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Mystical ResistanceUncovering the Zohar's Conversations with Christianity$
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Ellen D. Haskell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190600433

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190600433.001.0001

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A Moses for the Idolaters

A Moses for the Idolaters

Balaam as Christ

(p.66) 3 A Moses for the Idolaters
Mystical Resistance

Ellen D. Haskell

Oxford University Press

This chapter is the first of two dealing with the Zohar’s reinvention of the gentile prophet Balaam to challenge Christian claims regarding Jesus’ death and ascension. It shows how the Zoharic authors adapted Balaam traditions from ancient and medieval Jewish sources, wherein Balaam does not represent Jesus but does highlight Jewish concerns regarding gentiles to construct a character that is neither fully Christ nor fully Balaam, but a Balaam reimagined to intersect with Christianity. It identifies two texts known in Spain during the Zohar’s composition, the medieval midrash Numbers Rabbah and the anti-Christian folk narrative Toledot Yeshu, as the Zoharic Balaam’s main sources. The theme that ties these works together is a villain who flies and falls—the perfect vehicle for critiquing Christian ascension theology. This chapter’s topic is continued in chapter 4.

Keywords:   Kabbalah, Zohar, medieval, polemic, Balaam, ascension theology, Jewish-Christian relations, Numbers Rabbah, Toledot Yeshu

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