Wednesday, June 07, 2023

What did the Talmudic rabbis actually say about the Bible?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: How the Rabbis Taught the Jews (Not) to Read the Bible (Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg).
The Closed Book:
How the Rabbis Taught the Jews (Not) to Read the Bible

Princeton University Press, 2023.

... But if we survey the sorts of things that the authors of the Mishnah, Talmuds and Midrash actually said about the Hebrew Bible, a very different vision of the rabbinic relationship to the Bible emerges. While the early rabbinic authorities theoretically established the newly canonized Hebrew Bible as a central pillar of Jewish life, many early rabbinic statements about the biblical text and its status were ambivalent at best. In other words, we find that many early rabbinic authorities liked the idea of the Bible but were less enthusiastic about the actual biblical text itself.

It is not that the early rabbinic authorities were critical of the Hebrew Bible the way that modern scholars are (text)critical of the Bible: as an amalgamated and historical text definitively shaped by human hands. Indeed, it isn’t clear that early rabbinic authorities saw anything wrong with the textual record of their written revelation at all. But The Closed Book argues that many early rabbis had a much more capacious and flexible vision of the Sinaitic revelation and its biblical products than modern descriptions of these late ancient thinkers might suggest. ...

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