Early Rabbinic Judaism: Historical Studies in Religion, Literature and Art

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
THE RABBINIC TRADITIONS ABOUT THE PHARISEES BEFORE 70 The Problem of Oral Transmission

[ The Journal of Jewish Studies, XXII, 1-4, 1971, pp. 1-181]

The rabbinic traditions about the Pharisees before A.D. 70 are contained in pericopae of Talmudic and Midrashic literature which mention either those masters who lived before the destruction of the Temple or the Houses of Shammai and Hillel.1 The masters are the teachers either named in the chains of authorities down to Simeon b. Gamaliel or referred to in the pericopae in which those authorities figure. Some others, presumed by the Tannaitic tradents to have lived before 70 and to have been Pharisees, left us no substantial teachings.

The rabbinic traditions about the Pharisees before A.D. 70 consist of 371 separate items--stories or sayings--occurring in 655 passages.2 Of these, 280 items, in 462 pericopae, pertain to Shammai, Hillel, and the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, i.e. approximately 75 per cent of the whole. A roughly even division of the materials would give twenty- three traditions in forty pericopae to each name, so the disparity is enormous.

Clearcut and well-defined literary forms were used for the transmission of all the materials relative to the Houses and of most Hillelpericopae. There was a form for attributing a doctrine to identifiable authorities--X says--which may also be employed in a dispute-form-- X says, Y says--and be followed by the debate--They said to them . . . They said to them . . . or similar formulas. All are well-attested at the early Yavneh stage primarily in connection with the Houses, secondarily the masters standing behind the Houses, finally the later first- century authorities.

____________________
1
The traditions will be found in my Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70 A.D. (Leiden, 1971: E. J. Brill). I. The Masters. II. The Houses. III. Conclusions.
2
These figures are less exact than one might prefer, since much depends upon how one counts the components of a composite pericope, and whether one adds several distinct versions of a single tradition.

-73-

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