A related question once appeared asking about how the Talmud (and related texts) are dated: when were the mishnah, talmud, and tosefta written?

But none of the answers given to it actually explained how these texts are dated. For this reason, I have decided to re-open the question and ask, first: what is the date of the final compilation and redaction of the Babylonian Talmud? Second, how do historians actually know this and how is the text dated?

This is related to a question I asked almost two weeks ago about the earliest explicit references to the Talmud: What is the earliest explicit reference to the "Talmud" after it was compiled? The earliest reference to a tradition that users found to the Palestinian Talmud came from the mid-7th century, and there are a few external references to the Babylonian Talmud from the late 7th and 8th centuries, so this should provide an upper boundary about how late these texts can be dated. However the Babylonian Talmud is usually dated over a century before this and the Palestinian Talmud even further back. Why is that?

1 Answer 1


As noted, explicit references to the Babylonian Talmud from other texts provide an upper boundary of the early 8th century on when its compilation can be dated. The very earliest manuscript fragments of the Talmud, from Cairo Geniza, also date to the 8th century. But we can be more precise. The Babylonian Talmud dates to somewhere between the 6th century to the early 7th century (before the Arab conquests). This is shown by Monika Amsler, The Babylonian Talmud and Late Antique Book Culture, Cambridge 2023, pp. 122–123.

While earlier scholarship tended to place the date of a “final redaction” in the mid-sixth century based on medieval pedigrees of talmudic sages, some recent scholarship has assigned dates ranging from the mid-seventh century to the second half of the eighth century.54 The latter dates would imply that the Talmud was written down and redacted after the Arab conquest of Mesopotamia. The assignment of a date after the Arab conquest is contradicted, however, by the fact that the Talmud does not contain Arabic loanwords or syntax.55 Such loanwords should be expected to be found in a text that went through the last stages of oral transmission after the (final) Arabic conquest, or at least in the notes added by the final redactors. Arabic as the new lingua franca was widely embraced, and by the tenth century, even the non-Semitic Persian language used 30 percent Arabic words, while Aramaic had completely disappeared.56 Texts authored by post-talmudic rabbinic sages (Geonim) were exclusively written in Arabic by the eighth century. This would point to a terminus ad quem for the composition of the Talmud in the early seventh century.

Just for context, I will also quote Amsler's compilation of earlier opinions about the dating of the Talmud:

On earlier scholarship (e.g., Isidore Epstein and Hanoch Albeck), see Günter Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch, 9th ed. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2011), 215. Charlotte E. Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee, introduction to The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, ed. Charlotte E. Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 9, give the seventh century as a closing date for the Talmud; Richard Kalmin, Migrating Tales: The Talmud’s Narratives and Their Historical Context (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), ix, reaches the date 651 CE; David Weiss Halivni, The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud, trans. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), xxix, moves the date back to the second half of the eighth century. See also Halivni, Formation of the Babylonian Talmud, 9, for the length of the period during which Halivni conceives of the Stammaim as being active. (pg. 123, n. 54)

Another way to narrow down the range of the Babylonian Talmud, other than that it must have been before the Arab conquests, is by pointing out its reliance on earlier texts that we can also date. For example, Amsler shows that the Palestinian Talmud, which we know the Babylonian Talmud relied on, must date between the late fourth century and the early fifth century (Amsler, The Babylonian Talmud and Late Antique Book Culture, pp. 127–131). This page also contains more information on how the Palestinian Talmud is dated: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_Talmud#Contemporary_views

Therefore, the final compilation of the Palestinian Talmud also gives us a lower boundary of when the Babylonian Talmud could have originated.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .