A lecture by Professor Simcha Gross, University of Pennsylvania
One of the major scholarly revolutions in the study of ancient Judaism is the rejection of outdated binaries that stratified Jews into the scholastic elite and the superstitious masses, dividing between rabbis and sorcerers. Instead, recent work offers a more complex portrait, where diverse social actors engaged in contests over the most effective and legitimate forms of prophylactics, as well as those individuals authorized to perform them. This talk engages these questions through three vignettes: a rabbinic tale featuring a Satanic encounter, the continued discovery of the invocation of rabbis and rabbinic formulae on Aramaic incantation bowls, and the enigmatic usage of “pseudo-script” on roughly a quarter of the incantation bowl corpus.
Simcha Gross is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the Jews of the first millennium of the common era in their Roman, Sasanian, and Islamicate contexts. His first book, Babylonian Jews and Sasanian Imperialism in Late Antiquity, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. He was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton in the School of Historical Studies, received an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship for experienced researchers, and will be a fellow at the Israel Institute for Advanced Study in Spring 2024.
Co-sponsored by Jewish Studies and the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies