Simcha Gross

The Divinity School is pleased to announce a public lecture by Simcha Gross: "Rabbis in Zoroastrian Fire Temples: New Histories of Babylonian Jews."

Wednesday, November 30, 4:30pm, Common Room

Over the course of late antiquity, the Jews in Babylonia, modern Iraq, lived under the Sasanian Empire, a Persian and Zoroastrian power that rivaled the Romans to their west in size and strength. Among these Babylonian Jews were a community of rabbis who are featured in, and were responsible for, the Babylonian Talmud, one of the most influential texts in Jewish history. How did life under the Sasanian Empire affect Babylonian Jews, the Babylonian rabbis, and the nature of the Talmud? To date, the answer to these questions has been relatively straightforward: the Sasanian Empire impacted Jews precisely by leaving them to thrive in seclusion. This talk offers a new understanding of Babylonian Jewish society in the Sasanian Empire that necessitates novel approaches to the social, cultural, and literary history of the Jews under Sasanian rule, and a reconsideration of the rise and spread of the Babylonian rabbinic movement from its obscure origins to its pervasion across the Jewish world. 

Simcha Gross is an Assistant Professor of Ancient Rabbinics at the University of Pennsylvania, interested in the religious, social, and cultural developments of Jewish communities in the Near East set within their Roman, Persian, and Islamic contexts. He completed his PhD in Ancient Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University. He is currently a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and a recipient of an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experience Researchers. His first book, Babylonian Jews and Sasanian Imperialism in Late Antiquity, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.