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Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and PriestsThe Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran$
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Jason Sion Mokhtarian

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520286207

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520286207.001.0001

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Comparing Sasanian Religions

Comparing Sasanian Religions

Chapter:
(p.22) 2 Comparing Sasanian Religions
Source:
Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests
Author(s):

Jason Sion Mokhtarian

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520286207.003.0002

This chapter draws from the field of comparative religion in order to map out the prospects and pitfalls of juxtaposing the Talmudic and Middle Persian corpora, a task beset with significant limitations. Building on the writings of Jonathan Z. Smith, this chapter argues that the best comparative approaches toward Talmudic and Middle Persian literatures are ones that seek a nuanced application of sameness and difference and avoid humanistic attempts at harmonization. Instead of forcing insular, exegetical Talmudic and Middle Persian texts into dialogue with one another through parallel taxonomies, this chapter explains why the rabbis are insular in a diverse social context and how comparativists can differentiate between (a) which types of data are phenomenological affinities between two ancient religions in contact, and (b) which are evidence of intercultural activity. After this theoretical discussion of comparison, the chapter goes on to provide readers with a sweeping overview of the Middle Persian (Pahlavi) corpus, highlighting the key differences between it and the Talmud, such as their dates and transmissional backgrounds, as well as those sources that prove most useful for Talmudic studies, such as the Book of a Thousand Judgments, the Zand-Avesta, and archaeological relics such as seals and inscriptions.

Keywords:   comparative religion, Jonathan Z. Smith, Talmud, Middle Persian, Pahlavi, Sasanian archaeology, Book of a Thousand Judgments, Zand-Avesta, Sasanian seals, Sasanian inscriptions

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