School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures

Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in the Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literatures of Antiquity

A corpus-based list of generically defined literary features occurring in at least one text of the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, the near-complete large Dead Sea Scrolls, or Rabbinic Literature.

Work in progress, version -355, 25 February 2011. Please cite information from this document as: A. Samely, P. Alexander, R. Bernasconi, R. Hayward, "Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in Ancient Jewish Literature (Version -355)" (Manchester:, 2010), plus Inventory Point number.

This Inventory is part of the outcomes of the Project Typology of Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literature of Antiquity (TAPJLA) Manchester-Durham 2007-2011, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK).

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D. Subject matter types and treatments

6. Meta-linguistic structuring of a text by another text (either 6.1 or 6.13 must apply)

Explanation of terminology in this section

  • quotation: the base text wording actually represented in the commentary text (can vary from ms to ms).
  • segment: effective parts into which the base text is divided by the commenting, revealing either gaps or total coverage.
  • lemma: the extent of the base text wording targeted hermeneutically by a comment statement (even if not quoted entirely).
  • lemmatic sequence: the base text wording targeted by explanation or supplementation (and mostly also quoted) is in the sequence of the original text.
Definition of the literary feature Selected texts illustrating the feature
6.1. The text's most basic thematic progression consists of alternations of (a) quotations from a base text in their original sequence, and (b) statements which comment on or add to the meaning of these quotations. works of exegetical Midrash, 1QpHab, 1QpNah, Gemara [extraneous example: Philo's commentaries]
6.1.1. Many or most statements are dependent reformulations (paraphrases) of the quotations, or meta-linguistic observations on them. Such statements will be referred to as "comment statements". 1QpHab, 1QpNah; BerR, Sifra, Mekhilta Ishmael
6.1.2. Some or many statements are presented in such a manner that it is ambiguous whether they reformulate the perceived meaning of the quotation (as in 6.1.1), or supplement, replace or correct it (as in 6.2). Gemara
6.1.3. Quotation-comment units pervasively or prominently contain meta-linguistic expressions. BerR, 1QpHab, Sifra, Mekhilta Ishmael, Gemara
6.1.4. Quotation-comment units tend to be merely juxtaposed, while the units have internal cohesion and formal independence from each other (notwithstanding any ellipsis of the same quotation, where it would merely be repeated). most of exegetical Midrash
6.1.5. Only base text segments in their lemmatic sequence are quoted and receive a statement; there are no other quotations. 1QpHab, 1QpNah
6.1.6. The text also contains quotation-comment units which relate either to texts other than the base text, and/or to the base text but not in its lemmatic sequence. BerR, Mekhilta Ishmael Such units play a prominent part or make up the majority of quotation-statement units in the text. Sifra, Mekhilta Ishmael, BerR, Esther Rabbah, Qohelet Rabbah, yBer
6.1.7. The text offers only one statement per quoted segment (comment or non-comment), or explains instances of more than one statement. 1QpHab
6.2. Found alongside comment statements (6.1.1), a considerable proportion of quotation-attached statements are presented as hermeneutically independent from the quotation (non-comment statements). These formulate the quotation's theme differently, or present a related but different theme (see also 6.2.4). bBQ, bKet, bSuk, bSot, bNed, bHag, bGit, BerR, Mekhilta Ishmael
6.2.1. Non-comment statements regularly or prominently attract their own hermeneutically dependent comment statements or dedicated discussion. bBQ, bKet Such discussions of non-comment statements can effectively take the place of, or indirectly constitute, any otherwise lacking direct discussions of the quotations from the base text to which the non-comment statements are attached. yBQ, bBQ
6.2.2. Non-comment statements may occur as multiples, and constitute extended stretches of text with their own order, homogeneousness or thematic clustering. yBQ, bBQ, bHag, bNaz, bSot, bGit
6.2.3. Non-comment statements occur prominently towards the end of the text or towards the end of a lemmatic division of the text. some Tractates in the Gemara
6.2.4. Most or all non-comment statements are presented as speech by named characters and groups, or from anonymous sources (i.e. "it has been taught", "we have learned"). Gemara
6.2.5. Most or all non-comment statements are presented as quotations from other texts.  
6.3. Comment statements are frequently or prominently supported by another base text-like quotation as proof-text. BerR, Mekhilta Ishmael, Sifra, Sifre Deut, bBB, yBer, EstR
6.3.1. Such supporting text quotations regularly or prominently attract comment statements in their own right. Sifra, Mekhilta Ishmael, yBer
6.4. The lemmatic progression is constituted simultaneously as a thematic integration or is fused with some other principle of order or presentation.  
6.4.1. There is a manifestly unifying thematic focus to the commentary as a whole, or thematic diversity is addressed. [extraneous example: Philo's commentaries]
6.4.2. The text pervasively provides explicit links between successive quotation-comment units, does not formally separate the units from each other, or makes the effective succession of base text segments only sporadically manifest.  
6.4.3. The segment size varies so as to mirror the size of literary Gestalts in the base text, such as episodes, poems, thematically continuous sections, etc. (implies that 6.6.2 also applies).  
6.4.4. The commentary text has a division into parts which accentuates a division of the base text into larger parts than the segments receiving lemmatic treatment. BerR Chapters marked by Petichot, Gemara acc. to Mishnah chapters; Mekhilta Ishmael tractates
6.4.5. The lemmatic progression is fused with a secondary order principle, creating also the integrity of (a) a narrative, (b) a thematic discourse, or (c) a lemmatic progression for a second, different base text (a theoretical possibility).  
6.4.6. A "negative" thematic focus is created by consistent avoidance of a theme suggested (to the modern scholar) by the base text. QohR avoiding the "atheism" in Eccl.
6.5. There is a manifest constancy of the hermeneutic approach, or an explicit account of hermeneutic approaches.  
6.6. The extent of the base text segment is evident as follows:  
6.6.1. There is a regular distance in the base text from the beginning of one quotation to the beginning of the next quotation: most exegetical Midrashim With all base text verbal matter quoted from one to the other. With initial wording given only, while comment statements may also target the unquoted verbal matter in between quotation beginnings. most exegetical Midrashim
6.6.2. There is no regular distance in the base text from the beginning of one quotation to the beginning of the next quotation. Also, the extent of the quoted verbal matter coincides with the limits of the verbal matter targeted by comment statements.  
6.6.3. The size of segments as defined by the evidence under 6.6.1/2 tends to be, or to include: A sentence. most exegetical Midrashim Less than a sentence. More than one sentence. Two different sizes for adjacent interpretations of the same piece of base text. The size of some unit other than the sentence (Masoretic verse, proverb). 1QpHab, BerR, bGit
6.6.4. The segments as defined by the evidence under 6.6.1 and 6.6.2 provide coverage of the base text as follows: There is no complete coverage of the base text. Mekhilta Ishmael, 1QpHab, BerR Base text not covered is contiguous. 1QpHab (Hab. 3) Base text not covered may have appeared less important or less problematical. 1QpHab The text does not project complete lemmatic coverage as its overarching theme (6.2 or 6.6.2 apply, or there are many smaller "gaps" in the coverage, while applies). Mekhilta Ishmael No manifest pattern accounts for the base text not covered. Mekhilta Ishmael, BerR Incomplete lemmatic coverage is explicitly addressed. There is complete coverage of the base text. bHor
6.6.5. There is an explanation of the nature and length of base text segments or quotations.  
6.6.6. The quoted base text segment may already have appeared earlier in the text, as part of a copy of a larger section (or the whole) of the base text, found at the beginning of the relevant section of the commentary. Mishnah in Gemara
6.7. There occur multiple comment statements for the same quoted base text segment: BerR, EsthR, bBB, bGit, bHor
6.7.1. Interpreting the same expression within the same base text segment.  
6.7.2. Interpreting different expressions within the same base text segment.  
6.7.3. The multiple comment statements are set off from each other by being: Separated by a repeated quotation of the base text segment or parts of it. Introduced by terms of transition (e.g. davar acher). Assigned to different speaking voices, including the governing voice. Marked explicitly as constituting disagreement. Set off only by being linguistically or logically discontinuous with the interpretation immediately preceding.  
6.8. Comment or non-comment statements are prominently or frequently presented as quotations of speech acts by individuals, groups or by anonymous speakers ("it was taught"), without emplotment. BerR, Sifra, Gemara
6.8.1. Quoted comment or non-comment statements are themselves regularly or prominently treated to explanations or supplementations. Bavli Gemara (also includes: amar mar, gufa)
6.8.2. Comment or non-comment statements are frequently or prominently presented as speech acts outside any connecting narrative framework, but in a manner that takes for granted a unified grid of unique places, times and persons. This grid tacitly or explicitly (by dialogue, master-disciple relation) links quoted characters to each other as commentators on the base text. Midrash, Gemara Amoraic quotes This grid tacitly or explicitly links quoted characters to the origins of the base text. bHor, bBQ, yBer, yBQ, BerR (one passage only), bMeg-EstherMidrash (10b-16b) The narrative/historical links which the governing voice presupposes between speakers, or between speakers and base text, are used to clarify the meaning of their quoted wordings by mutual contrast. bBQ, bSuk, bNazir, yBQ
6.9. The text distinguishes the level of the base text quotations from the level of the statements, whether comments or non-comments, as follows:  
6.9.1. The nature of the statements or of the lemmatic order is verbalized.  
6.9.2. Base text quotations have no quotation formula, but tend to be found at the beginning of a new textual unit, marked by the appearance of an incomplete or grammatically isolated sentence, a new theme, and/or a different language/style. BerR, 1QpHab, Mekhilta Ishmael, QohR, Sifra, Sifre Deut, Bavli Tractates, yBer, yBQ
6.9.3. The sequence of components within interpretation units is: 1. quotation from base text - 2. comment statement - 3. supporting base-text like quotation (if any); or: - 3. explanation or supplementation of comment statement (if any). [delete as appropriate] BerR, 1QpHab, Mekhilta Ishmael, Sifra, Sifre Deut, QohR, Bavli Tractates, yBer, yBQ The sequence is changed, or the base text quotation doubled, for any Petichah-like units. BerR, QohR
6.9.4. The text employs terms/formulae, signals of transition, hermeneutic techniques, or separation markers, including the following: Specialized terminology separating quotation from comment. Speech reports introducing the statement, used as separator. Other signals of the transition between quotation and comment (e.g. vacat, "GM"). 1QpHab, Mekhilta Ishmael, BerR, Sifra, Sifre Deut, Bavli Tractates, yBQ Tacit juxtapositions of components, which cannot be read as being continuous on the same level with each other but have to be understood as one being about the other. 1QpNah, 1QpHab, Mekhilta Ishmael, BerR, Sifra, Sifre Deut, QohR, EsthR, Bavli Tractates, yBQ Expressions of a hermeneutic operation. Intermediary rephrasings of the lemma leading to the comment statement (see also 6.10.3). Verbal links or overlapping wording between adjacent quotation-comment units, using contiguous base text segments; also quotation linked to the next lemmatic quotation by a short phrase. Sifra, QohR, EsthR
6.10. Comment statements reveal hermeneutic attitudes towards the base text as follows:  
6.10.1. Comment statements tend to speak directly, in object-language, about the (perceived) themes of the base text. Most Midrashic texts, 1QpHab, Bavli Tractates, Yerushalmi Tractates In doing so, the perspective of any first-person speaker character of the base text segment may be reproduced in the comment statement. This applies in particular to God in midrashic texts. BerR, EsthR, Mekhilta Ishmael, QohR, Sifra, Sifre Deut, bHor
6.10.2. Comment statements tend to speak about the quotation only as a verbal entity, i.e. be exclusively meta-linguistic. [extraneous example: Masorah Parva]
6.10.3. Exclusively meta-linguistic comment statements are found alongside more frequent object language comments, or are used as intermediary rephrasings (see Most Midrash, Bavli Tractates, Yerushalmi Tractates
6.10.4. The text implies or explicates a hermeneutic stance concerning the accuracy of the base text. Most Midrash, Bavli Tractates The base text wording is tacitly or explicitly treated under the assumption that it is capable of being inaccurate/insincere/invalid. BerR (specific rare instances), Bavli Tractates, Yerushalmi Tractates The base text wording is tacitly or explicitly treated under the assumption that it cannot be inaccurate/insincere/invalid. 1QpHab, 1QpNah, most Midrash, including for the most part BerR
6.11. Within the lemmatic arrangement, extended sections of text have their own principle of progression which suspends the lemmatic progression.  
6.11.1. The base text quotation becomes the starting point of a set of local thematic shifts involving further base-text like quotations plus comment/non-comment statements, or speech quoted from speakers plus explanation/supplement. BerR, Mekhilta Ishmael, Sifra, Sifre Deut, Bavli Tractates, Yerushalmi
6.11.2. There is limited but sustained thematic, narrative or lemmatic continuity, with or without further quotations, as follows: Bavli Tractates Another text, or a different part of the base text, is treated thematically or lemmatically, as relevant to the base text quotation. Sifra, Mekhilta Ishmael, QohR 7:41-43/44, bSuk and other Bavli Tractates A different base text is treated lemmatically and as independent of the base text quotation. bMeg-EstherMidrash A thematic order, thematic inquiry or reflection is sustained (e.g. of the type 5.6.1). A narrative order is sustained. Some extra-thematic principle of order is sustained. See 9.11.  
6.11.3. Non-comment statements (see 6.2) can occur in the following positions: After one or more initial quotation-comment unit with manifest or explicit hermeneutic dependency (see 6.1.1, 6.1.3). BerR, Bavli Gemara, yBQ Immediately succeeding the base text quotation, with later units exhibiting hermeneutic dependency on the quotation. Bavli Tractates, yBQ There are cases where a non-comment statement constitutes the only treatment of the base text quotation. bBQ
6.12. There are marked imbalances in the distribution or positioning of base text quotation-statement units at certain strategic points in a 6.1 text. Or, regarding a 6.13 text, there are marked differences in the amount of additional verbal matter provided in another language (see 6.13.3-5) for passages of base text of the same length at different points.  
6.12.1. Higher density is found at the beginning of the base text, or the beginning of the commentary/rendering text. BerR, LamR (lemmatic part), bBB, bKet, EsthR, QohR, Targum Esther Sheni
6.12.2. Higher density is found at the end of the base text, or the end of the commentary/rendering text.  
6.12.3. Higher density is found at some other defined or strategic text position of the base text, the commentary or the rendering text. Sifre Deut
6.12.4. The imbalance coincides with other changes, an may include: The occurrence of literary forms which are rare or unique for the text. BerR, EsthR The recurrence of units from elsewhere in the text. BerR, LamR 4/5 The absence of the comment component from quotations of other texts (not the base text). bMeg A change in the pattern of coverage of the base text by quoted segments. BerR, bNed, EsthR, Targum Esther Sheni
6.13. The text constitutes a complete and sequential representation, in another language and in object-oriented perspective, of the perceived meaning of all or almost all verbal matter of a complete set of base text segments. Thus, the resulting sentences do not thematize the base text in a meta-linguistic perspective, but recreate the thematic or narrative progression of the original. See also 6.12. Most Targums [extraneous example: Septuagint]
6.13.1. The statements of the text are displayed in manuscripts as alternating in mere juxtaposition with segments of verbal matter from the base text (without linking quotation formulae). Neofiti, Targum Esther Sheni, and most Targums
6.13.2. The text's governing voice almost always is identical with, or a consistent extension of, the persona projected by the governing voice of the base text. (This excludes 6.13.6.) Targum Genesis Onkelos, Pentateuch Targum most of the time
6.13.3. The text tends to use the sentence structure of the base text to accommodate any additional or modified object information. Targum Onkelos Genesis
6.13.4. The text creates new syntactic structures within which the words of the base text can be recognized. Targum Cant.
6.13.5. The text places sentences that have no corresponding wording in the base text at all alongside sentences that do. Palestinian Targums Gen. 4:8; Gen 22:1, Targum Esther Sheni
6.13.6. The text also thematizes its base text (or some part of it) as a verbal entity, e.g. by quoting its wording as part of its own fabric of meaning. (This excludes 6.13.2.) The wording inside any quoted base text segments fulfils a proof function, while the narrative progression is basically constituted by the same sentence(s) being rendered. Targum Esther Sheni Such meta-linguistic components are verbally integrated into the text's narrative or thematic continuity. Thus no lemmatic structuring of the text's surface results, notwithstanding any transmission of the base text in physical proximity or interweaved with it (i.e., 6.13.1). Targum Esther Sheni The positioning of any base text quotations does not disrupt or undermine the text's narrative or thematic progression. Targum Esther Sheni

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