The Mind of the Talmud: An Intellectual History of the Bavli

Overview

This critical study traces the development of the literary forms and conventions of the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, analyzing those forms as expressions of emergent rabbinic ideology. The Bavli, which evolved between the third and sixth centuries in Sasanian Iran (Babylonia), is the most comprehensive of all documents produced by rabbinic Jews in late antiquity. It became the authoritative legal source for medieval Judaism, and for some its opinions remain definitive today. Kraemer here examines the ...

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The Mind of the Talmud: An Intellectual History of the Bavli

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Overview

This critical study traces the development of the literary forms and conventions of the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, analyzing those forms as expressions of emergent rabbinic ideology. The Bavli, which evolved between the third and sixth centuries in Sasanian Iran (Babylonia), is the most comprehensive of all documents produced by rabbinic Jews in late antiquity. It became the authoritative legal source for medieval Judaism, and for some its opinions remain definitive today. Kraemer here examines the characteristic preference for argumentation and process over settled conclusions of the Bavli. By tracing the evolution of the argumentational style, he describes the distinct eras in the development of rabbinic Judaism in Babylonia. He then analyzes the meaning of the disputational form and concludes that the talmudic form implies the inaccessibility of perfect truth and that on account of this opinion, the pursuit of truth, in the characteristic talmudic concern for rabbinic process, becomes the ultimate act of rabbinic piety.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A very important contribution...to the modern study of rabbinic Judaism; any library with holdings in religious studies or Judaic studies should have this book."—Choice

"Provides much food for thought for the history of rabbinic ideas."—Religious Studies Review

"Using rigorous scholarly methods of literary criticism, the study of religion, and the sociology of knowledge ... Professor Kraemer docmuments how the structure of the Talmud speaks to the religiou struggles of today's Jews ... This book heralds a vital partnership between academy and synagogue."—Conservative Judaism

"A delightful dance of theology and intellectual revisionism....Those who have the patience to follow the delights of his well wrought argument will close the book profoundly satisfied and deeply disturbed."—Shofar

"A significant work—well thought through, balanced in its judgments, judicious in its criticism of other scholarship, vigorously and carefully argued, and lucidly written. It is very much on the forefront of its field, displaying considerable methodological and conceptual sophistication, and responding as well to much recent work in the areas of literary and rhetorical criticism, religious studies, and the sociology of knowledge."—Richard S. Sarason, Hebrew Union College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195062908
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1990
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Glossary xiii
Abbreviations xv
Introduction 3
1. On Writing an Intellectual History of the Bavli 9
The Meaning of Literary Forms 9
The Bavli: A Preliminary Description 16
The Bavli's Sources: On the Reliability of Attributions 20
2. A History of Amoraic Literary Expression 26
The First Amoraic Period 30
The Second Amoraic Period 35
The Third Amoraic Period 39
The Meaning of the Evidence 41
3. The Preservation of Amoraic Argumentation 50
The Evidence 55
More Evidence and Conclusions 63
Appendix A The Data at a Glance 72
Appendix B The Data in Detail 72
4. The Bavli Considered as a Whole 79
The Urgency for Argumentation 79
Building on Earlier Argumentation 80
Building on Brief Traditions 84
Fictional Argumentation 87
Argumentation for Its Own Sake 90
The Bavli and the Yerushalmi Distinguished 93
5. The Meaning of Argumentation 99
A Philosophical Analysis: The Indeterminability of Truth 99
Historical Underpinnings 112
Theological Underpinnings 120
Appendix The Erosion of Authority in the Bavli's Sources 127
6. The Bavli on "Truth," 139
The Separation of Truth and Practice 139
The Centering of Human Reason: Reason and Revelation 146
Human Reason on Its Own Terms: Learning Becomes Torah 156
7. The Bavli in Comparative Perspective 171
Truth in the Classical Philosophical Tradition 175
Religious Traditions and Truth 179
Philosophy Meets Scripture 183
In Conclusion: Why the Bavli? 187
Notes 191
Bibliography 207
General Index 213
Index to Primary Rabbinic Sources 217
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