“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.

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