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The People, Not the Peoples: The Talmud Bavli’s “Charitable” Contribution to the Jewish-Christian Conversation in Mesopotamia

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image of Review of Rabbinic Judaism

Bavli Baba Batra 10b–11a substantiates the existence of a “Jewish-Christian conversation” that took place in fourth-century Mesopotamia. This essay demonstrates that this sugya presents rabbinic responses to several Christian claims: (1) contra Aphrahat, God and Israel have a continuing and uniquely close relationship; (2) contra Aphrahat, Gentile charity is motivated by the desire for self-aggrandizement, the continuation of Gentile rule, and arrogance, and is thus sinful; (3) contra Aphrahat, Gentile charity is sinful because they only engage in it to revile Israel; moreover, Gentile charity does not atone for their sins; and (4) contra Aphrahat (who quotes Ezek. 15:4 and Isa. 58:11), it is not the Jews who will be dried out and burned up with fire; once Gentile charity ceases, it is the Gentile empires who will burn.

Affiliations: 1: Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion 1 West 4th Street, New York, ny 10012


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