The Changing Worlds of the Ten Rabbinic Martyrs

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Yair Furstenberg discusses the changing nature of canonisation of a cluster of martyrdom traditions about the ten rabbinic sages, who were executed by the Romans in the First or Second century CE. The canonical texts were transmitted as isolated stories in several rabbinic writings, which were only combined to a grand narrative in Late Antiquity or the early Medieval period. One indication of the major re-interpretation of martyrdom in this period is the fact that instead of idolatry or the transgression of a Roman decree or another reason that was obvious from a Roman perspective, the ten Rabbis were executed because the emperor found out that the Jews were never punished for the ancestral sin of selling Joseph to the Ishmaelite merchants (Gen. 37:23-37). This implies that their death was intended by God, which was conf irmed by the heavenly journey of one of these Rabbis, Rabbi Ishmael, to inquire about their case. Furstenberg argues that the evolution of the Stor y of the Ten Mart yrs from its Talmudic foundations in interaction with Christianity betrays a fundamental shift in Jewish martyrological discourse that reveals the strategy for confronting the religious claims of political power through the act of martyrdom.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationMartyrdom
Subtitle of host publicationCanonization, Contestation, and Afterlives, eds. J.W. van Henten and I. Saloul, Amsterdam University Press,
EditorsJ.W. van Henten , I. Saloul
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherAmsterdam University Press BV
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print) 9048540216
StatePublished - 2020


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