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Daniel Boyarin

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Daniel Boyarin (born 1946) is a philosopher and historian of religion. Born in Asbury Park, New Jersey, he holds dual United States and Israeli citizenship. Trained as a Talmudic scholar, in 1990 he was appointed Professor of Talmudic Culture, Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, a post which he still holds.


Boyarin was educated at Goddard College, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University before earning his doctoral degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.[1] He has taught at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, Yale, Harvard, Yeshiva University, and the University of California at Berkeley. He is a member of the Enoch seminar and of the Advisory Board of the Journal Henoch. In 2005 he was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Views and writings

Daniel Boyarin works at a curious nexus of philosophy and religion, tradition and novelty. He defines himself as an Orthodox Jew. Boyarin’s interests mesh with those of others, such as Sander Gilman and Jay Geller, who have begun to explore the relationship between psychoanalysis and Judaism. For Boyarin, the Oedipus complex both incarnates and disavows a fear Freud had of being classified as feminine in the context of the times in which he lived, times that were anti-Semitic and that ultimately culminated in the Holocaust. Boyarin holds that passivity is an essential feature of Judaism, and that because this is a quality that is held in common with homosexuality, it has the power to inspire panic among Jews who fear the censorious gaze of authority. Consequently, he claims, Freud conceived of the Oedipus complex as a way of deferring the charge of Jewish femininity by offering proof that Jews, no less than Gentiles, had within them the desire to kill.

Boyarin supports his assertion that passivity is essential to Judaism with the observation that Judaism worships a powerful male authority figure who demands obeisance, and with documentary evidence such as Haggadot [prayer guides for the Jewish Passover ritual of the Seder] that show the wise son as the retiring scholar, and the wicked son as the man of war. Inevitably, this leads Boyarin to oppose Zionism, as he feels that the necessary element of activity and war entailed in ruling over a land is at odds with what he identifies as the authentic and persistent current of scholarship that defines the tradition. Martha Nussbaum credits him with the insight that Jewish sensibilities "reshaped Roman norms of manliness, making the astonishing claim that the true man sits still all day with a book, and has the bodily shape of someone who does just that."[2]


In December, 2006, after a lifetime of distinguished achievement in Jewish studies and Talmud scholarship, Boyarin was assailed by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in an article by Prof. Alvin H. Rosenfeld of Indiana University, Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism. Rosenfeld quotes Boyarin with disapprobation for having written: "Just as Christianity may have died at Auschwitz, Treblinka and I fear that my Judaism may be dying at Nablus, Deheishe, Beteen (Beth-El) and El-Khalil (Hebron)."[3] Rosenfield accuses Boyarin of lacking "lucid thinking" as well as "bias" for having drawn an analogy between the Nazi Holocaust and the Israeli government's conduct toward the Palestinians.[4] The AJC criticism of Boyarin was magnified by Gershom Gorenberg writing in the American Prospect, rebuking Boyarin as a "purple-faced anti-Zionist".[5][6]


  • A Critical Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Nazir. (Doctoral dissertation, 1975).
  • Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).
  • Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
  • A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).
  • Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man, (University of California Press, 1997)
  • Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism, (Stanford University Press, 1999)
  • Queer Theory and the Jewish Question, (Columbia University Press, 2003)
  • Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)


  1. Professor Daniel Boyarin - Education (University of California, Berkeley) Retrieved: 2007-03-18.
  2. Martha C. Nussbaum, Man Overboard, The New Republic, June 22nd, 2006.
  3. Cf. Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon (ed.), Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict (New York: Grove Press, 2003).
  4. p. 17.
  5. Gorenberg, Gershom (2007-02-06). "Shotgun Blast". The American Prospect. Retrieved 2008-05-09. "Berkeley Talmud professor Daniel Boyarin, who says that just as Christianity may have died at Auschwitz, "my Judaism may be dying at Nablus …" — which at least implies that Israel has engaged in Nazi-style mass murder in that West Bank city. Outrage at such comparisons is justified."" 
  6. Also cf. Patricia Cohen, "Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor," New York Times, Jan. 31, 2007.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Daniel Boyarin. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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