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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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Rabbis and Zoroastrian Priests in Judicial Settings

Rabbis and Zoroastrian Priests in Judicial Settings

(p.94) 5 Rabbis and Zoroastrian Priests in Judicial Settings
Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests

Jason Sion Mokhtarian

University of California Press

This chapter explores the ties between the Babylonian rabbis and Zoroastrian priests in judicial contexts. After giving a detailed review of the philological background of the two terms that the Talmud uses in reference to the Persian priests (amgosha and chabarim), this chapter then delves into the historical context of Jewish and Persian courts of law in the Sasanian Empire. As demonstrated in the Book of a Thousand Judgments and seals, the Zoroastrian priesthood, which was composed of administrative mowbeds and scholar-priests called herbeds, functioned in numerous capacities in Sasanian society that exhibit both similarities to and differences from the role of the rabbis in Jewish society. This chapter argues that the Jewish courts—and especially the role of the public experts (mumkheh) —were to some degree a subsystem of the Sasanian judicial structure that supported the adjudication of monetary and other noncriminal cases by local non-imperial authorities. In the end, the representations of the Zoroastrian priests in the Babylonian Talmud are illuminated by keeping an eye open toward the social ties between the Jews and Persians in courts of law.

Keywords:   courts of law, public experts, judges, chabarim, amgosha, Talmudic portrayals of Zoroastrian priests, Book of a Thousand Judgments, Sasanian seals, herbeds, mowbeds

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