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Aphrodite and the Rabbis

How the Jews Adapted Roman Culture to Create Judaism as We Know It

Burton L. Visotzky

St. Martin's Press

Aphrodite and the Rabbis Download image

ISBN10: 1250085764
ISBN13: 9781250085764


256 Pages



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Historians have long debated the (re)birth of Judaism in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple cult by the Romans in 70 CE. What replaced that sacrificial cult was at once something new—indebted to the very culture of the Roman overlords—even as it also sought to preserve what little it could of the old Israelite religion. The Greco-Roman culture in which rabbinic Judaism grew in the first five centuries of the Common Era nurtured the development of Judaism as we still know and celebrate it today.

Arguing that its transformation from a Jerusalem-centered cult to a world religion was made possible by the Roman Empire, Rabbi Burton Visotzky presents Judaism as a distinctly Roman religion. Full of fascinating detail from the daily life and culture of Jewish communities across the Hellenistic world, Aphrodite and the Rabbis will appeal to anyone interested in the development of Judaism, religion, history, art and architecture.


Praise for Aphrodite and the Rabbis

"In his highly accessible Aphrodite and the Rabbis, Visotzky . . . tells a story of the deep influence of Roman culture on the Judaism of Talmudic times."Commentary

"A book that teaches of the Judaism of the past, but encourages us to be proud and hopeful of it in the present—an important message from a book that is a scholarly, lively, and worthwhile read."—Jewish Book Council

"Burton Visotzky’s Aphrodite and the Rabbis [shows] full command of the evidence down to the smallest details. In a clear, accessible, even conversational and story-telling style, Aphrodite and the Rabbis makes sense of Jewish culture in Late Antiquity and throws light on modern-day Jewish life. Aphrodite is a beautiful book—a great achievement."—Dr. Günter Stemberger, University Professor Emeritus, University of Vienna

"Enables the general reader to understand the meaning of many passages of law and of legend, of archeological finds and of ancient culture, of newly discovered art and of long misunderstood texts by locating them within the larger cultural context within which they first came into being."South Florida Jewish Journal

"[Visotzky's] warm and personal style makes Aphrodite and the Rabbis feel like an intimate guided tour of ancient Judaism. For anyone interested in the birth of Judeo-Christian culture, this history is worth a look."Shelf Awareness

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Burton L. Visotzky

BURTON L. VISOTZKY is Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He worked with Bill Moyers and more recently with Christiane Amanpour on “Back to the Beginning,” aired annually at Christmas time. The author of many books, including Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud, he has been named to “The Forward 50” and repeatedly to the Newsweek/Daily Beast list of the “The 50 Most Influential Jews in America.” He lives in Manhattan.

Courtesy of JTS

Burton L. Visotzky