"Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competences as the producers of the work (peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are used to maintain quality standards, improve performance, and provide credibility. (WIKI)

As I noticed, the main tendency of Jewish methodology is that a statement is uttered and left unaddressed (unresearched) for many years and only the later generations start questioning and finding possible explanations. For example, in the Gemmorah Amorayim try to explain the sayings of the Tannoyim (some 100-200-500 years later), Geonim try to explain the Gemmora, then Rishonim, then Achronim, etc.

I'd expect that Rabbis that are interested in finding the ultimate G-dly truth would share their thought with their peers to validate and verify their findings or maybe disprove and discard.

Is there an idea of "peer-review" in Judaism? Did any Rabbi/movement in the past establish a system of submitting a work to a close examination to other Rabbis?

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    Hakirah, Tradition, The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, The Torah Umadda Journal, etc. are to the best of my knowledge all peer reviewed. – Alex Sep 22 at 16:04
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    מיד קבל עליו ר’ יהודה בן טבאי שאינו מורה הוראה אלא לפני שמעון בן שטח (Makot 5b) – Alex Sep 22 at 16:18
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    כך אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם לא חסיד אני שכל מלכי מזרח ומערב יושבים אגודות אגודות בכבודם ואני ידי מלוכלכות בדם ובשפיר ובשליא כדי לטהר אשה לבעלה ולא עוד אלא כל מה שאני עושה אני נמלך במפיבשת רבי ואומר לו מפיבשת רבי יפה דנתי יפה חייבתי יפה זכיתי יפה טהרתי יפה טמאתי ולא בושתי (Berachot 4a) – Alex Sep 22 at 16:21
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    What do you call every single machlokes in the mishnah or gemara? – Heshy Sep 22 at 16:44
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    Isn't every case of machlokes and review of laws and Q&A in the Mishna, Gemara, Rishonim, and Achronim, extensive and repeated "peer review"? As exemplified as well e.g. in quotes and rules such as: "ki nayim v'shachiv rav amar lha shmaatsa" - "the master must have been sleeping when he said this"; the rule that the halacha follows the "bathra" - later authority, who presumably reviewed the earlier opinions; etc. – Loewian Sep 22 at 16:45

Some of the disagreements in earlier answers seem to stem from different understandings of peer review. From the definition stated in the question, it seems totally reasonable to think of disagreements in the mishna and gemarah, or in the rishonim, achronim, and later works, as constituting peer review. Those who disagree are typically "people with similar competences", and are, in some sense, "evaluating" the work of others. Functionally, machloksim sometimes motivate different sides to refine their original opinions, or even occasionally retract them. In this sense, I think it's reasonable to answer "yes" to the question.

But for those who are familiar with peer review from their experience in the world of scholarly research and publication, the definition is likely unsatisfactory, and these people will probably be inclined to say, no, there is no real and effective peer review in typical rabbinic literature, not in the talmud, nor later.

In conventional scholarly communities, when someone has a good idea they try to write it down as best as they can, clearly stating their main idea, bringing as much possible evidence for it, hoping to convince other scholars that their ideas are original, interesting, and compelling. They then send off their manuscript to a journal, and editors of the journal send the manuscript to other experts in the relevant particular field to evaluate. If someone does potentially ground-breaking work in treating chronic myeloid leukaemia, for example, the editor won't send their work to just any general doctor, or even to a general oncologist, or even to a general research oncologist, but instead will send it to someone in a very specialized subfield who is qualified to evaluate that particular idea. Multiple such referees will review the paper and provide recommendations to the editor (who is usually not a specialist in this particular area) about the quality of the submission. Maybe the idea is terrible, or maybe it's a brilliant, but has already been developed by others. Or maybe it's original, interesting, and overall compelling, but can be improved in various ways. The peer-review process functions to reduce the number of bad papers published, and to improve the quality of the ones that are published.

In this sense, of course rabbinic literature is not peer-reviewed. Sure, R' Meir and R' Yehuda, the Rambam and the Raavad, or the Ktzose and Nesivose might regularly disagree, but that's not what members of functioning scholarly communities normally think of as peer-review. And yes, journals like Hakirah, Tradition, The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, The Torah Umadda Journal, etc. use some kind of peer-review, but neither the talmud, nor the geonim, rishonim, achronim, nor most contemporary lamdanim and poskim, do anything remotely similar. Instead, the vast bulk of what's published is self-published (i.e., if I can raise enough money to print my chiddushim on X, then some seforim press will take my money and publish what I wrote, irrespective of whether it's excellent or terrible), or else is published by kollel's, yeshivas, etc, who typically publish almost everything submitted. Like your high-school student newspaper.

So, the answer to the question then, I think, depends on what is meant by peer review. If all is meant is that we allow for some room for disagreement, then sure, it's peer reviewed! But if by the term we have in mind a particular rigorous process that helps ensure (but of course doesn't guarantee!) the quality of what's published, then I think the answer is unfortunately no.

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    You are my rescuer, thank you. – Al Berko Sep 23 at 10:21
  • This is technically true, but it accepts the premise of the question that peer review is something we should strive for. What we strive for is truth, and peer review is a means to that end that makes sense in a particular society. I don't think it made sense in the society the tanaim and amoraim lived in. Some combination of Rabban Gamliel, R' Eliezer, R' Yehoshua, and R' Akiva (among others) have hundreds of machloksim and dozens of conversations recorded in the mishnah. They were "peer reviewing" each other's opinions all the time. What would a formal peer review process have added? – Heshy Sep 23 at 20:46

Just being published in the Talmud is a form of Peer Review. Not everything that Rabbi Akiva ever said has been written & published, only the things that his peers felt were valuable. And everyone who publishes a Sefer gets an Haskamah / approbation from their mentors & peers. Jews have been practicing peer review for millennia.

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    I don't think you truly address the idea of peer review. A wild discussion of the opinions of Rabbis that lived centuries before can hardly be called that name, IMHO. 2. Nobody really read the books, they just trying to be polite. Haskome does not mean that a Rabbi agrees to everything the book says, and rarely somebody gives his remarks on a book. – Al Berko Sep 22 at 22:20
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    @AlBerko It's not always "centuries before." There are numerous places in the Gemara where, for example, an Amora in Bavel says something, and it is critiqued (מחכו עלה) or refined (אגלגל מילתא... אהדרוהו קמיה) by his peers in Bavel or in Eretz Yisrael. – Meir Sep 23 at 19:18
  • @Meir and Alberko, if you're looking for peer review I would begin with Rabbi Marc B. Shapiro, who have released Rabbinic writings that were censored. This could be a statement for peer-reviewing hidden documents. Another source would be the Rambam who omitted many mystical laws in his code of his Mishneh Torah. He checked the content in which the eailer rabbis were writing and dismissed some of them. – Turk Hill Sep 24 at 3:39

More than 50% of mishnayos have multiple tanaim disagreeing. That's peer review. R' Meir says something, R' Yehuda reviews it and says something else. When nobody disagrees explicitly, the assumption is they reviewed it and agreed (הלכה כסתם משנה).

It's exactly the same in the Gemara.

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    (seems) completely untrue. Different views of Rabbis separated by time and place (you never know what it means חכ"א!). Where do you see that R"Y actually reviewed R"M's Mishayos and gave any remarks? Very rarely they actually confronted each other, and when they did they pushed their own views instead of changing them for the truth. That's my view, anyway. – Al Berko Sep 22 at 22:17
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    No, you don't know who חכמים are, but R' Meir and R' Yehuda for example lived at the same time, as did R' Eliezer, R' Yehoshua, R' Akiva, etc. – Heshy Sep 22 at 22:44

Peer-review as we know it today was quite impossible in the past. Also in science is is very recent.

For Halachic decisions, the basic "peer-review" in Judaism is the Beis Din, and in the past all Rabbis who wrote responsa either wrote them as part of sitting in a Beis Din, or expected them to be approved by a responsible Beis Din. For theoretical discussions, there were chavrusas, letters, traveling Rabbis, etc... The discussion was important, and until a pask halacha was written it was understood to be theoretical and open to debate, so a formal review process would not make sense.

Maybe its paradoxical, but it seems that today when serious peer-review is easier than ever, more and more Rabbis are comfortable giving significant Piskei Halacha with no review at all - a practice I hope will come to an end one day soon, and we will see a return to senior Rabbis heading Batei Din, and having all the major decisions debated and approved by their Beis Din.

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