The three deaths of Rabbi Judah ben Bava

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The earliest narrative of Rabbi Judah ben Bava's noble death appears in the Babylonian Talmud and according to the talmudic tale, the Romans butchered Rabbi Judah ben Bava when they caught him violating their prohibition against rabbinic ordination. In contrast to the Babylonian Talmud's tale, two other sources, Tosefta Babha Qama and The Story of the Ten Martyrs, offer alternative portraits of Rabbi Judah ben Bava's demise. These contrasting portraits of Rabbi Judah ben Bava's end challenge the traditional notion that the talmud accurately reported the Roman prohibition of rabbinic ordination, Rabbi Judah ben Bava's violation of the prohibition and his subsequent death. Treating the talmudic tale as a literary narrative, I hope to offer a close reading, critique some historical interpretations of the tale and shed light on its formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
Number of pages27
JournalRevue des Etudes Juives
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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