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Form-Criticism Of Rabbinic Literature

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses a number of issues concerning the form-critical study of rabbinic texts. The first problem faced by anyone who wants to study rabbinic literary forms is how to distinguish small and originally independent literary units from their context, where to draw the line. Secondly, the particular form of the literary unit has to be identified. Comparisons with similar forms in Graeco-Roman and early Christian literature have often been helpful in this regard. In recent years the structuralist approach to literary texts has been replaced by the post-modern approach which focuses on intertextuality and indeterminacy. Such approaches have been applied to midrash but have not been sufficiently exploited in the study of legal texts. In addition, rabbinic legal literature and hermeneutics may be compared with the forms and rhetorics of Graeco-Roman and other Ancient Near Eastern legal traditions in order to determine shared forms and styles.

Keywords: form-critical study; hermeneutics; rabbinic texts



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