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Boyarin, Daniel

BOYARIN, DANIEL

BOYARIN, DANIEL (1946– ), U.S. talmudist and cultural critic. Boyarin was educated at Goddard College, Columbia University (M.A.), and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Ph.D., 1975). He taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Ben-Gurion University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel; from 1990 he served as the Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Among his many books are Sephardi Speculation: A Study in Methods of Talmudic Interpretation (Heb., 1989); Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (1990); Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture (1993); A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (1994); Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (1997); Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism (1999); and Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (2004). In addition, he is the author of more than 100 articlesin Hebrew and English.

Boyarin's work is characterized by the application of post-modernist and post-colonialist theory to Jewish cultural history, especially and most fruitfully, during the period of late antiquity. He numbers among the pioneers in the modern study of midrash and in the introduction of gender as a critical category in the study of rabbinic literature. His work took a decided turn in his controversial study of the apostle Paul, as his own deep hostility to Zionism emerged as a central feature in his reading of Paul. From this point forward he continually focused on the "diasporic" nature of rabbinic Judaism, in which Jewish culture expresses hostility to power and can even be characterized as "feminized." This nature is often placed in contrast to Zionist, territorialist, and nationalist readings of the Jewish past and present, which are characterized as valuing power and masculinity. Another turn emerged with his study of martyrdom and subsequent studies of the Jewish-Christian divide. It is Boyarin's contention that, despite the rhetoric of differentiation found in the works of certain religious elites, the boundaries between Jewish and Christian communities were ill defined and porous through the end of the third century c.e. Only with the emergence of Christian orthodoxy in the early fourth century did a firm boundary between Judaism and Christianity emerge.

Among his many honors, Boyarin was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Jewish Research in 2000, and in 2002 was awarded the Jewish Cultural Achievement in Scholarship Award, given by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

[Jay Harris (2nd ed.)]

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