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The Gaonic responsa literature addresses this issue. Teshuvot Geonim Kadmonim, section 78, deals with mistaken biblical readings in the Talmud. This Gaonic responsum states:. But you must examine carefully in every case when you feel uncertainty [as to the credibility of the text] — what is its source? Whether a scribal error? Or the superficiality of a second rate student who was not well versed? And since they erred in the first place In the early medieval era, Rashi already concluded that some statements in the extant text of the Talmud were insertions from later editors.
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On Shevuot 3b Rashi writes "A mistaken student wrote this in the margin of the Talmud, and copyists [subsequently] put it into the Gemara. The emendations of Yoel Sirkis and the Vilna Gaon are included in all standard editions of the Talmud, in the form of marginal glosses entitled Hagahot ha-Bach and Hagahot ha-Gra respectively; further emendations by Solomon Luria are set out in commentary form at the back of each tractate.
The Vilna Gaon's emendations were often based on his quest for internal consistency in the text rather than on manuscript evidence;  nevertheless many of the Gaon's emendations were later verified by textual critics, such as Solomon Schechter , who had Cairo Genizah texts with which to compare our standard editions. In the 19th century Raphael Nathan Nota Rabinovicz published a multi-volume work entitled Dikdukei Soferim , showing textual variants from the Munich and other early manuscripts of the Talmud, and further variants are recorded in the Complete Israeli Talmud and Gemara Shelemah editions see Critical editions , above.
Today many more manuscripts have become available, in particular from the Cairo Geniza. The Academy of the Hebrew Language has prepared a text on CD-ROM for lexicographical purposes, containing the text of each tractate according to the manuscript it considers most reliable,  and images of some of the older manuscripts may be found on the website of the Jewish National and University Library.
Historical study of the Talmud can be used to investigate a variety of concerns. One can ask questions such as: Do a given section's sources date from its editor's lifetime? To what extent does a section have earlier or later sources? Are Talmudic disputes distinguishable along theological or communal lines? In what ways do different sections derive from different schools of thought within early Judaism? Can these early sources be identified, and if so, how?
Investigation of questions such as these are known as higher textual criticism. The term "criticism" is a technical term denoting academic study. Religious scholars still debate the precise method by which the text of the Talmuds reached their final form. Many believe that the text was continuously smoothed over by the savoraim. During the early 19th century, leaders of the newly evolving Reform movement , such as Abraham Geiger and Samuel Holdheim , subjected the Talmud to severe scrutiny as part of an effort to break with traditional rabbinic Judaism.
They insisted that the Talmud was entirely a work of evolution and development.
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This view was rejected as both academically incorrect, and religiously incorrect, by those who would become known as the Orthodox movement. Some Orthodox leaders such as Moses Sofer the Chatam Sofer became exquisitely sensitive to any change and rejected modern critical methods of Talmud study. Some rabbis advocated a view of Talmudic study that they held to be in-between the Reformers and the Orthodox; these were the adherents of positive-historical Judaism, notably Nachman Krochmal and Zecharias Frankel.
They described the Oral Torah as the result of a historical and exegetical process, emerging over time, through the application of authorized exegetical techniques, and more importantly, the subjective dispositions and personalities and current historical conditions, by learned sages. Another aspect of this movement is reflected in Graetz 's History of the Jews.
Graetz attempts to deduce the personality of the Pharisees based on the laws or aggadot that they cite, and show that their personalities influenced the laws they expounded. The leader of Orthodox Jewry in Germany Samson Raphael Hirsch , while not rejecting the methods of scholarship in principle, hotly contested the findings of the Historical—Critical method.
In a series of articles in his magazine Jeschurun reprinted in Collected Writings Vol. On the other hand, many of the 19th century's strongest critics of Reform, including strictly orthodox rabbis such as Zvi Hirsch Chajes , utilized this new scientific method.
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The Orthodox rabbinical seminary of Azriel Hildesheimer was founded on the idea of creating a "harmony between Judaism and science". The Iraqi rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer notes that the text of the Gemara has had changes and additions, and contains statements not of the same origin as the original. See his Yehi Yosef Jerusalem, p. Orthodox scholar Daniel Sperber writes in "Legitimacy, of Necessity, of Scientific Disciplines" that many Orthodox sources have engaged in the historical also called "scientific" study of the Talmud.
As such, the divide today between Orthodoxy and Reform is not about whether the Talmud may be subjected to historical study, but rather about the theological and halakhic implications of such study. The Talmud represents the written record of an oral tradition. It became the basis for many rabbinic legal codes and customs, most importantly for the Mishneh Torah and for the Shulchan Aruch. Orthodox and, to a lesser extent, Conservative Judaism accept the Talmud as authoritative, while Samaritan, Karaite, Reconstructionist, and Reform Judaism do not.
Principal distinctions between them and the Pharisees later known as Rabbinic Judaism involved their rejection of an Oral Torah and their denying a resurrection after death. Another movement that rejected the Oral Torah as authoritative was Karaism , which arose within two centuries after completion of the Talmud.
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Karaism developed as a reaction against the Talmudic Judaism of Babylonia. The central concept of Karaism is the rejection of the Oral Torah , as embodied in the Talmud, in favor of a strict adherence only to the Written Torah. Some later Karaites took a more moderate stance, allowing that some element of tradition called sevel ha-yerushah , the burden of inheritance is admissible in interpreting the Torah and that some authentic traditions are contained in the Mishnah and the Talmud, though these can never supersede the plain meaning of the Written Torah. The rise of Reform Judaism during the 19th century saw more questioning of the authority of the Talmud.
Reform Jews saw the Talmud as a product of late antiquity, having relevance merely as a historical document. For example, the "Declaration of Principles" issued by the Association of Friends of Reform Frankfurt in August states among other things that:. The collection of controversies, dissertations, and prescriptions commonly designated by the name Talmud possesses for us no authority, from either the dogmatic or the practical standpoint.
Some took a critical-historical view of the written Torah as well, while others appeared to adopt a neo- Karaite "back to the Bible" approach, though often with greater emphasis on the prophetic than on the legal books. Within Humanistic Judaism , Talmud is studied as a historical text, in order to discover how it can demonstrate practical relevance to living today. Orthodox Judaism continues to stress the importance of Talmud study as a central component of Yeshiva curriculum, in particular for those training to become rabbis. This is so even though Halakha is generally studied from the medieval and early modern codes and not directly from the Talmud.
Talmudic study amongst the laity is widespread in Orthodox Judaism, with daily or weekly Talmud study particularly common in Haredi Judaism and with Talmud study a central part of the curriculum in Orthodox Yeshivas and day schools. The regular study of Talmud among laymen has been popularized by the Daf Yomi , a daily course of Talmud study initiated by rabbi Meir Shapiro in ; its 13th cycle of study began in August Conservative Judaism similarly emphasizes the study of Talmud within its religious and rabbinic education.
Generally, however, Conservative Jews study the Talmud as a historical source-text for Halakha. The Conservative approach to legal decision-making emphasizes placing classic texts and prior decisions in historical and cultural context, and examining the historical development of Halakha. This approach has resulted in greater practical flexibility than that of the Orthodox.
Talmud study forms part of the curriculum of Conservative parochial education at many Conservative day-schools , and an increase in Conservative day-school enrollments has resulted in an increase in Talmud study as part of Conservative Jewish education among a minority of Conservative Jews. See also: The Conservative Jewish view of the Halakha. Reform Judaism does not emphasize the study of Talmud to the same degree in their Hebrew schools, but they do teach it in their rabbinical seminaries; the world view of liberal Judaism rejects the idea of binding Jewish law , and uses the Talmud as a source of inspiration and moral instruction.
Ownership and reading of the Talmud is not widespread among Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, who usually place more emphasis on the study of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. Rabbis and talmudists studying and debating Talmud abound in the art of Austrian painter Carl Schleicher — ; active in Vienna, especially c. A Controversy Whatsoever on Talmud. The study of Talmud is not restricted to those of the Jewish religion and has attracted interest in other cultures.