…the existence of both an overarching structure and an internal set of literary dynamics within Avot implies that the composition underwent an editorial process. The editor apparently employed the skeletal structure of the work as a framework within which selected contents were arranged according to associative and literary principles. Once these underlying principles are revealed, it becomes clear that Avot is not the result of a random and haphazard cumulative process but the product of a skilled craftsman. Consequently, the synchronic approach to the text rests on firm ground.
In the synchronic approach, the message or messages of the book as a whole become the primary concern. Although each saying makes its own statement, the editor employed these particular sayings to construct the broad statement of the book. In my opinion, the key to a viable interpretation of the text lies in the relationship between the prominent themes and the overarching structure of the work. The structure and contents of Avot express distinct messages, and the confluence of these messages is, most probably, the crux of the work as a whole.
Amram Tropper, Wisdom, Politics, and Historiography: Tractate Avot in the Context of the Graeco-Roman Near East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 47.