The beginning of rationalizing Talmud study as a necessary component in a broader Jewish studies curriculum is the recognition that rabbinic Judaism is the historical victor in the narrative of the Jewish people. While second commonwealth Judaisms may have been a story of sects, by the gaonic period one of these “sects”—namely, rabbinic (talmudic) Judaism—became the Judaism of the majority, despite challenges from groups like the Karaites. This development sets the stage for further advances in Judaism and Jewish life from the early Middle Ages on. Therefore, the Talmud is the key to in-depth understanding of most of the disciplines which constitute Jewish studies, because the culture it created is the foundation on which they are built. Even the Bible, as crucial as it is for the understanding of the Jewish experience, is significant for later Judaism only as it is interpreted by the Rabbis.
Michael Chernick, “Neusner, Brisk, and the Stam: Significant Methodologies for Meaningful Talmud Teaching and Study,” The Initiative for Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies, Working Paper no. 19 (May 2010), 2-3.