The making of Ḥanina ben Dosa: Fan fiction in the Babylonian Talmud

  • Monika Amsler University of Zurich
Keywords: Babylonian incantation bowls


The Babylonian Talmud provides a series of stories about a certain Ḥanina ben Dosa, the last of the so-called men of deed according to the Mishna. This Ḥanina ben Dosa appears only sparsely in the earlier Palestinian rabbinic works. It seems therefore that the later, more elaborate, and more numerous stories about this character in the Babylonian Talmud represent a case of fan fiction. Using the distinction between canon and fanon, as is common in fan fiction communities, I reconstruct the conventions applied by the canon (Mishna and Tosefta) to the character Ḥanina ben Dosa, as well as the expanded conventions accepted by the fannish community (or interpretive community) represented by the Babylonian Talmud. The fanon used in a story cycle will be tested against an isolated Ḥanina ben Dosa story in a different Talmudic tractate as well as against an extra-Talmudic story. The applied conventions with regard to Ḥanina ben Dosa as adopted in an historiola of an incantation on an Aramaic amulet bowl from Mesopotamia will eventually appear to be the same as those of the Talmud.