The Idea of History in Rabbinic Judaism

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History provides one way of marking time. But there are others, and the Judaism of the dual Torah, set forth in the Rabbinic literature from the Mishnah through the Talmud of Babylonia, ca. 200-600 C.E., defines one such alternative. This book tells the story of how a historical way of thinking about past, present, and future, time and eternity, the here and now in relationship to the ages, « that is, Scripture's way of thinking » gave way to another mode of thought altogether. This other model Neusner calls a paradigm, because a pattern imposed meaning and order on things that happened. Paradigmatic modes of thought took the place of historical ones. Thinking through paradigms, with a conception of time that elides past and present and removes all barriers between them, in fact governs the reception of Scripture in Judaism until nearly our own time. Neusner here explains through the single case of Rabbinic Judaism, precisely how that other way of reading Scripture did its work, and why, for so many centuries, that reading of the heritage of ancient Israel governed. At stake are [1] a conception of time different from the historical one and [2] premises on how to take the measure of time that form a legitimate alternative to those that define the foundations of the historical way of measuring time. Fully exposed, those alternative premises may prove as logical and compelling as the historical ones. The approach follows the documentary history of ideas, and individual chapters describe the treatment of historical topics in the Mishnah, the Talmud of the Land of Israel (a.k.a., the Yerushalmi), Genesis Rabbah, that is, ca. 200, 400, and 450 CE, and Pesiqta deRab Kahana, ca. 500 CE.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789004135833
  • Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/12/2003
  • Series: Brill Reference Library of Judaism Series, #12
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacob Neusner is Research Professor of Religion and Theology at Bard College, Member of the Institute of Advanced Study, and Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He holds nine honorary degrees and fourteen academic medals. He is author of The Halakhah: Encyclopaedia of the Law of Judaism and chairman of the editorial board of the Review of Rabbinic Judaism).
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Table of Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition, Revised and Augmented
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 History, Time, and Paradigm in Scripture
I Hebrew Scripture and the Requirements of Historical Thinking 15
II History, Time, and Paradigm 45
Pt. 2 The absence of History
III Missing Media of Historical Thinking (I). The Sustaining Narrative of One-time Events, Biography 71
IV Missing Messages of Historical Thinking (II): The Pastness of the Past 99
Pt. 3 The Presence of the Past, The Pastness of the Present
V The Enduring Paradigm 115
Pt. 4 From History to Paradigm
VI Narrative: The Conduct of the Cult and the Story of the Temple 147
VII Biography: Exemplary Pattern in Place of Lives of Sages 167
Pt. 5 Transcending the Bounds of Time
VIII Zakhor: Is Rabbininc Judaism a Religion of Memory? 193
Pt. 6 Five Supplementary Studies: A Documentary Account of the Idea of History in Rabbinic Judaism
IX The Mishnah's Conception of History 233
X The Yerushalmi's Conception of History 252
XI Genesis Rabbah and the History of Israel 268
XII Astral Israel in Pesiqta deRab Kahana 287
XIII What, Exactly, Do We Mean by "an Event" in Judaism? Address at College de France, Paris, 1990 308
Subject Index 329
Index of Ancient Sources 335
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