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Stories of the LawNarrative Discourse and the Construction of Authority in the Mishnah$
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Moshe Simon-Shoshan

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199773732

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199773732.001.0001

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The Mishnah in Comparative Context

The Mishnah in Comparative Context

5 The Mishnah in Comparative Context
Stories of the Law

Moshe Simon-Shoshan

Oxford University Press

This chapter places the findings of the previous chapters in the context of other legal texts of the ancient world. Legal writings from the cuneiform literature, the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Imperial Rome are each subjected to similar literary analysis of as was the Mishnah. Two important conclusions emerge from this comparison. First, only the Roman legal texts contain a similar diversity of literary forms to the Mishnah. This suggests that the Mishnah is in some ways more a product of its late antique Mediterranean milieu than its ancient Near Eastern heritage. The other finding is that the Mishnah is the only legal text considered which lacks a framing story, which serves to establish the authority of the text in its historical origins. The chapter discusses the implications of the Mishnah’s lack of framing stories, arguing that the presence of anecdotes throughout the Mishnah functions as an alternative strategy for setting up a master narrative which establishes the Mishnah’s authority.

Keywords:   cuneiform, bible, roman, dead sea scrolls, framing story, anecdote, master narrative

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