Purpose and Nature of the Talmudic Medical Units in Tractates Shabbat, Pessachin, Gittin and Avodah Zara

Verantwortlich für das Dissertationsprojekt: Monika Amsler, M.A.
Finanzierung: UFSP Asien und Europa
Projektdauer: seit September 2013
Promotionskommission: Prof. Dr. Christoph Uehlinger, Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar/UFSP Asien und Europa; Prof. Dr. Michael L. Satlow, Brown University; Prof. Dr. Konrad Schmid, Theologisches Seminar/UFSP Asien und Europa
Forschungsfeld: Begriffe und Taxonomien


The Babylonian Talmud (henceforth bT) incorporates some lengthy passages on medical treatments that are mostly (except for some illustrative stories) unparalleled by the Palestinian rabbinic writings. These texts, found in Shab 66b; Shab 109b-110b; Pes 111a-113b; Git 67b-70b and AZ 28a-29b, can be classified neither as legal nor narrative. Therefore, they provide ample material to serve as a test-case for the current scholarly consensus on redaction criticism in the bT. This redaction-critical approach has its foundation in the analysis of legal (halakhic) texts in the bT. The application of this method to narrative (aggadic) texts by Rubenstein (1999; 2005; 2010), however, has shown that further refinements are needed in order to distinguish between the supposed contributing parties (Amoraim and Stammaim). But since Rubenstein approached only texts with parallels in Palestinian works, this project will have to explore a variety of new ways and develop new critical tools to be able to distinguish between the two sources.

Apart from such redaction-critical contributions, the project aims to contextualise the selected texts within their respective tracts as well in comparison to each other. They shall further be historically contextualised within rabbinic academic culture as proposed by Rubenstein (2003) and in their possible function as day-to-day medicine. By so doing the analysis of these texts will contribute to the question of how the bT was produced, what sources were included and, possibly, why and how they were reshaped for rabbinic purposes. Moreover the deduced core texts will be set in context to their Late Antique environment. Thereby, archaeological data such as the texts and nature of the Aramaic healing bowls and amulets will be considered. This will challenge the common practice of the Art to divide between magical and medical texts and practices. The theoretical as well as the methodological foundation will be provided by the works of Otto (2011) and Hanegraaff (2012). They both concluded that the use of the term magic for scholarly purposes is only justifiable in the analysis of discourses that make use of the term in a certain sense. Otherwise, the term is highly controversial because of its, often polemic, use as well as underlying Christo- and Eurocentric assumptions. Even though a systematic analysis of the rabbinic concept(s) of forbidden rituals and practices in the Aramaic and the Stammaitic periods remains a desideratum, it will prove advantageous to refrain from an artificial division between magic and medicine for the texts under question in order to analyse them in the way the bT presents them. This will lead to a more integral understanding of the purpose and nature of the medicine presented in the Talmudic units under discussion.