Traditions that Travel: Jesus’s Descent to the Underworld in the Babylonian Talmud and in Christian Literature of the Roman East

Thursday, March 3, 2016 - 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Annenberg School for Communication, 
Room 111, 3620 Walnut Street

Prof. Richard Kalmin (Jewish Theological Seminary) will talk on his recently published book, Migrating Tales: The Talmud's Narratives and their Historical Context.

The Babylonian Talmud contains a bizarre rabbinic narrative featuring the nephew of the Emperor Titus raising Jesus from the dead to ask him whether or not he should go ahead with his plan to convert to Judaism. Kalmin argues that the rabbinic narrative is a subversion of the Christian belief that immediately following his crucifixion, Christ descended to Hell, preached the Gospel and converted the dead imprisoned there, following which he ascended with them to heaven. This belief is well attested in early Christian sources from the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, and it is significant that a counter-narrative is preserved in the geographically distant Babylonian Talmud. The present paper, therefore, reaches the surprising conclusion that non-Jewish literature from the Roman East is vitally important for contextualizing traditions preserved in the Babylonian Talmud. Kalmin demonstrates, to a degree unimagined by earlier scholars, that rabbinic Babylonia was part of the Mediterranean world of late antiquity and part of the emerging but never fully realized cultural unity forming during this period in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, and western Persia.

Sponsored with Religious Studies department.Kalmin's book will be availble for sale following the lecture.
Jewish Studies Program
711 Williams Hall, 255 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
215-898-6654 / 215-573-6026 fax / jsp-info@sas.upenn.edu