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Gil Troy on the ASA Boycott being sloppy and imprecise

This boycott continues the anti-Zionist war on academia. Most academics seek intellectual precision — yet calling Israel an apartheid state sloppily makes apartheid mean “apartness,” separation, sanitizing its ugly racial distinctions while falsely making the national conflict between Israelis and Palestinians seem racial. Most scholars recognize the world’s complexity — yet regarding Israel, simplistic sloganeering and one-sided finger pointing prevail. Most intellectuals defend ideas’ permeability — yet boycotts impose harsh borders in what should be a seamless cerebral world. Most teachers applaud diversity, yet boycotts shut down debate. And most professors aspire toward scholarly objectivity, yet targeting Israel — especially given Palestinian terrorism, extremism, and authoritarianism, along with so many other countries’ crimes — reeks of bias and a particular, historic prejudice, anti-Semitism.

I hate making this argument. But how else can we explain this disproportionate, one-sided, pile-on against this one country that is also the world’s only Jewish state?

The boycott call is also politically counter-productive. It emboldens Palestinian rejectionists, enrages the Israeli right, demoralizes the center, and undermines the left. Compromise cannot occur in the lynch mob atmosphere the ASA endorsed.

Gil Troy, “Why I’m Boycotting the American Studies Association”, The Jewish Week (27 December 2013), 20.

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“The edition of these rabbinic texts is a truly titanic task for scholars who intend to establish the pure, original text”

A first conclusion is that the principle of the oral Torah let the rabbis have full control over the transmission and actualization of texts considered important for the community. If the rabbis were not afraid to change the text of the written Torah, if possible, that did not deter them either from expurgating every other text not in agreement with their teaching. Yet, rabbinic Judaism lacked a central authority and an orthodoxy capable of suppressing other opinions. We are facing a most diverse approach by the rabbis to the written and oral Torah, which also explains the ocean of variant readings in the manuscripts and of tractates being interlaced with the most divergent literary forms of transmission down to the period of authored literature in the Middle Ages. The edition of these texts is therefore a truly titanic task for scholars who intend to establish the pure, original text. For the word “origin” is not identical with the idea of a tradition born in the world of authority, and authority can also be a plural attribute of a tradition over the course of the time. And that is, likewise, the premise to understand the contemporary discussion on text redaction.

Giuseppe Veltri, “From The Best Text To The Pragmatic Edition: On Editing Rabbinic Texts”, in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martínez, Didier Pollefeyt, Peter Tomson (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2010), 71.

“There has been a change in the history of scholarship on text editing and textual commentary”

…there has been a change in the history of scholarship on text editing and textual commentary. The principle of searching for, creating or re-creating the best possible text, re-covering it, has been supplanted by the quest for the original text by criticizing, analyzing, and commenting on the manuscript tradition. The “original text”, reconstructed by intuition, reflection, and supposition, became the hypothetical beginning of the tradition andlor of the author’s intention. The search for the original text was also the prime question in the final decades of the 20th century and will doubtless also concern us in the future.

Giuseppe Veltri, “From The Best Text To The Pragmatic Edition: On Editing Rabbinic Texts”, in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martínez, Didier Pollefeyt, Peter Tomson (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2010), 64.

“Editing a text belongs to the oldest of scholarly activities”

Editing a text belongs to the oldest of scholarly activities, since scholarship functions not only through the modality of transmission by memorization, but also by writing down and publishing ideas, traditions and useful texts. This was the activity of ancient libraries, which were privileged centres of learning, teaching and research, academies comparable to modern universities and research centres. The first edition of Homer’s verse in the Alexandrian library offered clear-cut criteria to scholarship in defining what is an author’s reading and what can be deemed spurious text. The same or similar criteria were adopted when producing the Christian edition of the Bible in Origen’s Hexapla and in editions made in Christian medieval centres like abbeys, monasteries and church libraries. The humanist renaissance of ancient literature was nothing but a philological movement of editing and translating texts and commenting on them. Finally, German enlightened research on Greek, Roman, and subsequently “Oriental” literature started by putting together criteria and rules to render ancient texts readable for contemporary audiences.

Giuseppe Veltri, “From The Best Text To The Pragmatic Edition: On Editing Rabbinic Texts”, in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martínez, Didier Pollefeyt, Peter Tomson (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2010), 63.

The edition of ancient, medieval, and, on occasion, modern texts is a titanic task

The edition of ancient, medieval, and, on occasion, modern texts is a titanic task. Provided the text was produced by one author, the main question is whether to record all the different versions of the textual creation, if extant, or to single out the “original” text seen either as the absolute beginning of the creative process or its final redaction. In regard to the final redaction by the author, it is necessary to distinguish between his/her former manuscript and the corrections of the text in print and after first print.

Giuseppe Veltri, “From The Best Text To The Pragmatic Edition: On Editing Rabbinic Texts”, in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martínez, Didier Pollefeyt, Peter Tomson (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2010), 64.