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Barry Wimpfheimer

Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and the Pritzker School of Law

Ph.D. Columbia University
Curriculum Vitae

Barry Scott Wimpfheimer specializes in the Talmud and other Rabbinic Literature. His 2005 Columbia University doctoral dissertation entitled “Legal Narratives in the Babylonian Talmud” was awarded the Salo and Jeanette Baron Prize in Jewish Studies in 2007. 

Wimpfheimer’s work focuses on the Babylonian Talmud as a work of law and literature. His book Narrating the Law: A Poetics of Talmudic Legal Stories implicates a new methodology of reading talmudic law thickly by incorporating oft-ignored cultural concerns within its understanding of the law. The result of such an expansion is a textured description of Jewish law and an illuminating window onto rabbinic Judaism in Babylonia.

Wimpfheimer's The Talmud: A Biography was published by Princeton University Press in 2018 and received the National Jewish Book Award (Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion and Iden­ti­ty Award in Mem­o­ry of Dorothy Krip­ke) from the Jewish Book Council. The Talmud: A Biography embraces the conceit of the biography to tell the story of the Talmud's life from its pre-origins to the full extent of its reception down to the present.  The book will be out in paperback in 2020.

Wimpfheimer produced a massive open online course (MOOC) on Northwestern's Coursera channel that is available here. You can also access the in-class materials from his Winter 2020 Introduction to Judaism here

Selected Works


The Talmud: A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018).

Narrating the Law: A Poetics of Talmudic Legal Stories (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion) (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

ed., Wisdom of Bat Sheva: The Dr. Beth Samuels Memorial Volume, (Jersey City, New Jersey: Ktav, 2009).


“Suborning Perjury: A Case Study of Narrative Precedent in Talmudic Law.” In Alison L. Lacroix, Richard H. McAdams and Martha C. Nussbaum, eds., Fatal Fictions: Crime and Investigation in Law and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 41-64.  

Jewish Studies Courses

  • Religious Studies 101-6: Introduction to Kabbalah
  • Religious Studies 220: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
  • Religious Studies 230: Introduction to Judaism
  • Religious Studies 339/Humanities 302: Law as Literature - Jewish Law
  • Religion 339: Gender and Judaism
  • Religion 339: The Talmud: An Introduction
  • Religion 474: Studies in Judaism--Religion and Narrative


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