Time in the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud: Nat­ur­al and Imaged Times in Jew­ish Law and Narrative

Lynn Kaye

December 18, 2018

In this book, Lynn Kaye exam­ines how rab­bis of late antiq­ui­ty thought about time through their legal rea­son­ing and sto­ry­telling, and what these insights mean for think­ing about time today. Pro­vid­ing close read­ings of legal and nar­ra­tive texts in the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud, she com­pares tem­po­ral ideas with relat­ed con­cepts in ancient and mod­ern philo­soph­i­cal texts and in reli­gious tra­di­tions from late antique Mesopotamia. Kaye demon­strates that tem­po­ral flex­i­bil­i­ty in the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud is a means of explor­ing and resolv­ing legal uncer­tain­ties, as well as a tool to tell sto­ries that con­vey ideas effec­tive­ly and dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Her book, the first on time in the Tal­mud, makes acces­si­ble com­plex legal texts and philo­soph­i­cal ideas. It also con­nects the lit­er­a­ture of late antique Judaism with broad­er the­o­log­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal debates about time.

Discussion Questions

Lynn Kaye’s Time in the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud explores the com­plex con­cepts of time as seen by the rab­bis of late antiq­ui­ty. It is an impor­tant work in that it is the first book length study of time in the Tal­mud. Kaye delves into the details of time through an exam­i­na­tion of nar­ra­tive tra­di­tion, legal tra­di­tion, and homilet­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion. She adroit­ly and com­pre­hen­sive­ly moves beyond the ques­tion of whether there was a con­cept of time in the Baby­lon­ian Tal­mud to explore the phi­los­o­phy of time and its artic­u­la­tion in a mod­ern con­struct. Kaye’s work makes the world of time and its philo­soph­i­cal basis acces­si­ble to a wide audience.