Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism, 200 BCE - 400 CE

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The classical Rabbinic tradition (legal, discursive, and exegetical) claims to be the Oral Torah, transmitted by word of mouth in an unbroken chain deriving its authority ultimately from divine revelation to Moses at Sinai. Since the third century CE, however, this tradition has been embodied in written texts. Through judicious deployment and analysis of the evidence, Martin Jaffee is able to show that the Rabbinic tradition, as we have it, developed through a mutual interpretation of oral and written modes. The ideology of the Oral Torah, however - which appeared in its first fully developed form only in the mid-third century CE - was intended to ground talmudic study practices and the authority of the Rabbinic master as the living embodiment of the Torah. Torah, as transformative religious knowledge and praxis, could only be internalized through discipleship to a religious Master within a circle of other disciples; it could not be mastered from a written text which, by itself, was deemed to be religiously inert.