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Indiana University Bloomington
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Jason Mokhtarian

Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies

Jason Sion Mokhtarian is a scholar of ancient Judaism with a particular interest in the Jews of Persia in early and late antiquity.  He received a M.A. in Divinity in the History of Judaism from the University of Chicago, and a M.A. in Ancient Iranian Studies and Ph.D. in Early and Late Antique Judaism from the University of California, Los Angeles.  He teaches courses on various topics in the history of Judaism, such as “Torah, Temple, and God in Ancient Judaism,” “Rabbinic Judaism: Literature and Beliefs,” “Introduction to Jewish History: From the Bible to Spanish Expulsion,” and “Introduction to Judaism.”  His primary areas of research include the Talmud in its Iranian context, narratives in rabbinic literature, Jewish identity and culture in ancient Persia, Sasanian history and religions, and Middle Persian literature. 

Dr. Mokhtarian is currently researching the impact of Persian civilization on rabbinic culture as expressed in the Babylonian Talmud, the vast compendium of Jewish law and lore that the sages of late antiquity produced while living in the Sasanian empire.  Through a comparison of talmudic and Middle Persian sources, his current research contextualizes the Babylonian rabbinic movement within its wider socio-cultural milieu and gauges the prospects and limits of the integration of ancient Iranian studies into talmudic studies, two historically distinct disciplines.  His dissertation, entitled Rabbinic Portrayals of Persia: A Study of Babylonian Rabbinic Culture in its Sasanian Context, examines the extent to which ancient Persia, as both a real historical force and imaginary interlocutor, played a role in the formation of Babylonian rabbinic identity and authority. 

Dr. Mokhtarian is also in the process of co-editing a special volume of the journal Iranian Studies: Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies on religious interaction in late Sasanian and early Islamic Iran.

Education

  • Ph.D. at University of California, Los Angeles, 2011

Research Interests

  • Ancient Judaism
  • Rabbinics
  • Jews of Ancient Persia
  • Talmud in its Iranian Context
  • Ancient Iranian Studies

Publication Highlights

“Empire and Authority in Sasanian Babylonia: The Sages and King Shapur in Dialogue,” Jewish Studies Quarterly, eds. Sarit Kattan-Gribetz and Moulie Vidas (forthcoming in a special issue on dialogues with others in rabbinic sources).

“Rabbinic Depictions of the Achaemenid King Cyrus the Great: The Babylonian Esther Midrash (bMeg. 10b-17a) in its Iranian Context,” in The Talmud in its Iranian Context, eds. Carol Bakhos and M. Rahim Shayegan (Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, 2010), 112-139.

Courses Currently Taught

  • Introduction to Judaism
  • Introduction to Jewish History: From the Bible to the Spanish Expulsion
  • Torah, Temple, and God in Ancient Judaism
  • Rabbinic Judaism: Literature and Beliefs

Background

  • Foundation for Jewish Culture, Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Jewish Studies, 2010-2011
  • Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, International Dissertation Scholarship for Jewish Studies, 2010-2011
  • UCLA Graduate Division, Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2010-2011
  • Lady Davis Graduate Research Fellowship, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2005-06