Socratic Torah: Non-Jews in Rabbinic Intellectual Culture

Hardcover | May 13, 2013

byJenny R. Labendz

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Jenny R. Labendz investigates rabbinic self-perception and self-fashioning within the non-Jewish social and intellectual world of antique Palestine, showing how the rabbis drew on Hellenistic and Roman concepts for Torah study and answering a fundamental question: was rabbinic participation inGreco-Roman society a begrudging concession or a principled choice? As Labendz demonstrates, Torah study was an intellectual arena in which rabbis were extremely unlikely to look beyond their private domain. Yet despite the highly internal and self-referential nature of rabbinic Torah study, some rabbis believed that the involvement of non-Jews in rabbinicintellectual culture enriched the rabbis' own learning and teaching. Labendz identifies a sub-genre of rabbinic texts that she terms "Socratic Torah," which portrays rabbis engaging in productive dialogue with non-Jews about biblical and rabbinic law and narrative. In these texts, rabbinicepistemology expands to include reliance not only upon Scripture and rabbinic tradition, but upon intuitions and life experiences common to Jews and non-Jews. While most scholarly readings of rabbinic dialogues with non-Jews have focused on the polemical, hostile, or anxiety-ridden nature of theinteractions, Socratic Torah reveals that the presence of non-Jews was at times a welcome opportunity for the rabbis to think and speak differently about Torah. Labendz contextualizes her explication of Socratic Torah within rabbinic literature at large, including other passages and statements about non-Jews as well as general intellectual trends in rabbinic literature, and also within cognate literatures, including Plato's dialogues, Jewish texts of theSecond Temple period, and the New Testament. While she focuses on non-Jews in the Palestinian Talmud and midrashim, the book includes chapters on the Babylonian Talmud and on the liminal figures of minim and Matrona. The passages that make up the sub-genre of Socratic Torah serve as the entryway fora much broader understanding of rabbinic literature and rabbinic intellectual culture.

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Jenny R. Labendz investigates rabbinic self-perception and self-fashioning within the non-Jewish social and intellectual world of antique Palestine, showing how the rabbis drew on Hellenistic and Roman concepts for Torah study and answering a fundamental question: was rabbinic participation inGreco-Roman society a begrudging concession...

Jenny R. Labendz is an Independent scholar. She obtained her PhD from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Talmud and Rabbinics, 2010.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:May 13, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199934568

ISBN - 13:9780199934560

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsEditions of Rabbinic TextsIntroduction1. Platonic and Rabbinic Dialogues Compared2. The Epistemological Implications of Socratic Torah3. Rabbinic Boundaries Expanded4. Socratic Torah Contested5. Multiple Audiences, Multiple Discourses6. The Wisdom of Non-Jews and its Relevance to Torah7. Rabbis and Non-Rabbis: Minim and Matrona8. Rabbis and Non-Jews in the Babylonian TalmudConclusionBibliography