Yaakov Elman and Mahnaz Moazami, PV 5.1-4 in the Context of Late Antique Intellectual History

The relatively short passage of PV 5.1-4 encapsulates within itself a number of important trends which link it—and PV as a whole—tightly within the matrix of Late Antique intellectual history, a matrix which, though strongly influenced by elite Graeco-Roman culture, also characterizes rabbinic compilations, and especially the Babylonian Talmud.

In this essay we examine five of these trends: (1) the scholasticization of religious law and ritual, and of theology in Christianity and to an extent, in Manichaeism; (2) the "Scriptural movement," as it has been termed by Guy Stroumsa, that is, a renewed emphasis on the scriptural origins of Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Manichaeism; (3) as a consequence of this turn, an emphasis on "omnisignificance," a term coined by James Kugel, that is, the doctrine that every word or element of Scripture is meaningful in a religious sense, and not merely evidence of some "literary" trope; (4) that that meaningfulness includes the most profound insights available to late antique intellectuals (including Augustine); and (5) in this case, the medical discoveries made by Galen as regards the processes of digestion as one basis for a dispute between Abarg and Mēdōmāh, and a redactional discussion in the Babylonian Talmud.