonian rabbinic story, or vice versa, since the two stories utilize the same constellation of motifs and themes to teach strikingly similar lessons....

  9. TWO R. Shimon bar Yohai Meets St. Bartholomew: PERIPATETIC TRADITIONS IN LATE ANTIQUE JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY EAST OF SYRIA
    (pp. 53-79)

    This chapter attempts to further contribute to our understanding of the extent to which the Jews and Christians east of Syria impinged upon each other. It contains a detailed analysis of one case in which the Bavli responds to religious developments in Armenia, a Christian province to the north and west of Mesopotamia, in relatively close proximity to rabbinic Babylonia. The Bavli here also responds to traditions deriving from the New Testament, but it is unclear whether the Babylonian rabbis derive the New Testament traditions from Mesopotamian Christians or from the Roman East, and it is possible, in fact, that...

  10. THREE The Miracle of the Septuagint in Ancient Rabbinic and Christian Literature
    (pp. 80-94)

    The present chapter focuses in detail on a tradition of nonrabbinic origin deriving from the Roman East during the early centuries of the Common Era, which in rabbinic literature is first attested in the Bavli by the latest Babylonian rabbis. The same tradition is attested at approximately the same time in a Syriac Christian text from Mesopotamia, a parallel that perhaps provides further evidence of a cultural link between late antique rabbinic Babylonia and Christian Mesopotamia. Alternatively, perhaps this tradition independently reached the Bavli and Mesopotamian Christians at approximately the same time, and we are faced with evidence of independent...

  11. FOUR The Demons in Solomon’s Temple
    (pp. 95-129)

    This chapter examines a talmudic narrative about King Solomon and Ashmedai, king of the demons, in its eastern provincial Roman and Persian cultural context. The chapter further exemplifies our claim about the importance of Christian traditions from the Roman East as a source of the literary motifs and traditions composing the Bavli.

    This study documents several substantive parallels between theTestament of Solomon¹ (henceforth,TSol) and b. Gittin 68a–b. We will argue that these parallels support our claim that traditions made their way from the eastern Roman provinces to Mesopotamia during late antiquity. In light of Sarah Schwarz’s convincing...

  12. FIVE Zechariah and the Bubbling Blood: AN ANCIENT TRADITION IN JEWISH, CHRISTIAN, AND MUSLIM LITERATURE
    (pp. 130-163)

    This chapter examines jewish, christian, and Muslim traditions about a murder in the Temple of Jerusalem and the fate of the victim’s blood after death. The accounts examined here range chronologically and geographically from the first century c.e. in Syria to the thirteenth century in what is modern-day Iraq. We will argue that the story’s meaning changed over time, and that the “original” story¹ was a nonrabbinic, probably Christian Hebrew tale that reflected the view that God had rejected the Israelites and had compassion for a prophet they had murdered, and that the rabbis incorporated this story into their literature,...

  13. SIX Pharisees
    (pp. 164-174)

    Traditions about theperushim(the pharisees) in the Babylonian Talmud,¹ and analysis of parallel Christian traditions, will further illustrate the claims regarding the flow of nonrabbinic traditions from the Roman East to Mesopotamia and their incorporation into the Bavli. Important details of Babylonian rabbinic traditions about the Pharisees are without parallel in Palestinian rabbinic literature but have clear parallels in Josephus and the New Testament. Among the questions addressed in the ensuing discussion is whether the Bavli derives these details from the New Testament or from a source that the Bavli and the New Testament share in common, and we...

  14. SEVEN Astrology
    (pp. 175-199)

    This chapter further advances the central thesis of this book by demonstrating again that literature deriving from the Roman East was among the most important components of the Bavli. In addition, this chapter further supports my claim that the fourth century is an important turning point in Babylonian Jewish literature and history. Christian ideas and literary motifs figure prominently in the discussion below, but astrology was an international phenomenon, which requires us to exercise caution in distinguishing between the contribution of Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Greek and Roman paganism to Babylonian rabbinic attitudes toward astrology. Full discussion of Persian thought...

  15. EIGHT The Alexander Romance
    (pp. 200-235)

    Modern scholars have made many attempts to interpret the traditions composing the Alexander compilation in Bavli Tamid, including several attempts to understand the message(s) of the compilation as a whole.¹ This chapter includes my own attempt, but it focuses primarily on the implications of the Alexander compilation for the major thesis of this book: that traditions from the Roman East are a crucially important constituent of the Babylonian Talmud.

    There are many indications that these traditions reached rabbinic Babylonia from the eastern Roman provinces. First, as many scholars have shown, virtually all of the traditions that compose Tamid’s compilation closely...

  16. Summary and Conclusions
    (pp. 236-240)

    This book argued that a significant cultural change is discernible in fourth-century Babylonia and later, due to the incorporation into the Bavli of nonrabbinic and even non-Jewish traditions from the eastern Roman provinces as well as traditions deriving from and information concerning Christian and pagan cultures east of Syria. The textual analyses undertaken throughout this book supported the thesis that it is critically important to study the Bavli in light of multiple cultural contexts, particularly the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.

    This book focused in detail on several rich narratives, or, to be more precise, on several passages and...

  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 241-268)
  18. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 269-274)
  19. INDEX OF PRIMARY SOURCES
    (pp. 275-282)