A Great Voice That Did Not Cease: The Growth of the Rab­binic Canon and its Interpretation

Michael Cher­nick
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

Despite the col­or­ful paint­ing on the cov­er, this book is not a light read. It is a dense mono­graph, track­ing sub­tle shifts in the meth­ods used by the rab­bis to inter­pret texts. Cher­nick uses some of the new tech­nolo­gies now avail­able to Tal­mud­ists, includ­ing data­bas­es with tran­scribed Tal­mu­dic man­u­scripts and advanced search engines, to lay the ground­work for his sur­vey. Focus­ing on four hermeneu­ti­cal meth­ods of Rab­binic inter­pre­ta­tion, Cher­nick endeav­ors to show how each method was used in slight­ly dif­fer­ent ways by the Tan­naim—the rab­bis of the Mish­nah— and their suc­ces­sors, the Amoraim. Wad­ing into a rag­ing aca­d­e­m­ic debate, Cher­nick locates some of the most pro­found changes in the post-Amora­ic peri­od that may have been respon­si­ble for the anony­mous dis­cus­sions in the Baby­lon­ian Talmud. 

The book’s title points to the con­clu­sion that Cher­nick tries to draw from his inves­ti­ga­tion — that at the out­set of the Rab­binic peri­od, the canon was lim­it­ed to the Torah itself, while by the end of the Amora­ic peri­od it had expand­ed to include not only the rest of Tanakh, but also the works of the Rab­bis them­selves. The lat­er rab­bis saw the Mish­nah itself as being a work of Divine rev­e­la­tion. One of the most impor­tant Eng­lish-lan­guage con­tri­bu­tions to the aca­d­e­m­ic field of Tal­mud in recent years, this book also makes some cur­rent devel­op­ments in the field acces­si­ble to a wider audi­ence. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index.

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