Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg

By David Nirenberg

A magisterial heritage, starting from antiquity to the current, that unearths anti-Judaism to be a method of proposal deeply embedded within the Western tradition.

There is a frequent tendency to treat anti-Judaism - even if expressed in an off-the-cuff comment or applied via pogrom or extermination crusade - as by some means unprecedented: an unlucky indicator of private prejudice or the surprising end result of an extremist ideology married to power.

But, as David Nirenberg argues during this ground-breaking research, to restrict anit-Judaism to the margins of our tradition is to be dangerously complacent. Anti-Judaism isn't an irrational closet within the gigantic edifice of Western concept, yet fairly one of many simple instruments with which that edifice used to be developed.

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His review of the talmudic and other evidence leads him to conclude that the older history of the academies – as this was construed in both religious and scholarly circles – over-interpreted the relevant evidence, drawn primarily from the Babylonian Talmud, and constructed an account of major, permanent, and ongoing academies where none existed. The next three essays deal with the defining achievement of Babylonian Jewry – the Babylonian Talmud (known as the Bavli). In the first of these, Richard Kalmin explains the character and composition of this work.

565) innovative anti-Jewish legislation incorporated into the Codex Justinianus. This last major attempt to fix the status of Jews and Judaism in Roman law adversely affected Jews in the last century of the Roman Empire’s existence and continued to impact upon their legal status in the medieval period. The continued existence of Judaism as a way of life after the destruction of the Temple was built upon the assumption that, in time, God would redeem the People of Israel and return them to the Land of Israel as part of a more encompassing process of bringing lasting justice and perfection to the world.

He explains the nature of contemporary houses, courtyards, household utensils, roads, crops, farming instruments, and the city bathhouse. Thus he allows us to gain an understanding of life as it was actually lived. Following this, the vernacular language of the day – Aramaic – is fully explored by Yochanan Breuer. Aramaic was the medium, along with Hebrew, in which Jews talked and thought for almost half a millennium. By so doing they indicated the reality of their integration within the encompassing, dominant, non-Jewish culture of the period.

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