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The G'mara Bavli says in Shabas 63:

אמר רב כהנא, "כד הוינא בר תמני סרי שנין, והוה גמירנא ליה לכוליה תלמודא, ולא הוה ידענא דאין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו..."

Rav Kahana said, "When I was 18 years old, and I had learned the entire Talmud, and I didn't know that a verse never forsakes its simple meaning..."

All over the G'mara the term תלמודא refers to extrapolation from the Torah using a specific methodology and not necessarily a set body of text or teaching, which is what the colloquial term refers to today. However in the above passage it seems to clearly mean the latter - a set body of teaching, which Rav Kahana had exhausted. (Note that the -א suffix is a definite article.)

What exactly is he referring to if at the time of his speaking the Talmud had not yet been composed? Is this a בבלי\ירושלמי trick?

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It is interesting that the text as it appears in the Vilna Shas is 'והוה גמירנא ליה לכוליה הש"ס', in which case he would be saying that he had learned all of "Shas" which is understandable, at least, as referring to studying all of Mishnah. However, the Soncino here has a footnote on the word "shas" (which they present in transliteration in the English side) which reads: "MS.M Talmud, Shas being a correction by the censor." MS.M refers to the uncensored Munich Codex of 1342. –  Yosef Dec 27 '10 at 18:20
@Yosef Quite interesting indeed. –  WAF Dec 28 '10 at 15:11
The next question would be, why would "talmuda" give the censor fits, and why is "shas" a better substitution? I had thought that the censors really only cared about references to non-Jews. –  Yosef Dec 28 '10 at 19:08
See also Chagiga 3a and and Bava Metziah 11a. The article "תורה שבע"פ בתקופת כתבי היד ובתקופת הדפוס" by A.M. Haberman (…) notes that the word "talmud" was specifically targeted by the censors. See also for more background. –  Yosef Dec 28 '10 at 19:51
Link to Haberman article: –  Yosef Dec 28 '10 at 19:53

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There were a few hundred years between the transcription of Mishna and that of what we call the Gemora. While people had informal notes, it was still an oral system. So when the Talmud refers to Gemora it has in mind all the oral lectures and "notes" that were happening in Yeshivas as well as Toseftas, Breisas and even the Mishna and its unwritten comments.

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But still, the way the word is used here implies the existence of a defined corpus; that is, that certain oral lectures were considered to be required knowledge for someone to be able to say that he knew the whole thing -- in a word, canonical. –  Yosef Dec 27 '10 at 18:25
Did you go to college? If not, this is kind of hard to explain. But in colleges there were sylabus/class notes that were taken by student(s) in the past that became unofficial course text. I'm not talking about test questions and answers, just lecture notes and expansions on those. It wouldn't surprise me if back then there were "notes" and there were "Notes!" –  inSeattle Dec 28 '10 at 2:17
@inSeattle You are still implying that there was a conventional body of work "Notes!" that any given text could be either "in" or "out of". If so, the work of Ravina and Rav Ashi was seemingly just to rubber stamp this preexisting thing. Is this really how it happened? –  WAF Dec 28 '10 at 15:15
@WAF, according to at least one way of looking at it, yes. R' Y.I. Halevi (Doros Harishonim) argues that the first "standardized" text of the Bavli (what inSeattle called "Notes!") was put together by Abaye and Rava, then later updated by Ravina and Rav Ashi. (Though he says that all of it was still oral only, and was first written down by the Rabbanan Savorai a couple of generations after Rav Ashi.) –  Alex May 11 '11 at 0:01

Rav Triebitz actually discusses this at length(great length) in a series of 12 one hour shiurim that can be found on his website regarding the history of the Talmud. Essentially he posits that the Talmud was not actually codified until just before the end of the Gaonic era, and thus was it says Talmud inside the Talmud, it is talking about the Talmud, that it was a slip, by the Gaonim who were compiling the Talmud(much like when Gaonim are mentioned in the Amoraic discussions).

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