Chapter

Mishnaic Topography

Moshe Simon-Shoshan

in Stories of the Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199773732
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933129 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199773732.003.0004
Mishnaic Topography

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Chapter four explores the implications the finding that Mishnah is a heterogeneous text from a literary point of view. In contrast to earlier approaches the Mishnah that either emphasize the history of the text or seek out the texts underlying unity, this chapter proposes a “dialogic” approach to the Mishnah based on the work of M M Bakhtin. In this view the meaning of the Mishnah emerges from the interaction of the different voices of the Mishnah as represented by a spectrum of approaches to the law. On the one end we have the apodictic approach which sees law as an unchanging and universal system of rules and principles, much like a natural science. The law in any given situation emerges from a proper application of the rules to the case at hand. On the other extreme, the narrative approach to law views law as a dynamic process whose ultimate expression is the issuing of a ruling regarding a specific case. General rules and principles are at best only non-binding summaries of earlier rulings. The narrative approach to law views law as a dynamic process whose ultimate expression is the issuing of a ruling regarding a specific case. General rules and principles are at best only non-binding summaries of earlier rulings. The Mishnah thus conducts an ongoing dialog between these two approaches to halakhah and the possibilities that lie between them.

Keywords: bakhtin; dialogic; apodictic; halakhah, narrative

Chapter.  6572 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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