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Midrash

(417 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
The term “midrash” (pl. midrashim), first found in 2 Chr. 13:22; 24:27, comes from Heb. dāraš, which in the Bible means “seek, inquire, search out” (Judg. 6:29; Deut. 4:29), especially “seek and read from the book of the Lord” (Isa. 34:16), to set one’s heart “to study the law [ tôrâ] of the Lord” (Ezra 7:10; cf. at Qumran 1QS 5:11 and 6:6). In the Mishnah the main meaning is “explain” or “expound” a verse of Scripture ( m.  S–eqal. 1:4). The understanding of prerabbinic interpretation (e.g., in the Bible itself or at Qumran) as midrash is debated, but in rabbinic lite…

Mishnah

(553 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
“Mishnah,” deriving from Heb. šānâ, “repeat, learn,” means (1) a single item of learning (pl. Mishnayot); (2) the teachings of an individual Tanna; and especially (3) the collection of traditional material, mainly Halakic, of Tannaitic Judaism, which attained quasi-canonical authority soon after its final redaction about a.d. 200, on which all the later decisions of religious and civil law are founded, and which forms the basis of the Talmud. Originally given orally, the Mishnah as oral teaching stands equally beside the written Torah, or Miqra (from qārāʾ, “read”), which…

Talmud

(1,140 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
1. Origin The Talmud (Heb. lmd, “learn, teach”), strictly talmûd tôrâ, “study/teaching of the Torah,” is the main work of rabbinic literature. It consists of the Mishnah (the earliest authoritative rendering of Jewish oral laws, mostly in Hebrew) and the Gemara ¶ (Aram. gemar, “study, complete,” a rabbinic commentary on the Mishnah, largely in Aramaic). As rabbinic learning (Rabbi, Rabbinism) developed differently in its two geographic centers, the teaching tradition gave rise to two different versions of the Talmud. The Palestinian Talmud (PT, ofte…

Rabbi, Rabbinism

(2,099 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
1. Definition The term “rabbi” denotes a Jewish scholar and minister. The origin of the term is to be found in Heb. rab (master, great one). It seems originally to have been a form of address meaning “my master” or “my teacher” (see Matt. 23:7). In the second half of the first century a.d., it then became a title preceding the proper name. Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (i.e., Judah the Patriarch, ca. 135–ca. 220) was simply known as the Rabbi. He was traditionally the redactor of the Mishnah. Other patriarchs held the honorary title rabban, “our teacher,” for example, Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai (d. ca.…

Torah

(785 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
¶ “Torah” ( tôrâ, pl. tôrôt) derives from Heb. yrh, hôrâ, “show, direct, instruct.” In a more general sense it means “teaching”; in a narrower sense, “law.” It can denote either a single instruction, as in Lev. 6:9, 14 (MT: 6:2, 7), or more generally a collection of commands. Only in the latter sense can a specific group such as the Decalogue be considered as a Torah, although it is not exclusively called by this word. “Torah” further denotes the Pentateuch (ḥummāš), the five books of Moses, whose unfortunate Greek and Latin renderings ( nomos and lex), however, are inappropriate insofar …

Hai Gaon

(187 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
[German Version] (also: Hai ben Sherira; 939–1038), gaon of the Academy (Yeshivah) of Pumbedita from 1004 to 1038. Having already assisted his father Sherira Gaon as a young man, he became ab bet din (“Father of the Court,” the second highest in the hierarchy of the academy) in 985 and was appointed gaon during his father's lifetime. With the latter's help, he reestablished the “worldwide” authority and spiritual leadership of the Babylonian gaonate. Hai's prominence is largely due to the approx. 1,500 complete, fragmentary, or quoted ¶ responsa (representing ab…

Gaon

(314 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
[German Version] Gaon, Heb. גאון/ ga'on, pl. ge'onim, from bibl. גָאוׄן/ gā'ôn (“lordliness, majesty, pride”), is a title given esp. to the heads of the leading rabbinical academies in Babylonia and (later) in Israel (Palestine) during the so-called Gaonic (or Geonic) period (c. mid-6th – mid-11th cent.), though it was still in use thereafter. It is probably derived from ראש ישיבת גאון יעקב ( ro'sh yeshivat ge'on ya'aqov [cf. Ps 47:5], “head of the academy [Yeshivah] of Jacob's majesty”). The office of the gaon was (with one exception) not hereditary, but in th…

Sherira Gaon

(407 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
[German Version] (Sherira ben Chanina Yehuda; c. 906–1006), between 968 and 1004 Gaon of the rabbinic academy (Yeshivah) of Pumbedita in Baghdad, one of the most important Geonim. During his tenure (and that of his son Hai Gaon), the academy enjoyed a renaissance. He placed relationships with the Jewish Diaspora communities outside Babylonia on a new footing, demanding their material support and recognition of the spiritual leadership of the Babylonian gaonate; he also played a decisive role in es…

Seder Olam

(300 words)

Author(s): Schlüter, Margarete
[German Version] The “Order of the World,” traditionally ascribed to the Tanna Jose ben Halafta, is usually identified as a chronographic work edited in the early Amoraic period; according to Milikowsky, Flavius Josephus was already using a Proto-Seder Olam, which was revised somewhat later and supplemented and taught by Jose. Its primary purpose – possibly in polemic against the use of non-biblical sources for biblical history in Hellenistic Jewish historiography (VI, 1) – is to determine the dat…

Historiography

(5,830 words)

Author(s): Hecker, Karl | Cancik, Hubert | Dietrich, Walter | Plümacher, Eckhard | Brennecke, Hanns Christof | Et al.
[German Version] I. Ancient Near East – II. Greece – III. Rome – IV. The Bible – V. Christianity – VI. Judaism I. Ancient Near East Historiography in the classic sense, with a reflective account of historical linkages, developed rudimentarily at b