Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds: Accounting for Halakhic difference in selected Sugyot from tractate Avodah Zarah

Hayes, Christine Elizabeth. University of California, Berkeley. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1993. 9407994.

Abstract (summary)

A central issue in talmudic studies concerns the genesis of halakhic divergences between the Talmuds produced by the Palestinian rabbinic community (c. 370) and the Babylonian rabbinic community (c. 650). Despite their common point of departure--the Mishnah--and the frequent interchange of legal traditions, the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds feature differences in their discussion and interpretation of Jewish law. Are such divergences the result of internal processes, the natural evolution of a complex and fertile core tradition? Or are they the result of external influences arising, for example, from contact with non-Jewish cultures?

This dissertation accounts for selected divergences between parallel passages of the two Talmuds dealing with laws governing relations between Jews and non-Jews. I proceed on a case by case basis and consider whether external influences (cultural, regional), internal factors (textual, hermeneutical, dialectical) or some intersection of the two best accounts for these legal divergences. While some legal differences reflect the differences between Jewish-Gentile relations in Hellenistic Palestine and Jewish-Gentile relations in Sassanid Persia, I critique a reductive brand of historical analysis that would posit external explanations for divergence between the two Talmuds without paying sufficient attention to internal factors. To avoid a reductive historicism, I focus on (i) the character of the Talmuds as hermeneutic literatures employing specific strategies of interpretation, (ii) the additional 300 years of analysis, debate and revision to which legal traditions were subjected in Babylonia, and (iii) the way in which the later Babylonian sages transformed the nature of the Babylonian Talmud. Specifically, earlier layers--often resembling the Palestinian Talmud in style and substance--were incorporated into a dialectical superstructure moving the law in new directions.

A primary goal of this dissertation is to critique the current relation between the study of Talmud and the study of ancient cultures and to suggest ways in which the two disciplines can be of greater mutual service. A proper appreciation of rabbinic reading practices, canons of interpretation and argumentation can help to prevent reductive historical analyses of halakhic texts and lead to more reliable methodologies for the study of Talmudic culture.

Indexing (details)

Religious history;
Ancient civilizations;
0320: Religious history
0579: Ancient civilizations
0398: Law
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences
Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds: Accounting for Halakhic difference in selected Sugyot from tractate Avodah Zarah
Hayes, Christine Elizabeth
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 54/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Boyarin, Daniel
University of California, Berkeley
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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