chapter  6
23 Pages

JEWISH DEATH-PRACTICES IN EARLY BYZANTINE PALESTINE

The Yerushalmi and Aggadic Midrashim

One century passed, then part of another. The world in which the Jews of Palestine lived underwent radical upheaval and transformation: the former pagan empire became Christian, the Temple in Jerusalem remained in ruins (after a serious attempt under the reign of the emperor Julian to rebuild it), the recognized political leadership of the Jewish community in Palestine was abolished (Neusner 1983: 3-26). But the one literate Jewish group whose record survived late antiquity, the rabbis, did not see fit to capture their teachings from this tumultuous period in a contemporary record. Instead, they taught what they taught, requiring their students to preserve their teachings in memory, allowing these teachings to be transformed by the new experiences and imperfect memories of the transmitters.