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Grant number like: FB-56717-13

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Richard Kalmin
Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York, NY 10027-4649)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products][Media coverage]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2013 – 6/30/2014

Contextualizing Late Antique Rabbinic Narratives in Their Mesopotamian, Eastern Roman, and Persian Cultural Contexts

I am writing a book that situates rabbinic narratives in their late antique cultural context by reading several rich rabbinic narratives against the background of Mesopotamian, Syriac, Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Ethiopian literature of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. I argue that Christianity is a crucially important hermeneutical key to the interpretation of late antique rabbinic literature. For example, one chapter examines Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions about the murder of a prophet. I argue that the original story was a Christian Hebrew tale teaching that God had rejected the Israelites, but the rabbis added an Aramaic phrase that transformed it into a meditation on the problems involved in the effectuation of God's compassion in a world without prophets. The Christian character of the Hebrew core is shown by its anomalous character within rabbinic literature, and confirmed by parallels in Christian sources.