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In: Review of Rabbinic Judaism
Author: Gary Porton


This paper argues that Rabbinic Midrash is a definable literary phenomenon that has its primary locus within the Rabbinic schoolhouses of late antiquity. It argues against the claim that much of our current Rabbinic Midrash originated in the Rabbinic sermons of late antiquity. While some rabbis may have delivered sermons in synagogues or to the "community" in different public settings, we shall see that there are few specific indications of that fact. When we find rabbis within the context of synagogues, they most often are not delivering sermons. And when rabbis "preach" to the community, it is often in cities known for their Rabbinic academies. It therefore is unclear exactly to whom these "sermons" were delivered. Medieval and early modern sources indicate that Rabbinic sermons were a part of synagogue activity on Sabbaths as well as on special occasions, such as weddings and funerals. Even during these periods, however, the exact content of these sermons is in many cases far from certain. Also, changes that occurred within the Jewish communities and in their surrounding environments help to explain why Jewish sermons appear at that time. The existence of Rabbinic sermons during the medieval period accordingly does not testify to their presence in late antiquity.

In: Review of Rabbinic Judaism
In a career spanning over fifty years, the questions Jacob Neusner has asked and the critical methodologies he has developed have shaped the way scholars have come to approach the rabbinic literature as well as the diverse manifestations of Judaism from rabbinic times until the present. The essays collected here honor that legacy, illustrating an influence that is so pervasive that scholars today who engage in the critical study of Judaism and the history of religions more generally work in a laboratory that Professor Neusner created. Addressing topics in ancient and Rabbinic Judaism, the Judaic context of early Christianity, American Judaism, World Religions, and the academic study of the humanities, these essays demarcate the current state of Judaic and religious studies in the academy today.