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Critique and Apologetics

Jews, Christians and Pagans in Antiquity


Edited By Jörg Ulrich, David Brakke and Anders-Christian Jacobsen

This book contains 13 contributions from an international conference held in 2007. The idea of the conference was to investigate the confrontations and the cultural, philosophical and religious exchange between different religious groups in antiquity and to establish a more comprehensive theory about what apologetics was considered to be both in the context of antiquity and from the perspective of modern scholarship: is it possible to define a literary genre called apologetics? Is it possible to talk about apologetics as a certain kind of discourse which is not limited to a special kind of texts? Which argumentative strategies are implied in apologetic discourses? The essays in this volume present a new approach to these questions.


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Traces of Apologetics in Rabbinic Literature 155


Traces of Apologetics in Rabbinic Literature Friedrich Avemarie 1. The Non-apologetic Character of Rabbinic Writings It may seem somewhat surprising that a volume on apologetics in antiquity should include an article dealing with the literature of abbinic Judaism, since rabbinic writings, such as the Mishnah, the Talmuds and the numerous midrashim, are commonly not in the remotest sense regarded as apologetic. Lexicon articles on Jewish apologetics treat the talmudic period only in briefi or pass it over altogether,2 modern research on ancient Jewish apologetics usually confines itself to the Greek writings of the earlier diaspora Judaism,3 ' Cf. J. Bergmann, Apologetik und Apologeten, in: EJ(D) 2 (1928), 1176-1194 (1178); [anon.], Apologetics, in: EJ 3 (1972), 188-200 (190f.). Bergmann mentions rabbinic knowledge of the slanderous Greco-Egyptian legend that the Jews were expelled from Egypt because they were lepers (BerR 88:1, Theodor / Albeck, 1077), but ob- serves that the rabbis in general took greater interest in the internal development of the Jewish legal tradition than in an outward defence. The anonymous article in the English Encyclopaedia Judaica adds a reference to dialogues between Jewish sages and Non-Jews, as will be treated below. 2 Cf. P.W. van der Horst / J. Dan, Apologetik II. Judentum, in: 4RGG 1 (1998), 612-614; [editorial] Apologetics, in: R.J.Z. Werblowsky / G. Wigoder (eds.), The Oxford Dictio- nary of the Jewish Religion, New York 1997, 56f. (leaping from Josephus to Yehudah ha-Levi and Maimonides). 3This holds from M. Friedländer, Geschichte der j...

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