From Mesopotamia to the Mishnah: Tannaitic Inheritance Law in its Legal and Social Contexts

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Employing text critical methods, Jonathan S. Milgram argues that, in the absence of the hermeneutic underpinnings for tannaitic innovations, the inheritance laws of the tannaim were not the result of the rabbinic penchant for inventive interpretation of Scripture. Turning to biblical, ancient near eastern, Second Temple, Greek, Elephantine, Judean desert, and Roman sources, the author finds conceptual and terminological parallels adopted and adapted by the tannaim and argues for a close affinity between some Roman institutions and their tannaitic counterparts. Since the tannaitic traditions reflect the social and economic contexts of the tannaitic period-the nuclear family on privatized landholdings in urban centers-the author also considers the degree to which the laws may have emerged out of these contexts.