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By Jacob Neusner / Wipf & Stock / 2003
In this close analysis of The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan, Jacob Neusner considers the way in which the story entered the canonical writings of Judaism. The final installment in Neusner’s analysis of major texts of the Judaic canon, Judaism and Story shows that stories about sages exist in far greater proportion in The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan than in any of the other principal writings in the canon of Judaism. Neusner’s detailed comparison of The Fathers and The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan demonstrates the transmission and elaboration of these stories and shows how these processes incorporated the newer view of the sage as a supernatural figure and of the eschatological character of Judaic teleology. These distinctions, as Neusner describes them, mark a shift in Jewish orientation to world history. As Neusner demonstrates, this experiment with narrative went beyond argumentation focused on the explication of the Torah. The sage story moved in the direction of biography, but without allowing biography to emerge. This development, in Neusner’s account, parallels the movement from epistle to Gospel in early Christianity and thus has broad implications for the history of religions.