Thursday, October 23, 2008

Indeed, the Babylonian Talmud, which makes possible a study of Babylonian Judaism, presents a monumental impediment to the study of that very history. It is mostly a commentary upon the Mishnah, and the historically useful data are limited by the concentration on what was relevant to Mishnah and other legal study, interpretation, and application. So the available literature leads us to suppose that we know more than we actually do. One could learn as much about American history and culture from approximately similar sources: minutes of some learned societies and faculty meetings of Harvard and Yale Universities, pious stories of Parson Weems, fragments of the Congressional Record and some court reports, and, chiefly, Blackstone's Commentaries in an American annotated edition. Our knowledge would be partial and impoverished for America as it is for Babylonian Jewry.

J. Neusner - Jews and Judaism Under Iranian Rule

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