Theses Doctoral

Rabbis and Donors: The Logics of Giving in the Ancient Mediterranean

Dalton, Krista

This dissertation analyzes the performance of rabbinic expertise in the cultivation of donor and social networks in late antiquity. Through analysis of narrative depictions of rabbis and donors in Palestinian Rabbinic literature, I illustrate the social relationships created and maintained through gift-giving. I argue the rabbis used social networks to cultivate the legitimacy of the rabbinic project, facilitated by the authorizing power of donations. I demonstrate how donations to rabbis served as a means of legitimizing the rabbinic office as they formed into a self-conscious guild whose authority rested on the performance of expertise.
These donations were not so simply received, however, as the rabbis disdained reciprocal forms of patronage associated with the broader Roman empire. Therefore, I demonstrate how the rabbis drew from systems of donation in the biblical text in order to assuage the association of their donors with formal patronage. In drawing from the biblical system and applying to their own historical times, the rabbis blended the gift types of tithes, charity, benefaction, and patronage. In this way, narrative accounts of tithes, charity, and informal gifts to rabbis can be read for the dynamics of reciprocal expectations sometimes encoded in the narrative account. With careful attention to rabbinic exegetical strategies, I trace the reception of biblical ideas about giving to their manifestation within the particular context of Roman Syria Palaestina.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Berkowitz, Beth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2019