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Re: orion Chanukah, Tefillin and Minim

Martin Jaffee wrote:

> On Thu, 14 Jan 1999, Jack Kilmon wrote:
> >
> > I'm with you so far and I realize that this does not mean thatthe Talmud
> > account is not historical...just can't prove it.
> >
> Well, Talmudic accounts ARE historical. The question is what kind of
> historiography can they support. They DO tell us, for example, what the
> tradents who transmit the traditions believed to have been the case.
> That's not chopped liver. And when there are enough parallel traditions
> you can trace a history of the account through its tradental circles,
> various redactional hands, and so forth. And, in the few cases where
> Talmudic narratives have parallels in non-Rabbinic literature, e.g.,
> Josephus, you can measure how historical images are transformed by the
> interests of different Judaic circles. But, outside of a few diehards, it
> is hard to find specialists in rabbinics who argue that Talmudic
> narratives should be taken as essentially reliable accounts until there is
> reason to doubt them. The "orality" of the tradition (which is far from
> perfectly understood in any event) is no guarantee that an account of a
> 1st century event in a 3-6th century text reproduces the tradition as it
> existed at the time of its 1st century formulation. It does not even
> guarantee that the description of the event was formulated in the century
> it was supposed to have happened.

That's much clearer to me, Marty.  I liken attempting to interpret2nd temple
Judaism through a Talmudic prism as attempting to
interpret the Historical Jesus though the Patristics.  You say in a
much clearer fashion, however, what was the primary thrust,
being a lack of understanding of the dynamics of oral transmission,
it's accuracy over time, and the factors that influence oral
tradition.  Certainly community biases are critical.

> > > As Hillel said: zil gmor. MJ
> >
> > Yes, as Hillel said according to oral tradition recorded in the Talmud.I hope
> > you don't mind my not standing on one foot though (g)
> >
> And the substance of his statement, as you surely know, appears in Tobit
> 4:15, in the mouth of Jesus, etc. That is, it's a cliche that trundled
> its away all around the Jewish Mediterranean. Maybe Hillel  himself
> trotted it out from time to time. But that he did so in conformity with
> the narrative dictates of a standard Hellenistic chreia I doubt very
> much.
> My own recommendation, then, is to avoid as far as possible making
> historical arguments about pre-rabbinic times that depend upon rabbinic
> texts as the primary documentary evidence. In saying this, I believe I
> express not simply my own bias, but a very broad consensus of people who
> work routinely with rabbinic materials. True, consensus comes and
> consensus goes. It is a social, not a metaphysical, reality. But, as the
> author of a textbook on early Judaism in which I routinely transgressed
> the boundaries of my own firsthand knowledge, my view is that one should
> pay very careful attention to consensual positions and be very suspicious
> of one's own bright ideas (unless they are in one's own area of
> expertise).

But never give up the search.



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