Compilation of the Talmud Yerushalmi

Who composed the Talmud Yerushalmi?

Who composed the Talmud Yerushalmi? Was it composed over the stretch of many generations or by a later coordinated effort?  What are the smaller components of the Talmud Yerushalmi and what was the process by which they were filtered before making it to the final redaction of the Talmud Yerushalmi. Questions like these are some of the most difficult ones raised in the sphere of Academic Talmud study today.

Unfortunately,  the Talmud Yerushalmi, like the corpus of Tannaitic and Amoraic compositions tells us nothing explicitly about its authorship, scope and method of compilation.  As a result, in our quest to answer even the most basic questions about its composition we must look solely to the contents of the Talmud Yerushalmi itself.

Maimonides in his introduction to the Mishneh Torah attributes the composition of the Talmud of the Land of Israel to the second generation Amora Rabbi Yochanan. This attribution is difficult to understand and requires explanation.  Four or five generations of Amoraim living later than Rabbi Yochanan appear all through out the pages of the  Talmud Yerushalmi.  It is widely thought that Maimonides meant not  that Rabbi Yochanan composed the Talmud Yerushalmi but that he began the redaction process. This is similar to Ravina and Rav Ashi whom Maimonides considers the composers of the Babylonian Talmud dispite that later Amoraim are mentioned in that Talmud. If this supposition is correct, it is not without problem. Maimonides must have seen the Talmud created by Rabbi Yochanan to be the primary and essential component of the Talmud Yerushalmi while the subsequent additions made by the many following generations simply as auxilliary.

According to the aforementioned interpretation of Maimonides, Rabbi Yochanan would be considered the first redactor. In theory, it would be he who  developed  the general look-and-feel of the earlier strata of the Talmud Yerushalmi. He may have been responsible or involved in creating  new  rabbinic terminology and system of textual styling (see below). Subsequent strata of the Talmud Yerushalmi are strikingly indistinguishable from earlier ones in terminology and style.  This suggests that Rabbi Yochanan’s literary inovations and standardizations were widely immitated by following generations.  Whereas the original form of the recorded teaching or exchange were free-form or in the lingo of the specific beth midrash, after Rabbi Yochanan’s standardizations it would seem likely that the such teachings and exchanges were written in Rabbi Yochanan’s format.

How was the Talmud Yerushalmi composed?

Evidence of the existense of earlier Talmud on the Mishnah  can be found in Amoraic citations in the  Talmud Yerushalmi. One citation going back to Rabbi Yochanan is found in the words of the Amora Rabbi Yosi, a student of Rabbi Yochanan. However, citations of Talmud from various generations are attested. All of this compells us to believe that the compilation of the Talmud Yerushalmi was not predominantly the work of its later redactors (See Article: Earlier Strata)  but  a cummulative process that took place generation after generation.

The Talmud Yerushalmi is composed of  stereuotypical units, ones that keep the same form but differ in their contents. These units are are consistent in style and form across the entire Talmud Yerushalmi. The unites that compose the Talmud Yerushalmi are of a variety of types: Teachings, student’s inqueries before their masters, analysis of logic etc.

Versions and schools of the Talmud Yerushalmi

Evidence of different versions of discourse is clearly attested in the Talmud Yerushalmi. The Talmud as we have it before us often preserves parallel texts with usually minor but at times significant variations. These variations may simply be terminological in which case they may have originated from different teachers of the text. Other variations are more significant such as in the attribution of Sages, usage of synonymous or similar terms,  may be in the attributions of sages and usage of synonyms.

The Midrash Rabba often cites Talmud on the Mishnah and it has yet to be established whether it is citing from the earlier strata of what became the Talmud Yerushalmi at a later date or that both cite from a common source of Amoraic commentary on the Mishnah.

The final redaction of the Talmud Yerushalmi

The final redaction of the Jerusalem Talmud, whenver it took place and whoever participated in it was not the last stage of its composition. The  Talmud is replete with artificial sounding passages, rough edges, and textual borrowings which suggest that its content  had been  touched up by later redactors who still held license to modify the Talmud. (See Article: Textual Borrowings) but were reluctant to tamper with the text.

The Jerusalem Talmud is permeated by a distinct style specific and exclusive to the Eretz Yisrael school of that time. It is found in some Midrashim which either draw from the same source as the Jerusalem Talmud or from the Jerusalem Talmud itself but not in any other ancient Rabbinic literature.