Beyond the Image of God: the Rabbis on the Reproduction of Humans and Other Animals

Date / Time

March 31, 2021

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Rachel Rafael Neis, University of Michigan

The ancient biblical conception of humanity “created in the image of God” is often touted as a singular contribution of the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” This talk explores a rather different approach to the human and the nonhuman in the writings of the Jewish rabbis of late ancient Palestine (ca. 1st- early 5th centuries CE). Reading across ostensibly unrelated texts from the Mishnah –including tractates on menstrual purity, animal firstborn donations to the temple, and the prohibition against hybridization of species– we encounter a rabbinic theory of reproduction that intertwines gynecology and zoology. In a late ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world of reproductive unpredictability, the Palestinian rabbis conceive of the human alongside other animals, and within broader considerations about reproduction, species, and hybridity.

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