Narratives and Jewish Bioethics


Modern Jewish debate about euthanasia regularly pivots on interpretations of the Talmudic story of Rabbi Chananya ben Teryadon being burned alive by the Romans sometime in the second century. Though many modern bioethicists say this fiery story presents a clear and precise position on euthanasia, the narrative itself is more complicated and ambiguous. The implications of this disconnect between the story as it is and how bioethicists read it are problematic for patients, the Jewish textual tradition, and for modern bioethics as a whole. Applying fresh critical analysis to this tale, Jonathan Crane traces the fascinating and challenging story of narratives and norms in modern Jewish bioethics. The result is an unprecedented examination of the impact of a classic story in all its variants, and of narrative in general, on contemporary bioethical discourse.

“Jonathan Crane’s re-imagining of law and ethics within the Jewish narrative tradition offers a thoughtful and scholarly reflection on the reception and use of the text for bioethics, deepening the conversation about the primacy of narrative not just for the Jewish tradition, but for bioethics as a whole. Our field will be enriched by Crane’s creativity and insight.” – Laurie Zoloth, McCormick Professor 2009, Religious Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, USA, Affiliated Professor, Haifa University, Israel

“Crane provides a comprehensive and carefully argued exploration of one of the central narrative texts for Jewish bioethics. Narratives and Jewish Bioethics critiques the prevalent ways of reading Jewish narratives as limited and limiting, and also proposes a way to retrieve these ancient texts and place them again at the center of Jewish bioethical discourse. Crane’s scholarship is both original and illuminating.” – Louis E. Newman, John M. and Elizabeth Musser Professor of Religious Studies, Carleton College, USA

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