English, Reviews

Reviews Galore

While the Talmud Blog assumes that readers will regularly check its constantly-updated twitter feed (accessible on the top-right of this page and through twitter), there are times when things tweeted might also be blogged, for emphasis. Since 1970, the Journal for the Study of Judaism has been one of the most important journals in the field. Its interests lean heavily “ancient” and not necessarily rabbinic (hence the subtitle “in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Periods”), but there usually are a few directly relevant reviews. The reviews section is indispensable and the current issue is no exception.  Aside from a”rabbinically” focused article by Arnon Atzmon that studies the petihta using a kind of hybridic methodology (with a test case from Leviticus Rabba, Aharei Mot and its Tanhuma parallels), and a solid restatement of Aryeh Edrei and Doron Mendel’s view of a Western and Eastern (Babylonia and Palestine) Diasporic split, we have a very extensive short-review section. Highlights include another review of Thomas Kazan’s Issues of Impurity in Early Judaism, and one of Maren Neihoff’s Jewish Exegesis and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria; Jonathan Klawans has a review of Vered Noam’s book on purity, Dvora E. Weisberg looks at Tamara Or’s Feminist Commentary on Bavli Betsah, one of the first of the ongoing to series to be published, and Steven Fraade has a brief but very helpful review of Aharon Shemesh’s Halakhah in the Making. While the genre of the short-review does not allow reviewers to fully articulate a critical take on the work in question, it sure is a great way to stay abreast in an ever expanding field.

N.B. The ‘books received’ section also has a few gems. I, for one, would love to get my hands on The Scepter Shall Not Depart from Judah: Leadership, Rabbinate and Community in Jewish History: Studies Presented to Professor Simon Schwarzfuchs (Jerusalem: The Bialik Institute, 2011), and anxiously await Stemberger’s updated Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch (München: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2011; Ninth Revised Edition).

English, Recent Publications

Journal for the Study of Judaism 42.3

JSJ 42.3 (2011) has just been published online.  And now, on to some of the spoils:

Margaret H.Williams, “Image and Text in the Jewish Epitaphs of Late Ancient Rome.”

This paper aims to establish for the first time the relationship between the verbal and visual elements of the Jewish epitaphs from 3d/4th-century C.E. Rome. A close analysis of the approximately 500 usable inscriptions leads to the conclusion that, the Jewish character of most of the images notwithstanding, the key operative factor at every social level was Roman memorialisation practice. The study thus throws considerable light on the acculturation of Rome’s Jews in Late Antiquity. Two appendices, in which all the symbols that occur are listed individually and by cluster, complete the study.

Fergus Millar, “A Rural Jewish Community in Late Roman Mesopotamia, and the Question of a “Split” Jewish Diaspora.”

This paper emphasises the significance of Syriac evidence for the history of the Jewish Diaspora, and then focuses on an episode in the Syriac Lives of the Eastern Saints by John of Ephesus, which records the demolition by the local Christians of the synagogue of a Jewish community established in a village in the territory of Amida. The significance of this story is explored in two inter-related ways. Firstly, there is the relevance of Syriac-speaking Christianity which, like Judaism, was practised on both sides of the Roman-Sasanid border. Secondly, the article suggests that the presence of Jewish communities in those areas of the Roman empire where Syriac or other dialects of Aramaic were spoken complicates the recently-proposed conception of a “split” Jewish Diaspora, of which a large part was unable to receive rabbinic writings because it knew only Greek. But for Jews living in areas where Aramaic or Syriac was spoken, there should have been no major linguistic barrier to the reception of the rabbinic learning of either Palestine or Babylonia.

I’ve been waiting for some work on John of Ephesus and some interfacing between Syriac Christianity and Sasanian Jewry.

There are also a slew of reviews, including one of Yehudah Cohn’s Tangled up in Text.  In addition, there is a very extensive “Books Received” section.