The People, Not the Peoples: The Talmud Bavli’s “Charitable” Contribution to the Jewish-Christian Conversation in Mesopotamia

in Review of Rabbinic Judaism
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Bavli Baba Batra 10b–11a substantiates the existence of a “Jewish-Christian conversation” that took place in fourth-century Mesopotamia. This essay demonstrates that this sugya presents rabbinic responses to several Christian claims: (1) contra Aphrahat, God and Israel have a continuing and uniquely close relationship; (2) contra Aphrahat, Gentile charity is motivated by the desire for self-aggrandizement, the continuation of Gentile rule, and arrogance, and is thus sinful; (3) contra Aphrahat, Gentile charity is sinful because they only engage in it to revile Israel; moreover, Gentile charity does not atone for their sins; and (4) contra Aphrahat (who quotes Ezek. 15:4 and Isa. 58:11), it is not the Jews who will be dried out and burned up with fire; once Gentile charity ceases, it is the Gentile empires who will burn.

The People, Not the Peoples: The Talmud Bavli’s “Charitable” Contribution to the Jewish-Christian Conversation in Mesopotamia

in Review of Rabbinic Judaism

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References

5

See Naomi Koltun-Fromm“A Jewish-Christian Conversation” pp. 52–53; Adam Lehto The Demonstrations of Aphrahat pp. 12–13.

6

See e.g. Naomi Koltun-Fromm“A Jewish-Christian Conversation in Fourth-Century Persian Mesopotamia,” in Journal of Jewish Studies 47 (1996) p. 52 and the sources cited in n. 31.

7

See T.D. Barnes“Constantine and the Christians of Persia” p. 127; Adam Lehto The Demonstrations of Aphrahat p. 12.

8

Adam LehtoThe Demonstrations of Aphrahat p. 13.

9

Naomi Koltun-Fromm“A Jewish-Christian Conversation” pp. 45–46.

10

See Adam H. Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor in Aphrahat’s Demonstration 20,” in Journal of Early Christian Studies 10:3 (2002) pp. 305–327. Following Becker Lehto includes Demonstration 20 in his discussion of Aphrahat’s anti-Judaism polemics in The Demonstrations of Aphrahat p. 49.

11

Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor” p. 325. It bears noting that scholars agree that Jews were among the likely founders of Mesopotamian Christianity. The Mesopotamian Christians were thus not that far from Judaism and the concern that they might defect to it was thus that much greater. See n. 6.

12

Ibid. p. 323.

13

Adam LehtoThe Demonstrations of Aphrahat pp. 48–49; see also e.g. Demonstration 16 (On the Peoples in Place of the People).

14

NeusnerAphrahat and Judaism pp. 168 187–195 and passim.

15

Naomi Koltun-Fromm“A Jewish-Christian Conversation” p. 53. See now also idem Jewish-Christian Conversation in Fourth-Century Persian Mesopotamia.

17

Adam LehtoThe Demonstrations of Aphrahat p. 54. On the previous page Lehto notes that “a strong family resemblance exists between Aphrahat and contemporary rabbis.”

18

Naomi Koltun-FrommJewish-Christian Conversation in Fourth-Century Persian Mesopotamia p. 30.

21

Eliyahu Lizorkin-EyzenbergAphrahat’s Demonstrations: A Conversation with the Jews of Mesopotamia (Lovanii: Peeters2012) p. 20.

22

See Adam Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor” pp. 323 325.

27

Adam Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor” p. 309 (emphasis in original).

34

The Pesaro Print (1511) represents the name as “Yosef son of R. Yehoshua” like the Vilna-Romm printed edition. Variations on the name are: “Rav Yosef son of R. Yehoshua ben Levi” (Escorial G-I-3); “R. Yose son of Yehoshua ben Levi” (Florence ii-i-9); and “Yosef son of R. Yehoshua ben Levi” (Hamburg 165 Munich 95 Paris 1337 Vatican 115). Oxford Opp. 249 (369) presents an interesting amalgamation of attributions: “R. Yose son of Rav Yosef son of R. Yehoshua.”

37

In Ms. Paris 1337there is no attribution to R. Yehoshua. The view attributed here and in the other mss. to R. Yehoshua is attributed in Ms. Paris to R. Eliezer.

43

See Adam H. Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor” pp. 312–313.

65

Adam H. Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor” p. 310.

71

Jason Sion Mokhtarian“Empire and Authority in Sasanian Babylonia” p. 151.

72

Ibid. p. 165.

73

Ibid. p. 173.

74

Ibid. p. 178.

87

Adam H. Becker“Anti-Judaism and Care for the Poor” p. 323 325.

88

Ibid. p. 325.

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