MAR BAR RAV ASHI AND HIS LITERARY CONTRIBUTION (HEBREW TEXT)
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The period between the death of Rav Ashi (427 CE) and that of Rabina the latter, bar Rav Huna (500 CE) is still beset with serious historical and literary uncertainties. In addition, the very identification of the period's personalities is at times bound up in serious difficulties.;Mar bar Rav Ashi is generally considered the greatest of the lluminaries post Rav Ashi, and his contribution to the literature of the period is indeed considerable. The studies written to date about him, however, have been limited both in scope and in perspective. Furthermore, insufficient attention has been paid to the importance of Talmudic language and terminology.;Despite the fact that Mar bar Rav Ashi was a man inclined to kindness and careful consideration, he was also daring, even impetuous, and authoritarian. The story of his ascent to the leadership of the academy appears in the Talmud in aggadic context, but we have shown that it is likely historical. The intentions of the academy's scholars to elect Rav Aha of Difti rather than Mar bar Rav Ashi, was neither arbitrary nor political, but rather a result of careful consideration for the leadership abilities of the two. After Mar bar Rav Ashi attained the leadership of the academy, his tenure was marked by relative isolation. There is no basis for the prevalent view that Mar bar Rav Ashi was already a great teacher and authority in the days of his father.;The work of Mar bar Rav Ashi qua "Amora" was rather limited vis-a-vis the activities of the "Amoraim" proper. His explication of Tannaitic sources was limited in quantity as well as quality, and such an explicative role was not an end in itself for him. He engaged in the explanation of early sources when they presented themselves to him in problematic Talmudic discussions. Similarly, he restricted his attention to topics of tangible interest, and throughout his literary contributions one notes a distinctly judicial, rather than purely investigative, direction. He initiates no remarks independent of earlier Amoraic discussion, and was apparently uninvolved with aggadic material. His language displays no creative Hebrew usage, no linguistic innovation. The cornerstone of his contribution is logical analysis, and he cites no Tannaitic sources other than those already present in the Talmudic discussions upon which he comments.;The literature of Mar bar Rav Ashi is, then, a "literature of response." He is not found at the beginning of discussions of new inquiries, he merely responds positively or negatively to the opinions which have preceded him. As might be expected, the bulk of his work is argumentation, qualification and challenge. There is no evidence that he had a share in the editing process of the Talmud.;One literary phenomenon that has not been duly recognized is that the statements of Mar bar Rav Ashi sometimes enter Talmudic discussions not in their proper chronological place but juxtaposed to their logical referrent. As a result, there arise historical, legal and literary implications, for the mistaken impression is given that the words of Mar bar Rav Ashi were already before the Amoraim who are mentioned after him in the discussion.;Some scholars have maintained that Amoraim do respond to Mar bar Rav Ashi in Talmudic discussions. We have shown that this is not the case; the material responding to him is only anonymous. Conversely, we have shown that much anonymous material precedes Mar bar Rav Ashi, and that he responds to it.;The literary contribution of Mar bar Rav Ashi represents, in many of its elments, the corpus of Amoraic literature which is post Rav Ashi.
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