6. Interaction between Rabbis and Other Jews in Private and Public Spaces in Late Roman Palestine

The Use and Dissemination of Religious Knowledge in Antiquity - Diana V. Edelman

Catherine Hezser [+-]
SOAS, University of London
Catherine Hezser is Professor of Jewish Studies at SOAS, University of London. Since 2017 she has also been Professor II (visiting professor) at the University of Oslo. She has published 8 single-authored monographs, 3 single-edited and 2 co-edited volumes, 75 single-authored articles in journals and book chapters, and 104 book reviews. Her area of specialization is the social history and daily life of Jews in Roman and early Byzantine Palestine. Amongst her most recent publication are Rabbinic Body Language: Non-Verbal Communication in Palestinian Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017) and Bild und Kontext: Jüdische und christliche Ikonographie der Spaetantike (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018).


Palestinian rabbinic literature mostly transmits traditions about interactions among rabbis and rabbis and their students. Nevertheless, in some social contexts rabbis are said to have met laypeople: rabbis were invited by wealthy householders; they attended study houses; they gave speeches in study houses and synagogues. This paper examines the private and public contexts in which interaction between rabbinic Torah scholars and other Jews is imagined in Palestinian rabbinic sources of late antiquity. How are relations between rabbis and laypeople depicted in comparison to those amongst rabbinic scholars? Are rabbis and non-rabbinic Jews described as equals or do the texts contain implicit or explicit markers of status differences? Questions about spatial access to rabbis are closely linked to the issue of transfer of knowledge. It is argued that rabbis’ actual behaviour and practice in public spaces may have been more important than verbal instruction. Rabbis could serve as role models for those who observed them. Since Judaism focuses on practice rather than beliefs, rabbis’ conduct in everyday situations would have been the foremost way of disseminating rabbinic knowledge.

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Hezser, Catherine. 6. Interaction between Rabbis and Other Jews in Private and Public Spaces in Late Roman Palestine. The Use and Dissemination of Religious Knowledge in Antiquity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2021. ISBN 9781781798768. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=37995. Date accessed: 05 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.37995. Oct 2021

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