Syriac Christians and Babylonian Jewry: Narratives and Identity Shaping in a Multi-Religious Setting

Reuven Kiperwasser, Serge Ruzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Recent research has drawn attention to the possibility of actual or indirect links between Babylonian Jewry of the Talmudic period and contemporaneous Syriac Christianity, with the geographical and cultural affinity - e.g., the shared Aramaic (Syriac) language - strongly suggesting the probability of such links. Moreover, in the Sasanian Empire, the two entities also shared the status of a religious minority, which makes analysis of their identity-shaping strategies particularly promising. This paper highlights reciprocal relationship between Syriac patristic and Jewish studies, suggesting some previously understudied avenues of investigation. First, it focuses not on Syriac biblical exegesis or religious lore, where rabbinic influence is usually suspected, but rather on selected narrative patterns. Second, the customary scholarly interest in rabbinic sources as possibly relevant for clarifying elements of Syriac tradition is complemented here by an alternative direction: using Syriac narrative parallels for clarifying the historical and cultural setting of their rabbinical counterparts. And, finally, the comparative analysis of the sources representing our two minority groups not only underscores their different religious agendas but also allows for restoring otherwise unattested patterns of their broader cultural - namely the ‘pagan’, Mesopotamian/ Babylonian - backdrop with which they converse.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationPatristic Studies in the Twenty-First Century
Subtitle of host publication Proceedings of an international conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the International Association of Patristic Studies
EditorsBrouria Bitton-Ashkelony, Theodore De Bruyn, Carol Harrison
Place of PublicationTurnhout
PublisherBrepols Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9782503568492
ISBN (Print)9782503559193
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

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