Telling the Story of Talmudic Stories

March 4 2016

In a recent book, Migrating Tales: the Talmud’s Narratives and Their Historical Context, Richard Kalmin seeks out the origins of numerous tales told in the Babylonian Talmud, which was compiled in the Persian empire around the year 500 CE. Kalmin argues that most are traceable not to Babylonian sources but to Jewish and non-Jewish sources in the eastern Mediterranean, then under the influence of Rome. In his review, Amit Gvaryahu discusses some implications that Kalmin may have overlooked:

Kalmin expertly uses the examples in his book to claim that the borders of empires [during this time period] were porous, and that ideas and traditions moved freely between them. This is undoubtedly correct and an important corrective to the inward gaze of rabbis . . . celebrated in scholarship in recent decades. But more than the borders of empire were porous, the Jews were tight-knit within themselves [even across political boundaries]. Any evaluation of the migration of traditions from the Roman East to Babylonia on biblical and Jewish themes must consider the possibility that these ideas were born and transmitted within the confines of the Jewish community, even though they may also be found in works associated with other groups, most notably Christians (to whom Kalmin points often in the book). . . .

In other words, even if many of these legends were likely influenced by Greek, Roman, or even early Christian sources, most originated among rabbis living in the land of Israel.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: Ancient Near East, Ancient Persia, Babylonian Jewry, History & Ideas, Talmud

 

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank