While generalizations about ‘rabbinic theology’ and ‘the rabbinic mind’ can be useful as gross characterizations and for heuristic purposes, they can also be misleading precisely because they are unrefined. It is far too common to speak of the ‘sea of Talmud (and, by extension, Midrash) and, since the same exegetical and aggadic traditions appear in many documents, to glean illustrations and prooftexts from a variety of documents across the board without regard to their chronology or peculiar literary characteristics and integrity. The anthological character of this literature as a whole may easily cause us to overlook evidences of redactional-editorial activity in shaping, recasting, or restyling materials to fit their literary context in a particular document. But once we recognize such activity and take into account the distinct literary characteristics of individual documents, we simply cannot treat this complex literature as a single fabric.

Richard S. Sarason, “Toward a New Agendum for the Study of Rabbinic Midrashic Literature,” in Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Liturgy in Memory of Joseph Heinemann, ed. Jakob J. Petuchowski & Ezra Fleischer (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University; Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1981), 58.

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