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Socrates & the Fat Rabbis$
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Daniel Boyarin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226069166

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226069180.001.0001

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

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

(p.133) 4 Jesting Words and Dreadful Lessons: The Two Voices of the Babylonian Talmud
Socrates & the Fat Rabbis
University of Chicago Press

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

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