In this episode, Dr. Breann Fallon sits down with Professor Daniel Boyarin to discuss his monograph Judaism: Genealogy of the Jewish Notion makes the bold argument that the very concept of a religion of ‘Judaism’ is an invention of the Christian church. Before discussing the monograph, Boyarin outlines how Judaism is commonly defined in religious studies, as well as the potential problems with those definitions, particularly with regard to the sometimes competing conceptualisations of Judaism as a ‘religion’ or a ‘culture’.
Boyarin highlights the importance of memory and memorialisation as deeply-rooted elements of Jewish practice, especially of moments of genocide and massacre such as the Shoah, which subtly addresses notions of the World Religions Paradigm discussed in previous episodes. Boyarin also argues against “religifying” studies of Jewish texts and instead emphasises both the ideas of inclusivity inherent in the Talmud and its broader applicability, regardless of the religiosity of the reader, in order to fully encapsulate all the life forms and practices that exist in the Jewish community. To bring the conversation to a close, Fallon asks of the humour in the Talmud and Boyarin’s favourite comical moments in the text.