Hebrew Union College

Pseudepigraphy in rabbinic literature1 is a broad and complex subject, which, as we shall see, has stimulated considerable scholarly debate. Within the limited framework of this presentation, I shall try to touch briefly on various elements of this issue that seem to me most relevant to the broader subject of pseudepigraphy in the Second Temple period and late antiquity.

First we should note that despite the dominant rabbinic belief in divine revelation (Myym#h Nm hrwt),2 the Rabbis are well aware of possible challenges to the notion of God's authorship of the Torah. We find lively debate as to whether God wrote the entire Torah3 or whether it was Moses who actually wrote the Torah, albeit at divine dictation. There is also discussion of the possibility that Moses may have authored some parts of the Torah himself, such as the curses expressed in the third person by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy (for example, "God will smite," Deut. 28:22).4 The Rabbis are also well aware of the impossibility that Moses himself wrote down some parts h#m trwt ("the Torah of Moses"), particularly those verses at the end of Deuteronomy which describe his own death and burial (Deut. 34:5-12). A tannaitic tradition imagines Moses' concern that the Israelites might have reason to say that he "counterfeited" Scripture
(hrwth t) Pyyz h#m) by instructing them to do things which he was not commanded by God.5 The Rabbis occasionally portrayed non-Jews claiming that the Torah had been forged, falsified or fabricated in some way. The word used in these passages is, significantly, a Greek loan word Nw+slp, plasto&n.6

In light of rabbinic sensitivity to the issue of divine and Mosaic authorship of Scripture, it is interesting that the Rabbis themselves have no compunction about simply putting words into the mouth of God, Moses and other biblical figures. Most readers of rabbinic literature, ancient or modern, do not seem to find this particularly surprising.7 It is a commonplace in rabbinic literature that God makes statements to biblical personalities that have little or no scriptural basis. For example, the expression

h#ml h"bqh rm) ("The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses"), followed by a statement which is not in scripture, is found hundreds of times. 8 One might argue that because of the use of special rabbinic epithets for God, such as h"bqh, "the Holy One, blessed be He," or Mwqmh "the Omnipresent," there is no danger of confusing such rabbinic attributions of statements to God with biblical ones. However, in at least one genre of midrashic literature, the Tanh9uma-Yelammedenu midrashim (particularly in the early stratum of texts) the divine epithet is the biblical Myhl), "God," and we still regularly find the expression Myhl) rm), "God said," followed by non-biblical statements.9 In one midrashic pattern, the eschatological peroration of the composite or "literary" homily,10 this sort of divine speech is so common that it has been given the name theophoron by the one scholar who has written extensively about this subject.11

It is important to note that when the Rabbis attribute extra-biblical statements to God in this way, the statements are, for the most part, aggadic rather than halakhic. However, we sometimes find theophoric statements of this sort which do at least support established halakhic practices, for example, the reading of the scriptural lection [Exod. 19:1ff] describing the giving of the Law which is assigned to the holiday of Shavuot.12

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: My children, read this section every year and I will consider you as if you are standing before Mount Sinai and receiving the Torah.13 When? [and now quoting the actual verse which begins the scriptural lection] Cr)m l)r#y ynb t)cl y#yl#h #dwxb
Myrcm "In the third month of the exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt" (Exod. 19:1).14

In this passage, God is depicted as commanding the biblical Israelites and, by extension, their descendants in rabbinic times, to read the scriptural lection assigned by the Rabbis to hrwt Ntm gx "the Festival of the Giving of the Torah/Shavuot," as a kind of ritual re-enactment of the Giving of the Torah at Sinai.

Apart from such statements to Israel in general,15 God is generally not depicted by the Rabbis as speaking to specific persons who are not biblical personalities.16 The sages seem, for the most part, to have at least limited such direct divine speech to the biblical period.17 In addition to attributing extra-biblical statements to God, the Rabbis have no hesitation about putting words in the mouths of various biblical characters which have little or no basis in scripture.18 When extra-biblical statements and actions are attributed to God and biblical personalities in this way, the Rabbis seem to be engaging in what we would call "historical fiction." However, this approach might be anachronistic on our part, imputing to the sages of late antiquity notions of past and present,19 history and fiction,20 that are really part of our western, and particularly post-Enlightenment, intellectual culture.21 It might be more fruitful for scholars of rabbinic literature to compare the way God and biblical personalities are made to speak in rabbinic legend to the way the classical gods and heroes are made to speak and act in Greco-Roman culture (itself a complex question22) and particularly to the way biblical personalities are made to speak in Second Temple period pseudepigrapha and Qumran literature.

Considering the fact that the Rabbis seem to have no qualms about putting words in the mouth of God and biblical characters, such as Moses,23 it should perhaps come as no surprise that they might occasionally put words in the mouths of fellow rabbis. Nonetheless, the aspect of rabbinic pseudepigaphy which has elicited the most scholarly discussion is the sometimes unreliable ascription of statements and traditions to named rabbinic sages.24

First we should note that in the Mishnah, the ascription of a statement to a particular named sage (ynwlp 'r yrbd) marks that statement as a minority opinion.25 Rulings cited as the opinion of "the sages" in general
(Myrmw) Mymkx) are more authoritative.26 But rulings cited anonymously are understood to be the ruling of the Mishnah itself and are the most authoritative.27 Thus, in the Mishnah, anonymity confers authority, contrary to what we find in pseudepigraphy where false attribution to some specific, well-known and highly respected personality is generally used to increase the authority of a literary work, statement or idea.

This practice, though limited primarily to the Mishnah which seems to be a particularly apodictic work,28 is curious in light of the generally high regard the sages express for the precise attribution of rabbinic statements. This is exemplified in sayings such as
Mlw(l hlw)g )ybm wrmw) M#b rbd rmw)h lk# "Whoever cites a statement in the name of the one who said it, brings redemption to the world" (m. )Abot 6:6:) and h(wm# rmw)h lk
wdgnk dmw( )wh wl)k h(wm#h l(b h)wr )hy hrmw) ypm "Whoever cites a tradition according to the one who said it, should imagine the "tradent" standing in front of him." (j. Shab. 1:2 [3a]). The actual practice of citing rulings in the presence of a sage to whom it was attributed could, however, lead to disagreement, as a passage from the Tosefta (t. Mak. 1:3) demonstrates:

Concerning a document dated on a day that turns out to have been a Shabbat or the tenth of Tishre [Yom Kippur, when of course writing is prohibited], R. Yehudah rules that the document is valid and R. Yosi rules that the document is invalid. R. Yehudah said to him [to R. Yosi]. Such a case came before you in Sepphoris and you ruled that the document was valid [tr#k]. Rabbi Yosi replied: "I did not rule it valid. But if I did, I did" [ytr#kh ytr#kh M)w. ytr#kh )l yn)].

What is remarkable here, and elsewhere in rabbinic literature, is the candid way in which the sages discuss the problem of unreliable attribution.29 For example, a passage in the Palestinian Talmud relates that when R. Abbahu wanted to teach his daughter Greek, he was accused of simply attributing to R. Yoh9anan a ruling that this practice was permitted. Despite R. Abbahu's disclaimer that he did indeed receive this teaching directly from R. Yoh9anan, there seems to have been doubt as to whether R. Yoh9anan made such a ruling.30

Significantly, in at least one passage the practice of pseudepigraphy actually seems to be recommended. Rabbi Akiba is reputed to have taught his disciple Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai: lwdg Nly)b hltyh qnxyl t#qb M), literally: "if you want to hang yourself, do it in a big tree." This rather cryptic statement has been understood to mean, "If you want a ruling or statement to be accepted, attribute it to a famous sage (i.e. even if he never said it)."31

Another phenomenon which has been noted by several scholars is the attribution of rulings or sayings to sages whose name seems to be a pun on the subject matter of that particular statement, as when Rabbi Abba bar Memel explains the meaning of the rare term lmm (memel, part of the crushing apparatus of an olive-press) in the Mishnah.32 This phenomenon seems to be a talmudic example of what Moshe Bernstein has termed "decorative pseudepigraphy."33

Among scholars of rabbinic literature, there are those who seem in general to accept the reliability of attributions of statements to specific sages and the historical veracity of stories about rabbis.34 At the other end of the spectrum, one scholar has gone so far as to assert that "attributions are simply not historically reliable data."35 Most scholars fall somewhere in between these extremes. The general scholarly consensus seems to be that the historical reliability of each statement or story needs to be examined on its own merits and in many cases may be impossible to determine definitively. A number of detailed studies have shown that particularly in the Babylonian Talmud there are statements which are incorrectly and probably even falsely attributed,36 fictitious baraitot (i.e. tannaitic statements not found in the Mishnah)37 and stories about sages that seem more legend than history.38

So how is it possible to reconcile the apparent paradox between the Rabbis' own insistence on correct attribution with the considerable amount and variety of pseudepigraphy in rabbinic literature noted by various scholars? William Scott Green argues that the association of statements and stories with the names of particular rabbis facilitates the discrimination of one tradition from another but no more.39 The preservation of the names of individual masters gives rabbinic Judaism its traditional character, that is to say, it provides a tangible connective between the present and the past.40 Richard Kalmin sees a more tendentious motive. "Perhaps schools founded by early rabbis persisted for several generations or even centuries, and late authors attacked rival schools by composing accounts which reflected poorly on the long-dead founders of these schools... In addition, later generations might compose accounts about early rabbis who possessed or were said to possess some outstanding characteristic which particularly suited the author's message."41 Louis Jacobs argues that statements are attributed to the rabbi from which they were received "not on the grounds of accuracy but simply because to do otherwise, to suggest that a teacher's saying was one's own, was a form of theft. It is plagiarism that is condemned. But there seems to have been no objection at all to attributing sayings to teachers who were not, in fact, responsible for them!"42 While according to David Halivni, "It appears that when it was not known who was the author of a particular tradition, it was not transmitted anonymously, but in the name of who brought it to the study house."43 Recently, Sacha Stern has argued that "the typical phrase 'Rabbi x said' is not necessarily designed to indicate the author of the saying: it may refer to his disciple, to a later tradent, or even to some earlier authority."44 Stern astutely distinguishes talmudic attributions from authorship in the commonly accepted sense of authorship in modern Western society, which is predicated on the perception of the individual as a highly autonomous, creative force. Rather, in rabbinic culture, attributed as well as unattributed sayings may have been perceived as deriving "from earlier, undateable and anonymous collective traditions.45 ... It is within the context of this 'flexible,' collective view of authorship that Talmudic pseudepigraphy ... should be assessed."46 Stern links the question of talmudic authorship to contemporary literary theory, as reflected in the work of Roland Barthes, who has raised serious questions about the status of the author in literary production.47 Such a perception about the fundamental nature of rabbinic culture and tradition is just one of many reasons why there has been a shift in the last generation or so of scholarship toward viewing rabbinic texts less as historical reportage and more as literature.48

Stern's discussion of rabbinic authorship raises important questions about the larger nature of "rabbinic thinking." For example, in his discussion of what he terms "conjectural" or "inferential" attribution, Stern argues that the ubiquitous phrase "Rabbi X said" often means: it can be conjectured or inferred that Rabbi X thought or was of the following opinion, conveying not so much an historical fact or a direct quotation of what the said rabbi really said but rather a later interpretation of his thoughts and opinions.49 I suggest that this talmudic approach to inferential interpretation of rabbinic statements can be profitably compared to the talmudic approach to the interpretation of Scripture. For the Rabbis, legal rulings that are regarded as "biblical" ()tyyrw)d) include not only what is specifically stated in Scripture but also what may be legitimately inferred from Scripture by means of interpretation (#rdm) and rational conjecture ()rbs).50 This is related to the rabbinic notion that the Torah was given in accordance with the rulings of the sages. The authority of the sages to make legally binding inferences and interpretations of the Divine Will was formulated in the following way: ,Mhyrbdm rbdb [rwdh ymkx] wmyksy# hm
hrwbgh ypm h#m hw+cn# hm )wh, "Whatever the sages [of any generation] will agree upon is what Moses was commanded by God."51 This notion of rabbinic authority provides legal warrant for attributing to God what has been arrived at by human reason. In rabbinic thinking, the result of inference seems more closely identified with the text or statement from which the inference is made than post-Enlightenment legal thinking would normally accept.52 Ultimately, it may be that even halakhic statements attributed to rabbinic sages are not so unlike aggadic statements attributed to God and biblical personalities53; both kinds of statements may express what it is possible to infer or imagine the speaker to have said.

The rabbinic attitude to attribution, which may seem rather paradoxical to contemporary sensibilities, can be better understood by further comparison to the methodology of rabbinic aggadah. Any discussion of pseudepigraphy must address the question of dolus, whether the incorrect or false attribution has been undertaken in a deceitful way, with the intention to mislead. This is one of the most difficult things to determine about rabbinic pseudepigraphy.54 Did the sages intend to mislead us deliberately when they attributed statements to authorities who were clearly not their true authors? Isaak Heinemann, in his seminal study of the methodology of the aggadah, points out that an appreciation of "craftiness" is an element of "organic thinking," typical of pre-Enlightenment thought in general and rabbinic thinking in particular.55 Heinemann cites the following example. When Jacob, at his mother's behest, enters the tent of Isaac to steal the birthright of his older brother, he poses as Esau by saying to his blind father,
Krwkb w#( ykn), "I am Esau your first-born" (Gen. 27:19). A midrashic tradition on this verse says: "despite what you might think, Jacob did not really lie to his father"
rqy# )l bq(y ,rqy# Myrmw) Mt)# yp l( P)w,56 for Jacob paused in mid-sentence in a rather crafty way: Krwkb w#( ykn), which can now be read: "It is I (Jacob); (but) Esau is your first born."57 For our discussion of rabbinic pseudepigraphy, this example is particularly instructive. The Bible seems surprisingly uncritical of Jacob's posing as Esau and indeed even speaking in his brother's name. The Rabbis, using the interpretive technique of midrash, transform this from an outright lie into an act of artfully deceptive speech. This deception is viewed in a positive light, to Jacob's credit, for the ultimate purpose is a good one, that Jacob our forefather should get his father's blessing and that the wicked, older brother Esau (who, for the Rabbis, symbolized Rome and later Christianity) should be denied the birthright. The Rabbis here seem to accept that Jacob acted with dolus, with the intent to deceive.58 However, they view Jacob's behavior not as dolus malus, misrepresentation which is the ground for discrediting the action,59 but rather as dolus bonus, artful deception. This form of deception is evidence of estimable sagacity, for it is deception employed for positive purpose.60 I would like to suggest that the same kind of dolus bonus, "acceptable deception" employed for a positive purpose, may be at work in at least some cases of rabbinic pseudepigraphy.

In conclusion, let us return to Heinemann, who consistently emphasizes that rabbinic thinking is quintessentially creative.61 The midrashic interpretation of letters, words and sentences is characterized by Heinemann as "creative philology"62 while the rabbinic interpretation of biblical history is characterized as "creative historiography."63 To better understand the Rabbis' perplexing penchant for pseudepigraphy, it might be useful to extend Heinemann's terminology to include the notion of "creative attribution."

The Rabbis believed that not only the written Torah but also the Oral Torah - rabbinic tradition - was given by God to Moses at Sinai and transmitted generation by generation to them. Considering their passionate belief in the literal truth of divine revelation, the Rabbis' freedom in creating inventive interpretations of Scripture sometimes seems paradoxical to the modern reader. A similar paradox seems to pertain to the Rabbis' attitude to attribution.64 While stressing the need to attribute statements and stories correctly, the sages were sometimes quite creative in inventing rabbinic attributions, just as they were creative in attributing extra-biblical statements to God and biblical personalities. An appreciation of the remarkable blend of fact and fiction, history and creative writing is essential, I believe, for a nuanced understanding of rabbinic culture in general and rabbinic pseudepigraphy in particular.


1 This essay began as a presentation given in 1987 in the seminar on "Pseudepigraphy: Problems in Research in Judaism of the Hellenistic-Roman Period," directed by Prof. Michael Stone and Dr. David Satran at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The version published here reflects papers read at the Second International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, January 1997, and at the Colloquium on Early Rabbinic Judaism of the European Association for Jewish Studies, Yarnton Manor, Oxford, September 1997. My thanks to those who responded to these presentations for their comments and questions which stimulated many of the changes in this significantly revised version. [Back to text]

2 See A. J. Heschel, Theology of Ancient Judaism (3 vols.; London/New York: Soncino; Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1962-90) [Hebrew]. [Back to text]

3 See Heschel, Theology of Ancient Judaism, 2.353-56, especially 354 citing R. Shimon ben Laqish's interpretation of "And I [God] will give you the tablets of stone, and the law and the commandments, which I have written" (Exod. 24:12) to include the Ten Commandments, Pentateuch, Prophets, Writings (b. Ber. 5a). Compare Ibn Ezra to Exod. 24:12, as cited by Heschel, 354: God did not write the Torah [except for the Ten Commandments]. According G. Vermes, "The Decalogue and the Minim," BZAW 103 (1968) 232-40, this was the position of the Mynym, who were more enlightened hellenistic Jews acquainted with Greek philosophical thought. [Back to text]

4 B. Meg. 31b; see Heschel, Theology of Ancient Judaism, 2.181-83. Compare b. San. 99a:
h#m )l) h"bqh wrm) )l# hz qwspm Cwx Mym#h Nm hlwk hrwth lk rm) wlyp)w()l:w+) 'mb "hzb 'h rbd yk" whz ,wcm( ypm, "And even if one said the whole Torah is from heaven apart from this [i.e. one] verse, for the Holy One, blessed be He did not say it, but rather it is from the mouth of Moses himself, this is [i.e. to such a person applies the verse], 'for he has despised the word of the Lord' (Num. 15:31)." See L. Jacobs, "Rabbinic Views on the Order and Authorship of the Biblical Books," Structure and Form in the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) 36. [Back to text]

5 Sifre on Deut. 3:23, sect. 26 (ed. Finkelstein, 36); Lev. Rab. 31:4 (ed. Margulies, 2.720) in the name of R. Judah. See Heschel, Theology of Ancient Judaism, 2.120-22, who sees this relatively early rabbinic tradition as a response to claims by "Ebionites" in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies that parts of the Torah of Moses had been "falsified" by others. See further Heschel's long footnote, 121-22, n. 12, in which he cites the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies (3, 47) as evidence that the Torah was first written hundreds of years after the death of Moses and repeatedly forged by the Jews who each time added additional falsehoods. Heschel further cites the claim of the pagan philosopher, Porphyry, that it was not Moses but Ezra who wrote the Torah and similar views expressed by Mandeans, Samaritans and in Islam. [Back to text]

6 Num. Rab. 8:4:
Myrmw), Mlw(h twmw) wyhw Nnxwy 'r M#b )b) rb )yx 'r rm)
)yh Nw+slp wl) l# Ntrwt "R. H9iyya bar Abba said in the name of R. Yoh9anan...and the nations of the world would say: Their Law is forged"; Yalqut Shimoni on Jer., sect. 321, citing "Yelammedenu":
t) h)wr yn)# hm yswy 'r t) dx) sy+wrq l)# )nyylwl r")
Nyr+slp Mktrwt, "R. Luliana said: a [Roman] judge [krith&v] asked R. Yosi: As far as I can see, your Law is a forgery." On Nw+slp, ry+slp (plasto&n) meaning "forged," see D. Sperber, A Dictionary of Greek and Latin Legal Terms in Rabbinic Literature (Jerusalem: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1984) 147-49. [Back to text]

7 The same phenomenon is found in early Jewish liturgical poetry. See E. Fleischer, Hebrew Liturgical Poetry in the Middle Ages (Jerusalem: Keter, 1975) 107-08 [Hebrew] on twmwdm tw++yc, "imaginary quotations," who notes that such direct quotations are "surprising." In teaching, I have found that beginning students of rabbinic literature also find this phenomenon quite surprising. [Back to text]

8 At the Orion Symposium it was suggested that this phenomenon might be termed "pseudo-God" (M. J. Bernstein, "The Degrees and Functions of Pseudepigraphy at Qumran") or "divine pseudepigraphy" (L. H. Schiffman, "The Temple Scroll and the Halakhic Pseudepigrapha of the Second Temple Period"). Such attributions of extra-biblical statements to God are only occasionally marked by the use of the term, lwkybk, "as it were" which, it might be argued, does occasionally suggest a certain reservation on the part of the rabbinic authors or editors of the text. See for example, Gen. Rab. 38:6 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 355) [Num. Rab, 11:7], Lev. Rab. 30:13, Num. Rab. 4:2, 11:7, 12:7, 23:11, Lam. Rab. Proem 2, 1:51, Pesiqta Rabbati, ch. 29 (ed. Friedmann, 136b). However, see Cant. Rab. to Cant 5:2 and Exod. Rab. 2:5(1) (ed. Shinan, 111) where lwkybk seems to have been added before a statement attributed to God which is found in Scripture:
hrcb ykn) wm( h"bqh rm) lwkybk, "As it were, the Holy One, blessed be He, said: "I [will be] with him in trouble" (Ps. 91:15); compare the parallel in Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana, Ha-H9odesh Ha-Zeh 6 (ed. Mandelbaum, 88) and Pesiqta Rabbati, ch. 15 (ed. Friedmann, 70a) where lwkybk is not found. The word lwkybk by itself is used as an epithet for God in modern Hebrew literature, according to A. Even-Shoshan, #dxh Nwlmh (3 vols.; Jerusalem: Kiryath Sepher, 1975). 1.492, s.v. lky. On the use of lwkybk to indicate particularly mythological statements, see Michael Fishbane's forthcoming work on rabbinic mythology. [Back to text]

9 See M. Bregman, The Tanhuma-Yelammedenu Literature: Studies in the Evolution of the Versions (Ph.D. diss., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1991) 176-77, 267-68, nn. 40-45 and the earlier bibliography cited there. [Back to text]

10 See J. Heinemann, Public Sermons in the Talmudic Period (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1970) 23-28 [Hebrew]. [Back to text]

11 E. Stein, "Die Homiletische Peroratio im Midrasch," HUCA 8-9 (1931-32) 353-71, esp. 359ff. On 367-68, Stein suggests that the use of such theophoric perorations, particularly characteristic of the Tanh9uma literature, show a higher rhetorical style and may even go back to earlier patterns reflected in such authors as Philo. [Back to text]

12 T. Meg. 4:5; j. Meg. 3:6, b. Meg. 30b. [Back to text]

13 Compare Pesiqta Rabbati, ch. 12 (ed. Friedmann, 53a): "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them [Israel], My children you only need to read the Amalek section every year and I will consider you as if you are eradicating his name from the world"; Tanh9uma, Ki Tissa 3: "The Holy One, blessed be He, said [to Moses]...just as you are now standing and giving them parashat sheqalim (Exod. 30:11 et seq.) and your are lifting up their heads, so every year when they read it before Me...." [Back to text]

14 Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana, Ba-H9odesh Ha-Shelishi [ch. 12], sect. 1, (ed. Mandelbaum, 204). On this passage, see M. Bregman, "Past and Present in Rabbinic Literature," Hebrew Annual Review 2 (1978) 47-49; L. Silberman, "The Rhetoric of Midrash," in The Biblical Mosaic (ed. R. Polzin and E. Rothman; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982) 24. [Back to text]

15 It is interesting that God also speaks to other nations, including ymwr twklm, "The Empire of Rome"; see for example b. (Abod. Zar. 2a. My thanks to Prof. Ofra Meir, University of Haifa, for calling my attention to this. [Back to text]

16 See O. Meir, The Darshanic Story in Genesis Rabbah (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1987) 29 [Hebrew], and The Acting Characters in the Stories of the Talmud and Midrash (Ph.D. diss., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977) 105-06 [Hebrew], who states that God does not talk to non-biblical figures. A unusual exception, cited by Meir, is found in b. Ber. 7a, where R. Yishmael ben Elisha relates that tw)bc 'h hy l)yrtk), "Akatriel Yah, the Lord of Hosts," said to him: "Ishmael, my son, bless me." It should also be noted that in )Abot R. Natan, Version A, ch. 38 (ed. Schechter, 114)
tw#pn )l) Nhm Nybwg Mt) Ny) h"bqh Nhl rm), God seems to be speaking to unnamed but apparently non-biblical persons who let an unnamed woman and her two sons die of hunger. Perhaps significantly, in a very early Genizah fragment of this passage, the reading is Mbyr byry hw[hy rmw)] bwt[kh] Mhyl( citing Prov. 22:23, see M. Bregman, "An Early Fragment of Avot DeRabbi Natan from a Scroll," Tarbiz 52 (1983) 215. [Back to text]

17 See t. Sot@. 13:3-4 (ed. Lieberman, 230-31 and the parallels listed there): "Since Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the last prophets, died, the Holy Spirit has ceased from Israel" and the continuation there about those rabbinic sages who were "worthy" (yw)r) of the Holy Spirit, but whose generation did not merit (y)kz) it. [Back to text]

18 See Moreh Nevukhei Ha-Zeman, ch. 14, in The Writings of Nachman Krochmal (ed. S. Rawidowicz; London: Ararat, 1961) 243, where Krochmal regards such non-biblical statements attributed to biblical figures in the aggadah as imaginative rhetoric designed to stimulate the audience, as noted by L. Jacobs, "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?," JJS 28 (1977) 54 [reprinted in Jacob's Structure and Form in the Babylonian Talmud]. See I. Heinemann, The Methodology of the Aggadah
[ykrd hdg)h] (Givataim: Magnes and Masadah, 1970) 42 [Hebrew]: "in effect the heroes of the past serve only as a mouthpiece for the ideas of the sages of Israel." For an English precis of this seminal study of rabbinic thinking, see M. Bregman, "Isaak Heinemann's Classic Study of Aggadah and Midrash" (forthcoming in Judaism). [Back to text]

19 See M. Bregman, "Past and Present in Midrashic Literature," Hebrew Annual Review 2 (1978) 45-58. [Back to text]

20 See Y. H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington, 1982), ch. 2, on the lack of "historical" writing in rabbinic literature. [Back to text]

21 On pre-modern "organic thinking," see I. Heinemann, Methodology of the Aggadah, 8-9 and particularly 200, n. 90, where Heinemann mentions the difference between his use of the term and that of Max Kadushin, particularly in two of his major works, Organic Thinking: A Study in Rabbinic Thought (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1938) and The Rabbinic Mind (1952; New York: The Jewish Theological Seminar of America, 19652). See also Understanding the Rabbinic Mind: Essays on the Hermeneutic of Max Kadushin (ed. P. Ochs; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990) and particularly the essay there by R. S. Sarason, "Kadushin's Study of Midrash" 54-55, n. 31, on the difference between Heinemann's and Kadushin's use of the term "organic." [Back to text]

22 See for example, P. Veyne, Did the Greeks Believe in their Myths: An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1988). [Back to text]

23 Moses is often referred to by the Rabbis as wnbr h#m, literally "Moses, our Rabbi." [Back to text]

24 See L. Jacobs, "Are there Fictitious Baraitot in the Babylonian Talmud?," HUCA 42 (1971) 185-96; L. Jacobs, "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?," JJS 28 (1977) 47-59 [reprinted and revised in his Structure and Form in the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) 6-17; W. S. Green, "What's in a Name? The Problematic of Rabbinic 'Biography'," in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice (Missoula, MN: Scholars Press, 1978) 77-96; D. W. Halivni, "Doubtful Attributions in the Talmud," PAAJR 56-57 (1979-80) 67-83 [Hebrew]; J. Neusner, In Search of Talmudic Biography: The Problem of the Attributed Saying (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984); J. Neusner, Reading and Believing-Ancient Judaism and Contemporary Gullibility (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1986); D. Kraemer, "On the Reliability of Attributions in the Babylonian Talmud," HUCA 50 (1989) 175-90; R. Kalmin, "Talmudic Portrayals of Relations between Rabbis: Amoraic or Pseudepigraphic?," AJS Review 17 (1992) 165-97; S. Stern, "Attribution and Authorship in the Babylonian Talmud," JJS 45 (1994) 28-51; S. Stern, "The Concept of Authorship in the Babylonian Talmud," JJS 46 (1995) 183-95. [Back to text]

25 See m. (Ed. 1:5-6; compare t. (Ed. 1:4. On the pejorative implication of "naming" in British Parliamentary practice, see L. A. Abraham and S. C. Hawtrey, Parliamentary Dictionary (ed. S. C. Hawtrey and H. M. Barclay; London: Butterworths, 19703) 130-31, s.v. "naming a member" and compare the pejorative connotation of "naming" someone in a lawsuit. On the religious dimensions of naming, see The Encyclopedia of Religion (ed. M. Eliade; New York and London: Macmillan, 1987) 10.300-07. [Back to text]

26 According to the talmudic rule: Mybrk hklh Mybrw dyxy, "[in a dispute between] an individual and a multitude, the law is in accordance with the multitude" (b. Ber. 9a and parallels). [Back to text]

27 According to the talmudic rule cited in the name of R. Yoh9anan:
hn#m Mtsk hklh "the law is according to the anonymous mishnah" (b. Shab. 46a and parallels). On this mishnaic method of indicating relative authority of rulings, see D. W. Halivni, "Doubful Attributions," 79-80 and D. W. Halivni, "The Reception Accorded to Rabbi Judah's Mishnah," in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition (ed. E. P. Sanders et al.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981) 2.209. Rabbi Judah, at least occasionally, seems to have recorded the opinion of a particular sage with whom he agreed, anonymously or as the opinion of "the sages," in order to give it authority. See b. H9ul. 85a and M. Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles: HaMishpat Ha-Ivri (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994) 3.1060, on the formulation of the halakhah in the Mishnah as an anonymous statement or as the opinion of "the sages." Conversely, anonymous statements (Mts) in the Mishnah and other tannaitic compilations are attributed to specific rabbinic sages (b. San. 86a); see Stern, "Authorship," 193. Compare this to the "aggadic method" that Heinemann, Methodology of the Aggadah, 275, termed "avoidance of anonymity" (twymynwn)h Nm hxyrb). [Back to text]

28 D. W. Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Cambridge and London: Harvard, 1986). [Back to text]

29 See Kalmin, "Talmudic Portrayals," 196-97, who cites seven instances in which Rav Ashi's opinions are rejected by the anonymous editors of the Babylonian Talmud with the expression )yh ()twrb) )twdb, which seems to mean "false, forged, fictional, or untrue." See also the comment on the expression, )yh )twdb in b. Pes. 11a (ed. Steinsaltz, 46 Mynwy(): "the intent is to say that Rav Ashi never said these statements, but that someone attributed them to him." [Back to text]

30 J. Pe)ah 1:1 (15c), Shabb. 6:1 (7d), Sot@. 9:15 (24c):
.Nnxwy ybrb hl ylt )wh
Nnxwy 'rm hyt(m# )l M) yl( )wby [rm)w whb) ybr (m#], "He [R. Abbahu] attributed it [the ruling] to R. Yoh9anan. [When R. Abbahu heard this, he replied]: May [punishment] befall me, if I did not hear it from R. Yoh9anan." In the same discussion in the Palestinian Talmud, R. H9iyya bar Abba relates that R. Yoh9anan prohibits the teaching of Greek "because of informers" (twrwsmh ynpm). "If this be the reason, there is, of course, no difference between teaching Greek to boys or girls"; see S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1942) 24 and n. 56, where Lieberman cites a later source (Pirke deRabbi [ed. Grünhut], 58) as attributing to R. Yoh9anan the specific view that "a man may not teach his daughter Greek," contrary to the view attributed by R. Abbahu to R. Yoh9anan. [Back to text]

31 B. Pes. 112a. See Jacobs, "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?" 53, n. 17 (Structure and Form, 111). Note that in this passage, and in the passage quoted above (n. 30) from the Palestinian Talmud, the Hebrew/Aramaic verb ylt/hlt with the preposition -b is apparently used to indicate "(false) attribution"; see also the expression Myrx)b wtllq hlwtw wmc( t) llqm# Md)k "like a man who curses himself, but attributes his curse to others" (b. San. 106a). [Back to text]

32 See b. B. B. 67b on m. B. B. 4:5. On this passage and the phenomenon in general, see Jacobs, "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?" 56-57 (Structure and Form, 15) where he cites several other examples and previous scholarly discussion by Z. H. Chajes, J. D. Wynkoop, B. Epstein and R. Margaliouth. [Back to text]

33 See his contribution to this volume, p. 000. [Back to text]

34 Green, "What's in a Name," 85-87, cites M. D. Herr, E. E. Urbach, S. Safrai, J. Podro, L. Finkelstein, J. Goldin and "virtually every article on an early rabbinic figure in the recent Encyclopedia Judaica" as examples of this "uncritical approach." [Back to text]

35 W. S. Towner, The Rabbinic Enumeration of Scriptural Examples (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973) 34. [Back to text]

36 See Jacobs, "How much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?" [Back to text]

37 See Jacobs, "Fictitious Baraitot" and "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?," 49, n. 7 (Structure and Form, 110): "at least some of the anonymous baraitot quoted in the BT must have been invented for the purpose of elaborating on the Talmudic discussion." [Back to text]

38 See Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, 61; compare Kalmin, "Talmudic Portrayals of Relations between Rabbis: Amoraic or Pseudepigraphic?" [Back to text]

39 Compare M. Foucault, "What Is an Author?," in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (ed. J. V. Harari; London: Methuen, 1980) 149 (speaking of the "scientific" literature of the Middle Ages): "'Hippocrates said,' 'Pliny recounts,' were not really formulas of an argument based on authority; they were the markers inserted in discourses that were supposed to be received as statements of demonstrated truth." [Back to text]

40 Green, "What's in a Name," 88-89. This might also be characterized as "decorative pseudepigraphy," according to Moshe Bernstein's classificatory system (see "The Degrees and Functions of Pseudepigraphy at Qumran," 000). [Back to text]

41 "Talmudic Portrayals of Amoraic Relationships between Rabbis," 170. This might be characterized as "strong pseudepigraphy," according to Moshe Bernstein's classificatory system ("The Degrees and Functions of Pseudepigraphy at Qumran," 000) [Back to text]

42 "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?," 53 (Structure and Form, 12). [Back to text]

43 "Doubtful Attributions," 70. The approaches of Jacobs and Halivni might be characterized as "convenient pseudepigraphy," according to Moshe Bernstein's classificatory system ("The Degrees and Functions of Pseudepigraphy at Qumran," 000). [Back to text]

44 "Attribution and Authorship in the Babylonian Talmud," 48. See also E. S. Rosenthal, "Tradition and Innovation in the Halakha of the Sages," Tarbiz 63 (1994) 321-74 [Hebrew with English abstract, xix-xx]. [Back to text]

45 This point was previously made by B. Bamberger, "Dating of Aggadic Material," JBL 68 (1949) 115-23. The notion that all specific rabbinic teachings derive from a collective tradition should, of course, be compared with the traditional view that all "torah" (written and oral) derives from the divine revelation given to Moses on Sinai and transmitted to subsequent generations, including the rabbinic sages, see m. )Abot 1:1 and other statements such as:
ynysm h#ml hklh hrwth lk#, "For the whole torah is a law given to Moses on Sinai" (b. Nid. 45a) and
dymlt# hm wlyp)w ,hdg) ,dwmlt ,hn#m ,)rqm
ynysb h#ml rm)n rbk wbr ynpl twrwhl dyt( qytw, "Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Aggadah, and even what an advanced disciple will in the future teach before his teacher was already said to Moses on Sinai" (j. Pe)ah 2:6 [17a] and numerous parallels); see Heschel, Theology of Ancient Judaism, 2.229-38, esp. 236, n. 10. [Back to text]

46 "Attribution," 51. For a fuller working out of this approach, see Stern, "The Concept of Authorship in the Babylonian Talmud," particularly 195: "The Bavli's dialectical oscillation between creativity and tradition, individual authorship and collective anonymity, reflects no doubt an ideological motivation: namely, to accommodate, if not reconcile, the rather contradictory notions of revealed, oral Torah from Sinai on the one hand, and the personal authority of individual rabbis on the other, upon both of which depends the legitimization of rabbinic Judaism." [Back to text]

47 Stern ("Attribution," 49, "Authorship," 185, 195, n. 43) cites Barthes' famous essay "Death of the Author," in Image, Music, Text (London: Fontana, 1977) 142-48, esp. 142-43. See also R. Barthes, "From Work to Text," in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (ed. J. V. Harari; London: Methuen, 1980) 73-81, and M. Foucault, "What is an Author?," 141-60. For subsequent discussion of the important questions about "authorship" raised by Barthes and Foucault, see the essays collected in What is an Author? (ed. M. Biriotti and N. Miller; Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1993). See also Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern (ed. S. Burke; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 1995); A. J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship (London: Scolar, 1984). On the decentering of "authorial voice" in rabbinic literature and post-modern literary theory, see I. B. Siegumfeldt, "Old Ideas in a New Setting," Nordisk Judaisik: Scandinavian Jewish Studies 17 (1996) 109-17, esp. 113-14 and The Judaization of Postmodern Theory (Ph.D. diss., Odense Universitet, 1997, presently in preparation for publication) 219. [Back to text]

48 See for example, Midrash and Literature (ed. G. H. Hartman and S. Budick; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986); D. Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990); D. Stern, Midrash and Theory: Ancient Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1996); D. Kraemer, Reading the Rabbis: The Talmud as Literature (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). [Back to text]

49 Stern, "Attribution," 32-38. A possible objection to Stern's understanding of "Rabbi X said" as inferential attribution is the existence of more specific terminology (rm)d ynwlp 'r/rm)d hym(+l ynwlp 'r) to express this particular sort of attribution. See the extensive discussion of this terminology by J. L. Rubenstein, "The Talmudic Expression 'Rabbi X Following his Reasoning Said'," Sidra 10 (1994) 111-29 [Hebrew with English abstract, ix-x]. [Back to text]

50 See Alon, Jewish Law, 2.988-89; Encyclopedia Talmudica (Jerusalem: Yad Harav Herzog, 1974) 2.433-34, s.v. )tyrw)d rws), Torah Interdictions. A similar approach is found in the interpretation of the Mishnah. One example is found in b. Yeb. 25b where Rav Ashi, asked whether a teaching he inferred from the Mishnah is )rbs w) )rmg ("received tradition or the product of his own reasoning"), replies
)yh Nytyntm ("it is our Mishnah"); see Stern, "Authorship," 192. [Back to text]

51 Rabbenu Nissim ben Reuven Gerondi, Derashot Ha-Ran No. 7, cited by Alon, Jewish Law, 1.245, n. 18; see there further, 243-47. [Back to text]

52 This may be related to the closer identification, in rabbinic and other pre-modern cultures, of "image," i.e. representation, with "presence," i.e. the object represented. See Y. Loberbaum, Imago Dei: Rabbinic Literature, Maimonides and Nahmanides (Ph.D. diss.; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1997) 48-53 [Hebrew]. [Back to text]

53 See, for example, b. (Erub. 13b: "For three years the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel disputed, these saying, 'the halakhah is in accordance with us,' and those saying, 'the halakhah is in accordance with us.' A heavenly voice rang out and said: 'these and those are the words of the living God (Myyx Myhl) Myrbd wl)w wl)); but the halakhah is in accordance with the House of Hillel'." And indeed, aggadic legends about God and Moses may be interwoven with stories about halakhic texts and statements attributed to rabbinic sages; see Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana, Parah )Adumah 7 (ed. Mandelbaum, 1.73, and parallels cited by M. Kasher, Torah Shelemah on Exod. 18:4 (Jerusalem: Machon Torah Shelemah, 1973) 15.10, sect. 25, for an aggadic tradition in which Moses, upon ascending to heaven to receive the Torah, hears God reciting a halakhic statement in the name of R. Eliezer found in the Mishnah (m. Parah 1:1). Compare the famous aggadic tradition in which Moses does not recognize or understand a halakhic teaching which R. Akivah claims is a "law given to Moses on Sinai" (b. Men. 29b). [Back to text]

54 See Stern, "Attribution," particularly 39: "it is often difficult to assess the extent to which the attribution was deliberately falsified." [Back to text]

55 The Methodology of the Aggadah, 119-20. [Back to text]

56 Tanh9uma (ed. Buber), Toledot 10. But compare Tanh9uma (ed. Buber) Balaq 18: "I am Esau your first-born." Should not a liar be cursed? But not only [was Jacob not cursed], but he was blessed, as it says, 'moreover, he shall be blessed'" (Gen. 27:33): ,Krwkb w#( ykn)
,(bq(y) Krbtn# )l) dw( )lw ?! rq# wypb )ycwmh
.(gl.zk 'rb) hyhy Kwrb Mg rm)n# llqthl w)r wny) [Back to text]

57 Leqah9 Tov on Gen. 27:19 (ed. Buber, 67a) and Rashi to Gen. 27:19. Compare Ibn Ezra, ad. loc., who regards this midrash as "babble"
(xwr yrbd). [Back to text]

58 Note that in Gen. 27:12, Jacob expresses the fear that if Isaac should discover that he is not Esau, (t(tmk wyny(b ytyyhw, "And I shall seem to him as a deceiver" (KJV and AV; compare the new JPS translation: "I shall appear to him as a trickster"). [Back to text]

59 Compare Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis (trans. R. Marcus; Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA: Harvard and London: Heinemann, 1971) 501, on Gen. 27:18-19: "'I am Esau, thy first born.' ... Again he will seem to be a deceiver, although he is not to be thought (to be connected) with any evil." In the previous comment, on Gen. 27:16 (499-500), Philo employs an analogy to acceptable deception in the theater and medical practice: "sometimes he [the physician] will speak falsehoods, not being a liar, and he will deceive, not being a deceiver." For the notion of the physician's use of acceptable deception, see Plato, Republic 382c, 389b, 459c; on Plato's notion of acceptable deception in general, I have benefited from H. Dietcher (Jerusalem), "The Platonic Lie and Jewish Bible Education" [unpublished paper]. [Back to text]

60 On the history and use of these two concepts in Roman and European law, see A. Carcaterra, Dolus Bonus/Dolus Malus (Naples: Casa Editrice Dott. Eugenio Jovene, 1970); on dolus bonus in Greek philosophy, see 225-26, and on dolus bonus in patristic literature, see 156-60. See also H. C. Black, Black's Law Dictionary (St. Paul: West, 1906), 483 s.v. dolus bonus, dolus malus; Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam, 1971) 670, s.v. dolus bonus, dolus malus. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, 8, notes that swlwd, do&lov, occurs frequently in rabbinic literature but not with the general meaning of deceit, only of admixture, adulteration of pure objects. [Back to text]

61 Methodology of the Aggadah, 1-14, esp. 4-7 and 11 where Heinemann cites, as an illustration of rabbinic promotion of textual creativity, the parable of the king who gave wheat and flax to his servants, not simply to be preserved but so that they should make these raw materials into bread and cloth (Seder Eliyahu Zuta, ch. 2; ed. M. Friedmann, 171-72). In private conversation, Sasha Stern raised the important question, how do the talmudic sages express our notion of "creativity" (Heinemann uses the adjective [t]rcwy, see below)? I think the word that comes closest in rabbinic terminology is "midrash." See for example t. Sot@. 7:21 (ed. Lieberman, 199-200 and parallels):
rk# lbqw #wrd ... #rdm hz (zk.kd yl#m) Ktyb tynbw, "'and build your house' (Prov. 24:27), this refers to midrash ... make a midrash and receive reward." [Back to text]

62 Methodology of the Aggadah, 96-164, "Book II: The Methodology of Creative Philology (trcwyh hygwlwlyph)." [Back to text]

63 Methodology of the Aggadah, 15-95, "Book I: Creative Historiography (trcwyh hyprgwyrw+syhh)." [Back to text]

64 On the ubiquity of paradox in rabbinic culture, see the important study by A. J. Lelyveld, The Unity of the Contraries: Paradox as a Characteristic of Normative Jewish Thought (B. G. Rudolph Lectures in Judaic Studies; Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1984). [Back to text]

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