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Indiana University Bloomington
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Course Description

Rabbinic Judaism: Literature and Beliefs (3 cr)
Jason Mokhtarian
JSTU-J 320 #30136 / REL-A 318 #30138
MW 2:30-3:45
CASE A&H, CASE GCC; IW; credit given for only one of J320 or REL-A 318

The Jewish sages of late antiquity known as rabbis were masters of the Bible who produced a complex corpus of writings in which they interpret their holy scriptures. This vast collection of law and narrative, known as rabbinic literature, remains to this day the foundation of normative Jewish behavior and traditions. What did these interpreters of the Bible believe? And how was the Bible interpreted over the course of late antiquity? In seeking answers to these questions, this course introduces students to the literature and beliefs of the rabbis who lived in Palestine and Babylonia circa the second through sixth centuries C.E. and thus witnessed the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire and the presence of Zoroastrianism in the Persian Sasanian Empire. Themes covered throughout the semester include some major concepts expressed in rabbinic literature such as covenant, exile, good and evil, the election of Israel, redemption, revelation, and the existence of demons and angels. Students are exposed to a wide range of primary texts from the Mishnah, Midrash, and Talmuds, though emphasis is placed on their narrative portions known as aggadah. Secondary readings include introductory textbooks as well as research articles or books that engage some of the major problems in the field of rabbinics. This course is a natural sequel to any course on the Hebrew Bible, though no background in biblical studies or ancient Judaism is necessary.