Jesting Words and Dreadful Lessons: The Two Voices of the Babylonian Talmud

in Socrates & the Fat Rabbis

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226069166
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226069180 | DOI:
Jesting Words and Dreadful Lessons: The Two Voices of the Babylonian Talmud

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This book imagines, hypothesizes, a cultural relationship, not merely a typological parallelism, between Plato and the Babylonian Talmud. This is a controversial point. It is commonly held among scholars and learned lay folk alike that while the Palestinian rabbis were in dialogue (and dispute) with Christians and other Hellenists, the rabbis of Babylonia were in cultural contact with them only secondarily through the medium of their interaction with Palestinian rabbis and their literature and traditions. However, this chapter argues that the Babylonian rabbis had a Hellenism of their own. By asserting that Babylonian rabbinic culture was a Hellenistic culture, the chapter is not in the least denying profound Iranian impact on the culture as well. Recent work in this field, primarily by Yaakov Elman and under his aegis, is exploring and exposing the richness of reading the Bavli (as the Babylonian Talmud is called, following tradition) through Iranological lenses as well. Insofar as a Hellenism is by definition a “mixed” culture, there is, however, not the slightest contradiction in reading the Bavli as one articulation of Hellenism.

Keywords: Plato; Babylonia; Talmud; rabbis; Hellenism; Yaakov Elman; Bavli; rabbinic culture; Hellenistic culture

Chapter.  24283 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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