Aphrodite and the Rabbis

Reply Thu 22 Sep, 2016 04:00 pm
Aphrodite and the Rabbis: How the Jews Adapted Roman Culture to Create Judaism as We Know It

Burton L. Visotzky. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-08576-4

“There is overwhelming evidence that Judaism took root in Roman soil, imbibed its nourishment, and grafted the good and pruned the bad from the Roman Empire, until a vibrant new religion—Judaism—arose from the wreckage of Israelite religion and the Temple cult, nurtured by the very empire that had destroyed it.” That’s the eye-opening contention of Jewish Theological Seminary professor Visotzky, who does a superior job of making his scholarship easy for a popular audience to digest in this witty and insightful synthesis that will convince most open-minded readers. Even those with some familiarity with the history of Jewish life under Roman rule will be surprised at how many methods of the Roman world—“proverbs, rhetoric, fables, interpretation, symposia, narratives”—were coopted by the rabbis to preserve and enhance their religion in the wake of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Visotzky ends by noting the relevance of his discoveries for contemporary Judaism, arguing that the role of Roman culture in forming the post-temple religion validates the current use of Western methods and traditions to keep the religion alive and flourishing. (Sept.)

Publisher's Weekly
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