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Beyond Judaisms: Meṭ aṭ ron and the Divine Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism


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D. Boyarin / Journal for the Study of Judaism 41 (2010) 323-365
a much more multiform set of religious ideas and even practices of wor-
ship than “orthodoxy” would allow for.6
Earlier iterations of this line of argument7 have been misunderstood,
certain scholars thinking, it seems, that I have assented to Segal, rather
than dissenting from his approach (after having learned much from him,
to be sure).8 I want, therefore, to make as clear as possible the crucial dif-
ference between my approach and that of my predecessor. Perhaps the
clearest way that I can articulate the difference in our methods or
approaches is that where he can imagine asking (and answering) a ques-
tion about the existence of the “heresy” before the Rabbis, for me, since it
was the Rabbis who invented the “heresy” via a rejection of that which
was once (and continued to be) very much within Judaism, that question
is, of course, impossible. his goes to the heart of our respective portraits
of ancient Judaism. Where Segal seems clearly to imagine an “orthodox
core” to Judaism that pre-exists and then develops into what would
become rabbinism, I imagine a Judaism that consists of manifold histori-
cal developments of a polyform tradition in which no particular form has
claim to either orthodoxy or centrality over others. Accordingly while I
am reading many of the same texts as Segal, my overall way of putting
them together is almost diametrically opposed to his and many of the
individual readings are quite different as well. I say this not to engage in a
6) his represents a distinct refinement of the position I took in D. Boyarin, Border Lines:
he Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religions;
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), perhaps even a border correction.
Rather than concluding, as I did then, that ultimately the rabbinic tradition rejected an
“orthodox” formation, I would now rephrase that to suggest that a virtual orthodoxy was
continued (excluding, for instance, Christians who considered themselves Jews after the
third century, for sure); rather, it was the concept of theological akribeia, precision or
exactitude, that never seems to have developed among non-Christian versions of Judaism
including rabbinism. his not minor shift, will, I hope deflect some of the charges of
apparent triumphalism or apologetic that the formulation in the book brought in its wake.
See especially V. Burrus, R. Kalmin, H. Lapin, and J. Marcus, “Boyarin’s Work: A Critical
Assessment,” Henoch 28 (2006): 7-30, especially the essay by Joel Marcus there.
7) D. Boyarin, “Two Powers in Heaven; or, the Making of a Heresy,” in he Idea of Biblical
Interpretation: Essays in Honor of James L. Kugel (ed. H. Najman and J. Newman; JSJSup
83; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 331-70.
8) Schäfer, for instance, regards my own earlier renditions of this theory as “inspired by
Segal,” while I quite clearly and explicitly disagree with him, P. Schäfer, he Origins of
Jewish Mysticism (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 323 n. 367. Goshen-Gottstein mistakes
me in the same way (See appendix below in this article). Idel, Ben, 591 clearly and
precisely understood what was at stake between Segal and me.
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