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According to the legal determination established in Talmud Bavli -Avodah Zarah 6a and 7b, the halachic status of christians (“notzrim”) appears to be that of idolaters:

Avodah Zara 6a

Avodah Zarah 7b

However, I have read that Rav Menachem ha Meiri disputes the fact that in the aforementioned passages the term "notzrim" is referable to christians:

“Regarding what they said in the Gemara, "It is always prohibited to engage in business with notzrim," I interpret it as referring to the notzrim coming from distant lands, as this term is used in Jeremiah (4:16) who called that people notzrim in the name of Nebuchadnezzar; it is well known that in Babylon there was a statue dedicated to the sun, and all the people of Nebuchadnezzar worshipped it ;and you should already have known that the sun's term of service [in astrological concepts] is on Sunday. Therefore, they called this day notzri, because it was the day celebrated by Nebuchadnezzar because the Sun presided over it; this is reasonable and clear".

(Beit ha-Bechirah on Avodah Zarah 2a)

Unless I'm mistaken, in the rabbinic literature the term “notzrim” always means “christians", from “Yeshu ha Notzri” (Jesus the Nazarene).

I would therefore like to know:

-Whether the term "notzrim" used in Jeremiah 4:16 is entirely identical, on the linguistic level, to what we find in the aforementioned Talmudic passages;

-Whether this interpretation of Rav ha Meiri is also endorsed by other masters of the Jewish tradition.

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  • See Christians, Noṣerim, and Nebuchadnezzar's Daughter Lawrence Zalcman, The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 81, No. 3/4 (Jan. - Apr., 1991), pp. 411-426 who identifies the Meiri's group as the Mandaeans.
    – Double AA
    Jul 15, 2021 at 12:21
  • Great question! Looking forward to the answers
    – Aaron
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:09
  • Meiri's argument echoes that of R. Yehiel of Paris in the disputation preceding the burning of the Talmud in 1242, where R. Yehiel argued that the Talmudic laws against gentiles applied only to the seven biblical nations of yore, but not to the gentiles of his day. Interestingly, Meiri's seemingly bizarre explanation of the Talmud's נוצרים as being related to Nebuchadnezzar parallels R. Yehiel's explanation of the prayer against מלכות זדון as referring to the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar.
    – wfb
    Jul 15, 2021 at 18:12
  • On Meiri's knowledge of R. Yehiel's disputation, see Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance (Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 122. For R. Yehiel's explanation of Talmudic discriminatory law cited, see Katz, 112.
    – wfb
    Jul 15, 2021 at 18:13
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    Related: "Is Christianity Avodah Zara" (especially Double AA's answer there).
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 16, 2021 at 7:05

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