Friday, September 09, 2005

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA IN THE NEWS (but spelled as "pseudoepigrapha"): Professor Avigdor Shinan reviews Howard Schwartz's Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism for Ha'aretz. Excerpt:
This legend, translated more or less literally from the Aramaic, is one of 670 stories collected by the author in a hefty volume of what he calls "Jewish mythology," i.e., an impressive anthology of oral traditions about God and the creation of the world, the evolution of heaven and hell, the holy tongue and sacred time, saints and the Holy Land, exile and redemption.

The author is a professor of English literature at the University of Missouri in St. Louis who has done extensive research in the subject of Jewish folk literature. In this book, he cites materials culled from every branch of Jewish literature, from the Bible and pseudoepigrapha,the Talmud, the Midrash and ancient mystical lore, kabbalistic writings, the literature and thought of the Middle Ages, Jewish legal texts, memoirs, Hasidic legends of the last few generations, and the ethnic folktales of different Jewish communities. In particular, he hasdrawn on the Israel Folktale Archive (IFA) at the University of Haifa, founded in honor of Prof. Dov Noy.

Translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish (sometimes for the first time), the stories are sorted into 11 chapters, accompanied by commentary, analysis and references to previous research (mostly by scholars writing in languages other than Hebrew). The 17-page bibliography is a testimony in itself to the tremendous effort invested in the tracking down the material, not to mention organizing, translating, annotating and compiling footnotes.

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