Textual Variants and Textual Criticism in the Works of Rabbenu Tam: Between Theory and Practice

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Rabbi Jacob ben Meir, better known as Rabbenu Tam (1100-1171), is famous for his radical interpretations of the Talmud and his influence in matters of Halakhah. Less well known is his abiding interest in the textual transmission of the Talmud and its manuscripts. Rabbenu Tam was well aware of the redactional layers within the Talmud, and in many instances, claimed that certain sentences were a later addition to the Talmud inserted by students and copyists over the generations. As a result, Rabbenu Tam did not hesitate to challenge the binding legal authority of those accretions. The introduction to Rabbenu Tam's Sefer ha-yashar argues that the received text of the Babylonian Talmud was corrupt and that the text had been influenced by glosses suggested by Rashi and other sages. In his opinion, textual corrections ought to be raised in the context of commentaries and not inserted within the Talmud itself. This article will describe the relationship between the principles proposed in the introduction to Sefer ha-yashar and Rabbenu Tam's actual engagement with the talmudic text in his exegesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalAJS Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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