- The Passover Seder is a Greco-Roman symposium banquet - The Talmud rabbis presented themselves as Stoic philosophers - Synagogue buildings were Roman basilicas - Hellenistic rhetoric professors educated sons of well-to-do Jews - Zeus-Helios is depicted in synagogue mosaics across ancient Israel - The Jewish courts were named after the Roman political institution, the Sanhedrin - In Israel there were synagogues where the prayers were recited in Greek.
Historians have long debated the (re)birth of Judaism in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple cult by the Romans in 70 CE. What replaced that sacrificial cult was at once something new–indebted to the very culture of the Roman overlords–even as it also sought to preserve what little it could of the old Israelite religion. The Greco-Roman culture in which rabbinic Judaism grew in the first five centuries of the Common Era nurtured the development of Judaism as we still know and celebrate it today.
Arguing that its transformation from a Jerusalem-centered cult to a world religion was made possible by the Roman Empire, Rabbi Burton Visotzky presents Judaism as a distinctly Roman religion. Full of fascinating detail from the daily life and culture of Jewish communities across the Hellenistic world, Aphrodite and the Rabbis will appeal to anyone interested in the development of Judaism, religion, history, art and architecture.
"Witty and insightful." ―Publishers Weekly
"An erudite, pertinently illustrated, and accessible work of religious history." ―Booklist
"APHRODITE AND THE RABBIS is a masterpiece of Jewish thought. Rabbi Burt Visotzky shows us how Roman culture flows through Judaism in ways most of us never imagined. Your Passover Seder will never be the same! This stunning work will bless you and inspire you." ―Rabbi Naomi Levy, author of To Begin Again and Hope Will Find You
"An intriguing [...] look at two worlds colliding and coexisiting." ―Kirkus Reviews
“From the opening pages of Aphrodite and the Rabbis, you know you’re in the hands of the rarest kind of guide―charming, self-effacing, and deeply knowledgeable. Burt Visotzky brings to life one of the least known eras of Jewish life and make the compelling case that it continues to shape our lives today. A must-read for any student of Judaism.” ―Bruce Feiler, bestselling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham
"A super-smart, comprehensive, wittily-written admixture of history, legend, archaeology, art, stories, and text analysis. In graceful, colloquial prose, Visotzky leads modern readers through the ancient world to illuminate the debt that rabbinic Judaism owes to Greco-Roman culture. Rarely has a book by a towering Jewish scholar been this much fun to read." ―Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America
"Understanding how Rome shaped the Rabbis, with Burt Visotzky as tour guide, is a fascinating, funny and enlightening journey. Here is a history that teaches not only about who we were, but has deep lessons about who we are and who we might become." ―Rabbi David Wolpe, Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple and author, David: The Divided Heart
"Burt Visotzky has written a marvelous new book full of insight and humor, yet resting on a lifetime of scholarship and faithfulness. Don't miss it." ―Thomas Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews