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Old 04-18-2001, 07:10 AM   #1
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Post Anyone here knowledgeable about the Talmud?

If you have studied the Talmud and are knowledgeable about its history, I would very much appreciate your comments on my posts in the thread Paul the Persecutor . In particular, I would appreciate your comments on Hyam Maccoby's allegation that the Apostle Paul was ignorant of rabbinic logic.


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 18, 2001).]
 
Old 04-18-2001, 10:43 AM   #2
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I know next to nothing about this, but I'll give you a brain dump.

First, TTBOMK there is more than one Talmud.
Second, as you probably know, the Talmud is the discussions of rabbis on various issues.

Third, about 10 years ago, an Israeli named Adin Steinsaltz published the first volume of the first translation of some sort of one of the Talmuds. The Wall St Journal did a fairly lengthy story about it and interview with him on that occasion. Maybe more than 10 years ago.

Re Macoby, many Jewish scholars have commented that the NT presents a very distorted picture/interpretation of Jewish life. One whose work I read some years ago and recall only very dimly is a fellow named Samuel Sandmel. FYI.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 10:52 AM   #3
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I would appreciate comments, by anyone knowledgeable about the history of Judaism, about the following:

James Patrick Holding wrote, in Meeting Up with the Mythmaker, a critique of The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What of the work done by the likes of W. D. Davies, E. P . Sanders, and Joseph Klausner, placing Paul firmly in the traditions and methods of rabbinic Judaism? Maccoby deals with Davies and Sanders by the simple expedient of mostly ignoring them or broadly dismissing them (their work is cited only seven times in 230 pages, and never in relation to evidence); Klausner he puts off by simply calling his arguments names ("unconvincing" - [61]). Don't let Maccoby's extensive source list impress you - he's simply packed the deck to make it look like he's done the work. How scholarly he actually is, is revealed in that most chapters have fewer than a dozen footnotes, and in that he feels he can debunk the likes of Davies, Sanders and Klausner with a single chapter of only 10 to 12 pages. Most of the book turns out not be scholarly at all, but mostly fantastic reconstruction of what Maccoby thinks actually happened in the first century.</font>
Can anyone here comment on the work of W. D. Davies, E. P . Sanders, and Joseph Klausner?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for Paul, Maccoby devotes 11 pages to proving that the Apostle was a liar when he claimed to be a Pharisee.

[...]

Paul, Student of the Rabbis?

Maccoby's most important point for our purposes, however, is his attempt to prove that Paul was no Jewish intellectual as has been argued by the likes of Davies and Klausner. This view, he tells us, is "entirely wrong, being based on ignorance or misunderstanding of rabbinical exegesis and logic." [61] And so, in a tour de force of nine pages with 12 mostly-irrelevant footnotes, Maccoby goes on to prove that Paul was not the rabbinic scholar that Davies, etc. have supposed. Klausner, who said, "It would be difficult to find more typically Talmudic expressions of scripture than those in the Epistles of Paul," is disposed of by reference to the "six unconvincing examples" he provides (though we are only privileged to have one explained to us in Maccoby's text) and the polemical claim that "rabbinical arguments are never guilty of logical confusions" like Paul's arguments contained. Also cited is the fact that Paul bases some of his arguments on the LXX, which Maccoby claims that a Palestinian scholar of Judaism would never do, although not so much as a footnote is offered in proof - and one wonders what works from the first century Maccoby can provide as proof; if he cites Talmudic literature, then that is too late to use as proof, for it is beyond that century and into the time when Jewish scholars would indeed have disliked using the LXX, because of consistent Christian use of it.

The acid test for proving that Paul was a fakir of rabbinical teaching, however, would be to show that he shows none of the signs of having a rabbinical education, which is the whole point of what Klausner, Davies and others wrote about. Maccoby dismisses Klausner and another scholar, Schoeps, by remarking that "it is quite startling to see how unconvincing they are" [64] and accusing them of bias, which is always handy. We do get to some specifics, however. One evidence of Paul's rabbinic background is that he uses a typical rabbinic exegetical method called qal va-homer - or "light and heavy". It is a sort of principle of analogy used to prove one point based on a given fact.</font>
Maccoby's point is that Paul misuses qal va-homer logic in ways that (Maccoby claims) anyone with a rabbinic background would not. Holding seems not to understand this point.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Maccoby cites four examples of this method from Paul; let's look at them, all from Romans:
  • 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
  • 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
  • 11:15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
  • 11:24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Maccoby gives Paul a big fat F here on 3 out of 4, accusing him of "woolly, imprecise reasoning" and going "far beyond the conclusion warranted" - the bottom line being, Paul cannot be a Pharisee or a rabbinic exegete, because he "was arguing for a doctrine of which the Pharisees would have disapproved strongly." [65-6] Now, did the reader catch that? Paul can't be a Pharisee or a rabbinic exegete, because he comes to conclusions that are false by Pharisee thinking...i.e., because he asserts that Christianity is true!</font>
No, that is NOT Maccoby's argument here, though he does make that argument elsewhere in the book. Maccoby's argument, at this point, is not about the content of Paul's theological conclusions, but about his violations of a rule of rabbinic logic.

The form of a qal va-homer argument is as follows: If A is a "heavier" version of B, then if B implies X, then all the more so does A imply X. Maccoby cites Numbers 12 as an example of a correct use (by God Himself) of qal va-homer reasoning:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a
Cushite.
[...]
9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam--leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy;
11 and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.
12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away."
13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "O God, please heal her!"
14 The LORD replied to Moses, "If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back."</font>
In other words, if offending one's father (a relatively light thing) deserves 7 days' banishment, then all the more so does offending God (a relatively heavy thing) deserve at least 7 days' banishment. Maccoby says that it would NOT be a correct use of a qal va-homer to say, "then offending God deserves 14 days' banishment." The argument cannot be used to support a conclusion that goes beyond the premises.

Of the four examples from Romans, only the fourth is a logically valid qal va-homer argument. The others are not.

What Hyam Maccoby is claiming here is that all Pharisee rabbis, or at least the vast majority, were trained in the correct use of qal va-homer reasoning, and hence that Paul's incorrect use of such reasoning shows that he was probably never a Pharisee rabbi.

Only a person knowledgeable about the history of Judaism can tell us whether Hyam Maccoby is correct about this particular point.


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 18, 2001).]
 
Old 04-18-2001, 11:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kate Long:
If you have studied the Talmud and are knowledgeable about its history, I would very much appreciate your comments on my posts in the thread Paul the Persecutor . In particular, I would appreciate your comments on Hyam Maccoby's allegation that the Apostle Paul was ignorant of rabbinic logic.


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 18, 2001).]
</font>
Let's begin with what Paul affirmatively, and openly, asserts about his background. Paul explicitly identifies himself as a Pharisee. Phil. 3:5-6. Moreover, just as Pharisees observed traditions above and beyond the written law, Paul explicitly says that he was "exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my father." Gal. 1:14.

Additionally, Paul identifies himself as a "Hebrew," which a Jew of the diaspora would most likely not do. 2 Cor. 11:22. He also affirms traditional Pharisee beliefs such as the resurrection, angels, and a Jewish ministry to the Gentiles.

And let us keep in mind that these representations were being made openly and Paul's enemies, both Jewish and Jewish Christian would be aware of them. Nevertheless, although is forced to defend his Apostleship and the law/Gentile issue, he is never forced to defend his origins as a Pharisee or his clear teaching of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Against this we have Maccody arguing that Paul didn't use Rabbinic logic in his epistles. It first must be pointed out that the epistles of Paul are not Rabbinical literature . Rather, the Pauline epistles are occasional letters written to largely Gentile audiences, with perhaps many diaspora Jews mingled in. Would Paul's audience have been familiar with the forms of Rabbinical rhetoric? Almost certainly not. And if not, why would Paul enagege them in a polemic that they would not understand?

Nevertheless, it appears that the basis for the comparison is the Talmud? And that is why you have asked about the Talmud?

I am not expert, but here are my thoughts.

It would probably be more accurate to say Talmuds, rather than Talmud, for there are more than one. None of them date from the first or second century CE. In fact, only the first large collection of Rabbincal material, called the Mishra, written sometime in the third century. It covers what is known as the "Tannaitic" age of rabbincal literature.

The next period of rabbinical development is known as the "Amoraic" period. The Mishna itself became an object of study and commentary. Two significant commentatires arose about the Mishnah. The first is the Palestinian Talmud, completed around 350 CE. The second is the Bablyonian Talmud, completed around 500 CE.

Importantly, Judaism underwent dramatic and transformative changes after the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE. Rabbinical Judaism emerged as the only organized group left and rose to prominence. Since all of Talmuds were written more than 130 years after the destruction of the temple, there are problems with understanding the nature of pre-70 rabbinical Judaism.

So, attempting to glean the exact types of rhetoric or logic employed by the Pharisee Jews in their religious literature, and even more problematically their correspondence with Gentiles, is a difficult task. "The rabbis new little about pre-70 Pharisaism . . . and what they report is usually untrustworthy." Shaye Cohen, Joseph in Galilee and Rome, at 253.

This is further complicated by the rabbinical materials tendency to "modernize" previous Jewish figures. For example, the Jew Honi was known by Josephus as having once prayed for rain and having his prayer answered. By the time of the Mishna, the story had been expounded to include some teaching and theological developments. By the time of the later Rabbinical writings, Honi was a rabbinical miracle worker espousing the themes of contemporary Judaism.

In sum. We have Paul expressly claiming to be a Pharisee. Many of his beliefs are best described as derivative of that branch of Judaism. Moreover, despite the fact that Paul did face challenges to his authority and teachings, there is no evidence that he was ever forced to defend his claims regarding his background or teachings on the resurrection.

The assertion that Paul is lying about his status is that he does not, according to one scholar, employ typical Pharises rhetoric in his letters. But, Paul's letters are not typical rabbinical literature. Moreover, Paul's audience in most cases was largely Gentile, unschooled in the art of Rabbinical polemic.

Additionally, given the lateness of the Talmud and its tendency to Rabbinicalize its subjects, it seems doubtful that we can reconstruct the exhaustive nature of acceptable and unacceptable Rabbinical polemic before the fall of the Temple.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 02:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kate Long:
If you have studied the Talmud and are knowledgeable about its history, I would very much appreciate your comments on my posts in the thread Paul the Persecutor . In particular, I would appreciate your comments on Hyam Maccoby's allegation that the Apostle Paul was ignorant of rabbinic logic.
</font>

Kate,

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the Talmud, but I have studied it a little bit. I can assure you that Jewish scholars do not consider the Talmud to be a reliable source of historical information on pre-70 C.E. Judaism. The Talmud was compiled between about 200-500 C.E. The whole face of Judaism changed after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E. Jewish scholars like Joseph Klausner (long dead) and Jacob Neusner (thankfully still alive) will say the same thing. The Talmud was not written as a historical account, instead it was compiled as a collection of rabbinic teaching. In one passage of the Talmud Jesus of Nazareth is portrayed as being active in about 80 B.C.E. In other passages, he appears to be co-existent with rabbis of the 2nd century C.E. Its simply not a good historical source for pre-70 Judaism.

I addressed this next point in my “Paul the Persecutor” thread, but I’ll add something else here. Paul is writing his letters about 20-30 years after he ceased rabbinical training. Of course its possible his writing and rhetorical style will have changed somewhat. We don’t expect a person who entirely changes their worldviews to still act and behave in all of their previous ways 20-30 years after a conversion or a major change in their belief system. So even if Maccoby’s thesis were true about Pharisaic thought (which I still do not believe is correct), there is no reason to suppose Paul continued to think in exactly the same way two or three decades after converting.

In the other thread I also brought up the fact that Josephus was a Pharisee, yet he claimed Vespasian was the promised messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. A traditional Pharisee would never claim a Roman emperor was such a thing. Yet Josephus underwent somewhat of a conversion experience of his own. He went from fighting against the Romans to joining their side after surrender. He obviously would have been considered a traitor by his fellow Jews. Likewise, Paul was a traitor for converting to Christianity.

There is no good reason to doubt that Paul was a Pharisee when we have firsthand and secondhand testimony attesting to the fact, and no sufficient evidence to doubt the claim.

Peace,

Polycarp

 
Old 04-26-2001, 03:53 PM   #6
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Originally posted by Polycarp:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the Talmud, but I have studied it a little bit. I can assure you that Jewish scholars do not consider the Talmud to be a reliable source of historical information on pre-70 C.E. Judaism. The Talmud was compiled between about 200-500 C.E. The whole face of Judaism changed after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E. Jewish scholars like Joseph Klausner (long dead) and Jacob Neusner (thankfully still alive) will say the same thing. The Talmud was not written as a historical account, instead it was compiled as a collection of rabbinic teaching. In one passage of the Talmud Jesus of Nazareth is portrayed as being active in about 80 B.C.E. In other passages, he appears to be co-existent with rabbis of the 2nd century C.E. Its simply not a good historical source for pre-70 Judaism.</font>
In that case, and especially if pre-70 rabbinic Judaism is not also very well-documented otherwise, then perhaps Maccoby is not, after all, in a position to make confident assertions about what principles of logic would have been accepted uniformly by the rabbis.

Does anyone else here have any comments on this one way or the other?


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
Old 04-26-2001, 03:58 PM   #7
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(this is a repost of my answer to Kate's same question in the Freethinkers Private Forum)

I may be of help in specific questions, but on the whole the Talmud is a corpus of great extent (indeed in Hebrew it is called "Yam ha-Talmud", the Sea of Talmud). The Talmud is not monolithic in any way - it is the work of many rabbis, living from about the 3rd century BCE (after Alexander's empire, from the time of the Maccabees onward) up to the 5th century CE (fall of the Roman Empire). There are two versions of the Talmud, the Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi), which is in Hebrew and is lesser and incomplete, and the Babylonian version (Bavli, meaning of Iraq), which is in Aramaic and is official, extensive and complete.

As for the Christian connection, the Talmudic rabbis say Jesus was the son of Mary by illegitimate intercourse with a Roman legionary named Pantera. The Talmud heaps plenty of insults and curses upon Christianity and Christians, and exposes Christianity as a bastard offshoot of Judaism much like its founder.
 
Old 04-26-2001, 06:25 PM   #8
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devnet, I thought the Talmud was written as a sort of explanation/elaboration of the Mishnah which is an explanation/elaboration of the Torah.

How, then, do the rabbis of the Talmud go back to the 3rd century B.C.? The Mishnah was finished somewhere around 200 A.D. in Sepphoris. Are you taking the line of thought that the laws of the Mishnah were oral as far back as the 3rd century B.C.?

Oh yeah, I think many scholars take the references to Jesus in the Talmud to be relatively late polemical reactions to the teachings of Christianity. They never question Jesus existence though.

Ish


[This message has been edited by Ish (edited April 27, 2001).]
 
Old 04-27-2001, 04:07 PM   #9
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Bump... I'm curious.

Ish
 
Old 04-27-2001, 04:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Ish:
devnet, I thought the Talmud was written as a sort of explanation/elaboration of the Mishnah which is an explanation/elaboration of the Torah.

How, then, do the rabbis of the Talmud go back to the 3rd century B.C.? The Mishnah was finished somewhere around 200 A.D. in Sepphoris. Are you taking the line of thought that the laws of the Mishnah were oral as far back as the 3rd century B.C.?
</font>
The Mishnah and Talmud are both oral. The Mishnah is said to have been given at Mount Sinai, but that's a religious view and I don't take it seriously. There cannot be said to be any sharp line between the Mishnah and its commentary, the Talmud. Ever since there was a Mishnah, there must have been a commentary to it. The Mishnah and Talmud were both committed to writing when the danger of corruption set in (much like the oral Vedas some thousand years after their inception); of the dates I'm not certain.
 
 

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