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Stammaitic Activity Versus Stammaitic Chronology; Anonymity's Impact on the Legal Narrative of the Babylonian Talmud

Eisen, Joshua

This dissertation explores the nature of the contribution of the Stammaim to the narrative of the Babylonian Talmud (BT). The primary suggestion is to view the Stammaim as the authors, narrators, and editors who contributed the anonymous Stammaitic activity to the text. The goal is not to dismiss the possibility of a Stammaitic period, or a period of heightened Stammaitic activity. Rather, it is to broaden the scope of possible chronological provenances for Stammaitic activity. Once broadened, it becomes necessary to view the notion of `Stammaitic' as one defining a literary style regardless of whether it might also refer to a chronological period. The idea of the style comes first. After a Stammaitic style emerges, and once there is a period of time where the deployment of such a style becomes heightened, then - and only then - is it possible to define a period based upon the style. Nevertheless, the style is hardly confined to any period either before or after the Stammaitic period as it is currently understood. Once I have addressed the issue of a Stammaitic style that cuts across the periods, I posit that anonymity fuels the engines of three other features that are worth considering when reading a BT text: canonicity, multiplicity, and pluralism. In considering anonymity, one must analyze the impact of anonymous elements on the narrative as a whole, and specifically what the anonymity does to or for the text. When assessing what makes this or that text canonical, degrees of canonicity emerge for the different elements of a BT text. Understanding the impact of anonymity (and attribution) assists in assessing those degrees - whether based upon manuscripts or the internal workings of the text - and how degrees of canonicity are more easily manipulated by an anonymous voice. One interesting possibility also emerges that allows for anonymous actors to infuse canonicity into a tradition by manipulating attribution. Regarding multiplicity, I argue that the authors and editors of the BT pursued a general agenda of including a greater rather than fewer number of attributed sages. While any one sage of great importance can infuse authority (and canonicity) into a tradition and the words associated with it, the inclusion of a broad range of sages from different places increases the potential `market' for the text as a whole. In discussing pluralism, I deal with the manner in which the laws and customs are laid out in the BT as well as the substance of the laws and customs themselves. They are presented in such a way that the legal system that is the BT can easily operate within dominant, primary legal systems where the BT is clearly subordinate. I also suggest the possibility that the BT was crafted to be subordinate. There are many ways to read a text. In the case of the BT, I argue that an analysis of the text is well served by consideration of anonymity and the other three features. I approach the issue of the four features, as well as the matter of Stammaitic style versus Stammaitic chronology, theoretically in the first five chapters, after which I dedicate chapters to raw analyses of different types of texts and groups of texts as they help elucidate the earlier theoretical discussion.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Religion
Thesis Advisors
Halivni, David Weiss
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 2, 2013