Sages & Commoners in Late Antique 'Erez Israel
A Philological Inquiry into Local Traditions in Talmud Yerushalmi
Texts & Studies in Ancient Judaism, No. 111

By Stuart S. Miller
December 2006
Mohr Siebeck
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 316148567X
ISBN 13: 9783161485671
566 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4"
$225.00 Hardcover

The author addresses a number of issues in the history of Talmudic Palestine that are at the center of a contemporary scholarly debate about the role the rabbis played within Jewish society. He maintains that scholars have been overly preoccupied with the insularity of the rabbis' interests and the seemingly limited size of their movement.

He further argues that Talmudic historiography has been plagued by simplistic "either-or" readings of the rabbinic past. Miller instead underscores some of the dynamics that allowed rabbinic circles to spread their teachings and to evolve into a vibrant and prolific movement. After examining a good number of significant terms that advance our understanding of the structure of rabbinic circles, Miller revisits some well-worn views of both "sages and commoners" in order to appreciate more fully the rabbis and their relationship to the "complex common Judaism" that comprised the background to their movement.

Miller discusses the identity of persons named collectively after their places of residence ("Sepphoreans," "Tiberians," "Southerners," etc.) in Talmud Yerushalmi and considers their connection to the rabbis. He then examines many overlooked terms and passages in order to broaden our understanding of the following subjects: rabbinic "households" and their role in spreading rabbinic culture, the identity of the 'ammei ha-'arez and the attitude of the rabbis towards them, village sages and their connection to urban rabbis, and the venues of rabbinic "teachings," "instructions," "expositions," "pronouncements," and stories.


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