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orion Orion Mishnah as History

>   I am familiar with Neusner. He is a little too revisionistic for my
>taste. I prefer the works of Finkelstein, a two volume book called "The
>Pharisees". It would be a mistake to too quickly discount the Mishnaic
>sources due to its high amount of folklorization. Would you argue that
>Akiba was never killed by the Romans? An oral tradition is a very valid
>tradition anthropologically. Just because these sources were finally
>written down hundreds of years later does not mean they were totally
>unhistorical and unusable. Remember, most biblical texts were part of
>an oral tradition years before they were ever written down.

Well, the question is whether one wants to do history (as "wissenschaft")
or whether one wants to talk about what the "folk" believe.  The former
requires certain rules of evidence in order to declare something
historical.  I like to use the newspaper editor's rule (which is of course
not even a good historical test), do you have two independent sources
saying the same thing? Very little in the Mishnah is confirmed by any
source that stands at the same distance from the C1 or even in the C1.

Paul V. M. Flesher, Director
Religious Studies Program
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY  82071-3353