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An Introduction to the Academic Study of Rabbinic Literature

Friday, July 29, 2016


Kulp and Rogoff appear to take a middle view on the degree of interaction of early Christianity and rabbinical Judaism, “Proving that rabbis argued against the followers of Jesus or that Christians were familiar with the rabbis of the Mishnaic and Talmudic period is notoriously difficult (although at times possible).” (p. 64).

Let us now focus on two specific issues:

The authors discuss Mishnah Ketubot 7:1, Ketubot 70a and 70b, Mark 7:9-13, and Matthew 15:3-6, and comment, “Jesus rebukes the Pharisees who allow an individual to take a vow that would prohibit his parents from benefitting from him, a direct transgression of the fifth commandment. This is parallel to the Mishnah, in which a husband takes a vow to prevent his wife from deriving benefit from him, despite his obligation to her.” (p. 40).

On another teaching of Jesus Christ, the authors challenge the notion that Jesus Christ was denying all the Jewish dietary laws in Mark 7. Jesus was actually arguing against the following innovation: “…a rabbinic innovation that the body could be defiled by eating impure food. This notion is not found anywhere in the Bible, and Jesus was certainly correct when he stated that, at least in the Bible, ‘There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him.’… Jesus, on the other hand, argued that hand-washing was unnecessary because impure food cannot defile the body.” (pp. 66-67).


Author Avigail Manekin-Bamberger rejects the common apologetic claim that the Talmud’s use of magic was merely an accommodation to the fact that broad masses of the Jewish people were already making use of it. He realizes the implications: “Furthermore, the rabbis were of course aware magic is explicitly prohibited by the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). And yet rabbinic literature is filled with references to spells, amulets, curses, the evil eye, contest narratives between rabbis and magicians, encounters with demons and other magical tales.” (p. 330).

As part of his analysis, Avigail Manekin-Bamberger cites Gideon Bohak. 2008. ANCIENT JEWISH MAGIC: A HISTORY.
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