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01 February 2006 @ 10:47 am
Reading and Thinking  

Reading Rabbinic Literature by Jacob Neusner. His controlling organizational P.O.V. for this book (re-expressed on p15, which see) is that we cannot reliably (falsifiably) attribute rabbinic sayings. It seems a reasonable approach. He gives his reasoning, which seems well thought-out & supported. Even if it's not the only reasonable approach, still is one possible & worthwhile approach. In any case, this approach causes me to wonder about "well known" descriptions of style/attitude/outlook: For example, regarding the famous tale of the "wise-ass" "potential convert" approaching Shammai & Hillel—it is frequently said that the response of each is "characteristic." To what extent is this … true … and to what is it an accretion of inappropriate and/or inaccurate myth? I guess that I can consider answering my own question by saying that even if we can't be sure of individuals perhaps the "schools" really do/did display describable inclinations as symbolized in that tale. Or maybe not. I guess I'll have to think on this some more.