Dohrmann, Natalie B

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Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
  • Publication
    100 Years of JQR and Rabbinic Judaism
    (2010-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    In this issue we continue our celebration of the Jewish Quarterly Review's first century on American soil. This issue focuses on classical and rabbinic Judaism. Considering the topic, a certain question arises: To what extent is the very enterprise of Jewish studies a fundamentally rabbinic one? And yet, perusing the tables of contents of the preceding four hundred or so issues, the precise place of rabbinics remains strangely elusive.
  • Publication
    Manumission and Transformation in Jewish and Roman Law
    (2013-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    In Roman and rabbinic legal and literary sources from the first centuries of the Common Era, the institution of slavery exhibits a double nature. For both Jews and Romans, slavery is a dreaded state of denigrated non-personhood, and yet in both legal worlds, slavery can be a site of acculturation, even conversion, to the dominant status and ideals of rabbinic and Roman civilization. Initial research into key symbols and ideas on this topic reveal some suggestive similarities--structural and conceptual homologies between Roman and rabbinic constructions of slavery and the modes and cultural valuations of the manumission of slaves. The slave marks the outer boundary of the person and yet, at the same time, provides an exemplum that facilitates a transformation of the slave-self and an opportunity for movement from periphery to center, from thing to citizen, from Gentile to Jew. I will compare ta few aspects of Roman and rabbinic legal thinking on slaves in the first centuries C.E. as a way to think more broadly about rabbinic legal/exegetical self-fashioning in the Roman Near East. In this essay I want to map the narratives of integration that are encoded in Roman and rabbinic slave law. The common features of the legal itinerary from slave to free are several. It is important to note from the beginning that the notion of slavery as paideia that leads to enfranchisement is largely a legal and cultural fiction. For most freedmen in both cultures, past slavery seems to have stigmatized them their entire lives. However, the fact that a part of each culture imagines that its slaves could become them provokes many questions. What does this ideal transformation tell us about the fact of Jewishness or Romanness; and, how, if at all, is the figural "enslavement" of the Jews under Roman power reflected in the Jewish slave laws (or more pointedly, in the rabbinic interpretation and recasting of biblical slave laws)?
  • Publication
    The Boundaries of the Law and the Problem of Jurisdiction in an Early Palestinian Midrash
    (2003-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    In this paper I look at one particular exegetical complex through which, I will argue, the rabbis grapple with the question of legal jurisdiction and the status of revelation in the shadow of Roman legal hegemony. I will try to show that rabbinic midrash in its literariness (that is, as a source for the history of ideas, rather than a repository of more or less viable data for reporting history on the ground) is a valuable site for mining the mentalité of tannaitic culture (to the extent that we can posit such a thing), and specifically of tannaitic constructions of the idea of the law from the perspective of the subaltern.
  • Publication
    Means and End(ing)s: Nomos Versus Narrative in Early Rabbinic Exegesis
    (2016-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    Rabbinic literature shares a suggestive array of literary features with later Latin literary sources: commentary, fragmentation and quotation, and a granular attention to language. In this material narrative tends to be lost; classical source texts, such as Vergil, are fetishized, broken apart, and repurposed. In this essay I ask of one corpus--early rabbinic midrash (biblical commentary)--what is the origin and impact of its fragmented and finally incoherent narrative project? At the risk of over-simplifying, I will focus on the rabbis as a case study in the etiology of a more general phenomenon. I will argue that the fragmentation so typical of aggadic midrash is the result of the application of a specifically legal hermeneutic to nonlegal, specifically narrative, sources. As a result, rabbinic midrash beginning in the third century consistently undercuts its own narrative aims. Metaliterary, anthologized, pastiched, commentarial forms become standard in the late antique Roman repertoire, with rabbinic texts we can historicize and contextualize one such transformation, and in so doing center law, legal thinking and forms into literary genealogies.
  • Publication
    Name Calling: Thinking About (the Study of) Judaism in Late Antiquity
    (2009-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    Jewish Late Antiquity is a notoriously difficult period to see clearly; not only is the evidence sparse and idiosyncratic but the stakes are high and our lenses are perennially clouded. After all, the first centuries of the Common Era are the cradle of both Christianity and classical Judaism. The significance of this era is of intense and decidedly proprietary interest to many contemporary scribes no less than it was to ancient polemicists and practitioners. The methodological and confessional biases that inform the history of this period are, if not different in kind, then perhaps distinguished in degree from those that inflect all historical endeavors. The dangers posed, while hardly new to the field, are nonetheless persistent: we still need to sort out the very language and terms with which we do our work.
  • Publication
    Introduction: Rethinking Romanness, Provincializing Christendom
    (2013-01-01) Yoshiko Reed, Annette; Dohrmann, Natalie B
    In histories of ancient Jews and Judaism, the Roman Empire looms large. For all the attention to the Jewish Revolt and other conflicts, however, there has been less concern for situating Jews within Roman imperial contexts; just as Jews are frequently dismissed as atypical by scholars of Roman history, so Rome remains invisible in many studies of rabbinic and other Jewish sources written under Roman rule. Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire brings Jewish perspectives to bear on long-standing debates concerning Romanization, Christianization, and late antiquity. Focusing on the third to sixth centuries, it draws together specialists in Jewish and Christian history, law, literature, poetry, and art. Perspectives from rabbinic and patristic sources are juxtaposed with evidence from piyyutim, documentary papyri, and synagogue and church mosaics. Through these case studies, contributors highlight paradoxes, subtleties, and ironies of Romanness and imperial power.
  • Publication
    Capital Punishment: Judaism
    (2009-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    The Bible specifies capital punishment for a wide range of crimes against both God and man. Distinct and paradoxical political realia, however, circumscribe its interpretation and implementation in postbiblical Judaism.Capital jurisdiction is a test case of political autonomy, and in the postbiblical era, full Jewish political autonomy has been limited to the Second Temple era and the State of Israel. In Second Temple Judaism, executions fell primarily under the jurisdiction (or discretion) of the sovereign, such as Alexander Jannaeus or Herod. Any ties understood to have existed between executions and biblical strictures are unclear.
  • Publication
    Can “Law” Be Private? The Mixed Message of Rabbinic Oral Law
    (2015-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    A great deal of ink has been spilled on the question of early rabbinic literary culture and the rabbinic dedication to the development of an explicitly oral legal tradition. In this essay I will argue that given that the manifest content of early rabbinic discourse is law, it is productive to look to the very public practices of communication inscribed, literally and figuratively, in the Roman legal culture of the east. Within this context, the rabbinic legal project makes sense as a form of provincial shadowing of a dominant Roman legal culture. This paper will explore the paradoxical rabbinic deployment of the most public of Roman genres, law, in a manner explicitly coded as private. How does one make sense of the public aspirations of rabbinic law with its choice to remain unwritten and therefore largely invisible in the imperial landscape of the rabbinic city?
  • Publication
    Sacred Law: Greek, Roman, Jewish
    (2016-01-01) Dohrmann, Natalie B
    "All laws of men are nourished by one law, the divine law." So wrote the fifth-century Greek philosopher Heraklitos. The concept of "sacred law" on the other hand is likely the remnant of a category first used in 1906 CE to define a particular corpus of Greek inscriptions pertaining to cult practice. It constitutes a subcategory of the vast category-- "all laws of men" -- that includes the intersection of the normative and the divine. Sacred law is not the abstract, pervasive, and diffuse notion of divine sponsorship--however conceived--of state power, or the vast realm captured between the terms "religion and law," but rather covers a subcategory of explicit norms that govern religious cult practice.