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Midrash and Legend: Historical Anecdotes in the Tannaitic Midrashim


Historical Anecdotes in the Tannaitic Midrashim


This study applies form criticism to the stories of the earliest rabbinic midrashim. The results shed light on the literary personalities of the individual midrash collections and the relationships of transmission in the tradition. These stories are of particular interest from an inter-religious and comparative literary point of view because New Testament studies have often referred to certain narratives in the gospels as "midrashic." The author sets forth, in positive terms, an understanding of what functions historical anecdotes serve in the tannaitic midrashim, along with a catalogue of the rhetorical conventions used to fulfill those functions.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 1-59333-127-4
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jan 1,2004
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 0
ISBN: 1-59333-127-4
$144.00
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This study collects every example of a historical anecdote in the tannaitic midrashim -- any passage which relates any incident purported to have occurred from the close of biblical times up to the composition of the midrash collection being studied. These stories are of particular interest from an inter-religious and comparative literary point of view because New Testament studies have often referred to certain narratives in the gospels as "midrashic." There are indeed some dynamics shared in common between the two genres of gospel narrative and rabbinic anecdote. Both are didactic accounts and both represent transmitted material shaped to function in specific contexts. But the fundamental matrices governing each genre are strikingly different.

In this study, the author sets forth, in positive terms, an understanding of what functions historical anecdotes serve in the tannaitic midrashim, along with a catalogue of the rhetorical conventions used to fulfill those functions. The data does not bear out the notion that each collection has a rigid ideological program, but it certainly bears out the notion that different documents exhibit different preferences of style, of authorities, of argumentation, and of sources.

In the anecdotes of the tannaitic midrash collections, we find a body of texts, which, in highly formalized fashion, described behaviors and conversations of sages, which provided legal information serving to fill in gaps discovered in Scripture by means of exegesis, or served to illustrate virtues revealed in Scripture. Their actions are paradigmatic, timeless, and normative, providing sources of law or elucidations of law.

Joshua Moss teaches rabbinics at the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina. Previously he taught at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati, Ohio), where he earned his Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature.

This study collects every example of a historical anecdote in the tannaitic midrashim -- any passage which relates any incident purported to have occurred from the close of biblical times up to the composition of the midrash collection being studied. These stories are of particular interest from an inter-religious and comparative literary point of view because New Testament studies have often referred to certain narratives in the gospels as "midrashic." There are indeed some dynamics shared in common between the two genres of gospel narrative and rabbinic anecdote. Both are didactic accounts and both represent transmitted material shaped to function in specific contexts. But the fundamental matrices governing each genre are strikingly different.

In this study, the author sets forth, in positive terms, an understanding of what functions historical anecdotes serve in the tannaitic midrashim, along with a catalogue of the rhetorical conventions used to fulfill those functions. The data does not bear out the notion that each collection has a rigid ideological program, but it certainly bears out the notion that different documents exhibit different preferences of style, of authorities, of argumentation, and of sources.

In the anecdotes of the tannaitic midrash collections, we find a body of texts, which, in highly formalized fashion, described behaviors and conversations of sages, which provided legal information serving to fill in gaps discovered in Scripture by means of exegesis, or served to illustrate virtues revealed in Scripture. Their actions are paradigmatic, timeless, and normative, providing sources of law or elucidations of law.

Joshua Moss teaches rabbinics at the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina. Previously he taught at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati, Ohio), where he earned his Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature.

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Contributor

Joshua Moss

  • Abstract
  • Midrash and Legend: Historical Anecdotes in the Tannaitic Midrashim
  • Historical Anecdotes in the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael
  • Historical Anecdotes in the Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai
  • Historical Anecdotes in Sifra - Torat Kohanim
  • Historical Anecdotes in Sifre Numbers
  • Historical Anecdotes in Sifre Zuta
  • Historical Anecdotes in Sifre Deuteronomy
  • Summary of Data for the Tannaitic Midrashim
  • Conclusions