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Re: orion Chanukah, Tefillin and Minim

>Paul Flesher wrote:

>> Historical method requires that the historian test the evidence for
>> and reliability BEFORE you begin to use it for historical reconstruction.
>> Since there is no way to verify (or falsify) the reliability of the
>> Yerushalmi's information, it is unusuable for this type of historical
>> dating.
Jack Kilmon wrote:
>I am not as quick to dismiss oral tradition that was set to writing
>in the Mishnaic period.  This was, after all, what the Pharisees were
>all about.  Did Shammai really chase that guy with a stick while
>Hillel told him to "go and study?"  Gamaliel and Samuel the Lesser
>were historical.  How would this story about Gamaliel asking old
>Sam to write up the benediction come about if not transmitted
>orally for a few centuries?

Paul replies again:
Since you've read Marty's comments, I won't repeat the same remarks.
As I argued in my 1988 book, in the Mishnah, there is no way to distinguish
on a formal basis mishnaic passages that were composed the day before the
Mishnah was "published" from those that were  composed in the C1. They all
look the same.  

With regard to Gamaliel and Samuel, the reason you can claim they were
historical figures is because you have other, more contemporary evidence.
That evidence has been evaluated by historians, in the context of the
mishnaic evidence, and through more or less proper historical method been
decided to be historical. Most of the material in the Mishnah, and in other
rabbinic texts, lacks other sources of information, and so cannot be used in
the kind of historical inquiry in which you are attempting to use it.  Until
such evidence comes to light, we are stuck.

I can imagine several ways Gamaliel and Samuel could have been credited with
the benediction even if they didn't actually compose it.
1) The person who composed it didn't want the credit, so they assigned to a
past figure they wished to honor.
2) The person who composed it didn't think they were important enough to
promulgate it, so they gave it a pseudepigraphic author.
3) It was circulating in an unattributed form, and some master was asked by
his disciples who wrote it.  He had a vague memory of something, he wasn't
quite sure, but after thinking about it, he "remembered" that so-and-so
composed it.  This would have been more likely if the master was in the
intellectual lineage of so-and-so,

These are all imaginary scenarios and I certainly don't claim that ANY of
them happened. You or I could certainly imagine several other imaginary
situations. I cite them merely to indicate that the "how else could it have
happened?" approach just doesn't work.


Hope this clarifies my earlier point.

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

(307) 766-2616 Office (307) 766-3189 Fax

For private reply, e-mail to Paul Flesher <pflesher@uwyo.edu>
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