Mira Balberg Associate Professor of Religion, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Mira Balberg (PhD Stanford, 2011) studies ancient Mediterranean Religions, with a focus on the emergence and development of Judaism in antiquity (200 BCE–500 CE). She is especially interested in the cultural contacts of Jews with their surrounding communities and with the imperial forces that shaped the Middle East in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Her main specialty is Judaism in Roman Syria-Palestine in late antiquity, and particularly the development of rabbinic Judaism in this period. She is especially interested in the ways in which the Jewish Literature composed in the Hellenistic and Roman era interprets and transforms biblical institutions, concepts, and values, often through dialogue and interaction with Greek, Roman, and early Christian cultures.

Balberg’s first book, Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2014) examines how ancient Near Eastern ideas and practices of bodily purity were reconfigured by Palestinian rabbis of the 2nd and 3rd centuries through the influence of Greek and Roman medical and philosophical doctrines. Her second book, Blood for Thought: The Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2017), engages with the process known as “the end of sacrifice” – that is, the rapid decline and ultimately demise of sacrificial modes of worship in the Mediterranean region in the first half of the first Millennium C.E. Others topics on which she has published include the human body and its changing cultural meanings in ancient Jewish texts, textual and material religion, and the production of knowledge in late antiquity. She is currently working on a book exploring notions of personhood in the Eastern Roman Empire of Late Antiquity.

Selected Works


Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature. University of California Press, 2014.

Blood for Thought: The Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature. Forthcoming, University of California Press, 2017.


In and Out of the Body: The Significance of Intestinal Disease in Rabbinic Literature.” Journal of Late Antiquity 8.2 (2015): 273-287.

Artifacts.” In Late Ancient Knowing: Explorations in Intellectual History, eds. Catherine M. Chin and Moulie Vidas. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015, 17-35.

The Animalistic Gullet and the Godlike Soul: Reframing Sacrifice in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah.” AJS Review 38.2 (2014): 221-247.

Impure Scholasticism: The Study of Purity Laws and Rabbinic Self-Criticism in the Babylonian Talmud” (with Moulie Vidas). Prooftexts 32.2 (2013): 312-356.

Pricing Persons: Consecration, Compensation, and Individuality in the Mishnah.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 169-195.

The Emperor’s Daughter’s New Skin: Corporeal Identity in the Dialogues of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hanania and the Emperor’s Daughter.” Jewish Studies Quarterly 19.3 (2012): 181-226.

Rabbinic Authority, Medical Rhetoric, and Body Hermeneutics in Mishnah Nega‘im” AJS Review 35.2 (2011): 323-346.