Originally published in The Jewish Quarterly Review, 75:1 (July 1984), pp. 93-5.
Louis Jacobs, Teyku: The Unresolved Problem in the Babylonian Talmud: A Study in the Literary Analysis and Form of the Talmudic Argument (Leo Baeck College Publication, Vol. 2). London and New York: Cornwall Books, 1981. Pp. 312. $20.
In recent decades scholars from very different perspectives have recognized the literary character of the Gemara and have sought to understand how later postamoraic authorities, redactors, or editors have embellished earlier teachings attributed to Amoraim, embedded the material in what appears to be a discussion or argument, and integrated the discrete units. In his latest attempt to treat this problem, Louis Jacobs systematically studies the Teyqu pattern and successfully illuminates its major characteristics.
Teyku, meaning “let it stand” (from the root qwm), is a term used to denote that a given problem is unresolved. According to Jacobs’ count, there are 319 instances of it, all in the Babylonian Talmud. Earlier scholars had suggested that the term was added either by contemporaries of the original authority who posed the question and of those who discussed the issue, or by the later final editors of the Talmud who appended the word to a chronologically earlier discussion. Jacobs, proposing that both the discussion and the term are late, offers a third explanation: when external evidence to clarify a problem is lacking, an anonymous discussion, setting out the logic of the situation, often with balanced sets of questions, employs the teyku notation to indicate that the problem by itself lacks a resolution.
Jacobs makes his case by citing in English and concisely analyzing each of the passages. He introduces the problem in a very brief 3 page introduction and synthesizes his results in a 12 page conclusion. The appendices review the treatment of teyku in post-Talmudic halakhic and mystical literature. While one may differ with his analysis of particular sources, especially regarding the history of the traditions and their integration into the Gemara, his observations insightfully illuminate the structure of the sugya in its present form, and demonstrate that the teyku forms part of the literary embellishing of the attributed materials. His breakdown of those individuals posing the initial problem is also interesting. It is usually done by named masters, in particular Raba (47 times), R. Pappa (33 times), R. Ashi (38 times), and R. Jeremiah (32 times), though unnamed “students” or authorities are responsible for 62 instances. Other scholars agree with Jacobs that these unnamed initial propounders of the problem need not be identified with the anonymous late authorities who expanded the attributed teachings and in this case were responsible for embellishing the initial problem.
Jacobs’ own results can be refined. Although postamoraic anonymous circles, which, as David Halivni cogently argues, flourished in 427-500, expanded the initial question leading up to the teyku, subsequent editors after 500 who in general restructured previously embellished materials, might join the pericope to other sources. This would account for the presence of a pericope which treats a problem regarding which a previous discussion had concluded with the teyku, and of material that might seem actually to resolve the issue.
Although there are alternative ways to set out some of Jacobs’ observations, the volume is important for its presentation of a systematic review of the sources, for bringing out the repeated use of a uniform pattern, for offering a reasoned discussion which cogently takes up objections that might be raised to specific arguments, and for stimulating further research, for example, into the significance of the high incidence of the attribution of the pericope’s initial problem to certain named masters. Most importantly, it demonstrates the fruitfulness of the new consensus: recognizing that the Talmudic argumentation derives from the Talmud’s literary reworking opens up new avenues to examine longstanding problems.
Baruch M. Bokser
 See David M. Goodblatt, “The Babylonian Talmud,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, II (1979), 19. II, 281-318, reprinted in The Study of Ancient Judaism, ed. Jacob Neusner (New York, 1981), II, 144-81.
 This includes several instances of the equivalent tibba’i found in tractates such as Nedarim that employ their own distinctive style; Jacobs, pp. 114, 290.
 See e.g., David Weiss Halivni (Meqorot u-Mesorot, 4 vols, to date; Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, 1968-82), to B. Pes. 117a, p. 585.
 See Halivni to ‘Erubin, p. 249, n. 3**, and to Yoma-Hagigah, Introduction, pp. 11-12, n. 21; and Shamma Friedman, “A Critical Study of Yevamot X with a Methodological Introduction,” in Texts and Studies. Analecta Judaica, edited by H. Z. Dimitrovsky (New York, 1977), I, 310.
 See, e.g., Halivni to B. Suk. 33a, p. 217, and especially to Shabbat, Introduction.