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Title: The Meaning and End of Heresy in Rabbinic Literature
Authors: Grossberg, David Michael
Advisors: Schäfer, Peter
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Ancient Judaism
Early Christianity
Late Antiquity
Rabbinic Literature
Subjects: Religion
Judaic studies
Near Eastern studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In this dissertation, I critically reexamine the category of heresy as scholars have applied it to the study of rabbinic literature, and I propose an alternative approach to rabbinic polemic and rhetoric of exclusion and inclusion. I suggest that the category of heresy is too multivalent and imprecise to allow for a rigorous historically-contextualized study of the rabbis and is best considered to be just one species of a broader phenomenon of polemical exclusion or boundary-drawing between communities in antiquity. Heresy and heretics are, properly considered, elements of a narrow technical lexicon that functions in the context of heresiology as an early-Christian literary genre rather than trans-historical archetypes for the entire endeavor of rhetorically delegitimizing those perceived as outsiders. Approaching the rabbis in this way reveals significant diachronic shifts in the predominant rhetorical strategies that characterize various texts or textual strata of the classical rabbinic corpus. I argue that earlier rabbinic texts and textual strata tend to deploy a type of exclusionary polemic that aims to represent its targets as in some significant sense illegitimate and therefore rhetorically excluded from the Jewish community. This type of exclusion is typical both of polemic generally and of early Christian heresiology specifically and for this reason has been the primary focus of scholarly interest in this subject. However, a close analysis reveals that later rabbinic texts and textual strata tend to deploy an innovative type of polemic that is actually inclusionary in its immediate effect, rhetorically including even sinners and recreants within the Jewish community, but polemical in its implications, targeting those with different conceptions of the Torah by which this community is bound than that promulgated by the rabbis. I argue that this shift from exclusionary to inclusionary polemic reflects developments in the rabbinic movement's social structure between second century Roman Palestine and seventh century Sassanid Persia. Although earlier scholarship tended to presume a unified and authoritative rabbinic community throughout this period, my dissertation supports the growing scholarly consensus that the development of a unified rabbinic self-conception and the achievement of practical judicial authority actually occurred gradually over the classical rabbinic period.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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