The Mind of the Talmud: An Intellectual History of the Bavli

The Mind of the Talmud: An Intellectual History of the Bavli

by David Kraemer

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This critical study traces the development of the literary forms and conventions of the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, analyzing those forms as expressions of emergent rabbinic ideology. The Bavli, which evolved between the third and sixth centuries in Sasanian Iran (Babylonia), is the most comprehensive of all documents produced by rabbinic Jews in late antiquity. It became the authoritative legal source for medieval Judaism, and for some its opinions remain definitive today. Kraemer here examines the characteristic preference for argumentation and process over settled conclusions of the Bavli. By tracing the evolution of the argumentational style, he describes the distinct eras in the development of rabbinic Judaism in Babylonia. He then analyzes the meaning of the disputational form and concludes that the talmudic form implies the inaccessibility of perfect truth and that on account of this opinion, the pursuit of truth, in the characteristic talmudic concern for rabbinic process, becomes the ultimate act of rabbinic piety.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198022831
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/06/1990
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 841 KB

Table of Contents

1.On Writing an Intellectual History of the Bavli9
The Meaning of Literary Forms9
The Bavli: A Preliminary Description16
The Bavli's Sources: On the Reliability of Attributions20
2.A History of Amoraic Literary Expression26
The First Amoraic Period30
The Second Amoraic Period35
The Third Amoraic Period39
The Meaning of the Evidence41
3.The Preservation of Amoraic Argumentation50
The Evidence55
More Evidence and Conclusions63
Appendix AThe Data at a Glance72
Appendix BThe Data in Detail72
4.The Bavli Considered as a Whole79
The Urgency for Argumentation79
Building on Earlier Argumentation80
Building on Brief Traditions84
Fictional Argumentation87
Argumentation for Its Own Sake90
The Bavli and the Yerushalmi Distinguished93
5.The Meaning of Argumentation99
A Philosophical Analysis: The Indeterminability of Truth99
Historical Underpinnings112
Theological Underpinnings120
AppendixThe Erosion of Authority in the Bavli's Sources127
6.The Bavli on "Truth,"139
The Separation of Truth and Practice139
The Centering of Human Reason: Reason and Revelation146
Human Reason on Its Own Terms: Learning Becomes Torah156
7.The Bavli in Comparative Perspective171
Truth in the Classical Philosophical Tradition175
Religious Traditions and Truth179
Philosophy Meets Scripture183
In Conclusion: Why the Bavli?187
General Index213
Index to Primary Rabbinic Sources217

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