1st Edition

Classic Essays in Early Rabbinic Culture and History

Edited By Christine Hayes Copyright 2018

    This volume brings together a set of classic essays on early rabbinic history and culture, seven of which have been translated into English especially for this publication. The studies are presented in three sections according to theme: (1) sources, methods and meaning; (2) tradition and self-invention; and (3) rabbinic contexts. The first section contains essays that made a pioneering contribution to the identification of sources for the historical and cultural study of the rabbinic period, articulated methodologies for the study of rabbinic history and culture, or addressed historical topics that continue to engage scholars to the present day. The second section contains pioneering contributions to our understanding of the culture of the sages whose sources we deploy for the purposes of historical reconstruction, contributions which grappled with the riddle and rhythm of the rabbis’ emergence to authority, or pierced the veil of their self-presentation. The essays in the third section made contributions of fundamental importance to our understanding of the broader cultural contexts of rabbinic sources, identified patterns of rabbinic participation in prevailing cultural systems, or sought to define with greater precision the social location of the rabbinic class within Jewish society of late antiquity. The volume is introduced by a new essay from the editor, summarizing the field and contextualizing the reprinted papers.

    About the series

    Classic Essays in Jewish History

    (Series Editor: Kenneth Stow)

    The 6000 year history of the Jewish peoples, their faith and their culture is a subject of enormous importance, not only to the rapidly growing body of students of Jewish studies itself, but also to those working in the fields of Byzantine, eastern Christian, Islamic, Mediterranean and European history. Classic Essays in Jewish History is a library reference collection that makes available the most important articles and research papers on the development of Jewish communities across Europe and the Middle East. By reprinting together in chronologically-themed volumes material from a widespread range of sources, many difficult to access, especially those drawn from sources that may never be digitized, this series constitutes a major new resource for libraries and scholars. The articles are selected not only for their current role in breaking new ground, but also for their place as seminal contributions to the formation of the field, and their utility in providing access to the subject for students and specialists in other fields. A number of articles not previously published in English will be specially translated for this series. Classic Essays in Jewish History provides comprehensive coverage of its subject. Each volume in the series focuses on a particular time-period and is edited by an authority on that field. The collection is planned to consist of 10 thematically ordered volumes, each containing a specially-written introduction to the subject, a bibliographical guide, and an index. All volumes are hardcover and printed on acid-free paper, to suit library needs. Subjects covered include:

    The Biblical Period The Second Temple Period

    The Development of Jewish Culture in Spain

    Jewish Communities in Medieval Central Europe

    Jews in Medieval England and France

    Jews in Renaissance Europe

    Jews in Early Modern Europe

    Jews under Medieval Islam

    Jews in the Ottoman Empire and North Africa


    A. Rabbinic History – Sources, Methods and Meaning

    1. Leopold Zunz, "Etwas uber die rabbinische Litteratur" in 1818 (republished in Gesammelte Schriften, 1875-76), pp. 1-31. Translated by James Redfield

    2. Heinrich Grätz (1817-1891) "Hagadische Elemente bei den Kirchenvatern" in Monatsschrift fur geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, Vol. 3, No. 8 (1854), pp. 311-19. Translated by James Redfield

    3. Victor Aptowitzer, "Observations on the Criminal Law of the Jews" in Jewish Quarterly Review XV (1924), pp. 55-118

    4. Adolf Büchler "The Levitical Impurity of the Gentile in Palestine before the year 70" in Jewish Quarterly Review XVII (n.s.) (1926), pp. 1-81

    5. Gedaliah Alon, "Those appointed for Money" in Zion 12 (1947) 101-35; translated and reprinted in Jews, Judaism and the Classical World by Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1977), pp. 374-435

    B. Rabbinic Culture – Tradition and Self-Invention

    6. Israel Levy, "L’Origine Davidique de Hillel." REJ 31 (1895), pp. 202-211. Translated by Erin Brust

    7. Wilhelm Bacher, "Das altjüdische Schulwesen" in Jahrbuch für Jüdische Geschichte und Literatur. 6 (1903), pp. 48-81. Translated by Eva Kiesele

    8. Urbach, E.E., "The Derashah as the Basis for the Halakhah and the Problem of the Soferim," in Tarbiz 27 (1958), pp. 168-82 (Hebrew). Translated by Christine Hayes

    9. David Zvi Hoffman, pp 1-12 of "Le-Heqer Midreshei ha-Tanna’im," in Mesilot le-Torat ha-Tanna’im (Tel Aviv: M. Drisner, 1928). Translation by A. S. Rabinowitz of "Zur Einleitung in die halachischen Midraschim," (Berlin, 1888). Translated by James Redfield

    10. Solomon Zeitlin, "The Pharisees: A Historical Study." The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Oct., 1961), pp. 97-129


    C. Rabbinic Contexts

    11. Saul Lieberman, "The Martyrs of Caesarea" in Annuaire de L’Institut de Philologie et D’Histoire Orientales et Slaves. Vol. 7 (1944), pp. 395-446

    12. David Daube (1909-1999) "Rabbinic Methods of Interpretation and Hellenistic Rhetoric" in Hebrew Union College Annual, 22 (1949), pp. 239-264

    13. Elias Bickerman, "La chaîne de la tradition pharisienne" Revue biblique, (1952) Vol. 59 1 4, pp. 44-54; later in English in Studies in Jewish and Christian History II (1980), pp. 256-269

    14. Morton Smith (1915-1991) "Palestinian Judaism in the First Century," in M. Davis, Israel, Its Role in Civilization (1956), pp. 67-81

    15. Erwin R. Goodenough (1893-1965) "The Rabbis and Jewish Art in the Greco-Roman Period." Hebrew Union College Annual 32 (1961), pp. 269-279

    16. Morton Smith, (1915-1991) "Goodenough’s Jewish Symbols in Retrospect" in JBL 86 (1967), pp. 53-68

    17. Henry Fischel, "Story and History: Observations on Greco-Roman rhetoric and Pharisaism" in American Oriental Society, Middle West Branch, Semi-Centennial Volume (1969), pp. 59-88

    18. Alexander Kohut,"Die talmudisch-midraschische Adamssage in ihrer Ruckbeziehung auf die persische Yima und Meshiasage" in ZDMG (1871), pp. 59-94. Translated by Eva Kiesele


    Christine Hayes is Robert F. and Patricia R. Weis Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica, Yale University, USA, and author of several books in biblical and rabbinic studies, including Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities (2002) and What's Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives (2015).

    "This volume brings together a set of classic essays on early rabbinic history and culture, seven of which have been translated into English especially for this publication." -- www.worldtrade.com, Spotlight 029, August 2018