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Goy: Israel’s Others and the Birth of the Gentile

Israel's Others and the Birth of the Gentile
Oxford University Press
Publication Year


Goy: Israel’s Others and the Birth of the Gentile traces the development of the term and category of the goy from the Bible to rabbinic literature. Adi Ophir and Ishay Rosen-Zvi show that the category of the goy was born much later than scholars assume; in fact not before the first century CE. They explain that the abstract concept of the gentile first appeared in Paul’s Letters. However, it was only in rabbinic literature that this category became the center of a stable and long standing structure that involved God, the Halakha, history, and salvation. The authors narrate this development through chronological analyses of the various biblical and post biblical texts (including the Dead Sea scrolls, the New Testament and early patristics, the Mishnah, and rabbinic Midrash) and synchronic analyses of several discursive structures. Looking at some of the goy‘s instantiations in contemporary Jewish culture in Israel and the United States, the study concludes with an examination of the extraordinary resilience of the Jew/goy division and asks how would Judaism look like without the gentile as its binary contrast.


“Goy is an important and absolutely necessary intervention in scholarly assumptions.”
Cavan Concannon, University of Southern California, Ancient Jewish Review

“Ophir and Rosen-Zvi’s study sheds light on a significant blind spot. The two uncover a dramatic historical development and for the first time elucidate the history of one of the oldest and most important Jewish institutions.”
Tomer Persico, Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley, Haaretz

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