According to the mashal (parable) attributed to Shimʿon ben Yoḥai in Gen. Rab. 22:9, the murder of Abel (Gen 4:8–10) may be likened to a gladiator’s death in the arena. This article argues that the parable assumes the audience’s familiarity with gladiatorial shows, which came to an end in the early fifth century CE. Tracing the transmission of the mashal in Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas (Bereshit 9) and the earliest commentaries on Genesis Rabba, it further argues that the gladiatorial allusion was not understood after the demise of the games, and that the Tanḥuma’s version is a later reformulation. The preservation of the imagery in the earliest extant manuscripts of Genesis Rabba, despite the fact that it was not well-understood when they were produced, demonstrates the conservation of a reference to a late antique public institution in medieval copies and thus contributes to the knowledge of Genesis Rabba’s textual history.
Throughout the Roman imperial period, gladiatorial combat, “a specifically Roman form of entertainment,”2 was staged in hippodromes, theatres, and amphitheatres of the Greek East.3 At Caesarea Maritima, Josephus reports that the inauguration of Herod’s theatre and amphitheatre ca. 10 BCE was celebrated with lavish shows such as are “customary at Rome” which featured athletic spectacles, wild beasts, and a “great number of gladiators” (
Knowledge of gladiatorial combat is evident in rabbinic texts. The Tosefta debates the permissibility of attending the games and reports (apparently accurately) that beans were a staple of the gladiatorial diet.12 Amoraic midrashim refer to gladiators in exegetical parables, and the Palestinian Talmud (Giṭ. 4.9, 46b) considers whether one should redeem those who sell themselves to a gladiatorial school.13 The Babylonian Talmud (Giṭ. 46b–47a) reports that Resh Lakish was one such captive, and transmits the baraita that gladiators are so ravenous that they eat their main meal at the first hour of the day.14
This paper will examine a mashal in Gen. Rab. 22:9 that assumes the audience’s knowledge of the rules of gladiatorial combat. Attributed to Shimʿon ben Yoḥai, renowned student of Rabbi Akiva, it likens the murder of Abel at the hands of his jealous brother Cain (Gen 4:8–10) to the slaying of a gladiator in the arena. As the gladiator died with the king’s assent, the mashal daringly implies God’s culpability in the first murder. Though this parable has been discussed in previous studies, notably the masterful analysis of Joshua Levinson,15 this paper will draw attention to two aspects of its textual history that have so far gone unnoted. First, the demise of the cultural institution to which the mashal refers can be dated relatively precisely to the beginning of the fifth century CE. In addition, a similar mashal appears in Midrash Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas (Bereshit 9). While this latter has been used as an explanatory parallel to elucidate the version in Genesis Rabba,16 this paper will focus on the differences between them, the most conspicuous being that, in Midrash Tanḥuma, the gladiators are missing. To determine the significance, I will first examine the version in Genesis Rabba in its own right. I will then turn to the earliest commentaries on Genesis Rabba to show that medieval exegetes struggled to understand the gladiatorial imagery. Finally, I will consider the place of the Tanḥuma’s text in the reception history of Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal and the reasons the parable has been transmitted in two versions.
1 Athletic Gladiators in Genesis Rabba
Gladiators go by different names in rabbinic texts.17 According to a fragmentary citation in Nathan ben Yeḥiel’s Sefer he-ʿArukh, Midrash Yelammedenu used the standard Greek term in its exposition of Jacob’s blessings (Gen 49:1), reporting that, “A gladiator (
In Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal, the combatants are designated by the generic term ʾatletin (
In Genesis Rabba, a parable of two athletic gladiators serves to expound God’s exchange with Cain concerning the murder of Abel in Gen 4:9–10. The biblical text reads: “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He replied, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me (
These verses raise several theological problems. First, God’s enquiry into Abel’s whereabouts calls divine omniscience into question. In Genesis Rabba, this is addressed in three meshalim that treat God’s words not as a request for information but as a rhetorical question inviting Cain to confess.29 The midrash then asks why God challenged Cain only after Abel’s murder rather than intervening early enough to save him. No resolution is forthcoming, and the audience is left with the disconcerting question of whether an omnipotent God who refrains from preventing evil is in fact complicit.
Gen. Rab. 22:9 reads:
Rabbi Shimʿon ben Yoḥai said, “The matter is difficult to express and it is impossible for the mouth to state plainly. It may be likened to two athletes (ʾatletin) who were standing and fighting before the king. If the king so wished, he could separate them. He did not want to do so. One overcame the other and killed him, while [the loser] was crying out, saying, ‘Let my case be summoned before the king.’ Similarly, ‘The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground’ (Gen 4:10).”30
Shimʿon ben Yoḥai broaches this exposition with extreme caution. The introduction “the matter is difficult to express and it is impossible for the mouth to state plainly” (
The statements that the two athletes were “standing and fighting before the king” and that “if the king so wished, he could separate them” identify the event as gladiatorial combat and the king as the editor or munerarius of the games. This was the role assumed by the Roman Emperor, provincial governor, local magistrate, or priest of the imperial cult who reinforced their public status by hosting lavish public spectacles. The editor occupied a position of honour in the amphitheatre, being seated in the imperial box, as can be seen in numismatic depictions of the Flavian Amphitheatre and on the funerary monument of Lusius Storax.38 The seating arrangement draws attention to the editor who enacts imperial power by assuming authority over the life and death of the contenders.39 The essential presence of this focus of authority at the gladiatorial games is reflected in the setting of the midrashic combat “before the king.”
The statement that the king “could separate” the fighters and that the loser’s death occurred when he declined to do so reflect the distinctive rules of gladiatorial combat.40 As emphasised by Michael Carter, during the fight itself, the aim of each gladiator was not to kill their opponent, but rather to incapacitate them, thereby compelling the loser to request the editor for reprieve (missio).41 The cliff-hanger moment when all awaited the editor’s verdict was frequently depicted on mosaics, murals, and oil lamps.42 For instance, Fig. 3 shows the mural uncovered at Pompeii in Regio V. It depicts the climax of the combat between a murmillo and thraex. The latter, with blood pouring from his wounds, has cast his shield aside and raises a finger to request reprieve.43 The winner, dagger in hand, is poised to deliver the coup de grâce as all await the editor’s verdict.
In reaching a decision, the editor could take into account the response of the audience. An inscription discovered at Beneventum records cries of missos missos, presumably of spectators impressed by a show of bravery, and iugula iugula (“cut his throat”) of the mob baying for blood.44 A reference to the crowd’s acclamation may be found in the Tosefta’s discussion of the circumstances in which one is permitted to attend the “theatres of the gentiles” (t. ʿAbod. Zar. 2:7). According to Rabbi Nathan, the opportunity to “cry out and save lives” is just cause for attendance.45 But whatever the opinion of the spectators, the decision regarding the loser’s death lay with the editor alone, who would be liable for the cost if a hired gladiator died.46 Documentary and epigraphic references therefore attribute a gladiator’s death directly to the editor. In the Satyricon, for instance, at Trimalchio’s dinner party, Echion criticised Norbanus for hiring and killing only inexpensive gladiators, including equites comparable in stature to the depictions on an oil lamp: occidit de lucerna equites. And in Juvenal’s third satire, Umbricius complained about social upstarts, including former musicians at provincial shows who now hosted games of their own and “kill (occidunt) to please the crowds when the mob demands it with a twist of the thumb.” In both cases, the subject of the verb occidere is the editor rather than the gladiator who actually wielded the sword.47
In Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal, the request for missio is expressed in a series of statements indicating that the king declined to separate the fighters, one overcame the other, the winner killed the loser, and the loser “was crying out.” The narration of the loser’s cry after his death was a point of confusion in textual transmission; the word
The editor’s responsibility for the outcome is indicated by the loser’s statement, “Let my case be summoned before the king” (
These difficulties are removed if the statement “let my case be summoned before the king” is understood as the petition for missio itself, an interpretation Levinson indicated was “possible.”54 When understood in this way, the loser’s “case” is their defeat at the hands of their opponent which is brought before the king to judge whether or not reprieve may be granted. The evidence cited above suggests that a losing gladiator sought missio by means of gestures rather than the spoken word. The parable vocalises the appeal in order to liken it to Abel’s blood crying aloud to God. By dramatically ending with this plea, the mashal brings us back to the moment of suspense when the loser’s life hangs in the balance. Though a curtain is drawn on the scene at this tense moment, the audience already knows enough to infer what happened next. By juxtaposing a request for missio with the narrative of Abel’s death, the midrash implies that God rejected the plea of the wounded Abel to intervene and save his life. Responsibility for the murder committed by Cain is thereby placed upon God, just as a gladiator’s death was attributed to the editor. In accordance with the opening statement that “it is impossible for the mouth to state it plainly,” this is suggested rather than stated explicitly. If Abel’s blood crying to God is likened to a gladiator’s appeal for missio, and the audience knows full well that Abel died, one may logically infer that God declined to intervene despite it being within God’s power to do so.
2 Disappearing Gladiators in Medieval Commentaries on Genesis Rabba
In order to convey its meaning, Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal assumes the audience’s awareness of the principles of gladiatorial combat. Without such knowledge, one might well ask: What are ʾatletin? Why would such people fight in front of a king? Why was it the king’s job to break up a fight? Why was the king responsible for the loser’s death rather than the fighter who struck the fatal blow? The reception history of this midrash, as documented in the earliest extant commentaries, lexica, texts, and marginalia, shows that these questions were sources of confusion during the course of its transmission.
The provenance of the earliest commentaries on Genesis Rabba has been traced by Israel Ta-Shma to eleventh- and twelfth-century Ashkenaz. Encountering “foreign vocabulary, uncertain readings and the distinct syntax of midrashic Aramaic,” the authors assembled interpretations and listed definitions of unfamiliar Greek words.55 This is evident in the commentary extant in a manuscript of the Library of the Jewish Community of Mantua. Judging by its leʿazim and the authorities cited, it was likely composed by (anonymous) French scholars working about two generations after Rashi.56 It explains our parable as follows:
The matter is difficult to express. To attribute Abel’s murder to God, saying, “If Blessed One so wished, he could have said to Cain, ‘You should not kill your brother,’ and he would have departed.”
It may be likened to two ʾet laytin (
את לייטין). The meaning is not apparent to me.
Fighting. Contending with each other.
Separate [them]. One from the other, so that he would not have struck his partner.
Plead my case before the king. May my claim be sought from the king who was able to object but did not do so.
Crying to me. Seeking from me.57
The initial point that God should have warned Cain not to kill Abel is reminiscent of the halakhic principle of hatraʾah, the preventative warning issued by a witness to the would-be perpetrator of a crime. Though the discussions in tractate Sanhedrin focus on the necessity of such a forewarning for any subsequent conviction, here the attention is on whether an admonition might not have prevented the crime in the first place.58 As the divine witness failed to warn Cain, despite being able to foresee the results of the brothers’ altercation, God is held responsible.
In the second comment, the author confessed ignorance regarding the term by which the fighters are designated. The reason lies partly in the text at their disposal, in which ʾatletin was apparently written as two words, presumably because the scribe was unfamiliar with the Greek term.59 The commentator evidently could not clarify matters from any other source. But, whoever the ʾet laytin were, the author did not think they were competitors in a combat sport. This is clear from the note on “separate [them],” where the king is blamed for not preventing one party from striking the other. This is a far cry from gladiatorial combat, where the whole point was for the participants to fight. Here the ʾet laytin, bound by the common rule of law like ordinary citizens, should not have been sparring in the first place.
The reason the king witnessed the fight is addressed in the medieval commentary on Genesis Rabba which, in the sixteenth century, was one of several that were spuriously attributed to Rashi. Judging by its leʿazim and the scholars cited, it was likely written by an eleventh- or twelfth-century Italian scholar who studied at the Rhineland academies.60 The comment reads:
איתליטין). Ministers fighting and quarrelling. The one slain was crying out before he died, “Let my case be summoned before the king.” [This means], “Let my blood be avenged of the king,” because he should have separated [them]. Similarly, if it may be said, [Abel] was crying to the Holy One, blessed be he, that he should have separated them.61
Though I do not know why ʾitlitin has been defined as “ministers” or “attendants,” I suggest the protagonists are being considered among the numerous officials designated by non-Hebrew titles in the meshalim of Genesis Rabba.62 Though essentially guesswork on the part of the commentator, this identification supplies a credible reason for the altercation before the king and for his responsibility. At the point of death, the loser cried for vengeance against the ruler who tolerated violence in the court he was expected to govern. As in the Mantua commentary, the parable has been removed from the context of the arena and interpreted without reference to athletic imagery. The explanation nevertheless conveys the main point that it was the king, rather than the surviving fighter, who was responsible for the death.
The lexicon compiled by Nathan ben Yeḥiel of Rome in 1102, the Sefer he-ʿArukh, had a strong bearing on the reception history of the mashal. The entry ʾatletin cites three midrashim, beginning with our parable.63 The third is a fragment from Midrash Yelammedenu that appears to liken the sequence of Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot to the sounding of the trumpet, the entry of the ʾitlitim (
The definition “noblemen” (
It may seem surprising that medieval commentators did not spot the midrashic reference to the most quintessential of Roman public spectacles. A comparison might be drawn with twelfth- and thirteenth-century descriptions of the monuments of Rome which designate the Colosseum as an ancient palace or pagan temple, revealing no awareness of its function as a venue for mass entertainment.73 Confirmation that rabbinic references to gladiators were not fully understood in the Middle Ages may be found in definitions of terms derived from the Latin ludus. According to the ʿArukh, ludim and ludaʾei are neither gladiators nor lanistae, but cannibals.74 This is based on the statement in b. Šabb. 10a that the ravenous ludim eat at the first hour of the day. The ʿArukh also cites the story of Resh Lakish who sold himself to the ludaʾei (b. Giṭ. 47a) who granted him a dying wish in the hope that this would make his blood more palatable.75 It therefore conceives of ludim and ludaʾei as people so voracious that, once they finish their early morning meal, they might just turn on you.76 Presented as a lexical definition, this shapes the reader’s understanding of the words wherever they occur in the rabbinic corpus.77
The same identification is in Rashi’s commentary on the Bavli. At Šabb. 10a, it defines ludim as “a nation called canelins (
3 Disappearing Gladiators in Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas
In her study of the Gospel parables, Mary Ann Tolbert accounted for the inherent openness of the parable form to multiple interpretations by analysing its structure in two parts. A narrative names a point of comparison and endows it with some significative value. But in the tenor of the parable, the primary focus of interest is merely named. The audience must supply information from outside the text at two points. First, contextual information is needed to understand the identity and qualities of the narrative’s protagonists. Second, the audience must determine which narrative elements shed light on the primary focus of interest and how. In the case of our mashal, the medieval commentators concur regarding the tenor of the parable that God is blamed for a murder committed by Cain. However the contextual information needed to identify the narrative’s characters and their roles was a point of disagreement and explicit confusion. Seeking the necessary extra-textual information, the expositors betrayed no knowledge of gladiators and turned instead to internal rabbinic references to ʾatletin, contemporary courtly culture, and the halakhic principle of hatraʾah. New contexts were thereby constructed for the narrative according to the principle of “representational change.” One of the ten “laws of transformation” that Joachim Jeremias used for the synoptic comparison of Gospel parables, it accounts for the reformulation of a parable in the course of its transmission by replacing points of reference unfamiliar to new audiences with others that will more easily be understood. In the case of medieval explanations of our mashal, the transformations are effected through lexicography and exegetical comment rather than rewriting. Once the term ʾatletin and the reference to missio were glossed by words and concepts known to medieval audiences, a parable about gladiators became a story about courtiers, noblemen, or fighting citizens.86
Representational change may also be detected in the version of the parable in Tanḥ. ha-Nidpas Bereshit 9. As is well known, Tanḥuma is an expansive corpus of homiletic-exegetical literature of diverse date and provenance. The passage in question exhibits characteristics of what Marc Bregman identified as the latest, post-Islamic, stage of composition. Rather than a halakhic homily on the opening of a lectionary reading, it is a continuous interpretive paraphrase of an extended portion of Scripture that does not focus on prominent lectionary verses.87 Unlike early Amoraic midrashim that interweave Hebrew and Aramaic with Greek and Latin loanwords, the text is predominantly Hebrew. Of all extant sources of Tanḥuma midrashim, a great deal of late exegetical material is in Tanḥuma Buber and Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas. Within these two, we may also distinguish midrashim common to both, which likely come from earlier shared sources, from material that is distinctive to one or the other which may be later.88 The exposition of Cain and Abel is found only in Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas. Bregman suggested a terminus ante quem for some of its interpretive narratives in the early-eighth century.89 But a ninth-century date of certain passages is suggested by the presence of material also found in the Sheʾiltot of Rabbi Ạhai (e.g., Bereshit 2), the anti-Karaite paean to the Oral Torah (Noaḥ 1), and the reference to the two academies of Geonic Babylonia (Noaḥ 3).
Though Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas presents its interpretation of Abel’s death in a single authorial voice, the text is not of whole cloth. As has been shown by Yaakov Elbaum, Ira Chernus, Chaim Milikowsky, and Marc Bregman, the author-editors of Tanḥuma Buber and Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas incorporated and reworked earlier midrashim, including expositions known from Genesis Rabba.90 In Bereshit 9, for instance, the explanation that Cain and Abel argued regarding the division of the world resembles Gen. Rab. 22:7 in its vocabulary, phraseology, and choice of scriptural prooftext.91 A further source is indicated by Cain’s accusation that “informants” (
Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas explains the cry of Abel’s blood as follows:
“Crying to me” [means] “crying against me” (
צועקים אלי צועקים עלי). The matter may be likened (mashal) to two people who quarreled. One of them killed the other. A third person was present, but did not separate them. Against whom does everyone complain? It is not against the third person? For this reason it is written, “crying to me.” [This means] “crying against me” ( צועקים אלי צועקים עלי).93
There are notable similarities between this text and Gen. Rab. 22:9. Both expound the same biblical verse by means of a mashal in which two people fight to the death while a third is held responsible. In both, the antagonist is designated by the word
Unlike Genesis Rabba, the Tanḥuma’s mashal is entirely in Hebrew. Removed from the arena, there is no suggestion that the combatants were athletes, nor that the third person was a king; we are left to suppose that all three were ordinary citizens. In addition, Tanḥuma has introduced an audience of active onlookers, designated as “everyone” (
To account for the similarities and differences between the two parables, I suggest that the Tanḥuma’s version has been reworked according to the principle of representational change. This can be explained partly by the date at which the post-Islamic exegetical narratives in the Tanḥuma were compiled, over two hundred years after gladiatorial combat had ceased. In order to convey the point without assuming familiarity with the rules, which is necessary to infer the meaning of the midrash in Genesis Rabba, the mashal has been transformed into a timeless parable of a brawl between two ordinary citizens in which a passive witness was blamed for the consequences.
Similar motivations underlie other reformulations in Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas. Bregman pointed to the yelammedenu homily on Exod 7:9 (Vaʾera 4), another version of which was discovered in the Cairo Genizah (TS C1.46). Expounding the transformation of Aaron’s staff into a snake, both texts enquire into the mishnaic teaching that one should not interrupt the recitation of the Amidah even when greeted by a king or when a snake is coiled around one’s heel (Ber. 5:1). Questioning the connection between the scenarios, they liken the coils of the snake to the crooked ways of the Wicked Empire. In the Genizah text, a parody of the Roman imperial legal system serves as an exemplum: a court trial was rigged so as to convict the defendant, whose sentence was designated by the Greek term
While the editor of Vaʾera 4 appears to have excised a late antique cultural reference, the reworked parable in Bereshit 9 is evidence of a decision to incorporate a pre-existing mashal into a new exegetical narrative and of the concomitant desire to retell it without the gladiatorial imagery. This raises the question of why the compiler included the parable at all when it might simply have been passed over in silence. Though we cannot know the editor’s full reasons, the studies of Dov Weiss, Tova Sacher, Arnon Atzmon, and Matthew Goldstone have pointed to the prominence of critiques of God for ethical dilemmas in Scripture throughout the Tanḥuma corpus.95 Among Weiss’s examples is the treatment of transgenerational punishment in Exodus, that the Lord “visits the iniquity of parents upon children upon the third and fourth generation” (20:4, cf. 34:7). The harshness is mitigated in the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, which applies the punishment only if each successive generation is evil in unbroken continuity.96 Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas, however, accentuates the seeming injustice by juxtaposing the verse with Moses’s statement in Deut 24:16 that “children should not be put to death on account of their parents.” According to Rabbi Levi, God assented to Moses’s lenient ruling and agreed to abide by it. This exchange is staged as a dramatic confrontation in Numbers Rabba II, also part of the Tanḥuma corpus, in which Moses challenged God, “Is it really proper that the righteous should suffer for the iniquity of their parents?” Again God conceded the point.97
In the Tanḥuma’s retelling of Gen 4, the inclusion of the parable serves to incorporate a confrontation with God into the narrative of Abel’s murder. The way it has been reformulated makes the challenge more direct, explicit, and forceful than in Genesis Rabba.98 No longer is the voice of Abel’s blood like the petition of a single gladiator for missio, a request which was not intrinsically critical. In Tanḥuma the voice is designated as a “complaint” and is articulated by “everyone.” In Genesis Rabba, the parable simply invites a comparison between the denial of missio and God’s actions in Gen 4 and leaves the audience to ponder the implications. By contrast, Tanḥuma tells a story in which the third party was roundly condemned, and directs the critique explicitly at God. The two meshalim thus derive their interpretation from the biblical text in different ways. The implication in Genesis Rabba is that Abel cried to God for deliverance, but not that he actually blamed God; after all, he was still alive at the time, so no murder had yet taken place for which God might be responsible. But the audience’s conclusion that God was to blame for Abel’s subsequent death has been written into the mashal in the Tanḥuma.99 Rather than a cry for deliverance, the blood’s voice is now the posthumous critique of “everyone” who perceives the ethical dilemma and rails against God for the apparent injustice.
The Tanḥuma’s interpretation is incapsulated in the expression, “‘Crying to me’ [means] ‘crying against me’” (
4 From Arena to Commentary
The reception history of Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal shows that medieval darshanim and commentators attempted to convey the central point by rewriting or reinterpreting without reference to gladiators. I suggest this was motivated by loss of historical memory as medieval readers did not know information that the parable assumes of its audience. Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal is not intrinsically esoteric; it concerns a spectacle that was a public event.102 The meaning of the comparison is clear, provided only that one recognizes and understands the principles of gladiatorial combat. This raises the question of the mashal’s intended audience which was evidently expected to comprehend the late antique cultural reference.
In Victor Pfitzner’s study of New Testament athletic imagery, he argued that Pauline metaphors adapted conventional topoi that “moved attention from the physical athlete who toiled for corruptible trophies to the moral athlete who trained in true virtue for indestructible prizes.”103 Though Pfitzner has since reevaluated his emphasis on the transmission of traditional imagery independently of firsthand experience, he recognized in his original study that it is difficult to see rabbinic athletic images as expressions of common rhetorical tropes.104 Though the “noble athlete” (
Like the mashal of Jacob and the athlete, Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s parable attaches no intrinsic virtue to athleticism. Wicked Cain is as much an athlete as righteous Abel.107 Without moralising, the parable focuses all attention on the actions of the divine editor. To grasp its point, the audience is presumed to be familiar with specific principles of gladiatorial combat rather than conventional tropes regarding athletic virtue. Pfitzner’s acknowledgement that detailed references are more likely to be based on public games familiar to the audience would explain this.108
The argument that the imagery in Gen. Rab. 22:9 reflects knowledge of a present reality raises the question of the extent to which Jews of Roman Palestine frequented public entertainment. Attention has focused on Josephus’s statement in Jewish Antiquities that the Herodian games in Jerusalem were “alien to Jewish custom” and a “blatant impiety.”109 Rabbinic discouragement from attending public entertainment has sometimes been taken as evidence that the aversion described by Josephus was widespread and enduring in Roman Palestine.110 On the other hand, Zeev Weiss, Catherine Hezser, and Loren Spielman have argued that rabbinic opposition countered the reality of widespread Jewish attendance, and that theatres would hardly have been maintained in cities with significant Jewish populations including Tiberias and Sepphoris if the inhabitants would boycott the events on principle.111 Weiss, however, presents gladiatorial games as an exception to his overall argument. The few amphitheatres discovered in Palestine and the Transjordan are located in Roman administrative centres or garrison towns, and there is little positive evidence for the staging of gladiatorial games beyond Caesarea and Bet Guvrin.112 But knowledge of gladiators certainly extended beyond the environs of the amphitheatre, as is shown by the widespread depictions of gladiators on oil lamps and graffiti.113 As Hezser has argued, awareness of popular culture could be gained in the street and marketplace regardless of rabbinic disapproval.114 A parallel may be seen in the teachings of Epictetus, who praised conquering the passions over the hollow triumphs of “deplorable” wrestlers, boxers, and gladiators, but nevertheless used athletic imagery to advocate forethought and commitment. To this end he compared the amateur who is today an athlete, tomorrow a philosopher, to children who play one moment as wrestlers, and the next as trumpeters, actors, or gladiators.115 The metaphor presumes an acquaintance with gladiators not in the amphitheatre, but in the games of children in the street. As knowledge of public spectacles might be gained in the marketplace as well as the arena, it may have been hard to escape an awareness of gladiatorial combat in the period in which it was a present reality, regardless of whether or not one went to the games in person.116
There is some evidence that midrashic sporting allusions kept pace with changing fashions. For instance, in Lev. Rab. 30:2, the palm branch that distinguishes the winner is likened to the lulav carried on Sukkot that differentiates Israel from the nations. Though Leviticus Rabba does not identify the sport in question, Midr. Ps. 17:5 reported the simile with specific reference to charioteers. Chariot racing reached the height of its popularity in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt following the introduction of the circus factions in the East from ca. 400 CE onwards.117 The factions feature explicitly in the midrash entitled The Throne and Hippodrome of King Solomon, dated to ninth- or tenth-century Byzantium. Here the performers and audience at King Solomon’s hippodrome in Jerusalem were divided according to the four factional colours: blue for the aristocracy; white for Israelites; red for city-dwellers; and green for the nations of the world. By depicting Solomon’s hippodrome as of similar dimensions to that at Constantinople, the Israelite king was accorded the symbols of Byzantine royal power.118
As is evident from medieval manuscripts of Genesis Rabba, Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s parable was still being told centuries after gladiatorial combat had ceased. Though the Tanḥuma’s reworking facilitated understanding, this version never replaced the text in Genesis Rabba but circulated in parallel. This dual transmission draws attention to the different textual histories of Genesis Rabba and Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas. In his argument that Genesis Rabba was a single work that, after redaction, was generally considered to be closed, Milikowsky drew a contrast with Tanḥuma midrashim that borrow from earlier texts to create homilies that were themselves freely re-edited and reformulated in transmission.119 The situation from the ninth to thirteenth centuries is illustrated by the texts in the Cairo Genizah. The earliest extant copies of Genesis Rabba, dated to the ninth or tenth century, contain a text similar to that found in parts of MS Vatican ebr. 30 organized according to numbered chapters.120 The Genizah fragments of Midrash Tanḥuma, by contrast, include gatherings of homilies on groups of lectionary readings rather than collections on the whole Pentateuch like Tanḥuma Buber or Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas. Some fragments contain different recensions of homilies known in these compilations, but much unique material provides evidence of ongoing fluidity and rewriting.121
Returning to the question of the redactional identity of Genesis Rabba, Milikowsky acknowledged that scribes of late manuscripts did supplement the text with “a sizable amount of additional material,” some of which was drawn from Tanḥuma midrashim, though he distinguished insertions from attempts to “rework the formulation of the received text.”122 In the case of Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s mashal in Genesis Rabba, extant manuscripts do reveal scribal changes, notably the deletion of
An important factor in the dual transmission of the mashal was the different status of Genesis Rabba and Tanḥuma in the spheres in which they circulated. While Tanḥuma Buber was read in medieval Ashkenaz, Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas on Genesis and Exodus was known among rabbinic communities of the Muslim world.125 As a consequence, the reworking of Shimʿon ben Yoḥai’s parable may have been unknown to medieval Ashkenazi commentators. But a similar interpretation of the mashal in Genesis Rabba would nevertheless have been available readers of the Mantua commentary, where the athletes are also treated as ordinary citizens. In Ashkenaz, therefore, the transmission of the late antique parable with minimal editorial intervention did not mean that it was a dead letter due to the availability of secondary aids to understanding non-Hebrew words and unfamiliar realia. Further confirmation that the narrative did indeed have meaning can be seen in the Yalqut Shimʿoni, where Genesis Rabba’s version was incorporated without explanation or rewriting.126
The preference of the editor of the Midrash ha-Gadol for the Tanḥuma’s version, however, confirms knowledge of the rewritten parable in Jewish communities of the Muslim world. Moshe Lavee, in his studies of haggadic midrash in the Cairo Genizah, has noted that twelfth-century book lists testify to the wide circulation of Tanḥuma literature; Genesis Rabba, though by no means absent, appears relatively rarely. The differing degrees of authority accorded to the two sources are illuminated by a thirteenth-century record of a dispute that likely took place in the Babylonian synagogue in Fustat concerning the paytannic association of Elijah with the son of Yeroḥam, as in Genesis Rabba (71:9). Though the Tanḥuma’s contrary identification of Elijah as Phinehas was immediately familiar to the community, the argument that eventually won the day was grounded in the venerable authority of Genesis Rabba.127 In contexts in which both forms of our parable circulated together, therefore, they would have been distinguished by the different statuses, uses, and audiences of the works of which they were part. The Tanḥuma’s version, rewritten so as to be immediately intelligible in a popular homiletic setting, enabled the explication of Gen 4 to a wider audience. But it did not supplant the version attributed to the illustrious Shimʿon ben Yoḥai, which continued to be transmitted in the more authoritative, albeit less familiar, source of rabbinic interpretations of Genesis.
Genesis Rabba and Midrash Tanḥuma were first printed in Constantinople in 1512 and 1520–22 respectively, and were reprinted in Venice at the press of Daniel Bomberg in 1545. Editions produced in the same places at the same times disguised the different textual histories of the two versions of our mashal.128 When the sixteenth-century commentator Samuel Yafe interpreted the version in Genesis Rabba, he referred to the parable in Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas as if it were a disinterested explanation. Proposing that Genesis Rabba assumed Tanḥuma’s
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Williams, Benjamin. “Gnats, Flies, Fleas, and a Camel: A Case Study in the Reception of Genesis Rabba.” Jewish Quarterly Review 107 (2017), 157–181.
Yadin, Azzan. Scripture as Logos: Rabbi Ishmael and the Origins of Midrash (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).
Zunz, Leopold. Ha-derashot be-yisraʾel ve-hishtalshelutan ha-historit, ed. and trans. Chaim Albeck (Jerusalem: Bialik, 1946/47).
I am grateful to Olympe de Becker, Marc Bregman, Sebastian Brock, Peter Gendelman, Moshe Lavee, Eyal Levinson, Paul Mandel, and Zvi Septimus for answering questions and sharing expertise. My sincere thanks to Ezra Chwat, César Merchán-Hamann, and Cassy Shachar for their help in accessing library resources during lockdown.
Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 115.
Carter, “Romanization through Spectacle”; Carter, “Gladiators and Monomachoi”; Mann, “Gladiators in Greek East”; Golden, Greek Sport, 74–104; Carter, Presentation; Robert, gladiateurs.
Josephus, Ant. 16.136–141; cf. Ant. 15.341, J.W. 1.415. On the dating, see van Henten, Flavius Josephus, 249–50 n. 2329. Spielman, Jews and Entertainment, 18 n. 6, 20, 50, 66; Weiss, “Jews and Games.” On whether the “amphitheatre” may be identified as the western hippodrome, see the discussion and bibliography in Weiss, Public Spectacles, 24–28, 267; Welch, Roman Amphitheatre, 163–85; Dodge, “Amphitheaters.”
In addition, salvage excavations in 2010 confirmed the presence of an amphitheatre in the northeast of the city, dated to the second century CE. See Gendelman, “Caesarea Maritima,” 147; Porath, Caesarea, 27, 126, 131, 139, 155.
Eusebius, Mart. Pal. 7.4, 8:2–3 (Syriac 26, 30); Potter, “Constantine and Gladiators”; Patrich, “Martyrs of Caesarea.”
On the gladiator lamp discovered at Beit Nattif, see Lichtenberger, “Jews and Pagans,” 195–96. On Israel Museum 76.6.1482, 76.6.1179, and 76.6.1174, see Israeli and Avida, Oil-Lamps, plates 20, 25, and 28 (25, 27, 180). On the fragment discovered at the basilica gate at Beit Sheʾan, see no. 510 in Hadad, “Oil Lamps,” 131–32. On 169860 in Erets Yisrael Museum, see Navo, Schlossman, and Yorkoff, “Catalogue,” 63 no. 191. On the lamp discovered in Catacomb 1, Hall M, Room IV at Beit Sheʿarim, see Mazar, Beth She‘arim, 88, 127, 145, 147 fig. 23.4.
Hall C; Mazar, 125–27. On the graffiti in the Roman-period tomb at Tel ʿEitun, see Tzaferis, “Monumental”; Olshanetsky, “Do we really,” 63–67.
Wiedemann, Emperors, 158; Wiedemann, “Ende”; Milliman, “Decline”; Potter, “Roman Games,” 187; Potter, “Constantine and Gladiators,” 604; Jones, “Organization of Spectacle”; Mann, “Gladiators in Greek East,” 277; Dunkle, Gladiators, 201–6. Kyle (Sport, 336) dates the end of gladiatorial shows in the East to the mid-fourth century. Writing between 416–428 CE, Cyril of Alexandria referred to gladiatorial combat as a thing of the past: “When Greek superstition still held sway, gladiatorial contests were performed by the Romans at particular times.” See Cyril of Alexandria, Against Julian 4, 19 (697A) (ed. Riedweg, 1:287–88; cf. cix–cxvi).
Weiss, “Mass Entertainment”; Weiss, Public Spectacles, 257.
Porath, “Spina,” 22*; Gendelman, “Chronological,” 130; Porath, “Theatre,” 28.
t. ʿAbod. Zar. 2:7 is discussed below. On the sagina gladiatoria, see the statement attributed to Rabbi Shimʿon in t. Beṣah 1:23 (ed. Lieberman, 2:285; par. y. Beṣah 1:11, 61a, cf. b. Beṣah 14b); Brettler and Poliakoff, “Rabbi Simeon,” 97–98. Cf. Galen, On the Properties of Foodstuffs 1:19 (K. 529), and the analysis of bone samples from the gladiator cemetery at Ephesus reported in Lösch et al., “Stable Isotope.” Note, however, that Lieberman understands
On the parables, see below. On redemption, see also the statements attributed to Shimʿon ben Lakish in y. Ter. 8.5, 45d (par. y. ʿAbod. Zar. 2:3, 41b).
b. Shabb. 10a, par. b. Pesaḥ. 12b. On Resh Lakish, see preceding note and Boyarin, Unheroic, 127–50; Bar-Asher Siegal, Early Christian, 119–32; Brettler and Poliakoff, “Rabbi Simeon.”
Levinson, “Fatal Fictions.”
See Bereschit Rabba, ed. Judah Theodor and Chanoch Albeck (henceforth: Theodor- Albeck), commentary ad loc. (216); Halbertal, “If Text,” 148, 159 n. 6; Levinson, “Fatal Fictions,” 79 n. 104; Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabba, 1:189.
Grossmark, “This May Be Compared”; Poliakoff and Poliakoff, “Jacob.”
MS British Library (henceforth BL) Add. 26881, f. 224r; Theodor-Albeck, 1200 and commentary; cf. Kyle, Spectacles, 84; Spielman, Jews and Entertainment, 208–9.
See Buber’s edition of Lam. Rab. 5:1 (154); Stern, Parables, 133–34; Jastrow, Dictionary, 413 s.v.
Jastrow, 695, s.v.
Payne-Smith, Compendious, 237.
See notes 40 and 41.
Concannon, “Not for Olive Wreath”; Williams, Paul’s Metaphors, 264–66; Seesengood, Competing, 55–61; Fitzgerald, Cracks, 140. Cf. note 3; and Weiss, Games, 261 n. 121.
See Gersht and Gendelman, “Tombs,” 201–2.
Junkelmann, Spiel, 29.
On the contrast between athletic depictions of gladiators in the eastern provinces and text-based gladiatorial tombstones in the west, see Mann, “Gladiators in Greek East,” 283–84; Hrychuk Kontokosta, “Contests,” 336.
Dörner, Inschriften, 90–91 #91, plate 35/91.
Robert, gladiateurs, 21–22, 101–3 #41; image in Tocilescu, Fouilles, 225. The Syriac
Gen. Rab. 22:9. Kadari, “Redactional”; Byron, Cain and Abel, 82–92.
A similar expression with the same attribution occurs at Gen. Rab. 6:8. Considering how the sun and moon set, Shimʿon ben Yoḥai stated, “It is a very difficult matter, and it is impossible for any created being to settle it (
On the meaning of
See the aforementioned studies of Fishbane, and Halbertal, “If Text”; Yadin, Scripture as Logos, 138–41; Marmorstein, Old Rabbinic, 2:109–13, 126–32. Halbertal and Marmorstein include the introduction of this mashal among
Mek. R. Ishmael, Pisḥa 14 (ed. Lauterbach, 78; ed. Horovitz and Rabin, 51). See Fishbane, Biblical, 139–41, 353.
That Gen 4:10 is not being treated as a justificatory prooftext is demonstrated both by its meaning, which cannot be construed as a direct statement that God was culpable, and also by the introduction
Stern, Parables, 15.
Golvin, L’amphithéâtre, 1:357–62; Bomgardner, Story, 11; Elkins, “Locating.”
Hopkins, Death, 14–20; Fagan, Lure, 96–120; Edwards, Death, 53–55.
“The Roman gladiatorial games are peculiar—no similar form of public spectacles has been detected in Greek or any other culture … It was the decision about life and death after the combat that made it so specific” (Mann, “Gladiators in Greek East,” 274). Though Zeev Weiss suggested other combat sports that might be meant (Games, 269–70; “Roman Leisure,” 12), the reference to missio clinches the matter, as was later recognised in Weiss, Public Spectacles, 162–63; cf. Levinson, “Fatal Fictions,” 66 n. 24. Cf. the evidence cited above regarding wider reference to gladiators as athletes in the eastern provinces.
Carter, “Gladiators,” 236–37; Carter, “Rules of Engagement”; Carter, “‘Sharp’ Weapons”; Carter, “Buttons”; Coleman, “Defeat,” 2–12; Kyle, Sport, 284; Fagan, “Gladiatorial”; Ville, gladiature, 403–6, 410–24.
Wiedemann, Emperors, 93; Brown, “Death,” 202; Flaig, “Gladiatorial,” 87; Ville, gladiature, 424.
On the expression ad digitum in Quintilian, Inst. 8.5.20, and Martial, Spect. 31.5, see Ville, gladiature, 412.
CIL IX 1671 (ILS 5134); Ville, gladiature, 410–24; Dunkle, Gladiators, 129–40.
Par. y. ʿAbod. Zar. 1:7, 40a; b. ʿAbod. Zar. 18b. Jacobs, “Theatres,” 332–44; Berkowitz, Execution, 155–57.
Carter, “Gladiatorial Ranking”; cf. note 41.
Satyricon 45:11; Juvenal, Sat. 3:36–37. See further Brown, “Death,” 205; Coleman, “Fatal,” 50. Cf. Ville, gladiature, 417 n. 136, 419 n. 141; Barton, Sorrows, 19; Levinson, “Fatal Fictions,” 70.
MSS Stuttgart Cod. Or. Qu. 32, f. 51r; Bodleian Opp. Add. Fol. 3, f. 43r; Bodleian Opp. Add. Fol. 51, f. 18v; National Library of Israel (henceforth NLI) 24° 5977, f. 28r. In MS BL Add. 16406, f. 31r, the word is missing from the main text but has been added in the margin.
Segal, Grammar, 226.
Levinson, “Fatal Fictions,” 61; cf. Wiedemann, Emperors, 55–56.
Levinson (79) notes the accusatory connotations of
Addressing this, Levinson (79) cites the paraphrase of the loser’s statement in Samuel Yafeh’s commentary Yefeh Toʾar, f. 156r: “The king is to blame for my injury, but who can appeal before him for judgement against himself?” Yafeh interprets this statement as a question because, in the standard printed text, it begins with the interrogative
Levinson, 79 n. 99.
Ta-Shma, “Unpublished,” 105 (cf. 107); Williams, “Gnats,” 162–69.
See Ta-Shma, 96.
Steinmetz, Punishment, 15–18; Jackson, Theft, 230–32; Talmudic Encyclopedia, s.v.
The commentator interpreted hatletim (
Theodor, “Maʾamar,” 141–43; Williams, Commentary, 139–63.
Stern, Parables, 19–21.
MS BL Add. 26881, f. 20r.
Weinberg, “Midrash,” 224–25; Weiss, Games, 263, 273; cf. Latham, Performance.
Jacob himself is designated a
Marcus, “Why is this Knight,” 140; Walfish, Esther, 224.
Maḥzor Vitry, ed. Goldschmidt, 2:429; Emanuel, “When God.”
Mikra’ot Gedolot ‘Haketer’, ed. Cohen, 223. According to a comment attributed to Eleazar of Worms, the entourage that accompanied Jacob to Egypt (Gen 50:9) comprised
Though possibly an allusion to
Including the Likutin mi-Bereshit Rabbah (MS Bodleian Opp. Add. Fol. 3, f. 446v; Ta-Shma, “Unpublished,” 106). The definition was recorded alongside Gen. Rab. 22:9 in MS Munich Cod.hebr. 97, f. 24v, and printed in the margin of the Venice: Di Cavalli, 1566 edition (f. 15r). It is given in Benveniste, ʾOt ʾEmet, f. 25v, and Hertz, Perush, f. 6v.
Ziegler, Königsgleichnisse, 312.
Stekelenburg, “Colosseum”; Blennow, “Wanderers.” On the question of why further textual sources (e.g., Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 18:52–56) were not brought to bear on the identification of material remains of gladiatorial combat, see the discussion in Campanelli, “Monuments,” 41. See, though, the reference to the Colosseum in the ʿArukh, s.v. “
BL Add. MS 26881, f. 201r–v:
Though the meaning of
Cf. the treatment of lodgers in b. Sanh. 109b.
See, for instance, the comments in the Penei Moshe of Moshe Margolies and Korban ha-ʿEdah of David Fränkel on y. Giṭ. 4:9, 46b, in the Vilna edition (6:50).
Darmesteter and Blondheim, Gloses, 1:24.
Cf. Lev 18:21; Deut 12:31; 18:10; Ps 106:28, 37–38. In Wis 12:3, 5, “the former inhabitants” of the Lord’s holy land are accused of “sacrificial consumption of human flesh.” See further Segal, Meeting-Place, 68–71; Nissan, “Sketch,” 101–5.
Bédier, Chanson, 50 (cf. Gerard Brault, Song, 1:464 n. 25).
On the Crusades in Rashi’s commentary, see Grossman, Rashi, 22–27, 74, 84–87, 107–12, 240, 320, and the bibliography cited. On cannibalism in Crusader narratives, see Rubenstein, “Cannibals”; Heng, “Cannibalism”; Friedman, Monstrous, 10, 12, 59–86. These freely incorporate folkloristic and legendary themes, including the conversion of St Christopher who grew up among dog-faced, cannibal Canaanites; the mission of Saints Matthew and Barnabas to the cannibals in Phrygia and Scythia; and Cambles the cannibalistic king of the Lydians. See Friedrich, “Saint Christopher’s”; Godlove, “Bodies”; Walde, “Cambles.”
“La sont jaiant et Chanilleu, / Qui tout deveurent comme leu.” Gossuin de Metz, L’Image, II.2.2197–8; ed. Connochie-Bourgne, 3:820 (cf. 2:471–93, esp. 485; 3:1070).
MS Corpus Christi College 9b, f. 57r. The comment was prompted by the lack of information regarding the etymology of ludim: “eb[rei] nesc[iunt] interpretationem ludini dicuntur homines habentes mentum ad pectus et dicuntur deuorare homines gal[lice] chinelis.” See Loewe, “Latin,” 66–67; Olszowy-Schlanger, Manuscrits, 212–19. Shyovitz, Remembrance, 135–38; Rotman, “At Limits”; cf. b. Giṭ. 14b.
On the relationship between Rashi’s commentary and the ʿArukh, see the discussion and bibliography in Grossman, Early Sages, 247–48.
Tolbert, Perspectives, 19, 25–26, 37–40, 52, 55; Jeremias, Parables, 26–27, 33–42. I cite the work of Tolbert and Jeremias to note that the inherent polyvalency of rhetorical forms marked by insufficient “naming of meaning” has been observed in distinct corpora of parables, not to assert any underlying contextual association between such corpora; see further Stern, Parables, 15, 18–20.
The extended discourse on Gen 4, Bereshit 9–11 follows two homilies on the third seder of the triennial cycle (beginning Gen 3:22). By linking homilies on sequential lectionary pericopes with continuous exegetical material, a more continuous exposition of the opening chapters of Genesis has been constructed. See Mann, Bible, 1:46; Bregman, Tanhuma-Yelammedenu, 166–68, 180; Atzmon and Nikolsky, “Let our Rabbi,” 8.
Bregman, 167–68, 184–88; Lavee, “Midrash Tanḥuma”; Atzmon and Nikolsky, “Let our Rabbi,” 4.
Bregman, 244 n. 321. Kensky dated the completion of Tanḥuma ha-Nidpas between the second half of the eighth century and the end of the tenth century (Midrash Tanhuma Shmot, 78).
Milikowsky, “Punishment”; Chernus, “On History”; Elbaum, “From Sermon”; Bregman, 184.
On the relationship between the parable of the watchman and the thief in Tanḥ. ha-Nidpas Bereshit 9 and the prefect (ʾiparkos) and the murderer in Gen. Rab. 22:9, see Kadari, “Redactional,” 163–66.
The only non-Hebrew words in the discourse on Gen 4 (
Bregman, Tanhuma-Yelammedenu, 99–101, 167; Lieberman, “Roman,” 24–26.
Weiss, “Dramatic”; Sacher, String, 38–39, 108–10, 121–23, 169–71; Atzmon, “Same Fate”; Goldstone, Dangerous, 205–35.
Ba-ḥodesh 6 (ed. Lauterbach, 324; ed. Horovitz and Rabin, 266–67).
Tanḥ. ha-Nidpas Shoftim 19 (Sefer Tanḥuma, f. 100r); Num. Rab. 19:33 (Midrash Rabbah, vol. 2, second pagination, 165). See Weiss, Pious Irreverence, 168–80.
Dov Weiss also identified this heightened accusatory tone in the preceding midrashim in Tanḥ. ha-Nidpas Bereshit 9 (Confrontations, 234–36).
To use Stern’s terminology,
The statement is at the beginning of the midrash in MSS Columbia X 893 M 5843, f. 7r; Palatina Cod. Parma 3254, f. 6v; Bodleian Hunt. Don. 20, f. 4v; Angelica 61, f. 12r; Yeshiva University 1372, f. 13r; and ed. Mantua, f. 3v. It is at the end in MS Parma; MS Angelica; ed. Mantua; MS Vatican ebr. 44, f. 12v; and ed. Constantinople, sig.
Ed. Margulies, 1:120. Stemberger, Einleitung, 392–93.
Contra Stern, Parables, 50.
Pfitzner, Paul; Pfitzner, “Was St. Paul,” 92; cf. Jones, “Imaginary”; Esler, “Paul”; Harrison, “Paul.”
Pfitzner, Paul, 73–75; Spielman, Jews and Entertainment, 216.
Philo, Migr. 6.27; Mut. 12.81 (cf. Somn. 1.20.129). Harris, Greek Athletics and Jews, 69–71; Poliakoff and Poliakoff, “Jacob,” 64–65.
Hayward, Interpretations, 256–57; Grossmark, “This May Be Compared,” 7–9.
In pitching athlete against athlete, its purpose is different from patristic imagery in which athletic neophytes, martyrs, and even Christ fight not against athletes like themselves, but against the world, the flesh, and the devil. For instance, in Gregory of Nyssa’s Treatise on the Inscription of the Psalms, the opponents of the
Pfitzner, Paul, 3. In distinguishing the degree of first-hand knowledge that detailed and generalised athletic metaphors may assume of the audience, a point that emerged in Pfitzner’s study, I do not suggest any necessary contextual association between different corpora in which such images are found. Cf. Poliakoff and Poliakoff, “Jacob,” 48, 53, and the discussion of Epictetus’s athletic images in Harris, Greek Athletes, 130–31.
Josephus, Ant. 15.268–276.
E.g., Sifra Aḥarei Mot, perek 13:9; t. ʿAbod. Zar. 2:2–7 (par. y. ʿAbod. Zar. 1:7, 40a); Ruth Rab. 2:22. Alon, “Some Early”; Juster, Juifs, 2:239–41; Pfitzner, Paul, 73–75. As objections to attending public spectacles are also found in the works of pagan and Christian moralists (notably Seneca, Letters 7.2–4; Tertullian, De spectaculis; John Chrysostom, Contra ludos et theatra), they evidently do not constitute evidence of universal compliance; see further the references in Wiedemann, Emperors, 141–60.
Spielman, Jews and Entertainment, 6, 127–219; Hezser, “Towards,” 274.
Weiss, Public Spectacles, 61–66, 108–12; Kloner and Hübsch, “Roman Amphitheater”; Spielman, Jews and Entertainment, 94.
Goodman, State, 83.
Hezser, “Towards,” 268.
Epictetus, Ench. 29.3; Diatr. 2.18.22–23; 3.15.5–6; Arnold, Christ, 117–19; Long, Epictetus, 120, 169, 202–3, 215–16.
On gladiators as omnipresent topics of conversation, see Tacitus, Dial. 29; cf. Horace, Sat. 2.6.44.
Midrash Wayyikra Rabbah, ed. Margulies, 694–95 (par. Pesiq. Rab Kah. 27:2, Tanḥ. (Buber) Emor 27); Midrasch Tehillim, ed. Buber, 128; Perles, “Thron,” 137–38; Weiss, Public Spectacles, 100–108, 151–57; Spielman, Jews and Entertainment, 201–3; Humphrey, Roman Circuses, 539; Cameron, Circus, 201–29; Potter, Victor’s Crown, 308–20. On the dating of Midrash Psalms, see Atzmon, “Midrashic Traditions.”
Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch, 5:39; Mehlman and Seth, Medieval Midrash, 135–48; Boustan, “Israelite”; Milliman, “Decline,” 198–200.
Milikowsky, “Status Quaestionis,” 69–70, 75.
Olszowy-Schlanger, “On Hebrew Script”; Sokoloff, “Major Manuscripts,” 29–30; Sokoloff, Geniza, 36 (compare, for instance, the chapter headings in MS St. Petersburg Yevr. III B 958, f. 1r, and MS Vatican ebr. 30, f. 143r).
Lavee, “Tanhuma,” 33–39; Bregman, Tanhuma-Yelammedenu, 180.
Milikowsky, “On Formation,” 527–28, 530; Schäfer and Milikowsky, “Current Views,” 85–86; Stemberger, Einleitung, 186, 310–11. On the Tanḥuma midrashim in the final chapters of Genesis Rabba, see Sokoloff, “Major,” 30–31; Hirschman, “Final.” On those in Gen. Rab. 75, see Zunz, Ha-derashot, 78, 339 n. 66; Theodor–Albeck, commentary at 884.
Ed. Constantinople: Naḥmias, 1512, sig.
This has been confirmed by the discovery of fragments of Tanḥuma Buber in the “European Genizah”; see Lehnardt, “Transmission,” and the bibliography cited.
Meyer, Editorial, 491–514.
Lavee, “Tanhuma,” 48–49, 57–58; Lavee, “Literary,” 288–93; Lavee and Gan-Zvi, “From France,” 111–13, 130.
Sefer Rabbot (Constantinople: Naḥmias, 1512); Midrash Tanḥuma (Constantinople: Solomon ben Mazal Tov, 1520–22). On the Venice 1545 edition of Midrash Rabba, see Williams, “Venetian”; Tanḥuma was similarly issued by Adelkind under Bomberg’s imprint.
See note 53.