- Rabbinic Universalism Reconsidered: The Roman Context of Some Rabbinic Traditions Pertaining to the Revelation of the Torah in Different Languages
- Jewish Quarterly Review
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 108, Number 4, Fall 2018
- pp. 393-421
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This paper examines a group of rabbinic texts pertaining to the translation of the laws of the Torah into seventy languages, which are based on biblical traditions pertaining to the transcription of the Torah on stones after Israel's entrance into the promised land (Deuteronomy 27:2–8, Joshua 4:1–10 and 8:30–35). After having carefully analyzed the exegetical logic at work in each text, I assess the impact of the Roman context in which the rabbis lived upon this literary tradition, bringing additional rabbinic texts and Roman literary, epigraphic and legal evidence into the conversation. My argument is that, to a great extent, these rabbinic texts interpret the biblical traditions in light of Roman norms concerning the communication of laws and edicts in the empire, a point already briefly hinted at by Saul Lieberman in his book Hellenism in Jewish Palestine. Even more fundamentally, these rabbinic texts reproduce or echo Roman legal reasoning. As a consequence, the universalist perspective at work in these texts can be considered both a mimicry of Roman universalism and an expression of opposition to the Roman model.