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The Iranian Talmud
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The Iranian Talmud
Reading the Bavli in Its Sasanian Context

Shai Secunda

272 pages | 6 x 9
Paper 2016 | ISBN 9780812223736 | $32.50s | Outside the Americas £24.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion
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"An extraordinary contribution to the field of Irano-Talmudic studies, which provides an important theoretical framework and point of reference for any future attempt to read the Babylonian Talmud in context. . . . The Iranian Talmud provides a fresh, exciting and nuanced introduction to the emerging field of Irano-Talmudic studies, which attempts to situate the Babylonian Talmud in its ambient Sasanian context."—Journal of Jewish Studies

"Rich in fascinating texts, awareness of cutting-edge research and cultural allusions, this book is well-written and crucially important. Taking on the most important and elusive book in the rabbinic canon with an array of historical, literary and philological tools, The Iranian Talmud represents today's Jewish studies at its best."—Association of Jewish Libraries

"Shai Secunda not only persuades his readers of the need for contextual study of the Bavli but also facilitates such study by educating them about the religious and ethnic communities of the Sasanian empire, the forms of literary and nonliterary evidence available, and appropriate methodological and theoretical approaches to the comparative study of Talmudic and Middle Persian literature. The Iranian Talmud will be the first sustained attempt both to demystify the project of Irano-Talmudic research and to provide a basic orientation to it."—Christine Hayes, Yale University

Although the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, has been a text central and vital to the Jewish canon since the Middle Ages, the context in which it was produced has been poorly understood. Delving deep into Sasanian material culture and literary remains, Shai Secunda pieces together the dynamic world of late antique Iran, providing an unprecedented and accessible overview of the world that shaped the Bavli.

Secunda unites the fields of Talmudic scholarship with Old Iranian studies to enable a fresh look at the heterogeneous religious and ethnic communities of pre-Islamic Iran. He analyzes the intercultural dynamics between the Jews and their Persian Zoroastrian neighbors, exploring the complex processes and modes of discourse through which these groups came into contact and considering the ways in which rabbis and Zoroastrian priests perceived one another. Placing the Bavli and examples of Middle Persian literature side by side, the Zoroastrian traces in the former and the discursive and Talmudic qualities of the latter become evident. The Iranian Talmud introduces a substantial and essential shift in the field, setting the stage for further Irano-Talmudic research.

Shai Secunda is Jacob Neusner Associate Professor in the History and Theology of Judaism at Bard College.

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