Within this close textual analysis of the Babylonian Talmud, Yishai Kiel explores rabbinic discussions of sex in light of cultural assumptions and dispositions that pervaded the cultures of late antiquity and particularly the Iranian world. By negotiating the Iranian context of the rabbinic discussion alongside the Christian backdrop, this groundbreaking volume presents a balanced and nuanced portrayal of the rabbinic discourse on sexuality and situates rabbinic discussions of sex more broadly at the crossroads of late antique cultures. The study is divided into two thematic sections: the first centers on the broader aspects of rabbinic discourse on sexuality while the second hones in on rabbinic discussions of sexual prohibitions and the classification of permissible and prohibited partnerships, with particular attention to rabbinic discussions of incest. Essential reading for scholars and graduate students of Judaic studies, early Christianity, and Iranian studies, as well as those interested in religious studies and comparative religion.
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.
This study attempts to broaden the Judeo-Christian prism through which the rabbinic legends of Adam and Eve are frequently examined in scholarship, by offering a contextual and synoptic reading of Babylonian rabbinic traditions pertaining to the first human couple against the backdrop of the Zoroastrian and Manichaean creation myths. The findings demonstrate that, while some of the themes and motifs found in the Babylonian rabbinic tradition are continuous with the ancient Jewish and Christian heritage, others are absent from, or occupy a peripheral role in, ancient Jewish and Christian traditions and, at the same time, are reminiscent of Iranian mythology. The study posits that the syncretic tendencies that pervaded the Sasanian culture facilitated the incorporation of Zoroastrian and Manichaean themes into the Babylonian legends, which were in turn creatively repackaged and adapted to the rabbinic tradition and world-view.
International workshop organized by project C03 “Interaction and Change in Oriental Legal Systems. The Transfer of Normative Knowledge as Exemplified by Zoroastrian and Islamic Law (Seventh to Eleventh Centuries)” (Head: M. Macuch)
Legal systems are characterized by sophisticated technical languages that make use of a multitude of juridical terms to describe mostly complex circumstances. Whereas legal terms on the one hand have a stabilizing function and serve the jurists for the categorization and evaluation of cases – what is especially true for the tradition-oriented systems of the Late Antiquity like the Roman-Byzantine, Zoroastrian, Islamic, Jewish or Christian canonical laws – they show on the other hand constant changes in their historical development with regard to content and meaning. Besides such endogenous factors in the change of meaning, also exogenous sources as the adoption of a term from an alien law system and its recontextualization are conceivable. In both cases it results in intended or unintended shifts of meaning that may have an impact on other terms or elements of the system, depending on the relevance of the term. It is in particular this modification of Late Antique legal systems caused by changes of legal terms that is subject of the workshop. It targets on an exemplary more detailed description and analysis of the further development of particular legal terms within the systems as well as in their interrelation.
To register, please contact Dr. Iris Colditz: icolditz[at]campus.fu-berlin.de.
Maria Macuch (Berlin):
Welcome and Introduction
Panel 1: Rechtsbegriffe und -institutionen in transkulturellem Kontext
Johannes Pahlitzsch (Mainz):
„Die Entstehung des christlichen waqf“
Richard Payne (Chicago):
„Christianizing Stūrīh: Law, Reproduction, and Elite Formation in the Iranian Empire“
11:30 a.m. –12:15 p.m.
János Jany (Budapest):
„Transmitters of Legal Knowledge: Dadestan, Fatwa, Responsum“
Panel 2: Wandel von Rechtsbegriffen und Argumentationsformen im jüdischen und römischen Recht
Ronen Reichman (Heidelberg):
„‚Was die Schrift lehrt, geht aber doch aus einem Vernunftsargument hervor!‘: Über die Entwicklung eines (rechtspositivistischen [?]) Argumentationsmusters in der rabbinischen Literatur“
Anna Seelentag (Frankfurt/M.):
„Tutela und cura – Zur Annäherung zweier Rechtsbegriffe im römischen Recht“
Johannes Platschek (München):
„Arra in römischen Rechtstexten“
Thomas Rüfner (Trier):
„Ius, iudex, iurisdictio: Die Terminologie des römischen Prozessrechts in der Spätantike“
This volume presents a group of articles that deal with connections between ancient Babylonian, Iranian and Jewish communities in Mesopotamia under Neo-Babylonian, Achaemenid, and Sasanian rule. The studies, written by leading scholars in the fields of Assyriology, Iranian studies and Jewish studies, examine various modes of cultural connections between these societies, such as historical, social, legal, and exegetical intersections. The various Mesopotamian connections, often neglected in the study of ancient Judaism, are the focus of this truly interdisciplinary collection.