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Indiana University Bloomington
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Jason Mokhtarian

Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies; Director of Olamot: Center for Scholarly and Cultural Exchange with Israel; Adjunct in History, Central Eurasian Studies, Ancient Studies, Islamic Studies, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

I am a historian of Judaism with a particular interest in the Jews of ancient Persia. Most of my research focuses on contextualizing the Talmud in its broader Persian-Sasanian milieu. On this topic, I have published numerous articles as well as the book Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran (University of California Press, 2015), which was named a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the category of scholarship. In general, my research draws from a range of Jewish and Persian sources in order to interrogate the ways in which the Babylonian Jews were influenced by the other religions and cultures in the Sasanian empire. Building on this idea, my current book project examines Talmudic texts about illness and healing and their relationship to the non-rabbinic world. In addition to this book, I am also in the early phases of a long-term book project on the history of the Jews of Persia from antiquity to the present. At Indiana University I teach both undergraduate and graduate students in a range of subjects in Jewish and Iranian studies and serve as the director of the Olamot Center.

Current C.V.

Rabbis, Socrcerers, Kings, and Priests (University of California Press, 2015);
Finalist, National Jewish Book Award in the scholarship category.

 

Education

  • Ph.D., Late Antique Judaism, UCLA, 2011
  • M.A., Ancient Iranian Studies, UCLA, 2007
  • M.A., History of Judaism, University of Chicago Divinity School, 2004
  • B.A./A.M., English and Religious Studies, University of Chicago, 2001

Research Interests

  • Late Antique Judaism
  • Rabbinic Literature
  • Talmud in its Iranian Context
  • History of the Jews of Persia
  • Aramaic Incantation Bowls
  • Sasanian History
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Middle Persian Language and Literature
  • Religious Interaction in the Early Islamic Period

Publications

Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran (University of California Press, 2015).

“Excommunication in Jewish Babylonia: Comparing Bavli Mo‘ed Qaṭan 14b-17b and the Aramaic Bowl Spells in a Sasanian Context,” Harvard Theological Review 108, No 4 (Oct., 2015).

“The Boundaries of an Infidel in Zoroastrianism: A Middle Persian Term of Otherness for Jews, Christians, and Muslims,” Iranian Studies 48 (2015): 99-115.

“Authority and Empire in Sasanian Babylonia: The Rabbis and King Shapur in Dialogue,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 19, No. 2 (2012): 148-180.  

“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 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 112-139.

Courses Currently Taught

  • Introduction to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible
  • Sacred Books of the Jews
  • Rabbinic Judaism: Literature and Beliefs
  • Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity
  • Magic and Witchcraft in the Ancient World
  • Zoroastrian Hermeneutics

Background

  • IU Trustees Teaching Award, 2018
  • IU Office of International Affairs, Study Abroad Program Development Workshop Grant, 2018
  • IU College of Arts and Sciences Institute Grant, with Kevin Jaques and Jeremy Schott, “Holistic Approaches to the Study of Early Islam and the Late Antique World,” 2015-2016
  • 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