Rabbinic Forensics: Distinguishing Egg White from Semen in the Babylonian Talmud

Mon, Mar 19 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Chapin Hall, 101
Potiphar and his wife image from Judith

Please join us for a lecture with Judith Baskin, Philip H. Knight Professor Emerita of Humanities at the
University of Oregon. Her lecture begins with a discussion of a brief passage within a passage in bGittin 57a that demonstrates how rabbinic knowledge of a forensic technique for distinguishing egg white from semen protected a woman from her husband’s fabricated accusation of adultery. Baskin will then discuss how this investigative procedure is cited in medieval and early modern Jewish exegeses of the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39), where the same forensic test is used to absolve a man who was falsely accused of rape by a woman. Interestingly, this scientific test is also cited in a medieval Muslim source. Additionally, the lecture looks at the values these narratives attach to female passivity and agency, and establishes how the anecdote about the husband who was found guilty of falsely accusing his wife in the Talmudic passage is also part of a late ancient polemic against Christianity.

This event is open to the public and generously sponsored by the Willis Wood Foundation and the Religion Department.

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