Textual Study and Social Formation: The Case of Mishnah
This paper examines, in context, the place of Mishnah study in the nascent rabbinic movement around the turn of the third century CE, a period of its social formation
(or re-formation). The essay reviews two types of evidence: (1) attestations to Mishnah study and its mastery as a hallmark of being a rabbi and (2) Mishnah’s most pervasive literary and rhetorical traits. In so doing, the paper addresses the question, “What type of occupational or sapiential expertise is engendered by intensive study of a document with these traits?” The paper argues that Mishnah study prepares the ancient rabbinic novice to recognize and parse finely differentiated circumstances, and reinforces and further hones the same in full-fledged rabbinic masters. Mishnah models, and its study demands, “high-grid” thinking (as defined in Mary Douglas’s work) and analysis by its life-long students as an occupational set of skills, founded on knowledge of Scripture’s law and, at times, on legal traditions that intervene between the “raw” dicta of Scripture and the starting point of a mishnaic treatment of matters.
Of course, our biology and physiology are key conditioners of our human and social expressions. Psychology, for example, has been transformed by neuroscience. My point is simply that this relation¬ship between biology, on the one hand, and human expression, thought, social systems, and culture, on the other, has tended not to be central to most of the issues that the humanities and social sciences have sought to address.
This is a point that my recently deceased doctoral supervisor, Dr. Jacob Neusner, made frequently and emphatically, when I and my fellow graduate stu-dents studied with him in the early 1970s. This may be an obvious statement now, but it was not then, as the scholarly study of Judaism was still largely undertaken in Jewish institutions of higher learn¬ing and most faculty in secular universities who dedicated their careers to the research of Judaism’s classical and medieval literatures had themselves acquired their expertise in these texts while study¬ing in Jewish institutions such as seminaries and yeshivot—Jacob Neusner himself being among that generation. Also among the most cogent and articulate writers on the study of religion, from the perspectives of the humanities and social sciences, in general, and the academic study of Judaism, is, to my mind, Jonathan Z. Smith. He has been consistent in continuing to reflect on these matters in light of his career experiences. In this regard, see Jonathan Z. Smith, “When the Chips are Down,” in Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2004), 1–43.
The writings of Jonathan Z. Smith, in the 1970s and early 1980s, were the first to drive these points home for me in the study of religion. See, for exam¬ple, his essay, “In Comparison a Magic Dwells,” in Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 19–35. For an informative and quite comprehensive discus¬sion of the comparative methodologies, particularly in the modern and post-modern study of religion, see David M. Freidenreich, “Comparisons Compared: A Methodological Survey of Comparisons of Religion from ‘A Magic Dwells’ to ‘A Magic Still Dwells,’ ” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 16 (2004): 80–101. For a study of the early modern efforts to compare religions from the perspective of the history of philosophy and the history of ideas, see Laura Ammon, Work Useful to Religion and the Humanities: A History of the Comparative Method in the Study of Religion from Las Casas to Tylor (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012).
The theoretical perspectives, methodological approaches, and sought-for-ends of the human¬ities and social sciences are diverse and increas¬ingly so. Moreover, the boundaries between the two disciplinary families have become more dif¬ficult to draw. For an exemplary attempt to sort these out, see Abhijit Kundu, “Understanding the Humanities,” chap. 1 in The Humanities: Methodology and Perspectives, ed. Abhijit Kundu, Pramod K. Nayar, and Shweta (Delhi: Pearson, 2009). See also Jerome Kagan, The Three Cultures: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and the Humanities in the 21st Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); on the ramification of theoretical perspectives in the humanities (and social sciences) in contemporary scholarship, see Vincent B. Leitch, Theory Matters (London and New York: Routledge, 2003). An exam¬ple of the adoption of scientific-like methods in the contemporary humanities may be seen in the handbook by Willie von Peer, Frank Hakemulder and Sonia Zyngier, Scientific Methods for the Humanities (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2012).
There is no doubt that early rabbinic texts them¬selves implicitly or explicitly place the development of the emergence of “the Rabbis” earlier than the dawn of the third century. The Mishnah itself attri¬butes traditions to named “rabbis” who flourished just before and just after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. These texts also attri¬bute rulings to proto-rabbinic figures like Hillel and Shammai and to their “Houses.” See Jacob Neusner, Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees, before 70, 1–3 (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1971). But “the Rabbis” did not produce and promulgate a common major text, even if traditions or collections of traditions may have circulated among them before, or other than, Mishnah. Post-mishnaic rabbinic texts consistently portray Rabbi Judah the Patriarch (last decades of the second century and first decades of the third century) as a pivotal figure in Mishnah’s production or promulgation, or both; see Lee Levine, “The Status of the Patriarch in the Third and Fourth Centuries,” Journal of Jewish Studies 47 (1996): 1–32, and David Goodblatt, The Monarchic Principle (Tuebingen, DE: Mohr Siebeck, 1994). Whether the attribution of Mishnah’s production to Rabbi Judah the Patriarch is historically accurate or, as is more likely, an honorific attribution only does not matter for our purposes. It serves only in combination with other evidence stemming from attributions to date “our” Mishnah’s production and promulgation to sometime near the turn of the third century CE. “Our” Mishnah is the only one extant, although Judith Hauptman has argued for the existence of a proto-Mishnah in Rereading the Mishnah (Tuebingen, DE: Mohr Siebeck, 2005). Concerning the above, see Jacob Neusner, Judaism, the Evidence of the Mishnah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981) and Martin S. Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism: 200 BCE to 400 CE (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); see also Martin S. Jaffee, “Oral Tradition in the Writings of Rabbinic Oral Torah: On Theorizing Rabbinic Orality,” Oral Tradition 14, no. 1 (1999): 3–32; Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, “The Fixing of Oral Mishnah and the Displacement of Meaning,” Oral Tradition 14, no. 1 (1999): 100–139; Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). See also David
Kraemer, “The Mishnah,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Late Roman Rabbinic Period, ed. Steven S. Katz, vol. 4 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 299–315, cf. 313, 314. n.13, which references David Weiss Halivni’s “The Reception Accorded to R. Judah’s Mishnah,” in Jewish and Christian Self- Definition: Aspects of Judaism in the Greco-Roman Period, vol. 2, ed. E. P. Sanders, A. I. Baumgarten and A. Mendelson (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 204–12. See also Steven J. Fraade, “Introduction to the Symposium: What is (the) Mishnah?” AJS Review 32, no. 2 (2008): 221–23.
See, for example, Avot de Rabbi Nathan, version a (AVRNa), 8:1, cited in part and discussed later in this paper. See also Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth, 4; Alexander, “The Fixing of the Oral Mishnah;” 100– 139; and Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah, 1–3.
I would recall at this juncture what Émile Durkheim wrote more than a century ago about “social facts.” He defined “social facts” as any shared norms or institutions that constrained human behaviour in one fashion or another. However, he also main¬tained that the explanation of a social fact was to be sought in its diachronic and synchronic contexts. Diachronic—in the history of other, related social facts that constituted an influential historical con¬text; synchronic—in the contemporaneous systems of social facts within which the social fact under examination fit. See Émile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, (New York: Free Press, 1982), first published (in French) in 1895.
See Deut. 4:8, 45; 2 Kings 22:3, alternatively desig¬nated “the Book of the Covenant” in the next chap¬ter, 2 Kings 23:2; and in Ezra 3:2, called “the Torah of Moses, the man of God.”
The tendentiousness of these criticisms is proven by Ezra-Nehemiah’s authors’ own admission that the very leadership of the fifth-to-fourth century BCE Jerusalem-centred community, including members of the priestly class, had to be forced on several occasions to divorce their foreign wives and to cleanse the Jerusalem cult of cult objects of for¬eign deities (see Ezra, chaps. 9 and 10; Nehemiah 13:23–31). Moreover, it seems that some Judean “nobles” (possibly landowners) were among those that resisted the Ezra-Nehemiah group’s reforms and (re-)establishment of Jerusalem’s centrality and power in Judah (Yahud) (see Nehemiah 7:15–19, see also Nehemiah 3:5; 5:7). Apparently, only with time did these reforms “stick.”
Clearly attested in the prologue to the Greek trans¬lation of Ben Sirah (a.k.a., Sirach or Ecclesiasticus). The prologue was added by the translator, who identifies himself as the grandson of the author, Simeon or Yeshu, of the original Hebrew. The trans¬lator describes his grandfather as someone who had dedicated himself to the study of “the law, and the prophets, and the other books of the ancestors,” and a person who promoted “the love of learning,” that is, the study of these texts and of associated “wisdom.”
Ben Sirah (10:1–5ff), who probably wrote just prior to the Hasmonean war and subsequent Hasmonean rule over Jerusalem/Judah, seems explicitly to link formal study in “wisdom” to high-ranking adminis¬trative bureaucratic roles in Hellenistic Jerusalem/ Judah; the author also links such functions to the designation of “scribe.”
See M. D. Goodman, “Texts, Scribes and Power in Roman Judea,” in Literacy and Power in the Ancient World, ed. Alan K. Bowman and Greg Woolf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 99–108. See also Philip R. Davies, Scribes and Schools: The Canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1998), 15–36. In addi¬tion, see Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth, 15–26, and Meir Bar-Ilan, “Scribes and Books in the Late Second Commonwealth and Rabbinic Period,” in Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum, Section 2, vol. 1, Mikra, ed. M. J. Mulder (Assen-Maastricht: van Gorcum, and Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1988), 21–38.
Davies, Scribes and Schools, 15–36; Emanuel Tov, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert (Leiden, NL: Brill, 2004), 7–30; and Karel Van Der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2007). See also Michael Wilkins’ treatment of the “learner/disciple” in the ancient and Greco-Roman periods in Discipleship in the Ancient World and Matthew’s Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1995), 1–125.
See Deut. 17:14–20.
See Deut. 13:2–6; 18:18–22.
See Deut. 17:8–13; 19:17.
See esp. Jeremiah 18:18; see, for example, the role “Shaphan the Scribe” in Josiah’s administration in 2 Kings 22 and 23.
See, again, Davies, Scribes and Schools, 15–36; and Van Der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, chaps. 3 and 4.
Their skills probably included numeracy as well. Shaphan the Scribe is clearly portrayed as handling both administrative and financial matters in Josiah’s court (2 Kings 22).
Ezra 5:8 refers to two senior governmental posts in the Persian Imperial district, the “commander” and the “scribe,” implying that some clear division of labor existed between these two positions. This provided a striking parallel to the twinned positions of archon (ruler) and grammateus (scribe) in the subsequent Ptolemaic system of imperial rule, as discussed in the next paragraph of this paper.
These early administrative systems have been well documented by scholars for more than a cen¬tury. See, for example, Abdallah Simaika, Essai sur la Province Romaine d’Egypte Depuis la Conquete Jusqu’a Diocletien: Etude d’Organisation Politique et Administrative (Paris: Imprimerie generale de Chatillon-sur-Seine, 1892).
Again, this system of administration is well docu¬mented in modern scholarship as early as the late nineteenth century; see discussion and evidence throughout Simaika’s Essai sur la Province Romaine d’Egypte.
See Jack N. Lightstone, “Roman Diaspora Judaism,” in A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World, vol. 9, ed. Jörg Rüpke (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 345–77.
Instances of scribal administrative presence in dias¬pora Jewish communities are well documented in the inscriptional evidence for the late Roman period. A tally of that documentation may be found in Lightstone, “Roman Diaspora Judaism,” 345–77.
This paper’s summary of the two designated types of evidence draws heavily on my analyses in Jack N. Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation of the Early Rabbinic Guild: A Socio-Rhetorical Approach (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002) and further extrapolates, the observations made in that book. In a sense and to some extent, this question and the analyses and arguments of this paper constitute a type of “mirror-image” of the questions, analyses, and issues that drive the work of Elizabeth Shanks Alexander’s work. See both Alexander, “The Fixing of the Oral Mishnah,” 100–139 and Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah, 1–30. One could recast her research focus accordingly: What effects did the “oral” study of Mishnah have on the evolution of the text of Mishnah and its ultimate “fixity”? Understandably, then, some of the same rhetorical-literary conventions exhibited in Mishnah play heavily in her work and in mine as evidence, but, on the surface, the search for effect and cause or just influence are in opposing directions. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to provide a more complete assessment of Alexander’s theses, concep¬tual framework, and methods, I am inclined toward two highly general assessments. One, both she and I have articulated complementary, not opposing, phenomena. Two, after a close reading of her work, it seems to me she must start with the premise that Mishnah was composed by a process of oral transmis¬sion in order to show the effects of oral performance on the very composition of the Mishnah text, not just argue that Mishnah after its production was promul¬gated and studied via an oral performative process, which kept the text somewhat fluid for a period. From the point of view of method and evidence, the former (creation via oral transmission, with embedded rhe¬torical impact) is a much more difficult hill to climb; the latter (oral retelling/rehearsal) is not, even if both are possibilities. I suspect that one of the side effects of asserting the former position as well as the latter, versus asserting only the latter, has to do with how one views Tosefta, its purpose and its composition. At the risk of putting words into Alexander’s mouth, at times I have the impression she sees Tosefta (or its materials) as the first “Mishnah” that in the end was supplanted by the extant Mishnah, rather than view¬ing Tosefta as the earliest post-mishnaic composition that reflects something of how the Mishnah was received and studied, and which served the study of Mishnah. Again, both views are not necessarily logi¬cally incompatible, but the former is the steeper hill to climb as regards method and evidence.
David Goodblatt, Rabbinic Institutions in Sassanian Babylonia (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1975).
Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “Social and Institutional Settings of Rabbinic Literature,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, ed. Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 58–74.
See Daniel Bernard, “Listing and Enlisting: The Rhetoric and Social Meaning of Tractate Avot” (PhD diss., Concordia University, Montreal, 2008).
The dating of Avot de Rabbi Nathan (AVRN) has been much disputed by modern scholarship. A century ago, the scholarly consensus was that the AVRN was compiled sometime in the seventh to ninth centu¬ries CE. In the early 1970s, A. J. Saldarini undertook a careful comparison of the two recensions of AVRN and Avot. He concluded that in all probability early versions of AVRN, likely circulating in oral form, were almost contemporaneous with early versions of Avot, dating from near (or perhaps just prior to) the time of Mishnah’s authoritative composition at the turn of the third century CE. Saldarini also points out that all recensions of AVRN take pains to attribute traditions to rabbinic authorities contemporaneous with mishnaic sages (tannaim), save for three excep¬tions that prove the rule. One must be cautious in drawing conclusions from the latter observation, because of a penchant for anachronistic attribu¬tion to earlier authorities in rabbinic literature. My own view is that in its earliest version(s) AVRN likely predates the authoring of the Palestinian Talmud sometime from the mid-fifth century to mid-sixth, and so sits in the period bounded by Avot in the mid-third century and the Palestinian Talmud. See A. J. Saldarini, The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan (Avot de Rabbi Nathan) Version B: Translation and Commentary (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1975), 1–16.
Jacob Neusner, Uniting the Dual Torah: Sifra and the Problem of the Mishnah (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990). See also, Jack N. Lightstone, The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud: Its Social Meaning in Context (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994), chap. 4. See also Jack N. Lightstone, “Form as Meaning in the Halakic Midrash: A Programmatic Statement,” Semeia 27 (1983): 23–36.
This is my own translation, which is influenced by that of Joel Zaiman. For his, see “The Traditional Study of the Mishnah,” in The Modern Study of the Mishnah, ed. Jacob Neusner (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1973), 3. Similar views of the place of Mishnah in the early rabbinic core curriculum are expressed in Avot 5:21; but Avot 5:21 together with Avot 6 are gen¬erally agreed to be later additions to Avot. In this last regard, see H. Albeck’s commentary in Shishah Sidre Mishnah: Seder Neziqim, no. 20. ed. H. Albeck (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: Mosad Bialik and Dvir, 1953), 380.
See Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth; see also Jaffee, “Oral Tradition in the Writings of Rabbinic Oral Torah: On Theorizing Rabbinic Orality,” Oral Tradition 14, no. 1 (1999): 3–32. See Alexander, “The Fixing of the Oral Mishnah,” 100–139; Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah, 1–29, 174–75. See also David Kraemer, “The Mishnah,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 4, The Late Roman Rabbinic Period, ed. Steven S. Katz (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 299–315, cf. 313, 314. n.13, which refer¬ences David Weiss Halivni, “The Reception Accorded to R. Judah’s Mishnah,” in Jewish and Christian Self- Definition: Aspects of Judaism in the Greco-Roman Period, vol. 2, ed. E. P. Sanders, A. I. Baumgarten, and A. Mendelson (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 204–12. See also Steven J. Fraade, “Introduction to the Symposium,” 221–23. On the oral rehearsal of rabbinic traditions as a superior act of piety for the rabbi to participation in the synagogue liturgy and listening to public readings of Scripture during the liturgy, Jacob Neusner is apt to cite the tale about Rav Sheshet conveyed in b. Berahkot 8a; see Jacob Neusner, “Rabbis and Community in Third Century Babylonia,” in Religions in Antiquity: Essays in Memory of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough, ed. J. Neusner (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1968), 438.
A point also made by Jaffee in Jaffee, “Oral Tradition,” 3–32, and by Alexander in Alexander, “The Fixing of the Oral Mishnah, 100–139”; Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah, 174–75.
And to some extent they are reflected, although less explicitly, in materials in the Tosefta, which serve to ramify correlative sections of Mishnah in the guise of supplementing Mishnah. I realize that in making this claim I am implicitly taking a stand on the literary relationship between Tosefta and Mishnah, or, at a minimum, between Mishnah and materials that came to be included in Tosefta. See Jacob Neusner, Judaism, the Evidence of the Mishnah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), and Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: An Introduction (New York: Aronson, 1994). Compare the position argued by Judith Hauptman over the course of her book, Rereading Mishnah. See also the position defended in Alberdina Houtman’s volume, Mishnah and Tosefta: A Synoptic Comparison of the Tractates Berakhot and Shebiit (Tübingen, DE: Mohr Siebeck, 1996); Houtman’s introduction provides a good summary of the scholarly debate in the modern period about the nature of Tosefta and about Tosefta’s relationship to Mishnah. The recent scholarly literature positing some version of the thesis that some or much of Tosefta’s materials predate Mishnah includes: Joshua Kulp, “Organizational Patterns in the Mishnah in Light of their Toseftan Parallels,” Journal of Jewish Studies 58, no. 1 (2007): 52–78; Judith Hauptman, “Does the Tosefta Precede the Mishnah? Halakhah, Aggada, and Narrative Coherence,” Judaism 50 (2001): 224–40; “The Tosefta as a Commentary on an Early Mishnah,” Jewish Studies, Internet Journal 4 (2005): 109–32; Shamma Friedman, Tosefta Atiqta, Pesah Rishon: Synoptic Parallels of Mishna and Tosefta Analysed with a Methodological Introduction (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2002); “The Primacy of Tosefta to Mishnah in Synoptic Parallels,” in Introducing Tosefta, ed. Harry Fox and Tirzah Meacham (New York: KTAV, 1999), 99–121. A similar position on Tosefta may be found in Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah, 49–54.
What follows in this section largely reproduces the lion’s share of section IV of a paper I presented in July 2016 to the Research Group on “Sociological and Anthropological Approaches to the Evidence of the Mishnah” at meetings in Leuven, during the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS); the paper is entitled “The Bases for Social Cohesion and Group Identity of the Early Rabbinic Guild: What does the evidence of the Mishnah show?” I rely throughout the sections that follow on my own research published in Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation, cf. chaps. 2 and 5. See also Jack N. Lightstone, “Whence the Rabbis? From Coherent Description to Fragmented Reconstructions,” Studies in Religion 26, no. 3 (1997): 275–95. The influence on my own thought processes of Jacob Neusner’s studies of Mishnah are evident in my Mishnah and the Social Formation, chap. 5; see Jacob Neusner, Judaism, the Evidence of the Mishnah, and Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: An Introduction. In the inter-vening period, Jaffee’s work (Torah in the Mouth and “Oral Tradition”) on the topic of Mishnah’s orality has increasingly impacted my thinking about Mishnah’s traits, as has Alexander in “The Fixing of the Oral Mishnah,” 100–139” and Transmitting Mishnah, 1–40.
Within the history of Rabbinic legal texts, one need only compare Mishnah to the breadth of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah (12th c.), or to Jacob b. Asher’s Arba’ah Turim (13th c.) and Yosef Karo’s Shulkhan Aruk (16th c.). For indication of the validity of this observation consider that Tosefta, beraitot in the Talmuds, and the later “minor tractates” exhibit a tendency to comple¬ment and complete Mishnah’s topical agenda.
This is an observation made in passing by Jaffee in “Oral Tradition,” 3–12, for quite other purposes and interpreted in relation to a quite different set of questions than those addressed in this paper.
A point made very early on about social facts in the writings of Émile Durkheim; see above n. 7: Émile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughterhouse Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (New York: Delacorte, 1969).
See Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation, chaps. 1 and 5; see Neusner, Judaism, the Evidence of the Mishnah, 167–229; and Neusner, The Mishnah: An Introduction, 40–199. However, to say that a vision of a “system” underlies Mishnah is not to say that Mishnah is a systematic articulation of that vision. It clearly is not, as I have already intimated. Moreover, it is easy to overstate the systemic qual¬ities of Mishnah as a unified literary work, a point emphasized by Jaffee in “Oral Tradition,” 12–26. Jaffee proposes that the compositional processes that produced Mishnah and other early rabbinic texts might better be understood as a type of anthologization.
With respect to urbanization in late second-century Palestine and its reflection in both Mishnah and Tosefta, see my presentation and analysis of the evidence in Jack N. Lightstone, “Urban (Re-) Organization in Late Roman Palestine and the Early Rabbinic Guild: What Toseftan Evidence Indicates about the City and its Institutions as an Emerging Salient Category in the Early Rabbinic Legal (Re-) Classification of Space,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 36, no. 3–4 (2007): 421–25.
On Mishnah-Tosefta and agricultural realia in late Roman Palestine, one need only refer to the classic work by J. Feliks, HaHaqla’ut BeErez Yisrael BiTqufat HaMishhah VeHaTalmud [Agriculture in Palestine in the Period of the Mishna and Talmud] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1963).
A good example of this is the first chapter of Mishnah, Tractate Gittin, which concerns writs of divorce issued outside of the Land of Israel for use by parties inside the Land of Israel. The entire composi¬tion assumes this uni-directionality.
For example, see Deut. 12 and 14:22ff.
As in AVRNa 8:1 and Avot 5:21.
At first glance, so compellingly odd ideologically is Mishnah’s explicit literary penchant not to system¬atically document its dependence on scripture that David Weiss Halivni, in his magisterial work cover¬ing the range of early rabbinic legal literary genres, concluded that substance antecedent to Mishnah was a now lost literary genre, some form of earlier halakhic midrashic literature, that did explicitly derive Mishnaic teachings from scripture. The pro¬ducers of Mishnah, in his view, stripped away those scriptural exegetical parts to produce the Mishnah genre we now possess, and post-mishnaic rabbinic writers recreated, subsequently, a halakhic midrashic literature. See David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: the Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986). I agree with Jaffee’s elegant comment on Halivni’s claims: Halivni has the genres right, but the historical order wrong (see Jaffee, “Oral Tradition,” 3–12).
Again, this is a trait of Mishnah captured by Jacob Neusner when he called the religion of Mishnah, “a religion of pots and pans.” While I remember him using the phrase in the early 1970s, in the late 1980s, it became the title of one of his books: Jacob Neusner, A Religion of Pots and Pans?: Modes of Philosophical and Theological Discourse in Ancient Judaism: Essays and a Program (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988).
See Jacob Neunser, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Purities, Part 21 (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1977), 164–246.
Both translations are my own and draw on my translations in Jack N. Lightstone, The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud, 79, 175.
Some may wish to argue at this point that Mishnah’s laconic style is merely a by-product of its composi¬tion for oral transmission, as with other literary traits of Mishnah. But such an argument does not under¬mine the point I am making in the least. It matters not at all why Mishnah is this way or how it came to be this way. Rather Mishnah is this way, with attendant consequences for the ancient Mishnah-student, which I will continue to detail below.
I refer the reader once more to Jeffery Rubenstein’s survey of the evidence on early rabbinic institutions in Rubenstein, “Social and Institutional Settings,” 58–74.
Again, the translation is my own and is based on the one I prepared for Lightstone, The Rhetoric of the Babylonia Talmud, 177–78.
The identification of the dispute form and its varia¬tions in Mishnah was a product of Jacob Neusner’s analyses of the rabbinic traditions of proto-rabbinic figures who flourished before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. It is from that point that he began to undertake what he called “form analy¬sis.” See Neusner, Rabbinic Traditions, 3, Conclusions, 5–179.
See William Scott Green, “What’s in a Name? The Problematic of Rabbinic Biography,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice, vol. 1, ed. William Scott Green (Scholars Press: Missoula, 1978), 77–96.
Shaye J.D. Cohen, “The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis and the End of Sectarianism,” Hebrew Union College Annual 55 (1984): 27–53.
I have just defined in other terms what the late anthropologist, Mary Douglas, described as “high-grid” thinking and competence. See Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 1996). See also Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).
See Lee I. Levine, Ma’amad HaHakhamin, translated as The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak ben Zvi, 1989).
A matter treated throughout both Lee I. Levine, Ma’amad HaHakhamim, and Catherine Hezser, The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine (Tubingen, DE: Mohr Siebeck, 1997); see also Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation of the Early Rabbinic Guild, chap. 5.
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