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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F. Small forms and coherence relations

9. Characteristic small-scale coherence and aggregation between adjacent text parts in thematic or lemmatic texts, or thematic parts of narrative texts

Explanation of terminology in this section

For indicating approximate frequency, the following four terms are used: once (if significant); occasional; frequent; pervasive.

Definition of the literary feature Selected texts illustrating the feature
9.1. An extended portion or substantial proportion of the thematic text (or thematic part of a non-thematic text) projects its selection and sequence of themes as mirroring an objective order in the projected world, by one of the following means:  
9.1.1. By dividing a larger topic by a constant principle (or set of principles) of subordination/coordination (cp. 5.2 for whole texts).  
9.1.2. By assembling precisely those sub-topics of an overall theme that would result if that overall theme were to be exhaustively defined or divided by a constant principle of differentiation numerically defined (cp. 5.3 for whole texts). mSan (4 types of death penalty)
9.1.3. By progressing from the more general to the more specific, or vice versa if accompanied by explanation (cp. 5.4 for whole texts).  
9.1.4. By mirroring a temporal or spatial order, or the order of units of meaning in a pre-existing text (cp. 5.5 for whole texts). Sirach, mBer 1:1-2; mSan court sequence; mPes 10; Mekhilta Ishmael Pischa (places of revelation);Targum Esther Sheni 1:1–9
9.2. In one or more extended passages, making up a substantial portion of the text, a series of situations is created from one hypothetical legal situation, by modifying/adding one situational feature at a time.  *  mBer 2:1; mGit 1:1
9.2.1. Two distinct parameters of the situation are paired with their opposites or negations, to produce a series of four situations. mGit 2:1, mBQ 3:7, tBB 2:16
9.3. An extended passage consists in the elaboration of one by one the items of an initial list, making each list item the topic of one or more sentences, usually re-introduced by quoting the item or by a question. Works of rabbinic literature, e.g. mSan 7, mSot 7
9.4. For an extended passage there is a juxtaposition of thematic units (sentences or groups of sentences) capable of being interpreted in the following manner:  
9.4.1. As thematic cluster: the sentence themes of an extended passage have a stronger homogeneity/family resemblance with each other than with the preceding or succeeding co-text, but there is no clear beginning or cut-off point. Mishnah and Tosefta Tractates
9.4.2. As contrastive thematic block: the text juxtaposes two extended thematic blocks tacitly projecting a contrast and/or analogy between them. Some Mishnah and Tosefta Tractates, e.g. mBer
9.4.3. Repetitions as markers of architecture: There is a repetition of words marking out as coordinated passages that deal with contrastive sub-topics of the same superordinate theme, usually unnamed. mSan 1:1-mSan 1:4; mBer 1:1-mBer 1:2
9.4.4. In an extended passage, thematic homogeneousness is created by recurrence of the same reason clause appended to norms which are adjacent or close to each other in the text. tGit
9.4.5. In an extended passage, thematic homogeneousness is created by recurrence of the same normative predicate or apodosis as the second component of hypothetical legal cases which are adjacent or close to each other in the text. tUqtsin
9.5. In a number of extended dialectical passages, the governing voice differentiates between the topics/propositions of two or more initial thematic units, ascribed as quotations to two or more speakers, or to different points of the same base text. Sifra, BerR, Bavli Tractates (sugya)
9.5.1. The governing voice performs this differentiation largely by quoting further voices, or by speaking on behalf of the initially quoted voices in an internal dialogue (see Samely, Forms, ch. 9). Bavli "sugya" (e.g. bBQ 36a)
9.5.2. The governing voice of a lemmatic commentary determines the precise themes of quotations from the base text, by progressively adducing further base text quotations in dialectical fashion. Sifra (1:1), bBB, bBQ (35b-36a)
9.5.3. Within a sustained dialectical discourse on the meaning of a quoted segment, the grammatically or thematically complete quotation is only revealed in stages. Sifra, Yerushalmi
9.6. An extended portion or substantial proportion of the text continuously explicates local thematic transitions, by means of:  
9.6.1. Use of conjunctions.  
9.6.2. Use of announcement of themes for text parts, full-sentence headings or summaries.  
9.6.3. Use of explicit reference to the textual position or sequence of information, articulating the passage as having coordinated parts.  
9.6.4. Use of discourse deixis (e.g., "below", "following") which indicate parts, or of cross-references.  
9.6.5. Use of ordinal or cardinal numbers to designate themes in text sequence (e.g., "first generation").  
9.6.6. Use of questions to articulate parts within a passage or functioning as headings. mBer 6:1, Gemara, LevR
9.7. The text as a whole continuously explicates local thematic transitions, while at the same time also projecting an objective or communicative order (5.2.1, 5.3.1, 5.4.1, 5.5.1 or 3.1 applies). [if appropriate specify the means using the terms found under 9.6.1–6.] Prayer of Manasseh
9.8. The text has a tendency to juxtapose immediately adjacent thematic units which fulfill the same literary, evidential, hermeneutic or narrative function, without integrating them with each other. most non-thematic rabbinic texts
9.8.1. There is more than one quotation-comment unit or midrashic unit for the same lemma. The lemmatic quotation need not be repeated if mentioned in the preceding co-text. exegetical and homiletical works of Midrash; tGit, Bavli Tractates
9.8.2. There is more than one biblical quotation supporting the same statement within a single midrashic unit. Works of Midrash, tBB, bHor
9.8.3. There is more than one Petichah or Petichah-like unit for the same rabbinic homily (3.1 also applies). LevR
9.8.4. There is more than one Petichah or Petichah-like unit in continuous text but outside a rabbinic homily structure (3.1 does not apply). LamR, EsthR
9.8.5. There is more than one mashal (parable) for the same thematic or hermeneutic point. Sifre Deut, BerR, bHor
9.8.6. There is more than one reason clause supporting a statement. tQid, tBer 5:25 ff.
9.8.7. There is more than one version of a reported dispute. bBM, bGit, bSuk, bMeg 27b, QohR
9.8.8. There is more than one version of the same ma'aseh (narrative precedent report). bBB, bBQ, bMeg 27b
9.8.9. There is more than one version of events within the same narrative account. bBM, bKet, bNed, bGit, QohR
9.8.10. There is more than one narrative or report presenting (near-)identical events but different characters. BerR, bHor, bKet, bSot, QohR, EsthR, tYK 2:5 f., LevR 7
9.8.11. There is more than one version of a named Rabbi's utterance. tBer 1:3, Bavli Tractates, EsthR, QohR, yBer
9.8.12. There is an alternative name attached to a statement quoted as a character's speech. Bavli Tractates, QohR
9.8.13. There is some acknowledgement of the equivalence/alternative status of adjacent thematic units under 9.8.1-12. BerR, bGit, bHor, bBM, EsthR
9.9. There are passages of three or more successive thematic units whose relationship is defined as follows: There is a clear thematic continuity or development between the first thematic unit and the following one; these two are followed by a third thematic unit (or further units) which is on a different topic, but shares with only the second unit some extra-thematic feature:
9.9.1. The second unit has a formal pattern which is continued in the third unit and any further units treating a new theme or themes. mMeg 1:4-11  (eyn…beyn)
9.9.2. The second unit has a quoted character named also as the speaker for one or more new, subsequent themes. mAvot 1–2
9.9.3. The second unit mentions a type of object which is then treated with respect to a new thematic framework (or frameworks) in subsequent sentence(s). mBetsah 2:8-9 (pepper mill); tBetsah 4:7 (burning coal/flame)
9.9.4. The second unit has a reason clause which is then used for one or more further thematic units(s) concerning a different halakhic topic/different halakhic topics. Git 4:2–5:2; bHor 13a;
9.10. The text's narrative account is occasionally circular in that it leads from an action to its motivation/purpose, then back to reporting the action, or similar. Jub. 30:4–6  [linked to its "biblicizing" style?]
9.11. An extended part of the thematic text (or an aggregate of part-texts in the sense of section 10) is structured by an extra-thematic principle of order, as follows:  
9.11.1. The implied chronology of speaker characters (there is no narrative and no explanation of the chronology). mAvot 1-2 (mEd?)
9.11.2. An alphabetical or alphanumerical sequence (not applicable to a 3.2 text). Sirach
9.11.3. The sequence of text sections of Scripture (not for 6.1. lemmatic commentary). LevR (the sequence of homilies)
9.11.4. The sequence of days of a calendar/festival calendar. Pesiqta
9.11.5. The implied chronology of the composition of text parts of a text, as seen by the voice governing the whole text. Sibyl. Or., Ps. Sol.?
9.11.6. The increasing or decreasing size of part-texts. Mishnah Tractates in Orders
9.11.7. A fixed performative sequence of speech acts, such as cultic or liturgical acts. [Songs of Sabbath Sacrifice?]
9.11.8. The ascending or descending quantitative value of numbers. mAvot ch. 5, bGit
9.12. Important manuscripts divide the text explicitly into parts by the use of single words or incomplete sentences which constitute sub-headings. Sirach Gk II, Bavli Tractates, Sifra, Mekhilta Ishmael, Lives of Prophets
9.12.1. This division involves the use of meta-textual terms (Hebrew pereq, Greek peri). Sirach Gk II
9.12.2. This terminology is supplemented by the use of sequential numbering, or there is numbering of text sections not named at all. Mishnah, Yerushalmi
9.13. Physical evidence from antiquity potentially shows non-verbal signals indicating (an interpretation of) the text's thematic division. 1QS, GenApoc, 1QpHab
9.14. There is sporadic use of mnemonic indications of text contents and sequence at the beginning or end of (usually quite short) passages, consisting of sequences of words, letters, or short sentences (simanim). These may be introduced or they may interrupt the flow of the text. Bavli Tractates

* See Samely, "From Case to Case" (2000), but before that Jean Bottero, Mesopotamtia (1992), pp. 178-9; cited in Shanks Alexander, Transmitting the Mishnah (2006), pp. 125 ff. (Also Westbrook, Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Law (1988), p. 4; Finkelstein, The Ox that Gored, p. 21; also Jack N. Lightstone, The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud. Its Social Meaning and Context (Waterloo, Ontario: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994).

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