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Foreigners and Their Food

Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law

David M. Freidenreich

Publication Year: 2011

Foreigners and Their Food explores how Jews, Christians, and Muslims conceptualize "us" and "them" through rules about the preparation of food by adherents of other religions and the act of eating with such outsiders. David M. Freidenreich analyzes the significance of food to religious formation, elucidating the ways ancient and medieval scholars use food restrictions to think about the "other." Freidenreich illuminates the subtly different ways Jews, Christians, and Muslims perceive themselves, and he demonstrates how these distinctive self-conceptions shape ideas about religious foreigners and communal boundaries. This work, the first to analyze change over time across the legal literatures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, makes pathbreaking contributions to the history of interreligious intolerance and to the comparative study of religion.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-ix


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pp. x-xi

List of Illustrations

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pp. xii-xiii

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pp. xiv-xvii

...I love food. I enjoy eating but, evenmore, I love preparing food and sharing itwith others.Many ofmy fondestmemories and formative experiences are associatedwith meals, andmy closest relationships have become so in part through the regular sharing of food. I have been fortunate enough to grow up and live in committed, supportive Jewish communities, and many of my meals have taken place within these circles. I have also been blessed with opportunities...

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Notes on Style and Abbreviations

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pp. xviii-xxi

...This work analyzesmultiple independent sets of literature, each with its own community of academic researchers and its own standards for transliterations, abbreviations, and the like. I have made an effort to balance deference to the differing stylistic norms associated with specific disciplines and the advantages afforded by a uniform style applicable to Jewish, Christian...


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1. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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pp. 3-16

...A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar.The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?” Complete the joke as you will, the punch line that interests me is already implicit in the first sentence. Priest–minister–rabbi jokes are clichés in early twenty first-century American culture, and there is nothing especially surprising or funny about the fact that these members of the clergy would walk into a bar together— the punch line comes as that scenario unfolds...

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2. “A People Made Holy to the LORD”: Meals, Meat, and the Nature of Israel’s Holiness in the Hebrew Bible

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pp. 17-28

...describe the unusual seating arrangements: “They served [Joseph] by himself, and [his brothers] by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; for the Egyptians could not dine with the Hebrews, since that would be an abomination to the Egyptians” (Gen. 43.32).Thenarrator also makes a point of noting that while Joseph served as Potiphar’s personal attendant, Potiphar...


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3. “They Kept Themselves Apart in the Matter of Food”: The Nature and Significance of Hellenistic Jewish Food Practices

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pp. 31-46

...2Theredefinition of Jewish identity that occurs during the period ofHellenistic cultural dominance, which extends well into the beginning of the Common Era, necessitates a reimagining by Hellenistic Jews of the distinction between Us and Them and a parallel revision of the systems of classification that give this distinction meaning...

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4. “These Gentile Items Are Prohibited”: The Foodstuffs of Foreigners in Early Rabbinic Literature

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pp. 47-64

...Judean literature from the Hellenistic era reflects the existence of norms absent from earlier Biblical texts: Jews ought not share food with gentiles, and they ought not eat food prepared by such foreigners, especially if that preparation involved the worship of foreign deities. By marking the difference between Us and Them and, moreover, by hindering interaction between insiders and outsiders...

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5. “How Nice Is This Bread!”: Intersections of Talmudic Scholasticism and Foreign Food Restrictions

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pp. 65-84

...Jewish foreign food restrictions first appear in Judean literature of the centuries following Alexander the Great’s conquest.These restrictions reflect, in part, an effort to preserve the distinctiveness of Jewish identity within the Hellenistic world by means of separating Jews fromgentiles and gentile practices.TheSages inherit these rules, the underlying notion that food practices distinguish Us...


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6. “No Distinction between Jew and Greek”: The Roles of Food in Defining the Christ-believing Community

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pp. 87-100

...The first adherents ofwhatwe nowcall Christianitywere, of course,Hellenistic Jews fromJudea and the surrounding provinces. Like the early Sages, they inherited not only the Jewish scripture but also Jewish ideas and practices of their time and place. Among the latter are the notion of a binary distinction between holy Jews andmundane gentiles, a distinction marked in no small measure...

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7. “Be on Your Guard against Food Offered to Idols”: Eidōlothuton and Early Christian Identity

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pp. 101-109

...The earliest advocates of the gentile mission could not have imagined the impact that their outreach would have on the composition of the Christ-believing community, its self-definition, and its attitudes toward the Jews and gentiles who remained outside its bounds. Because this mission proved far more successful than efforts to persuade Jews to accept Jesus as the...

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8. “How Could Their Food Not Be Impure?”: Jewish Food and the Definition of Christianity

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pp. 110-128

...Anti-Jewish rhetoric is entwined in the very formationof Christianity. Inthewords of Miriam S. Taylor, this rhetoric reflects “an internal logic in which the invalidation of Judaism emerges as a theoretical necessity in the appropriation of the Jewish God and the Jewish Bible for the church. . . . The church’s portrayal of Judaism is expressed in terms of a dualism opposing Christians and Jews which is built into the very logic and into the very structure...


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9. “Eat the Permitted and Good Foods God Has Given You”: Relativizing Communities in the Qur’an

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pp. 131-143

...Given our recent encounterwith theways Christians came to employ such anti- Jewish rhetoric, we might anticipate that the Qur’an sharply condemns the consumption of Jewish food. In fact, however, theQur’an declares that “the food of those whowere given the Book”—that is, meat prepared by Jews andChristians—“is permitted to you, and your food is permitted to them” (Q. 5.5). This statement...

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10. “‘Their Food’ Means Their Meat”: Sunni Discourse on Non-Muslim Acts of Animal Slaughter

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pp. 144-156

...The importance of food practices as a marker of Islamic identity, implicit in the Qur’anic passages we examined in the previous chapter, is made explicit in a nadith (an orally transmitted account of a statement) ascribed to the Prophet Munammad: “Whoever recites our prayers and worships in the direction of our qiblah and eats the meat of our slaughtered animals, that person is...

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11. “Only Monotheists May Be Entrusted with Slaughter”: The Targets of Shi‘i Foreign Food Restrictions

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pp. 157-176

...In sharp contrast to their Sunni counterparts, who carefully distinguish Scripturists fromMagians when discussing acts of animal slaughter, classical Shi‘i authorities make a point of treating all non-Muslims alike with respect to their foodstuffs. Munammad b. al-masan al-§ūsī (d. 1066/7), regarded as the last and greatest of the early Imāmī authorities, authored the definitive expression...


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12. “Jewish Food”: The Implications of Medieval Islamic and Christian Debates about the Definition of Judaism

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pp. 179-196

...The final part of this work builds upon the conclusions regarding the emergence of Jewish,Christian, and Islamic foreign food restrictions developed in earlier chapters. Explicitly comparative in nature, the case studies in the following chapters depart from the single-tradition focus that characterizes each of the preceding parts. For these reasons, it is appropriate to preface the present...

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13. Christians “Adhere to God’s Book,” but Muslims “Judaize”: Islamic and Christian Classifications of One Another

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pp. 197-208

...The Qur’an’s prohibition against consuming blood, carrion, pork, and that over which a name other than God’s has been invoked came to pose a significant challenge, albeit for very different reasons, to both Sunni and Latin Christian systems for classifying humanity. Latin Christians reject observance of ingredient-based dietary law and regard such behavior as manifesting...

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14. “Idolaters Who Do Not Engage in Idolatry”: Rabbinic Discourse about Muslims, Christians, and Wine

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pp. 209-226

...definitive of the medieval Rabbinic law codes, contains a curious statement in its discussion of laws regarding foreign wine. In the course of rehearsing the longstanding prohibitions against consuming and deriving benefit both fromwinemade by gentiles and from Jewish wine touched by gentiles, R. Karo addresses the status of wine prepared or touched by “idolaters who do not engage in idolatry...


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pp. 227-282

Works Cited

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pp. 283-306

Index of Sources

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pp. 307-312

General Index

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pp. 313-325

Production Notes

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p. 326-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780520950276
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520253216

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Comparative studies.
  • Identification (Religion) -- Comparative studies.
  • Religions -- Relations.
  • Jews -- Dietary laws.
  • Muslims -- Dietary laws.
  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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