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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2023
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Creative Commons:
Creative Common License - CC Creative Common License - BY Creative Common License - NC
This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY-NC 4.0

Book description

In this book, Monika Amsler explores the historical contexts in which the Babylonian Talmud was formed in an effort to determine whether it was the result of oral transmission. Scholars have posited that the rulings and stories we find in the Talmud were passed on from one generation to the next, each generation adding their opinions and interpretations of a given subject. Yet, such an oral formation process is unheard of in late antiquity. Moreover, the model exoticizes the Talmud and disregards the intellectual world of Sassanid Persia. Rather than taking the Talmud's discursive structure as a sign for orality, Amsler interrogates the intellectual and material prerequisites of composers of such complex works, and their education and methods of large-scale data management. She also traces and highlights the marks that their working methods inevitably left in the text. Detailing how intellectual innovation was generated, Amsler's book also sheds new light on the content of the Talmud. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘In this exceptional book, Monika Amsler offers a new account of the Babylonian Talmud that centers the material dimensions of information technology and textual organization in Mediterranean antiquity. Amsler integrates a capacious range of sources from throughout Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, spanning roughly from the first to sixth centuries CE, in order to locate rabbinic knowledge production in a broader - and often neglected - context. Amsler demonstrates exceptional command of a wide range of sources and contexts, combined with a keen sensitivity to the material and social dimensions of late ancient knowledge. The result is no less than an insightful and innovative reconceptualization of rabbinic literature.’

Jeremiah Coogan - Assistant Professor of New Testament, Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, CA

‘This is an important, provocative, and challenging book. Amsler asks us to set aside what we think we know about the creation of the Babylonian Talmud and to begin again. From information collection, to filing and indexing, to the construction of arguments, Amsler situates the Talmud within the world of book production in the Roman world, and in particular within the production of large compendia in late antiquity, and in the techniques for arrangement and juxtaposition that were essential to literate, rhetorical education.’

Hayim Lapin - Professor of History and Robert H. Smith Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Maryland

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Full book PDF
  • The Babylonian Talmud and Late Antique Book Culture
    pp i-ii
  • The Babylonian Talmud and Late Antique Book Culture - Title page
    pp iii-iii
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Dedication
    pp v-vi
  • Contents
    pp vii-viii
  • Acknowledgments
    pp ix-x
  • Abbreviations
    pp xi-xiv
  • Introduction
    pp 1-15
  • 1 - The Talmud’s Genre among Imperial Period/Late Antique Genres
    pp 16-55
  • 2 - Late Antique Data Management
    pp 56-93
  • 3 - Manufacturing the Talmud
    pp 94-132
  • 4 - The Making of the Talmudic Narrative
    pp 133-176
  • 5 - Medical Recipes and the Composition of the Talmud
    pp 177-209
  • Consolidation and Further Research Paths
    pp 210-218
  • Appendix - The Talmud’s Aramaic Treatise of Simple Remedies
    pp 219-236
  • Bibliography
    pp 237-264
  • Ancient Source Index
    pp 265-270
  • General Index
    pp 271-280


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