Friday, October 12, 2012

Death of "Rabbinics"?

Michael Satlow has an interesting idea for those who study Rabbinics:  to kill it.  He writes:
The fundamental problem is that “rabbinics” implies both a body of literature and a distinctive methodology or approach to that literature.  In some quarters in Israel this perhaps accurately describes, for good or bad, how rabbinic literature is studied (e.g., philologically in a “department” of Talmud).  In the American academy, however, “rabbinics” is not a discipline.  Those of us who primarily use rabbinic literature are situated in departments of religious studies (most frequently), language and culture, and history.  We are scholars trained in a particular discipline who use rabbinic texts for our data.  I do not “do rabbinics.”  I “do” Jewish history in antiquity, using rabbinic texts as one (even if it is the primary) set of sources.
From there, he thinks Rabbinics scholars could take a lesson from scholars of Christianity in late antiquity--that is, those who used to call themselves "Patristics."  Check out his full discussion here.

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