Review by Choice Review
Kraemer argues that between the time the Mishnah was compiled (c. 200 CE) and the completion of the Babylonian Talmud (the "Bavli"; probably sixth century CE) a fundamental transformation took place in rabbinic thinking. Rabbis, especially in Babylonia, abandoned earlier attempts at simple, unambiguous statement of Divine Law and concentrated instead on the process by which rabbinic formulations of that law are constructed, defended, and compared: argumentation replaced decision as the preferred intellectual activity of rabbinic scholars. Drawing on previous works, chiefly the books of Jacob Neusner, that bear on this development, Kraemer examines the theological and epistemological consequences of this shift: no interpretation of the Torah can be conclusively vindicated, no statement of "truth" can be complete, any articulation of the Divine Will is unavoidably a human articulation and therefore tentative and partial. Moving back and forth between abstract discussion and careful analysis of selected Talmudic passages, Kraemer offers a very important contribution (to be sure, for advanced readers only) to the modern study of rabbinic Judaism; any library with holdings in religious studies or Judaic studies should have this book. Brief index, useful bibliography. -R. Goldenberg, SUNY at Stony Brook
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.