CLST Doctoral Candidate Ayelet Wenger Publishes Article in the Jewish Quarterly Review

What's Happening

In a recent article in the Jewish Quarterly Review, Volume 113, "The Aesopic Wisdom of Tevi: A Tale of Two Tongues" (2023), Ayelet Wenger shows that the character of Tevi is not homogenous but a conglomerate of shifting topoi. The tannaitic Tevi is pious, the amoraic Tevi is learned, and a Tevi as portrayed in an episode in Leviticus Rabbah is a smart-mouth. This last shift hints at a different character who has merged in to the Tevi cycle: the episode in Leviticus Rabbah parallels an anecdote that appears in the Life of Aesop that has received little scholarly attention. The parallel highlights the shifting nature of Tevi and the transformation of Tevi into something of an Aesop figure: the clever slave who can answer power with wit.

The connections between the rabbinic and Greek traditions are, in this instance, prolonged. An ancient reworking of the Leviticus Rabbah episode alters the narrative in ways that align more closely with a different version of the Greek tradition, erasing Tevi and his wisdom from the story. Much like Aesop, the rabbinic slave figure becomes uncannily wise and subsequently—or consequently—disappears.