This introductory chapter provides an overview of how the rabbis used time-keeping and discourses about time to construct crucial social, political, and theological difference. As the rabbis fashioned Jewish life and theology in the Roman and Sasanian worlds, they articulated conceptions and structures of time that promoted and reinforced new configurations of difference in multiple realms. The chapter then reflects on the categories of “time” and “difference” and the interrelationship between the two. It discusses three interrelated cultural and political dimensions of the rabbis' late antique world. Rather than set within a conventional historical contextualization, however, the story is told as a history of time, highlighting specifically temporal aspects of the Jewish, Greco-Roman, and Christian contexts in which the rabbinic movement emerged and developed.
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