Too often the issue of the historicity of ancient rabbinic stories is assumed to be “yes or no”: either they are historically accurate or they are not. For me, however, the issue is never all or nothing, but rather of differing degrees of probability. When are these sources more likely to yield usable historical information and when are they less likely? And since it is extremely unlikely that we can accept any Talmudic narrative’s recounting of events as wholly accurate, are we permitted to translate the narrative’s distortions into reliable history, and if so, how?For more on the creepy story about Herod and his Hasmonean wife, see here.
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