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Under a Censored Sky: Astronomy and Rabbinic Authority in the Talmud Bavli and Related Literature

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Under a Censored Sky: Astronomy and Rabbinic Authority in the Talmud Bavli and Related Literature

Lobel, Andrea Dawn (2015) Under a Censored Sky: Astronomy and Rabbinic Authority in the Talmud Bavli and Related Literature. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Until the last few decades of the twentieth century, research on Judaism and astronomy and related celestial sciences tended to emphasize the medieval and Second Temple periods. To date, with the exception of analyses of the Jewish calendar and its development, few studies in the history of science have focused upon the rabbinic period, although a growing number of scholars, including Annette Yoshiko Reed, Noah Efron, and Menachem Fisch, have begun to address this gap.

The emerging sub-field of the history of rabbinic science ca. 70-750 C.E., spans the fields of both Jewish studies and the history of science. This dissertation represents an original contribution to knowledge, demonstrating both the richness of celestial discourse in the Babylonian Talmud and the nuanced play of differing typologies of rabbinic authority articulated by Avi Sagi, Michael S. Berger, and other scholars, particularly epistemic and deontic authority. These are shown to interact strongly with rabbinic discourses addressing the overlapping celestial concerns of astronomy, astrology, astral magic, astrolatry, and cosmogony.
By examining these astronomical topics together in a study of this kind for the first time, I demonstrate a recurrent pattern of tight rabbinic controls over the celestial sciences preserved in the Babylonian Talmud. This is of importance to the trajectory of Jewish scientific thought due to the enduring centrality of the Bavli.

I also underscore an idealized portrayal of rabbinic legal deontic authority over these sciences, and a focus upon shows of honour and prestige associated with the rabbinic station itself in the Bavli. Further, I highlight the ways in which these preserved talmudic portrayals also serve to illuminate the self-presentation of the rabbis as inheritors of the interpretive and legislative powers bequeathed to them by God, the cosmic lawgiver, at the time of creation and at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religions and Cultures
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Lobel, Andrea Dawn
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Religion
Date:August 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Robinson, Ira
Keywords:Religion, Judaism, Jewish rabbis, rabbinic astronomy, history of science, astrology, cosmology, cosmogony, magic, authority, celestial, astral, Talmud
ID Code:980359
Deposited By: Andrea Dawn Lobel
Deposited On:28 Oct 2015 13:02
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:51
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