Tag Archives: Irano-Judaica

Household and Family Religion in Persian-Period Judah

Gallarreta, Jose E. Balcells. 2017. Household and Family Religion in Persian-Period Judah: An Archaeological Approach (Ancient Near East Monographs 18), SBL Press.

Balcells Gallarreta investigates the ritual artifacts from Persian period Tell en-Nasbeh in their original contexts, as a case study that provides a deeper understanding of the religious ideas and practices of households in Persian period Judah. Unlike previous scholarship that focused on official or state religion, he utilizes archaeology of religion and domestic contexts to reveal the existence of household religion and rituals in Persian period Tell en-Nasbeh, along with other contemporary sites in Yehud. Archaeological data from Tell en-Nasbeh and other sites in the Shephelah region of Yehud demonstrate that family and household rituals and religion were practiced in Persian period Judah.

José E. Balcells Gallarreta is Assistant Professor at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, where he focuses on Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern archaeology.

Sexual Desire in Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian Ethics

Reżā ʿAbbāsī (1570-1635). Deatil of Two Lovers (A.H. 1039 A.H./1630 A.D.)
Reżā ʿAbbāsī (1570-1635). Deatil of Two Lovers (A.H. 1039 A.H./1630 A.D.)

Kiel, Yishai. 2016. Dynamics of Sexual Desire: Babylonian Rabbinic Culture at the Crossroads of Christian and Zoroastrian Ethics. Journal for the Study of Judaism 47. 1–47.

The article examines the inherently dialectical view of sexuality reflected in Babylonian rabbinic culture, which differentiates the sexual act, consisting of the indivisible elements of procreation and sexual gratification, from notions of sexual desire. On the one hand, the Babylonian Talmud accentuates the relative role of both male and female sexual gratification in the sexual act, but, on the other hand, it expresses a pessimistic view of the sexual urge, which is reified as part and parcel of the demonic realm. This dialectical perception is resolved in Babylonian rabbinic culture through a paradoxical mechanism that seeks to extinguish sexual desire via marital sex. The article situates different aspects of this distinctive construction of sexual desire in the context of contemporaneous Christian and Zoroastrian views. First, the Babylonian rabbinic mechanism is contextualized with the Pauline view of marital sex as a therapy for those “aflame with passion” (1 Cor 7:9) and its reception in patristic literature. Second, the Babylonian rabbinic dialectic of sex and desire is viewed in the light of a similar bifurcated perception evident in the Pahlavi tradition: while Zoroastrianism advocated full-fledged marital relationships from its very inception, an important strand in the Pahlavi tradition expresses an ambiguous view of sexual desire, which is linked in various ways to the demonic sphere.
The article is here online available .

Irano-Talmudica

persian-talmud-1423640093In the recently published issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review, four contributions explore different aspects of Talmudic scholarship in its late antique Iranian context (Irano-Talmudica) . The study of the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, a crucial part of the Jewish canon since the Middle Ages, has gained fresh and advanced perspectives over the last two decades. In part, this new approach is the result of the scholars’ insights into the Talmud’s Iranian background as a text reflecting the inter-cultural dynamics between the Jews and their Zoroastrian neighbours under the Sasanian Empire.


Brody, Robert. 2016. Irano-Talmudica: The New Parallelomania? Jewish Quarterly Review 106(2). 209–232.

Among Talmudists, there has been an explosion of interest over the last fifteen or twenty years in exploring the significance of the Talmud’s Iranian background for the interpretation (on several levels) of the Bavli. This work, spearheaded by Yaakov Elman, represents an attempt to redress the imbalance between the contextual study of the Babylonian Talmud and of Palestinian rabbinic literature. Students of Palestinian rabbinic works have made extensive use for well over a century of literary and other sources of knowledge concerning the late ancient Greek-speaking world in order to illuminate numerous facets of the literature produced by Palestinian rabbis in this period; by comparison, little has been done on the Babylonian/Iranian front. There are of course objective reasons for this disparity—including the much more limited source material available for the study of Sasanian Iraq—but Elman and those he has inspired have been doing their best to overcome these obstacles.

Secunda, Shai. 2016. “This, but Also That”: Historical, Methodological, and Theoretical Reflections on Irano-Talmudica. Jewish Quarterly Review 106(2). 233–241.

Some fifteen years ago, Yaakov Elman and a handful of young talmudists embarked on a major effort to correct a scholarly lacuna, namely, the dearth of talmudic studies that take the Bavli’s Sasanian context seriously into account. The history of scholarship has been recounted time and again, but the primary point bears repeating. Unlike researchers of Palestinian rabbinic literature who have consistently aspired to read rabbinic texts alongside classical literature and the archaeological record of Roman Palestine, for decades most scholars of the Babylonian Talmud did not so much as glance at Sasanian literary or material remains. Working against the clock, as it were, scholars of Irano-Talmudica have already made important advances by laying the groundwork for a contextualized study of talmudic law in its Sasanian milieu, offering new readings of talmudic narrative and myth in light of Iranian parallels, and suggesting novel understandings of Babylonian rabbinic ritual against neighboring non-Jewish ritual systems.

Kalmin, Richard. 2016. The Bavli, the Roman East, and Mesopotamian Christianity. Jewish Quarterly Review 106(2). 242–247.

Scholarly study of the Persian nexus of the Bavli began approximately a century and a half ago, but this study has entered a new stage of methodological rigor and sophistication during the past two decades. In the tremendous enthusiasm for the study of Bavli in its Persian context, however, some scholars have forgotten the obvious point that it is essential to use all of the cultural contexts at our disposal. The ensuing discussion suggests a few areas where that study is already ongoing and has yielded important results and would greatly benefit from additional research. One very promising area of comparative study of the Bavli is the literature of the Mesopotamian neighbors of the Babylonian rabbis, the Syriac-speaking Christians.

Gross, Simcha M. 2016. Irano-Talmudica and Beyond: Next Steps in the Contextualization of the Babylonian Talmud. Jewish Quarterly Review 106(2). 248–252.

Traditional scholarly study of the Babylonian Talmud has largely ignored the work’s historical context. The underlying presumption of most scholarship was that the Bavli was the product of a reified rabbinic culture, with Palestinian rabbinic literature as its antecedent and geonic literature as its successor, and that the Babylonian rabbis were themselves an ideologically and culturally insular elite. In recent years, however, a school of scholarship, sometimes called “Irano-Talmudica,” sought to give historical context to the Bavli and its rabbis, challenging the presumed insularity of the Babylonian rabbis. This has proved to be a critical turn in the field. This drive to contextualize the Babylonian Talmud has begun to emerge from its infancy, raising a number of new questions: What are the most apt and fruitful sources and materials? Which methodology is most promising? What is the potential payoff for scholars investigating these sources? The answer to any one of these questions has an impact on the others.

Zoroastrianism in the Levant

Abouzayd, Shafiq (ed.). 2014. Zoroastrianism in the Levant: Proceedings of conferences held in 2010 & 2012. ARAM 26(1).

Table of contents:

Patricia Crone: “Pre-existence in Iran: “Zoroastrians, ex-Christians Mu‘tazilites, and Jews on the human acquisition of bodies”

Oktor Skjærvø & Yaakov Elman: “Concepts of pollution in late Sasanian Iran. Does pollution need stairs, and dose it fill space?”

Maria Macuch: “The case against Mār Abā, the Catholicos, in the light of Sasanian law”

Sara Kuehn: “The dragon fighter: The influence of Zoroastrian ideas on Judaeo-Christian and Islamic iconography”

Geoffrey Herman: “Like a slave before his master: A Persian gesture of deference in Sasanian, Jewish, and Christian sources”

Michał Gawlikowski: “Zoroastrian echoes in the Mithraeum at Hawarte, Syria”

Vicente Dobroruka: “Zoroastrian apocalyptic and Hellenistic political propaganda”

Dan D.Y. Shapira: “Pahlavi Fire, Bundahishn 18”

Matteo Compareti: “The representation of Zoroastrian divinities in late Sasanian art and their description according to Avestan literature”

Bahman Moradian: “The day of Mihr, the month of Mihr and the ceremony of Mihrized in Yazd”

Ezio Albrile: “Hypnotica Iranica: Zoroastrian ecstasy in the West”

Andrew D. Magnusson: “On the origins of the prophet Muhammad’s charter to the family of Salman Al-Farisi”

Predrag Bukovec: “The soul’s judgement in Mandaeism: Iranian influences on Mandaean afterlife”

Daphna Arbel: “On human’s elevation, hubris, and fall from glory. Traditions of Yima/Jamshid and Enochmetatron – an indirect cultural dialogue?”

Vicente Dobroruka: “The order of metals in Daniel 2 and in Persian apocalyptic”

Myriam Wissa: “Pre-Islamic topos in Dhu’l-Nūn Al-Misrī’s teaching: A re-assessment of the Egyptian roots of the knowledge of the name of god and their interaction with Zoroastrianism in the Achaemenid period ”

David H. Sick: “The choice of Xerxes: A Zoroastrian interpretation of Herodotus 7.12-18”

Judeo-Persian Literature

Iran Name 1,2Iran Nameh, New Series, Volume 1, Number 2 (Summer 2016)

The second issue of Iran Nameh, New Series, Volume 1, Number 2 (Summer 2016), a memorial volume in honour of Professor Amnon Netzer (1934-2008), the Iranian-Jewish historian and researcher of Iranian Jewry and Judeo-Persian Literature is published. The volume comprises bilingual Persian and English contributions on different aspects of Judeo-Persian Literature and Iranian Jewry.

Table of Contents

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Iranian Jews in Israel

Cecolin, Alessandra. 2015.Iranian Jews in Israel: Between Persian Cultural Identity and Israeli Nationalism. (Library of Modern Middle East Studies). London: I.B. Tauris.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, more than 40,000 Iranian Jews have moved to Israel, with the last big wave arriving after the Iranian Revolution of 1978/79. As the governments of these two states continue to display animosity towards each other, an examination of the Jews of Iran who now live in Israel provides important insights into the nature of the relationship between these two key countries in the Middle East. Alessandra Cecolin combines a historical approach to the patterns of Iranian Jewish emigration to Israel with a political analysis of Iranian-Israeli relations, exploring how the political and diplomatic interactions between the two have shaped the processes of emigration and integration of Iranian Jewry in Israel. In this book she explores how this community is often caught between a Persian cultural identity and Israeli nationality, and draws out the implications this has both for the community in Israel and for the wider region.
About the Ahuthor
Alessandra Cecolin (PhD 2013) is a scholar of Jewish history in the Department of History, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Judæo-Iranian Languages

Torat Adonai, Constantinople: Eliezer ben Gershom Soncino, 1546 Detail. The right column contains Jacob Tavusi’s Judeo-Persian translation (BL Or. 70.c.10) © The British Library

Borjian, Habib. 2015. Judeo-Iranian Languages. In Lily Kahn & Aaron D. Rubin (eds.), Handbook of Jewish Languages, 234–296. (Brill’s Handbooks in Linguistics). Leiden: Brill.

Judeo-Iranian languages referring mostly to a group of Jewish variants of Iranian languages, many of them dialects of Persian, spoken or written with the Hebrew script by Jews in greater Iran over a period of more than a millennium. The corpus of Judeo-Iranian literature is very important for both linguistic and literary reasons, as it includes some of the earliest documents of New Persian, and because it constitutes a sizable literature written by Persian Jews.

 

About the Handbook of Jewish Languages

This Handbook of Jewish Languages is an introduction to the many languages used by Jews throughout history, including Yiddish, Judezmo (Ladino) , and Jewish varieties of Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Berber, English, French, Georgian, Greek, Hungarian, Iranian, Italian, Latin American Spanish, Malayalam, Occitan (Provençal), Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Syriac, Turkic (Karaim and Krymchak), Turkish, and more. Chapters include historical and linguistic descriptions of each language, an overview of primary and secondary literature, and comprehensive bibliographies to aid further research. Many chapters also contain sample texts and images. This book is an unparalleled resource for anyone interested in Jewish languages, and will also be very useful for historical linguists, dialectologists, and scholars and students of minority or endangered languages.

Habib Borjian is a scholar of Iranian lingustic, comparative historical philology and typology in Center for Iranian Studies at the  Columbia University as well as the senior assistant editor of Encyclopaedia Iranica.

On Judeo-Persian 2

McCollum, Adam. 2015. On Judeo-Persian language and literature. Part Two: Texts and Bibliography. Ancient Jew Review.

In a two-part series, Dr. Adam McCollum addresses the possibilities for the field of Judeo-Persian language and literature. Part One addresses the state of the field and Part Two includes a helpful bibliography and four text samples.

You can find out more about Adam McCollum and his work over at his blog, hmmlorientalia, or at his highly recommended Twitter account: @adamcmccollum.

On Judeo-Persian 1

McCollum, Adam. 2015. On Judeo-Persian language and literature. Part One: State of the field. Ancient Jew Review.

In a two-part series, Dr. Adam McCollum addresses the possibilities for the field of Judeo-Persian language and literature. Part One addresses the state of the field and Part Two includes a helpful bibliography and four text samples.

You can find out more about Adam McCollum and his work over at his blog, hmmlorientalia, or at his highly recommended Twitter account: @adamcmccollum.

From Old to New Persian

Utas, Bo. 2013. From Old to New Persian: Collected essays (Beiträge Zur Iranistik 38). Edited by Carina Jahani & Mehrdad Fallahzadeh. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

In a long series of essays, written during almost half a century, Bo Utas analyses the development of West Iranian languages, particularly Old, Middle, and New Persian, from various perspectives. The focus is placed on the transition from Middle to New Persian and the final essays (hitherto partly unpublished) especially elucidate this process in the light of an interaction between oral and written language.
This book is the second volume of collected articles by Bo Utas. The first volume, Manuscript, Text and Literature. Collected Essays on Middle and New Persian Texts, was published on the occasion of his 70th birthday as no. 29 in the series Beiträge zur Iranistik in 2008.
The seventeen articles in the present volume cover a time span of about 2,500 years and encompass all the stages of Persian. It also contains two entirely new articles, “The Grammatical Transition from Middle to New Persian” and “Between Spoken and Written: The Formation of New Persian”, which sum up much of Bo Utas’ philological research.

For more information, see the preface to this volume and the ToC.
Continue reading From Old to New Persian