photo of Jason Mokhtarian

Photo Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests

Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests:
The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran

Out in July 2015

Find my complete cv here.

Jason Mokhtarian

Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Sycamore Hall 334


Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2011

Research Interests

Professional Biography

I am a historian of ancient Judaism with a specific interest in the Jews of Persia in the Second Temple and rabbinic periods. I received a M.A. in the history of Judaism from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a M.A. in ancient Iranian studies and Ph.D. in early and late antique Judaism from UCLA’s department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. My current areas of research include the Talmud in its Iranian context, the Aramaic magical bowl spells from Sasanian Mesopotamia, the comparison of religions of the late antique east, and the political and cultural history of the Jews of Persia.

My book Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran (University of California Press, 2015) is a study of the Babylonian Talmud’s portrayals of Persians that brings into mutual fruition Talmudic studies and Iranology, two historically distinct disciplines. I have also published articles in the journals Jewish Studies Quarterly, Iranian Studies, and Harvard Theological Review, as well as in edited volumes. I am currently working on two book projects—one on the Aramaic magic bowls, and the other on the political relationship between Jews and Persians from antiquity to the present.

At Indiana University, I teach courses in Jewish studies and religious studies on the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic literature, religions of late antiquity, Zoroastrianism, and the Jewish sacred canon.


Courses Recently Taught

Publication Highlights


Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran, (University of California Press, 2015).


“Excommunication in Jewish Babylonia: Comparing Bavli Mo‘ed Qaṭan 14b-17b and the Aramaic Bowl Spells in a Sasanian Context.” Harvard Theological Review 108, No. 4 (Oct., 2015)

“The Boundaries of an Infidel in Zoroastrianism: A Middle Persian Term of Otherness for Jews, Christians, and Muslims,” Iranian Studies 48 (2015): 99-115

“Rabbinic Depictions of the Achaemenid King Cyrus the Great: The Babylonian Esther Midrash (bMeg. 10b-17a) in its Iranian Context,” The Talmud in its Iranian Context, eds. Carol Bakhos and M. Rahim Shayegan (Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, 2010), 112-139.


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