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Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud


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  • Date Published: November 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107557109

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About the Authors
  • This book examines literary analogies in Christian and Jewish sources, culminating in an in-depth analysis of striking parallels and connections between Christian monastic texts (the Apophthegmata Patrum or 'The Sayings of the Desert Fathers') and Babylonian Talmudic traditions. The importance of the monastic movement in the Persian Empire, during the time of the composition and redaction of the Babylonian Talmud, fostered a literary connection between the two religious populations. The shared literary elements in the literatures of these two elite religious communities sheds new light on the surprisingly inclusive nature of the Talmudic corpora and on the non-polemical nature of elite Jewish-Christian literary relations in late antique Persia.

    • Highlights the common theological themes and shared religious worlds of Jews and Christians in pre-Islamic Persia
    • Offers new insights into the diverse source materials of the Talmud, and their similarity to materials found in contemporary Christian writings
    • Advances new interpretations of key Talmudic texts in light of contemporary non-Jewish sources
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    • Winner of the 2014 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Book Award

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The comparisons that Bar-Asher Siegal makes between the rabbinic texts and Christian monastic texts are extraordinarily enlightening and thought-provoking …' Joshua Kulp, Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History

    'This book will certainly be a necessary reading not only for Talmudic scholars, but for students of Christian monastic literature as well.' Jonathan L. Zecher, Reviews in Religion and Theology

    'This book is a truly pioneering endeavor. … The excitement of this book is in its particular readings of well-studied talmudic narratives, and its demonstration of how points of obscurity (either known or unknown unknowns) are illuminated when compared with stories from the Desert Fathers. One of the most impressive of these is her work on the Bavli's narrative of the conversion of Resh Lakish: Resh Lakish was some sort of brigand and perhaps a gladiator as well as a pursuer of women.' Daniel Boyarin, Los Angeles Review of Books

    'Few first books of a scholar based on a doctoral dissertation can be described as both pioneering and outstanding. While it might be an exaggeration to state that Michal Bar-Asher Siegal has established a brand new cutting-edge field in talmudics, she has come close … Bar-Asher Siegal's groundbreaking work is just the beginning. It sheds light not only on talmudics and rabbinic literature but also on the understanding of the history of Jew and Christian and their religions in the ancient world and the relationships between them. One looks forward to the future work of the author as well as of those who will also continue the study of the cultural and historical phenomena that she began.' Joshua Schwartz, Reviews of Biblical Literature

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107557109
    • length: 246 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Christianity in the Babylonian Talmud: an introductory discussion
    2. Monasticism in the Persian Empire
    3. Common themes in the Apophthegmata Patrum and rabbinic literature: form, style, and themes
    4. Common themes in the Apophthegmata Patrum and rabbinic literature: narrative
    5. The making of a monk-rabbi: the stories of R. Shimon bar Yohai in the cave
    6. Repentant whore, repentant rabbi: the story of Elazar B. Dordya

  • Author

    Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
    Michal Bar-Asher Siegal is the Rosen Family Chair in Judaic Studies in the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She is a graduate of the Talmud department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (BA, MA) and the department of Religious Studies at Yale University, Connecticut (PhD). She was a Harry Starr Fellow in Judaica at Harvard University, Massachusetts and held a joint Postdoctoral Fellowship in Jewish Culture in the Ancient World at Haifa, Bar Ilan, and Tel Aviv Universities. Her articles have appeared in journals such as the Journal of Jewish Studies, Aramaic Studies, Harvard Theological Review, Zion, and Shenaton leHeqer haMikra. She has taught at Smith College, Massachusetts, Yale Divinity School, Haifa University, Bar Ilan University, Israel, and Tel Aviv University.


    • Winner of the 2014 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Book Award

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