Abstract/Details

The ritual narrative genre in the Mishnah: The invention of the rabbinic past in the representation of temple ritual


2008 2008

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation is the first thorough study of the narratives in the Mishnah that describe how rituals were performed in the past when the Temple still stood. Combining methods drawn from the scholarly study of the Mishnah, of narrative, and of ritual, this dissertation examines the characteristic ways in which the rabbis of the Mishnah represent past ritual. The dynamics of narrative and the rabbinic innovations in the telling of past ritual described here shed light on rabbinic assumptions about ritual, on the workings of rabbinic collective memory, and on rabbinic claims for authority in post-temple times.

I begin by grounding the claim that these narratives form a genre and make the argument for genre by describing the recurrent content, the use of introductory formulae, and the set of narrative features that recur throughout these texts. I go on to demonstrate that in contrast to earlier accounts of the same rituals, the rabbinic accounts in the Mishnah place emphasis on and ritualize entry and exit, they narrate the enactment of ritual as performance, and they insert the Court of temple times into a position of authority over Temple ritual.

The memory of the Court in a position of authority is tied to the memory of the Court and its members, expressed elsewhere in the Mishnah, as the predecessors of the rabbis. Thus I show that the rabbinic narration of past ritual can best be treated as collective memory. By remembering the Court in a position of authority over temple ritual, the rabbis are imagining this past institution in the image of the legal-ritual role they are attempting to construct for themselves in their present. This memory of the Court creates a past for this role. It gives meaning to and orients the rabbinic present. And it makes a claim for rabbinic authority over ritual law and practice in post-temple times.

Finally, I read a passage from Mishnah Yoma in light of all of my arguments made in the dissertation, in order to demonstrate the usefulness of my approach for reading and interpreting individual texts of the ritual narrative genre.

Indexing (details)


Subject
Religion;
Judaic studies
Classification
0318: Religion
0751: Judaic studies
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Iterative narrative; Mishnah; Narratology; Rabbinic literature; Rabbis; Ritual; Ritual narrative; Temple ritual
Title
The ritual narrative genre in the Mishnah: The invention of the rabbinic past in the representation of temple ritual
Author
Cohn, Naftali S.
Number of pages
294
Publication year
2008
Degree date
2008
School code
0175
Source
DAI-A 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
ISBN
9780549574965
Advisor
Stern, David
University/institution
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
3309570
ProQuest document ID
251005093
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/251005093
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