Jewish Marriage in Antiquity

February 23, 2021
Jewish Marriage in Antiquity

Marriage today might be a highly contested topic, but certainlyno more than it was in antiquity. Ancient Jews, like theirnon-Jewish neighbors, grappled with what have become perennialissues of marriage, from its idealistic definitions to its manypractical forms to questions of who should or should not wed. Inthis book, Michael Satlow offers the first in-depth synthetic studyof Jewish marriage in antiquity, from ca. 500 B.C.E. to 614 C.E.Placing Jewish marriage in its cultural milieu, Satlow investigateswhether there was anything essentially "Jewish" about theinstitution as it was discussed and practiced. Moreover, heconsiders the social and economic aspects of marriage as both apersonal relationship and a religious bond, and explores how theJews of antiquity negotiated the gap between marital realities andtheir ideals.Focusing on the various experiences of Jews throughout theMediterranean basin and in Babylonia, Satlow argues that differentcommunities, even rabbinic ones, constructed their own "Jewish"marriage: they read their received traditions and rituals throughthe lens of a basic understanding of marriage that they shared withtheir non-Jewish neighbors. He also maintains that Jews idealizedmarriage in a way that responded to the ideals of their respectivesocieties, mediating between such values as honor and the farmessier realities of marital life. Employing Jewish and non-Jewishliterary texts, papyri, inscriptions, and material artifacts,Satlow paints a vibrant portrait of ancient Judaism whilesharpening and clarifying present discussions on modern marriagefor Jews and non-Jews alike.