A topic that has significantly affected the discourse concerning gentile wine in Judaism from antiquity and up through the present day is that of יין נסך – gentile libation wine. It receives significant treatment in early rabbinic literature, such as the Mishnah and Tosefta of Avodah Zarah. To discuss this issue for the 71st episode of The Jewish Drinking Show is Professor Avram Shannon.
Prof. Shannon is presently an assistant professor at Brigham Young University in the Ancient Scripture department. Originally from Virginia, he earned his undergraduate degree from BYU, his masters degree from University of Oxford, and his PhD from THE Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) in 2015 (the same year that THE Ohio State University won the football championship!) with a dissertation entitled “Other Peoples’ Rituals: Tannaitic Portrayal of Graeco-Roman Ritual”, in which he shared his research on various topics including gentile libation wine in the Mishnah and Tosefta of Avodah Zarah.
Available in both audio (feel free to click below or listen on your favorite podcast platform), as well as video:
In this clip from the episode, we discuss Gentiles Libating Wine in Late Antiquity:
Curious about the outline before we recorded the episode?
- I. Welcome
- II. Introduction to guest
- Drew: I want to welcome first-time guest, Prof. Avram Shannon – welcome!
- Shannon: “Thank you for inviting me”
- Drew: “For those less familiar with Prof. Shannon, he is presently an assistant professor at Brigham Young University in the Ancient Scripture department. Originally from Virginia, he earned his undergraduate degree from BYU, his masters degree from University of Oxford, and his PhD from THE Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) in 2015 (the same year that THE Ohio State University won the football championship!) with a dissertation entitled “Other Peoples’ Rituals: Tannaitic Portrayal of Graeco-Roman Ritual”, which brings us to our topic of early rabbinic perceptions of gentile wine-libations.”
III. Introduction to topic
- This brings us to our present episode, which is the concern in early rabbinic literature about gentiles libating wine in both the Mishnah and Tosefta of tractate Avodah Zarah
- First, some literary context about this topic and if people want to follow along at home, this concern, יין נסך, appears at the end of the fourth chapter of Mishnah Avodah Zarah and throughout the fifth chapter, as well as being the topic of the eighth chapter in Tosefta Avodah Zarah
- What is particularly interesting is that the tractate in the Mishnah in which wine appears the most frequently mentioned out of the entirety of the mishnah something that came up on the ninth episode of the show with Professor Avi Walfish on Wine in the Mishnah
- Body of Discussion
- So how does wine appear in Mishnah and Tosefta Avodah Zarah?
- In the Mishnah, it appears at the end of chapter four and throughout chapter 5
- almost has nothing to do the end of the fourth chapter the mishnah with being libated it almost seems as if it’s more of being contaminant contaminated by gentile possession
- Chapter 5 begins with a discussion of what happens of not being involved in the intrade or other commercial activities involving this gentile wine
- Chapter 5 also talks about the possibilities of of Jewish wine being potentially contaminated by gentiles interacting with it
- At no point in the Mishnah of Avodah Zarah do we actually see anything about gentiles libating wine or doing anything with wine that has already been libated. The phrase in the mishna comes across as more of gentile-endeavored wine. That somehow it’s gentile wine and it is no longer fit for Jewish consumption or benefit.
- In the Tosefta, it is the entire topic of chapter 7 or 8
- Lot of parallels with the Mishnah
- Despite a lot of parallels with the Mishnah, it does introduce the notion of a particular way of practicing libations “שאין דרכן לנסך כן” if a little bit of wine is on a gentile’s hands interacting with grapes/wine
- Also, this expansion into not just wine – including even honey!
- Interesting to consider strategies to legitimately sell off the wine
- Contextualizing Wine-libating within the larger world of late antiquity
- Shannon discusses his ideas about the Tannaitic theorizing on idolatry (coming from m. Sanhedrin 7:6 and other places). The Tanaaitic idea of idolatry helps to explain why wine is mentioned in Avodah Zarah more than any other place in the Mishnah
- Shannon, could you provide further contextualization about gentile wine libations at that time?
- Drew: “Prof. Shannon, are there any projects/books you are working on/publishing that you would like to share?”
- Prof. Shannon: “Yes,….”
- “Prof. Shannon, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your doctoral research!”
- “It’s my pleasure.”