A Digital Synopsis of the Mishnah and Tosefta
Freie Universität Berlin
University of Maryland
Prof. Dr. Hayim Lapin (University of Maryland)
Consultants: Prof. Dr. Shamma Friedman, Dr. Eliashiv Fraenkel
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
The Mishnah is the central, constitutive text of rabbinic Judaism, from which every formulation of Jewish identity and practice is drawn. It is a legal compendium compiled c. 200 CE in Palestine. Both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmudim are exegetical compositions based on it. The Mishnah is the first coherent articulation of a "rabbinic" Judaism, and is thus of central historical importance, as much for scholars of Jewish Studies as for contemporary Judaism.
The Tosefta (lit. "the supplement"), another legal compendium produced one to two generations later (c. 250 CE), shares with the Mishnah the same overall structure, the parallel organization, similar language and terminology. Nevertheless, the precise relationship between the two texts is tantalizingly problematic.
In this project we aim at providing scholars with the tools to determine the relationship between these two texts. The Synopsis Project will build upon and test computational methods for identifying "text reuse"; it will develop strategies and tools for presentation and visualization of overlapping texts. We propose a digital research tool based on a combination of computer driven and hand edited analysis that will provide academic and lay persons alike with access to the manuscript traditions of the Mishnah and the Tosefta, and more significantly to their parallel and interrelated traditions. Further, it will provide a map of the interrelationships between the two works, including passages that are nearly parallel, those that appear independent of one another, and those where the works share common material and will reward further analysis. This will be a major contribution to the study of early rabbinic literature in and of itself.
Finally, for lay students of the texts, our Synopsis unlocks the results of scholarly work, making easily available manuscript evidence for the transmission of the texts, and allowing readers to immediately see how the passage they are studying intersects with other passages. For anyone interested in the diversity of Jewish traditions, our tool will unlock an excellent example, situated at the very birth of rabbinic Judaism.