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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Martin S. Jaffee
SISJE 458
Seattle Campus

The Babylonian Talmud

Introduction to the Babylonian Talmud, the classic collection of rabbinic literature. Literary and historic methodologies contextualize the Talmud in the setting of other ancient religious literatures and track the processes of its literary development. Offered: jointly with NEAR E 458.

Class description

Our approach to the Talmud will be historical and literary in focus. Thus we will first situate the written version of the Talmud in its various historical, geographical, and cultural settings in the Roman and Sasanian Middle East of Late Antiquity and early Islamic times. On this basis the bulk of the course will introduce students to the complex discourse of the Talmud and some of its major interpretive puzzles. Special attention will be devoted to the many signs of the ancient oral transmissional processes that undergird the written versions that survive in modern times.

All texts will be studied in English translation based upon standard modern editions as illumined by traditional and modern commentaries. Students competent in Hebrew and/or Aramaic can earn an extra two credits by participating for one hour per week in study of the Talmudic text in a modern edition in the original languages.

Student learning goals

• Familiarity with the literary sources of the Talmud and the various editorial methods that went into its compilation • Developing skills in textual analysis and historical interpretation • Students of the Hebrew-Aramaic text will learn how to “navigate” the commonly-printed “Talmudic page” of standard editions of the Babylonian Talmud.

• Familiarity with the literary sources of the Talmud and the various editorial methods that went into its compilation

• Developing skills in textual analysis and historical interpretation

• Students of the Hebrew-Aramaic text will learn how to “navigate” the commonly-printed “Talmudic page” of standard editions of the Babylonian Talmud.

General method of instruction

All texts will be studied in English translation based upon standard modern editions as illumined by traditional and modern commentaries. Students competent in Hebrew and/or Aramaic can earn an extra two credits by participating for one hour per week in study of the Talmudic text in a modern edition in the original languages.

Recommended preparation

The course assumes no advanced knowledge of Judaism or mysticism, although previous course work in Comparative Religion or Jewish studies may be helpful.

Class assignments and grading

• Take-home short-answer exam on the terminology of Talmudic studies and the literary setting of the Talmud (20% of final grade). • Take-home exam/project on comparing texts from the earliest collections of the Talmudic tradition (the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and midrash) (30%). • Take-home exam/project on comparing sources and redactional procedures in Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds (50%)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Martin S. Jaffee
Date: 11/24/2008