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Carnal Isræl: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture [Paperback]

Daniel Boyarin
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 30, 1995 0520203364 978-0520203365
Beginning with a startling endorsement of the patristic view of Judaism—that it was a "carnal" religion, in contrast to the spiritual vision of the Church—Daniel Boyarin argues that rabbinic Judaism was based on a set of assumptions about the human body that were profoundly different from those of Christianity. The body—specifically, the sexualized body—could not be renounced, for the Rabbis believed as a religious principle in the generation of offspring and hence in intercourse sanctioned by marriage.

This belief bound men and women together and made impossible the various modes of gender separation practiced by early Christians. The commitment to coupling did not imply a resolution of the unequal distribution of power that characterized relations between the sexes in all late-antique societies. But Boyarin argues strenuously that the male construction and treatment of women in rabbinic Judaism did not rest on a loathing of the female body. Thus, without ignoring the currents of sexual domination that course through the Talmudic texts, Boyarin insists that the rabbinic account of human sexuality, different from that of the Hellenistic Judaisms and Pauline Christianity, has something important and empowering to teach us today.

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Carnal Isræl: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture + Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity
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Editorial Reviews


"I find Boyarin's stance appealing, his fusion of Talmudic scholarship with post-modern literary theory brilliant, his arguments convincing."--Alicia Ostriker, "Women's Review of Books

About the Author

Daniel Boyarin is Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (California, 1994).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (August 30, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520203364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520203365
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. His books include A Radical Jew, Border Lines, and Socrates and the Fat Rabbis. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant speculation January 14, 2002
Boyarin manages to cover some very interesting Talmudic material on gender and sexuality in an intelligent and informed manner. He also has a deep understanding of cultural theory, and argues for a number of exceptionally striking theses regarding Talmuds' (deliberate plural: he contrasts the Babylonian Talmud with the Jerusalem or Land of Israel Talmud) relationships to sexuality, gender, and embodiment. HOWEVER, Boyarin's claims are so wide-ranging and fundamental that it would require the study of a great deal of additional primary textual material to really confirm them in a responsible fashion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Doing background reading June 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is background reading for a class on the old testament. Great price. Only way to make it better would be to get the physical book.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A taboo subject approached openly December 30, 2000
This books approaches in a very open way the issue of sex in the Talmud. Not an easy thing to do... Yet it manages to do so well, without excessively offending one view or another. Through its approach, it probably expores one of the earliest expressions of feminism in Judaism.
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5 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Post-modern rhetoric with pre-modern methodology May 12, 2005
By Tzvee
Boyarin fails miserably in this tome to make use of the critical scholarship that has been written in the past 30 years on the rabbis and on rabbinic literature. He speaks of Hellenistic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism rather than of the individual authors and editors of texts who lived distinct lives and thought distinct thoughts. To make the error clear: what Boyarin does is equivalent to someone writing a book in the future about "Jewish" views of sex in 21st century America and citing Boyarin and Boteach (Kosher Sex) without distinguishing who they were.
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1 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars the Talmud through a feminist, po-mo lens April 20, 2004
By A Customer
you don't have to be a radical traditionalist to understand how Boyarin deliberately misinterprets the Talmud and projects onto it his own feminist, post-modernist ideas.
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