Typology of Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literature in Antiquity, c. 200 BCE to c. 700 CE

The first aim of our project was to work out the procedure, terminology and theoretical framework for a new description of literary features of ancient Jewish texts. This has resulted in a systematic generic Inventory of all structurally important features to be found in the anonymous or pseudepigraphic ancient Jewish literature, insofar as they are complete. We do however make some exceptions for the large Dead Sea Scrolls, which are therefore included in the descriptions and contribute to the Inventory. The Inventory will be explained in a forthcoming book, and a draft version of it is to be published on our website by October 2011. The second aim was to create a short literary profile of every anonymous or pseudepigraphic Jewish document meeting the criteria above. It covers the period roughly from 200 BCE to 700 CE. Works belonging to the following four groups of sources are included, sources which are essential for understanding ancient Judaism as well as the milieu of emergent Christianity: the pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, the apocrypha of the Old Testament, the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinic literature to the end of the Talmud. The number of texts is approximately 375 (counting separately the Tractates of Mishnah-Tosefta-Talmuds). The literary profiles will be published in a database and made accessible without restriction on the Internet in the Summer of 2011. A sample database which will demonstrate some of the features of the finished database may be available before then from the Project website. Further aims of the Project are to contextualise the genres of ancient Jewish literature by comparing them to other cultures of antiquity with which Jews were in close contact and to evaluate the dominant genre labels used in current scholarship on the ancient Jewish sources.

arts-humanities.net

Principal investigator
Professor Alexander Samely
Principal project staff
Alexander Samely, Rocco Bernasconi, Philip Alexander, Robert Hayward
Start date
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Completion date
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Place
Digital resources created
A database of literary profiles of 325 ancient Jewish texts launched in 2012: literarydatabase.humanities.manchester.ac.uk
Source material
The database contains profiles of the literary surface of c. 325 ancient Jewish texts, ordered by name (e.g. Jubilees, Babylonian Talmud Gittin, Temple Scroll, Tobit). These texts are in the public domain or available from various sources online, often both in translations and in the original languages. The database profiles are based on critical editions of the original texts, which are identified in the "bibliography" section of each profile. However, English translations include J. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 volumes (1984), the New English Bible Old Testament Apocrypha, the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series of Oxford University Press, the Soncino translations of the Babylonian Talmud and the Midrash, and J. Neusner's translations of the Talmud of the Land of Israel. The categories of description which are applied in the profiles to individual texts (thus, the descriptive fields of the database, a selection of which describes the literary surface of a given text) have been identified and formulated as part of the Project itself. They constitute a systematically ordered framework of definitions of literary phenomena, the "Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features", explained in a book: A. Samely, P. Alexander, R. Bernasconi, R. Hayward, Profiling Jewish Literature in Antiquity. An Inventory, from Second Temple Texts to the Talmuds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199684328.do#.UcwCc-tQ1cd
Publications

A. Samely, P. Alexander, R. Bernasconi, R. Hayward, Profiling Jewish Literature in Antiquity. An Inventory, from Second Temple Texts to the Talmuds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199684328.do#.UcwCc-tQ1cd ; a whole issue of the Journal Armaic Studies is devoted to papers from the project: Aramaic Studies 9:1 (2011), including A. Samely, P.S. Alexander, R. Hayward, R. Bernasconi, “Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in the Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literature of Antiquity, pp. 199–246, in addition to a number of other papers (see partial list for ROS through: http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/person/D0977938-7E5A-4551-9F37-3A27B01D4E15). Thee publications concern: (a) a systematic account of the Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features (b) sample desriptions of key texts of ancient Jewish literature achieved by applying the new framework.