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Re: orion Orion Mishnah as History

The following is an exchange between Bradley Harrison and Paul Flesher.
Bradley is represented by a single >, Paul is represented by a double >> or
by no >.

>> Well, the question is whether one wants to do history (as "wissenschaft")
>> or whether one wants to talk about what the "folk" believe.
>With in the sources, all of them that are generally being used in this
>forum, that distinction can never be made, history is the folk belief of
>these peoples.

No, the folk belief is what the folk believe.  It is not history, at least
not as history is understood in the western academic world.

>You cannot impose a philosphy that was a product of the
>Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries upon any ancient source.

If that is the case, then most of what is done is done in history
departments should just stop.  In the western universities, we are all
products of the enlightenment.  We cannot talk about our fields, teach,
research or write without exuding enlightenment assumptions and principles.

> 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?
>You are still dealing with folk beliefs,in fact you are dealing with four
>folk beliefs, the first source's, the second source's, the interpreters
>and the reader's.
I couldn't agree more.

> Very little in the Mishnah is confirmed by any
>> source that stands at the same distance from the C1 or even in the C1.
>  Ist off, there is a great deal of other outside sources that varify a
>good portion of the Mishnaic material. Such as the DSS, Greek sources,
>Roman sources, Macc; I + II, Josephus, and so on.
I agree that some material in the mishnah is paralleled by such sources.
But it is unfortunately a very small percentage of the book.

>  2nd, Mishnaic literature is a collection of books that perhaps could
>fill up entire library shelves, and not one book. So in your theory this
>material could support itself as well as contradict itself as does
>happen, even with other sources, much like Josephus and the Bible, but in
>a much larger scale in terms of the amount of literature that is actually
>involved. Pirke Avoth for example is believed to have been a much
>earlier text included later into the Mishnah.

You are incorrect on several accounts.  (1) Most of the mishnah's masektot
were written using the same principles of organization, from the smallest
units of discourse up to the organization of each maseket.  (2) Sure the
mishnah's framers drew upon other sources, but they reformulated what they
borrowed into their own rhetoric.  (3) Avot is more likely later than the
mishnah, not earlier.  Although you are correct that it was probably
composed as a separate work.

>  4th it is not scientific to neglect or regect a potential source for
>information simply because you are ignorant of that information,
I have rejected nothing.  I merely said that the mishnah was poor source
for doing history.  There are many other types of interesting studies that
one can do of the mishnah and other rabbinic texts that have little to do
with history.  In fact, I find the historical question ("did this really
happen") rather limiting and boring.

>as it
>appears to be the case with you sir, as your observations are due to the
>lack of observation and understanding of the Mishnaic sources.

Bradley, before you make such a remark.  I suggest you look my name up in
your library's card catalog.  You might find some interesting reading.

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