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Jewish Babylonia between Persia and Roman Palestine 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0195306194
ISBN-10: 0195306198
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Editorial Reviews


"A compelling exploration of Jewish Babylonia. K[almin]'s care with his sources is inspiring, as is his passion to share specialized methods with his reader. In addition he asks important questions both about what happened in Jewish Babylonia, and how we might know. Ultimately, his exploration of Babylonian Talmud offers new perspectives on Late Antiquity that deserve our attention." --Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"It is difficult not to be impressed by the range and perception of what is set out here." --Journal of Theological Studies

"The Babylonian Talmud played a decisive role in determining the beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism through the ages, and in a masterpiece of scholarly research Kalmin has produced a wonderfully nuanced portrait of the social groups and cultural environment that helped shape this monumental literary corpus. Beyond the obvious impact of Iranian society and the Zoroastrian religious milieu in which the Babylonian rabbis flourished, Kalmin convincingly argues for the inclusion of a wide variety of other factors that determined the nature of Babylonian rabbinic discourse. These influences rendered the Babylonian Talmud a tapestry of diverse cultural, religious and political features, carefully scrutinized in this impressive volume." --Isaiah Gafni, Sol Rosenbloom Professor of Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"The book is important ... his work is exemplary in its careful argumentation, and Kalmin's wish that his work will serve as a model for those who desire to follow a text-critical approach will no doubt be granted." --Journal of Jewish Studies

"The book is a serious contribution to the ongoing debate on the use of the Bavli as a historical source. It contains thorough and well-articulated methodological discussions, raises serious questions, suggests original solutions, and points toward possible directions for future scholarship." --AJS Review

"Nuanced and balanced."--Hebrew Studies

"Full of valuable insights ... this is a rich and stimulating book." --Shofar

"A considerable achievement. This excellent book is...an important and convincing addition to the history of Babylonian Jewry in the period of the Talmu, which should light the way for every historian of the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud." --Journal of the American Oriental Society

About the Author

Richard Kalmin is the Theodore R. Racoosin Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he specializes in the literature and history of the Jewish people of late antiquity. He is the author of The Sage in Jewish Society of Late Antiquity (1999), Sages, Stories, Authors, and Editors in Rabbinic Babylonia (1994), and The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud: Amoraic or Saboraic (1989); and is the co-editor, with Seth Schwartz, of Jewish Culture and Society Under the Christian Roman Empire (2002).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195306198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195306194
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,477,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on November 7, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is an example of academic Talmud study - by which I mean, it focuses on the Talmud's historical context, rather than interpreting it in isolation. In particular, Kalmin is interested in how the Babylonian Talmud differs from the Jerusalem Talmud, and what those differences might tell us about Babylonian rabbinic culture. For example:

*Kalmin discusses one set of texts involving selection of high priests during the Second Temple monarchy; in the Jerusalem Talmud version, the king decides when a high priest who was ritually unfit can return to work, while an otherwise similar story in the Babylonian Talmud has rabbis making that decision. Kalmin interprets that difference to mean that Babylonian rabbis might have found it "unacceptable that a king made a halachic decision."

*He discusses another story where the mocker of a rabbi is (supernaturally) punished; in the Jerusalem Talmud version, the mocker is a heretic, while in the Babylonian Talmud, the villian is a rabbi in training. More broadly, Kalmin notes that the Babylonian Talmud is more likely to make rabbis the dominant characters in the story even when rabbis behaved badly; he infers that Babylonian rabbis were more isolated from the rest of society than Israeli ones, and thus tended to see the world as revolving around rabbis, for good or for ill.

*Another chapter discusses differing attitudes towards Sadducees (a Second Temple sect). The Jerusalem Talmud tends to see the Sadducees as errant but mostly harmless, while the Babylonian Talmud (written centuries later) tends to treat them more unfavorably. Kalmin points out the similarity of the Babylonian version to the works of Josephus, and suggests that the Babylonian version was based on texts unavailable to the Jerusalem Talmud's rabbis- either Josephus or a similar source.
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