Plato and the Talmud
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Plato, Bakhtin, and the Rabbis Meet Again
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Plato and the Talmud by Jacob Howland reviewed by Charles T. Rubin - Interpretation Journal
Sign Up Now Already subscribed? In fact, the clear-cut distinction between the theoretical and the practical dissolves. As the book argues, Plato and the Talmud teach by example: they not only depict distinctive and exemplary figures—Socrates and the prophets—in action, but they also deploy a number of literary devices designed to puzzle and provoke their readers to carefully examine the text, as well as their own lives, in light of the examples.
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To make this point, the author, who is equally at home in the labyrinth of the Platonic dialogues and in the intricacies of the Gemara, develops a careful and fascinating comparative interpretation of Plato's Apology and Euthyphro and the stories of Honi HaMe'aggel and Elazar in Ta'anit 3. From the latter, it appears that the Talmud accords an important role to prophetic outsiders whose greater intimacy with the divine puts them at odds with the community as well as with the emerging rabbinical tradition.
However, this intimacy also enables them both to test, challenge, and criticize divine power and authority and to save the community in times of emergency. In his reading of Plato, on the other hand, the author ably argues that Socrates's philosophizing cannot be properly understood without taking seriously his claim that it is a specific form of piety.
His attempt to refute the Delphic oracle's famous assertion springs from a fundamental trust in the veracity of the god: "In brief, Socrates makes it clear that the Delphic oracle arouses, authorizes, and focuses his desire for wisdom, and that it is able to do so only because he [End Page ] is prepared from the outset to acknowledge Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
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Plato and the Talmud
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