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Re: orion response to R. Gmirkin

Dear Bradley Harrison,

"Historical truth" is an oxymoron. History has no truth. It happened 
and is meaningless. Meaning and truth are fictions. That is, they are 
created for very specific purposes where  understanding plays a 
central role. History as  Neusner  (and Davies)
practice it is a very specific genre of discourse that requires 
evidence before one posits  events and happenings in their 
constructs about the past. This is not done for the sake of either 
meaning or any truths that belong to philosophy or theology, but for 
the sake of a discourse that wishes to ask critical questions of 
tradition.. Tradition, itself, offering us a meaningful past asserted 
for self-understanding  is quite something else than history. It is 
theology. Do not blame Neusner for not being a 
rabbi. His purpose is quite something else. He does history. The rabbis do not 
pretend to do that.

Thomas L. Thompson
University of Copenhagen

>    I am famili 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. 
>    An oral tradition is a very conservative tradition. In some tribes, a
> deviation in the oral tradition meant seath. In Anatolia the entire
> tradition of the few remaining Persian Zoreasternists (sp?) is to this
> day entirely oral.Should an ethnographer abandon it for study? 
>    IMHO the Jewish oral tradition is more valid than a contemporary
> Gentile observer who wrote about a Jewish culture that he did not
> understand. Atleast the Mishnaic sources were within their original
> cultural context. We are not dealing with fiction, but a folk tradition.
> Too often we assume that these are one and the same. That a folk tradition
> reflects a total distortion of history, as if a written tradition could
> never be distorted. 
>    What purpose would it serve to keep a tradition that Jose ben Joezer
> was the first Nasi, a member of the Hasidean movement who died as a
> martyre at the hands of an evil High priest, a nephew of his, Alcimus. Can
> you offer a working model that would explain this phenomona socially and
> culturally. Neusner's point cannot be proven, as there is no supportive
> data, i.e. alternative accounts from other sources. Hence no one can
> contradict him, hence he is correct. You cannot support an argument from
> the lack of material like this. Atleast with a folkloristic approach you
> can analyze the variantions within the stories to see why they were
> preserved and what meaning they had for the people; What is common in the
> differing stories, are they legends, exemplas and so on. And perhaps with
> a little understanding of the folk tradition you can see if there is any
> historical truth in these stories, as often is the case. I would argue
> that you are throwing the baby out with the bath water.       
> Bradley Harrison
> On Tue, 28 Oct 1997 RGmyrken@aol.com wrote:
> > Bradley Harrison wrote:
> > 
> > >...Jose ben Joezer (my choice for
> > >RT) was a leader of the Hasidean movement who was killed by his nephew,
> > >Alcimus (IMHO the WP).  
> > >Jose ben Joezer, as some may know, was the first Nasi of the Sanhedrin
> > >Gadol... 
> > 
> > You might read Jacon Neusner, The Rabbinc Traditions About the Pharisees
> > Before 70 (E J Brill, 1971) 1.76-77, which gives a critical evaluation of the
> > tradition to which you refer.  He points out that it had no connections to
> > other traditions about Yosi b. Yo'ezer, and appears to echo some of the late
> > legends of R. Aqiba's martyrdom.  He discounts the identification of Yakim of
> > Sururot with Alcimus or any historical conclusions made thereby.
> > 
> > Best wishes,
> > Russell Gmirkin
> >