EXEMPLA OF THE RABBIS, a collection of more than 300 Hebrew stories – the largest collection of its kind compiled in the Middle Ages – so entitled by M. Gaster, who discovered them in manuscript and published them (1924). Most of the stories, especially in the beginning of the book, are similar to, or identical with, those in the talmudic-midrashic literature, although in the latter part, there are some longer, more developed, stories, not found in the Talmud or Midrash. While the manuscript is undoubtedly of medieval times, Gaster maintains that the collection itself is a very early one, predating the Talmud. Furthermore, he tries to prove that for their stories the talmudic sages did not use oral sources, but rather a narrative Hebrew literature, of which the only extant specimen is this collection. This he concludes on the basis of the organization of the work in accordance with literary principles. No proof, however, exists for Gaster's conclusions. It is much more logical to suppose that the compiler of the Exempla collected stories from the talmudic-midrashic literature, adding to them medieval stories, with which he became acquainted through oral or written sources. All this material he organized together according to strict literary principles. The existence of two other medieval compilations of this sort –*Midrash
M. Gaster, The Exempla of the Rabbis (1924, repr. 1968). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Dan, Ha-Sippur ha-Ivri bi-Yemei ha-Beinayim: Iyyunim be-Yoldotav (1974); A. Alba, Cuentos de los rabinos (1991).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.