Questions any student editing texts needs to ask oneself….

…the first question a student of philology should answer is whether a manuscript edition can be achieved without interpreting the text itself.

…a second question to be answered by our virtual student of text editing is the following: should we construct/re-construct a text every time after having interpreted it? The question is not so far off the mark as it might seem to be at first glance. Looking at the edition of fragments of lost works, every scholar would agree that every further interpretation presupposes a new edition….

A third question should, therefore, be addressed by the virtual student of text editions: is the original text what we imagine as being such, or, perhaps, rather the beginning of a tradition or, indeed, both?

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), 65, 66, 67.

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“the main purpose of synoptic comparisons of rabbinic texts is to determine which elements are shared and which are different”

As in the case of synoptic parallels between the gospels, the main purpose of synoptic comparisons of rabbinic texts is to determine which elements are shared and which are different. The differences may either be features of the different pre-redactional versions, or they may be editorial. They are likely to be editorial if they fit – or even replicate – the subject matter, formulation, structure, ideology of the surrounding context into which the tradition was integrated. If there is no neat transition between the tradition and its context, that is, if there is no shared formulation and the purpose and theme of the tradition seem to differ from the context, editorial changes cannot be detected.

Catherine Hezser, “Form-Criticism of Rabbinic Literature”, in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martinez, Dider Pollefeyt and Peter J. Tomson (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2010), 105.

“it is not misplaced to argue that all the great undertakings in the nineteenth century to write a clear and objective account of Israelite-Jewish history were over-ambitious”

In retrospect, it is not misplaced to argue that all the great undertakings in the nineteenth century to write a clear and objective account of Israelite-Jewish history were over-ambitious. At that time, much too little information existed regarding the political, cultural and religious life of the ancient Near East in which the Bible had arisen. The very aim of writing of biblical personalities as flesh and blood characters who had participated in a real history was fraught by the great lack of knowledge about the world in which they lived and its achievements. The very immensity of the range of discovery in the field of biblical archaeology in the present century shows how seriously handicapped all such writers were before this time. Inevitably, the tendency was to use the biblical material that was available and to create a background that was, in no small part, a construction of a sympathetic imagination. The materials simply were not available to do otherwise. All the great pioneer figures, therefore, including Graetz, had largely to work from the Bible itself as their only substantial source. In doing so, it was inevitable that they should portray that background as more primitive, more pagan and more crudely unethical than in reality it appears to have been. Their historical judgement and evaluations, therefore, could serve only partially as a critique and reappraisal of the biblical evidence. More often than not, they simply served to reflect the attitude of the Bible itself. Yet by pioneering the task as they did, all these historians have left us an important legacy of scholarship.

R.E. Clements, “Heinrich Graetz as Biblical Historian and Religious Apologist” in Interpreting the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honour of E.I.J. Rosenthal, eds. J.A. Emerton and Stefan C. Reif (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 54.

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“the poetics of the “study-hall” and pedagogy must contribute more to our understanding of orality”

What is significant for orality studies as well as the mutual understanding of the production of the Bavli and Pahlavi legal literature is that the discursive elements of these corpora do not appear to originate in the silence of the scriptorium, rather in the din of the rabbinic house of study and the Hērbedestān – the Zoroastrian school of priestly studies. While scholars have focused on the role of performance or dramatics in their research of oral transmission, this paper suggests that the poetics of the “study-hall” and pedagogy must contribute more to our understanding of orality.

Shai Secunda, “The Sasanian ‘<i>Stam</i>’: Orality and the Composition of Babylonian Rabbinic and Zoroastrian Legal Literature” in <i>The Talmud in Its Iranian Context</i>, eds. Carol Bakhos and M. Rahim Shayegan (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 160.

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“the structuralist approach to literary texts has been replaced by the post-modern approach…”

In recent years, the structuralist approach to literary texts has been replaced by the post-modern approach which focuses on intertextuality and indeterminacy. Such approaches have been applied to midrash, but have not been sufficiently exploited in the study of legal texts. In addition, rabbinic legal literature and hermeneutics may be compared with the forms and rhetorics of Graeco-Roman and other Ancient Near Eastern legal traditions in order to determine shared forms and styles.

Catherine Hezser, “Form-Criticism of Rabbinic Literature”, in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martinez, Dider Pollefeyt and Peter J. Tomson (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2010), 104.

Differences between Transmissional Changes and Redactional Changes

Transmissional changes enter the text without the transmitter’s awareness. In contrast, redactional changes are consciously made for the sake of improving the text, either contextually or aesthetically. Transmissional changes are understandable, though unpredictable. They are mechanical changes, made unwittingly by the transmitter. A person, for instance, may genuinely think he heard the word “can” and transmit it that way, whereas in fact the word “can’t” was said. Not all mechanical changes are a result of faulty hearing; they may also result from faulty speech. The speaker may think he said “can’t,” but the word he actually spoke was “can.” Transmissional changes are simply a part of human susceptibility to error. Redactional changes, on the other hand, are made purposefully by the redactors. When the purpose of these changes is to improve content or correct defects, the question arises: who is responsible for these defects? Did the original authors release defective texts? This is most unlikely; more plausibly, the texts became defective during the interval between the time of the authors and the time of the redactors.

David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Cambridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1986), 1.

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One of the successes of literary-critical scholarship on the midrashic literature

One of the successes of literary-critical scholarship on the midrashic literature has been the determination of a plausible relative chronology of the documents, based strictly on internal literary criteria (e.g., use of Hebrew vs. Palestinian Aramaic; amount of Greek and Latin employed; nature and frequency of attributions; dependence on, or literary affinity with, other documents). Documents deemed to be earlier bear stylistic affinities with the Palestinian Talmud, use a fair amount of Galilean Aramaic and Greek and tend to attribute materials to a variety of Palestinian Amoraim mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud. Documents deemed to be later are mostly in Hebrew, use little Aramaic and Greek, and contain fewer attributions (many of which are suspect).

Richard S. Sarason, “Toward a New Agendum for the Study of Rabbinic Midrashic Literature” in Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Literature in Memory of Joseph Heinemann, eds. Jakob J. Petuchowski and Ezra Fleischer (Jerusalem & Cincinnati: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University and Hebrew Union College Press, 1981), 59, n.12.

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Heinrich Graetz’s work appears to have been quite peculiarly and unfairly ignored by Christian scholars

…the work of Heinrich Graetz appears to have been quite peculiarly and unfairly ignored by Christian scholars, and not taken into account in the effort to attain some balanced assessment of the gains and losses of the historical movement in the study of biblical history. He must surely be rescued from the unjust accusation of being “uncritical”. From a Christian perspective, he appears rather in the nature of a Jewish apologist, but against this must certainly be set the fact that the school of historical interpretation that took its lead from Wellhausen has appeared to be decidedly anti-Jewish. On this score alone, it is obviously of the greatest importance to scholarship to avoid any confusion between historiographic method and theological evaluation.

R.E. Clements, “Heinrich Graetz as Biblical Historian and Religious Apologist” in Interpreting the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honour of E.I.J. Rosenthal, eds. J.A. Emerton and Stefan C. Reif (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 53.

The work of Heinrich Graetz appears to have been quite peculiarly and unfairly ignored by Christian scholars

What is clear, however, is that the work of Heinrich Graetz appears to have been quite peculiarly and unfairly ignored by Christian scholars, and not taken into account in the effort to attain some balanced assessment of the gains and losses of the historical movement in the study of biblical history. He must surely be rescued from the unjust accusation of being “uncritical”. From a Christian perspective, he appears rather in the nature of a Jewish apologist, but against this must certainly be set the fact that the school of historical interpretation that took its lead from Wellhausen has appeared to be decidedly anti-Jewish. On this score alone, it is obviously of the greatest importance to scholarship to avoid avoid any confusion between historiographic method and theological evaluation.

R.E. Clements, “Heinrich Graetz as Biblical Historian and Religious Apologist” in Interpreting the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honour of E.I.J. Rosenthal, eds. J.A. Emerton and Stefan C. Reif (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 53.