Jewish Encyclopedia : Talmud –

Posted By on April 1, 2014

Name of two works which have been preserved to posterity as the product of the Palestinian and Babylonian schools during the amoraic period, which extended from the third to the fifth century C.E. One of these compilations is entitled "Talmud Yerushalmi" (Jerusalem Talmud) and the other "Talmud Babli" (Babylonian Talmud). Used alone, the word "Talmud" generally denotes "Talmud Babli," but it frequently serves as a generic designation for an entire body of literature, since the Talmud marks the culmination of the writings of Jewish tradition, of which it is, from a historical point of view, the most important production.

"Talmud" is an old scholastic term of the Tannaim, and is a noun formed from the verb "limmed" = "to teach." It therefore means primarily "teaching," although it denotes also "learning"; it is employed in this latter sense with special reference to the Torah, the terms "talmud" and "Torah" being usually combined to indicate the study of the Law both in its wider and in its more restricted sense, as in Pe'ah i. 1, where the term "talmud Torah" is applied to study as a religious duty. On the other hand, the learning acquired by study is also called "talmud," so that Akiba's pupil Judah ben Ilai could say: "He from whom one derives the greater part of his knowledge ["talmudo"] must be regarded as the teacher" (Tosef., B. M. ii., end; Yer. B. M. 8d; B. M. 33a has "okmah" instead of "talmud"). To designate the study of religion, the word "talmud" is used in contrast with "ma'aseh," which connotes the practise of religion. Akiba's view that on this account the "talmud" ranked above the "ma'aseh" was adopted as a resolution by a famous conference at Lydda during the Hadrianic persecution (see Sifre, Deut. 41; id. 40b; Yer. Pes. 30b; Cant. R. ii. 14). The two terms are contrasted differently, however, in the tannaitic saying (B. B. 130b), "The Halakah [the principles guiding decisions in religious law] may not be drawn from a teaching of the master ["talmud"] nor be based upon an act of his ["ma'aseh"], unless the master expressly declare that the teaching or act under consideration is the one which is applicable to the practise."

In the second place, the word "talmud"generally in the phrase "talmud lomar"is frequently used in tannaitic terminology in order to denote instruction by means of the text of the Bible and of the exegetic deductions therefrom. In the third place, the noun "talmud" has the meaning which alone can be genetically connected with the name "Talmud"; in tannaitic phraseology the verb "limmed" denotes the exegetic deduction of a halakic principle from the Biblical text (for examples see R. H. ii. 9; Sifre, Num. 118); and in harmony with this meaning of the word "talmud" denotes that exposition of a halakic saying which receives an exegetic confirmation from the Biblical text. Of the terms, therefore, denoting the three branches into which the study of the traditional exegesis of the Bible was from earliest times divided by the Tannaim (see Jew. Encyc. iii. 163, s.v. Bible Exegesis), "midrash" was the one identical in content with "talmud" in its original sense, except that the Midrash, which includes any kind of Biblical hermeneutics, but more especially the halakic, deals with the Bible text itself, while the Talmud is based on the Halakah. The Midrash is devoted to Biblical exposition, the result being the Halakah (comp. the phrase "mi-kan ameru" [= "beginning here the sages have said"], which occurs frequently in the tannaitic Midrash and which serves to introduce halakic deductions from the exegesis). In the Talmud, on the other hand, the halakic passage is the subject of an exegesis based on the Biblical text.

In consequence of the original identity of "Talmud" and "Midrash," noted above, the former term is sometimes used instead of the latter in tannaitic sentences which enumerate the three branches of traditional science, Midrash, Halakah, and Haggadah (see Ber. 22a [comp. M. . 15a and Yer. Ber. 6c, 39]; id. 30a; Suk. 28a; B. B. 134a; Ab. R. N. xiv. [comp. Masseket Soferim, xvi. 8]; Yer. B. . 4b, 31 [comp. Sifre, Deut. 33]; Tosef., Soah, vii. 20 [comp. Yer. Soah 44a]), while sometimes both "Talmud" and "Midrash" are used (M. . 21a; Ta'an. 30a); it must be noted, however, that in the editions of the Babli, "Gemara" is usually substituted for "Talmud," even in the passages here cited. The word "Talmud" in all these places did not denote the study subsequently pursued by the Amoraim, but was used instead of the word "Midrash," although this did not preclude the later introduction of the term "Talmud" into tannaitic sayings, where it either entirely displaced "Midrash" or was used side by side with it.

After the term "Talmud" had come to denote the exegetic confirmation of the Halakah, it was applied also to the explanation and exposition of halakic passages in general. As early as the end of the tannaitic period, when the halakot were finally redactedby the patriarch Judah I. and were designated as "Mishnah," a term originally applied to the entire system of traditional learning, the Talmud was developed as a new division of this same science; and it was destined to absorb all others. In a baraita dating, according to the amora Johanan, from the days of Judah I. (B. M. 33a; comp. Yer. Shab. 15c, 22 et seq.), the Mishnah and the Talmud are defined as subjects of study side by side with the "Mira" (Bible), the study of the Talmud being mentioned first. To this baraita there is an addition, however, to the effect that more attention should be given to the Mishnah than to the Talmud. Johanan explains this passage by the fact that the members of Judah's academy, in their eagerness to investigate the Talmud, neglected the Mishnah; hence the patriarch laid stress upon the duty of studying the Mishnah primarily. In these passages the word "Talmud" is used not in its more restricted sense of the establishment of halakot by Biblical exegesis, but in its wider signification, in which it designates study for the purpose of elucidating the Mishnah in general, as pursued after Judah's death in the academies of Palestine and Babylon. This baraita is, furthermore, an authentic document on the origin of the Talmud.

Three classes of members of the academy are mentioned in an anecdote referring to Judah I. (B. B. 8a): (1) those who devoted themselves chiefly to the Bible ("ba'ale Mira"); (2) those whose principal study was the Mishnah ("ba'ale Mishnah"); and (3) those whose main interest lay in the Talmud ("ba'ale Talmud"). This is the original reading of the passage, although the editions mention also the "ba'ale Halakah" and the "ba'ale Haggadah" (see below). These three branches of knowledge are, therefore, the same as those enumerated in B. M. 33a. Tanum b. anilai, a Palestinian amora of the third century, declared, with reference to this threefold investigation ('Ab. Zarah 19b): "Let the time given to study be divided into three parts: one-third for the Bible, one-third for the Mishnah, and one-third for the Talmud." In id. 33a this saying is quoted in the name of the tanna Joshua b. Hananiah, although this is probably a corruption of the name of Jose b. anina (amora). Yudan, a Palestinian amora of the fourth century, found in Eccl. xi. 9 an allusion to the pleasure taken in the three branches of study, Mira, Mishnah, and Talmud.

The old trichotomy of traditional literature was changed, however, by the acceptance of the Mishnah of Judah I., and by the new study of the Talmud designed to interpret it. The division termed "Halakot" (singular, "Halakah") in the old classification was then called "Mishnah," although in Palestine the Mishnah continued to be designated as "Halakot." The Midrash became a component part of the Talmud; and a considerable portion of the halakic Bible hermeneuties of the Tannaim, which had been preserved in various special works, was incorporated in the Babylonian Talmud. The Haggadah (plural, "Haggadot") lost its importance as an individual branch of study in the academies, although it naturally continued to be a subject of investigation, and a portion of it also was included in the Talmud. Occasionally the Haggadah is even designated as a special branch, being added as a fourth division to the three already mentioned. anina ben Pappa, an amora of the early part of the fourth century, in characterizing these four branches says: "The countenance should be serious and earnest in teaching the Scriptures, mild and calm for the Mishnah, bright and lively for the Talmud, and merry and smiling for the Haggadah" (Pesi. 110a; Pes. R. 101b; Tan., Yitro, ed. Buber, p. 17; Massek. Soferim, xvi. 2). As early as the third century Joshua ben Levi interpreted Deut. ix. 10 to mean that the entire Law, including Mira, Mishnah, Talmud, and Haggadah, had been revealed to Moses on Sinai (Yer. Pes. 17a, line 59; Meg. 74d, 25), while in Gen. R. lxvi. 3 the blessings invoked in Gen. xxvii. 28 are explained as "Mira, Mishnah, Talmud, and Haggadah." The Palestinian haggadist Isaac divided these four branches into two groups: (1) the Mira and the Haggadah, dealing with subjects of general interest; and (2) the Mishnah and the Talmud, "which can not hold the attention of those who hear them" (Pesi. 101b; see Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." ii. 211).

According to a note of Tanuma ben Abba (of the latter part of the 4th cent.) on Cant. v. 14 (Cant. R. ad loc.), a student must be familiar with all four branches of knowledge, Mira, Mishnah, Halakah (the last-named term used here instead of "Tatmud"), and Haggadah; while Samuel b. Judah b. Abun, a Palestinian amora of the same century, interpreted Prov. xxviii. 11 as an allusion to the halakist ("man of the Talmud") and to the haggadist ("man of the Haggadah"; Yer. Hor. 48c; see also Pesi. 176a; Lev. R. xxi., Talmud and Haggadah). Here may be mentioned also the concluding passage of the mishnaic treatise Abot (v., end): "At the age of five to the Bible; at the age of ten to the Mishnah; at the age of fifteen to the Talmud." This is ascribed by many to the ancient tanna Samuel ha-aon (see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 378), although the sequence of study which it mentions is evidently that which was customary during the amoraic period (comp. also the saying of Abaye in Ket. 50a).

The following passages from the Babylonian Talmud may likewise serve to illustrate the special usage which finally made the word "Talmud" current as the name of the work. Samuel, one of the earliest Babylonian amoraim, interpreted the words of Zech. viii. 10, "neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in," as applying to the restlessness of one who turns from the Talmud and confines himself to the study of the Mishnah (ag. 10a). Johanan, the younger Palestinian contemporary of Samuel, extends the allusion to "him also who turns from one Talmud to study another," referring here to Babli and to Yerushalmi. It is very possible that he had noticed that in the case of his numerous Babylonian pupils the transition from the mishnaic exegesis which they had acquired at home to that of the Palestinian schools was not made without disturbing their peace of mind. Allusions to the "Talmud of Babylon" by two prominent Babylonians who settled in Palestine (Ze'era and Jeremiah) have likewise been pre-served (B. M. 85c; Sanh. 24a); and they confirm Johanan's conception of the meaning of the term.

In Babylonia the Aramaic noun "gemar" (emphatic state, "gemara") was formed from the verb (which does not occur in Palestinian texts), having the meaning of "learn." This substantive accordingly designates that which has been learned, and the learning transmitted to scholars by tradition, although it is used also in a more restricted sense to connote the traditional exposition of the Mishnah; and it therefore gained currency as a designation of the Talmud. In the modern editions of the Babylonian Talmud the term "Gemara" occurs very frequently in this sense; but in nearly every case it was substituted at a later time for the objectionable word "Talmud," which was interdicted by the censor. The only passage in which "Gemara" occurs with the meaning of "Talmud" in the strict sense of that term and from which it was not removed by the censor is 'Er. 32b, where it is used by Naman bar Jacob, a Babylonian amora of the second half of the third century. For further details see Bacher, "Gemara," in "Hebrew Union College Annual," pp. 26-36, Cincinnati, 1904, where the word is shown to have been used for "Talmud" from the geonic period (see also idem, "Die Terminologie der Amorer," pp. 31 et seq., Leipsic, 1905). The later editions of the Talmud frequently substitute for the word "Gemara" the abbreviation (Aramaic, = "the six orders of the Mishnah"), which has come to be, with the pronunciation "Shas," a popular designation for the Babylonian Talmud.

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