Rab­bis, Sor­cer­ers, Kings, and Priests: The Cul­ture of the Tal­mud in Ancient Iran

Jason Sion Mokhtarian
  • From the Publisher
December 22, 2015

Rab­bis, Sor­cer­ers, Kings, and Priests exam­ines the impact of the Per­sian Sasan­ian con­text on the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud, per­haps the most impor­tant cor­pus in the Jew­ish sacred canon. What impact did the Per­sian Zoroas­tri­an Empire, as both a real his­tor­i­cal force and an imag­i­nary inter­locu­tor, have on rab­binic iden­ti­ty and author­i­ty as expressed in the Tal­mud? Draw­ing from the field of com­par­a­tive reli­gion, Jason Sion Mokhtar­i­an address­es this ques­tion by bring­ing into mutu­al fruition Tal­mu­dic stud­ies and ancient Ira­nol­o­gy, two his­tor­i­cal­ly dis­tinct dis­ci­plines. Where­as most research on the Tal­mud assumes that the rab­bis were an insu­lar group iso­lat­ed from the cul­tur­al hori­zon out­side their acad­e­mies, this book con­tex­tu­al­izes the rab­bis and the Tal­mud with­in a broad­er socio­cul­tur­al orbit by draw­ing from a wide range of sources from Sasan­ian Iran, includ­ing Mid­dle Per­sian Zoroas­tri­an lit­er­a­ture, archae­o­log­i­cal data such as seals and inscrip­tions, and the Ara­ma­ic mag­i­cal bowl spells. Mokhtar­i­an also includes a detailed exam­i­na­tion of the Talmud’s dozens of texts that por­tray three Per­sian oth­ers”: the Per­sians, the Sasan­ian kings, and the Zoroas­tri­an priests. This book skill­ful­ly engages and demon­strates the rich pen­e­tra­tion of Per­sian impe­r­i­al soci­ety and cul­ture on the Jews of late antique Iran.

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