Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
5 6
The Mishnah is a code of the second, compilatory, kind. To
an extent, this code might be considered the forerunner of that
book which is officially known in world history by the name
Code. The Byzantine Emperor, Justinian, in the first half of the
sixth century ordered the Roman jurist, Tribunian, and his
committee to collect the laws and ordinances of the Roman
emperors into one book. I t was also the task of this committee
to give a digest of the opinions of the great Roman juristic
schools and to arrange them in a certain order. Furthermore, they
had to compose what we can call a textbook of law in the Institu-
tiones and collect new laws under the title, Novaelle. Prior to
this code was the Theodosian code, but the Justinian Code,
which was known as Corpus Juris, is the best known.
Three centuries before the Corpus Juris was compiled, the
idea of putting together a Jewish code alongside the Torah
developed among the scholars of the Jabneh Academy. I t was
there that the plan was conceived of the Mishnah and its ap-
pendix, the Tossefta, and of the textbooks of law which we
know as the
Sifra
and
Sifrei.
The Mishnah, which was completed at the Academy of Ti-
berias in the first quarter of the third century under the editor-
ship of R. Judah haNassi and R. Nathan the Babylonian, is
essentially a code. The provinces of halakhah and aggada were
at that time fairly well defined and distinguished from one an-
other. Except for a few exceptions which prove the rule, aggada
was entirely omitted from the Mishnah, so that the Mishnah
itself is termed
halakhot.
Tracing the halakhot to sources in the
Biblical texts using modes and methods of Biblical interpreta-
tions was left to the Tannaitic midrashim. Elaborated discussion
of the condensed laws in the Mishnah was left for the appendix
to the Mishnah—the Tosefta. The Mishnah itself comes thus, in
its structure, closest to a code. And yet one can hardly consider
it nothing but a mere code.
Alongside the anonymous part of the Mishnah supposed to
represent the accepted law, minority opinions in the name of
their authors are given, and this for a reason clearly stated in
the Tractate Eduyot. In some instances even the anonymous
part of the Mishnah does not state the accepted law, but rather
records archaic laws or a minority opinion which was found
anonymously in an earlier source and which the final editor of
the Mishnah did not see fit to omit. On rare occasions even
aggadic material was incorporated into the Mishnah. On the
whole, one can therefore say that although the Mishnah is
basically a code, it is still a merger of a code and a textbook
or an anthology of the law.
If Justinian commanded the compilers of his code to burn
all books of law which served as sources to their code, and it