Ben Chayim takes a commission from Daniel Bomburgi, through the auspices of Rav Chayim Alton, to edit and copyedit his printings. Recognizing the difficulty of the task, he relies on two or three manuscripts to make sure that the printing is correct. After some time his boss decided to print the Tanach along with the Aramaic translations, Masorah notes, writing/pronunciation variations, with an appendix for the Masorah. Ben Chayim, especially excited about the codification of the Massoretic notes, which had fallen into disuse, applied himself full-force to the task.
Issues to be deal with in the introduction:
· The origin of the writing/pronunciation variations
· Inconsistencies between Massoretic notes/texts and Talmudic citations of scriptures
· Refute the accusations of intentional scriptural alterations
· Write a user’s guide to the Masorah notes as codified by Ben Chayim
In the opinion of the Ephodi (Rav Yitzchak ben Moshe HaLevi—1360-1412, chapter 6 of his Grammar) and the Radak (1160-c. 1235), i.e. Ezra and the Anshei Kinesset Hagedolah, upon returning from the exile found variant texts. In correcting them, based on majority readings, they introduced the Massoretic texts and the Kri/Ktiv for every verse where there is confusion as to the correct version.
Don Yitzchak Abarbabel takes issue with this opinion and introduces another, as follows.
· He is uncomfortable with the idea that the Holy writings had entered such a state of disrepair, when we believe in the perfection of the Torah text (Eric Levy: See Rambam, Ikkar 8.)
· The Rabbis derive legal opinions from the kri/ketiv variations, so how can they be reflections of errors? (Eric Levy: Of course this gets into the whole issue of Asmachtas.)
· Why didn’t Ezra just omit the Ktiv’s. In fact he leaves the “incorrect version” in the body of the text itself, marginalizing the “correct” version. This is counterintuitive to Ezra’s goal as stated.
· That the kri/ktiv are a sign of scribal errors is confounded by the consistency of the changes for specific word forms, i.e. the same words are changed in the same way throughout. “Na’ar changed to Na’arah” 22 times in the Torah, Oflim to Techorim.
Instead the Abarbanel (Intro to Yirmiyahu) proffers his own theory that the written (ktiv) variation is as the prophet/editor/redactor wrote it, and Ezra decided that the pronounced (kri) variation is what the prophet/editor/redactor should have written (ŠĤV as opposed to ŠGL), or meant to write (N’R to N’RH). This original language, being sanctified, must not be removed, but the “coorect” word must be read for an appropriate understanding. Ezra’s purpose, therefore, can be said to be exegetical.
Ben Chayim agrees with Abarbanel that the Radak and the Ephodi are incorrect, and also agrees with him that Ezra received perfect scrolls. But that’s about all he aggrees with. He states that the opinion as to the origin of Kri and Ktiv can be found in, and must be baded on Chazal in the Talmud, which states in Nedarim 37b that the Kri/Ktiv variations were passed down to Moshe from Sinai, and lists them. (Eric Levy: This is one opinion; that of Rav Yitzchak. While there is no dissenting opinion, it is not clear that others would agree with him. The preceding Rabbi, which ultimately cites Rav as a source delineates the various scriptural elements: scripture itself, translations, sentence divisions, and either cantillations or Messorah [?]. Additionally, how can there be a Sainai based law for books written well after Sinia, including exilic works like Daniel and Ezekiel?). (Ben Chayim notes here that the Talmud contains a variant that the [his?] Massoretic texts do not.) Thus proving that kri/ktiv was given to Moshe, and Ezra did not introduce them. Additionally, Megilla 25b explicitly states that variations such as ŠĤV as opposed to ŠGL are given since the original word is foul. Also, Ben Chayim simply cannot accept the idea that the prophets were not orthographic experts and that Abarvanel knows Hebrew better than they did. (Eric Levy: Although what the Abarvanel is saying is that Ezra was more expert in getting across meaning in a written format.) Ben Chaytim surmises that Abarvanel was not familiar with the Gemara (! and takes a shot at the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim, as well!!).
Ben Chayim must deal with the lack of comprehensiveness of the Kri/Ktiv list in the Talmud and in Mesechet Sofrim, but rejects the possibility that the Abarvanel is right about any that were not explicitly listed by our sages. He states that Ezra should have thrown away any variations (based on the Radak’s opinion) or should have left the version written by the had of God (the Ktiv) primary, marginalizing Ezra’s variation. Ben Chayim states that since Mesechet Sofrim lists only three variations, these were the only three.
having hinted at the discrepancy in the Kri/ketiv list found in Nedarim (which contains one that the Messoretic notes—available to Ben Chayim—do not), Ben Chayim tackles the issue of inconstancies between the Mesorah and the Talmud. He points out the following inconsistencies:
· Niddah 33a states that Vayikra 15:10 says וְהַנּשֵׂא when, as Tosafot points out, our Mesorah shows וְהַנּוֹשֵׂא . Tosafot concludes that there are discrepancies, as seen in Shabbat 55b. (Eric Levy: The Vilna Talmud places the entire section nin parenthesis, and gives no source for the verse.)
· Shabbat 55b states מַעֲבִירִם (so Vilna. Ben Chayim has מַעֲבִרִם) for I Samuel 2:24 while our Mesorah has מַעֲבִרִים. Rashi is amazed at the lack of consitancy and the lack of Gramatical correctness and offers that the Gemara is an error and should be removed. Tosafot cites a problem in Yerushalmi, and states again that there are inconsistencies between Talmud and Mesorah. Ben Chayim resolves the Yeshalmi by explaining the alteration of the biblical text in support of its stated homily regarding Samson.
Ben Chayim goes on to be uncomfortable with Rashi’s Talmudic deletion since other where in the Talmud, Rashi accepts the Rabbinic variation over the Massoretic. So:
· הַפִּילַגְשִׁם.(Rabbinic, Rashi) vs. הַפִּילַגְשִׁים (Massoretic) in Genesis 25:6
(Massoretic, Devarim 6:8.)
(Rashi’s commentary on the verse, so Ben Chayim.
Our Rashi matches the Massoretic) vs.מְזוֻזוֹת
34a). (Eric Levy:
Ginsberg’s translation is just a mess here, using the incorrect Hebrew forms.
It’s hard to say what
the originaltext was since the rabbinic
probably based on Tosafots’ gloss (cited by Ginsberg) but Rashi’s version of
the gemara, like Tosafots’, probably matched the Massorah.)
(Eric Levy: Other examples I’ll get to…)
Ben Chayim also notes that Rashi and Rav Saadya Geon cite spellings that are at variance from the Messorah. He then (p. 66) takes up the question of: When there is a discrepancy between Rabbinic and Massoretic spellings, whom should we follow when writing out sefarim? On one hand, we follow the Talmud on issues of religious practice. On the other hand we see Rashi and the Tosafists siding with the Masorah over the Talmud. Based on the fact that the Rishonim, who wrote later than the Amoraim, follow the Massorah, Ben Chayim decides that we should as well.
Ben Chayim acknowledges the heretic’s charge (it’s interesting to note the Meshumad Ginsburg defent, and even iconify the heretic to which Ben Chaim—not yet a Meshuad!—refers) that our scribes intentiaannly altered the text. His first response is to say that “Ittur” (of the “Vav”s) means to remove that which was erroneously put in, i.e. to fix or restore. Since this does not stp the charges, the best argument is “why would one who his trying to affect an change admit that he made the change, even enumerating the changes, thereby defeating his original purpose? Regarding other changes, such as pleasant language and inappropriate anthropomorphism, which are more difficut to explain as restoration, either we say that the changes themselves were “approved” Moshe Mi Sinai, or that in any event, none of the listed changes support what the Heretics wish to support. (Eric Levy: I think he’s talking about Christilogical references here, but I’m not sure.)
Ben Chayim (p. 72) cites a case by Yibbum where if it were not for the Massorah listing the number of times a phrase appears in scriptures we would have lost a reading. Ben Chayim mentions other imperitive information supplied by the Massoretes: word order, plene and defective spelling, vocalization, text locations help us understand Medrashim (p.74-75) as well as religious practice. He states that every time a word count is cited, some “great purpose” is intended. (Eric Levy: Although I believe we now belive that the greatest importance was quality control, which is of no small import.)
With all this in mind, he collected all the Masoretic notes that he could find, placing them in-line as well as in a Mesora Finalis, a compendium at the back of the Bible. Ben Chayim had Bomberg scour the lands for Massoretic texts (see Chayim Kohen’s introduction to “Mikro’ot Gedolot: Haketer”, regarding the dubious quality of the manuscripts available to Ben Chayim) . The bad news: the more texts he found the more confusion and conflicting information was to found from one manuscript’s notes to another. Orthographic errors, misplacements of notes, breaks in notes due to formatting concerns, and other issues plagued their quality.
In response, Ben Chayim organized the notes per verse, in order to systematically check the accuracy and determine the correctness of each documents’ notes. Contractions and omission were reinserted based on other documents. As for conflicting opinions, they were placed in margins (Mesora Marginalis), and Ben Chaytim determined which of the versions was correct based on research In all the documents. Sometimes, he could not determine the truth, and left the uncertainty.
Ben Chayim writes in gratitude to a Concordance compiled by Rav Isaac Nathan, without which his work would have been impossible. Regarding his approach to Massoretic notes, Ben Chayim explains:
· Verse lists (e.g. word found 22 times in…) Will only be blaced in the first occurance. Other occurances will point the reader to the location of the original list.
· All Masorah Magna notes have been commended into a Mesorah finalis, in alphabetical order.
· Some Masorah Magna notes have been printed only in the finales due to lack of space in the margins. To make sure trhat one knows that there exists a Massoretic note, the finalis contains the note under the root word. The Masorah in the margin will reference the Mesorah finalis
The application of Biblical Commentary in Northern France underwent a
significant change during the second half of the 11th century, both in regards
to the intensity and scope of its works and well as in the exegetical style.
Exegetes included Rav Menachem ben Chalbo, Rashi, Rav Yosef Kara, Rashbam, Rav
Shemaya, and Rav Prigoros. A new school, the Pshat School, was founded, that
devoted its soul to the new path, i.e. the methodological distinction between
Pshat and Drash as two foundations for approaching the text, with Pshat as the
main—and even the only—approach.
The Pshat approach persisted through the second half of the 12th century, and can be found in the works of Rav Eliezer Balaganzy (Beaugency), Rav Yoseph Bechor Shor, and the students of Rav Yosef Kara. But like its quick bloom, so follows its quick disappearance as early as the end of the 12th century.
It is possible to separate the scholars investigating this occurrence into two groups: those that see the emergence of the Pshat School as an internal development, and those who tie it to developments in the surrounding Christian environment. The former approach is taken by M. Segel in his "Parshanut Hamikra", who sees the Pshat School developing out of the analytical approach applied to Talmud study during that time, and preceding it. Similarly, A M Lipshitz ("Rashi", pp. 156-157, 165), while recognizing the influence of the religious debates with the Christians, points mainly to influence by the earlier Masoretic schools in Israel. However, these opinions remain guesswork
On the other side, Y Ba'ar ("Rashi and the historical perspective", p.325) says that the creations of Rashi in this area derive from the desire to stand against Christian propaganda and to lend support to a weakened Jewish standing. It is possible to theorize that Rashi wrote some of his commentaries not only to explain the written text, but also to educate and support his generation in their time of troubles. His commentary on Tehillim alters the book onto a new work, and contains many references to the troubles of 1096 (the 1st Crusade). However, hanging Rashi's involvement ONLY on this factor seems too far reaching an estimation.
Elazar Twito ("Rashbam" pp. 73-74) has a similar approach, stating that Rashbam was influenced by two factors: both the aforementioned Christian-Jewish debates, and the 12th century Renaissance. It seems that Twito is correct; however, one should add a third factor affect the development of the Pshat School, as will be discussed further.
Biblical Exegesis in Germany and Northern France Prior to Rashi
Scholars of the 10th and 11th centuries display a high level of Tanach knowledge. It is proper to mention Rav Meshulem bar Rav Klonimus, a leader of the Jewish community in Northern Italy in the latter half of the 10th century, who greatly influenced the first scholars of Ashkenaz. In his commentary on Mishna Avot, he relies on pesukim and often expounds on them. At this time, scholars in Northern France are also making greater use of biblical citations in their written works. Rav Y Tov Elem, the son of Rav Aliyahu ben Rav Menachem was doing likewise on Provance. The seminary in Narbana was also involved in Biblical studies. Jews in Northern France were influenced by these spiritual developments in Germany, where an early testimony of Biblical study can be ties to Rabbeinu Gershom Me'or Hagolah, who featured textual citations in his Halachik rulings. Rashi cites him in his Biblical commentary. The first testimony of Bible being taught in a Yeshiva is under Rav Ya'akov ben Yakar Ish MiGentza (mid 11th century)
With the he study of Bible taking an ever-expanding position, the question is: when did this new approach begin? The students of Rabbeinu Gershom Me'or Hagolah are already demonstrating a focus on the language of the Bible. Rav Eliezer Hagadol used Biblical citations to help aid in understanding Talmud language. Rav Yaakov ben Rav Yakar, a friend of Rav Eliezer HaGadol is described the "teacher of Rashi," and remnants if this works on Bible point to an exegetical approach close to Pshat. There is no doubt that Rashi often quotes Rav Yaakov ben Rav Yakar, without citing him by name. In some places, Rashi says: "So I heard;" however, it is possible that this is Rashi's students work inserted into Rashi's commentary.
In the seminary of Wormaiza, Rav Yitzchak HaLevi wrote a commentary on verses that were based on Pshat. There, in the latter quarter of the 11th century a major focus was placed on biblical studies, and perhaps greater that the focus of the Magentza seminary. Rav Meir ber RavYitzchak, the cantor in Wormaiza wrote commentaries to Tanach, and Rav Klonomus of Rome, who sojourned in Wormaiza in the 1070s also played a key role in the focus on Biblical studies.
As a rule, it is impossible to talk of an ex-nihilo invention of the Exegetical approach of Pshat, but rather its roots can be found in Germany during the time that Rashi learned there.
What about the situation (non-northern) France? Its geographical closeness to Spain includes a connection between scholars from both places. Rav Menachem bar Rav Chalbo learned Torah from one of the great scholars in Provance. Rav Menachem bar Rav Chalbo had a great influence, mainly on Rav Yosef Kara, and it can be determined that that latter was in the presence of the former (??? and learned Pshat approaches from him???). In fact, the commentary of Rashi, rav Shemaya, RY Kara, and Rashbam are linked to Rav Menachem. Also, the books of Donesh ben Labret and Menachem ben Saruk were owned by Rav Menachem's nephew: Rav Yoseph Kara, as well as by Rashi. Shouldn't we assume that Rav Menachem also had access to these works? Additionally, the fact that RY Tov Elem and Rav Eliyahu ben Menachem, working in Northern France at this time, were of Spanish lineage, supports the idea of Spanish influence. Additionally, Rashi even cites a Rav Menachem as quoting a Rav Azarya, (further moving back the origin of the Pshat School).
Rashi recognized these two schools of exegesis, Pshat and Drash. The testimony of Rashbam regarding his disputes on the matter with Rashi, his grandfather, shows us an increasing awareness of the Pshat School. In fact, Rashi uses—in his commentary—the commentary of Rav Yosef Kara, Rashbam, and Rav Shmaya. The words of Rashbam "On the ‘Pashtut’ that is being introduced everyday" talks explicitly of the new Pshat School.
Opposition to the Pshat School
Did every Jewish scholar accept the commentary of the Pshat-tites. It is impossible to believe that the Pshat commentators worked without a "customer market." (Eric Levy: I'm not sure why this is so hard to believe. How often does modern scholarship create volumes of writings that will read only by other scholars?) However, it can be shown that not all scholars accepted the Pshat approach. RY Kara writes: "With this you can push of those who are irksome...for anyone who does not know the Pshuto of the text, and leans towards Midrashic interpretation, is like a man drowning in a river who, from the depths of the water, reaches out for anything that will save him." (Eric Levy: Loose translation: mine. Read the rest of the quote for a better indication of Jewish Scholarly resistance to the Pshat approach.)
It appears that even the Pshat School recognized that the Talmudic statement that “all verses must be understood within their connection/literal meaning” does not negate the Midrashic interpretation. (See Livni, "Pshat and Drash" pp. 52-54.) Rashi states this explicitly when he says" And the Rabbis Drashed what they Drashed" which can be understood as an apology for Rashi's ignoring the interpretation of the Sages.
To sum up, three intersecting influences affected the development of the Pshat School in the second half of the 11th century: a) Spanish influence, b) 12th century Renaissance, and c) the Jewish-Christian polemic.
The Piyyutim of RY Tov Elem and Rav Eliyahu HaZaken were influenced by the works of Spanish Paytanim who lived in their time. It seems likely that they met with them face to face. Rav Eliyahu traveled often, and the main rout from France to the East at that time went through Spain. Knowledge of Spanish scholarship, be it direct or through the Provance intermediary, can be shown.
Rashi uses the works of Menachem ben Saruk and Donash ben Labret. R Y Kara is often influenced by Donash, specifically regarding his "rational" approach. Rav Shemaya explicitly mentions Spanish sources as well as the works of Rav Yehuda ben Koresh. Rashbam also cites Spanish sources (Shemot 23:24, Devarim 7:14, Devarim 18:11.) A direct connection can be demonstrated in the works of Rav Yoseph Bechor Shor in the second half of the 12th century. R Y Kara also cites the exegesis of a Spanish scholar named Rav Ovadia bar Rav Shmuel.
The mental block found in Ashkenaz regarding outside influence did not exist in their French brothers.
The Effect of 12th Century European Renaissance and European Culture.
France was a major center in the Rational, Intellectual developments. Searches for laws of nature begin then. Studies become critical and independent within the Biblical exegetical schools. This can especially be seen in the monastery (?) of Saint Victor in Paris, which put a major stress on textual analysis of scriptures.
Interaction, economic as well as cultural and social, existed between the Christian and Jewish communities. As a result of these connections, each community became aware of the intellectual developments of the other, especially regarding Biblical exegesis. It has already been proven (Smalley, chapters 3-4) that Jewish exegesis greatly influenced Christian exegesis.
The similarity of these developments is so great that they cannot be viewed as coincidental, specifically regarding:
· distancing from the homiletic interpretation and the focus on the Pshat;
· including philology and textual deconstruction and analysis of the scriptures;
· a critical approach to the text
· an attempt to find confluence between the text and the then-current understanding of the natural world (Derech Eretz)
· attempts to explain miracles in light of nature; and,
· a focus on giving reasons to the commandments.
Rashbam gives reasons for commandments, stating that his reasons should be used explicitly as answers to the "Minim" (e.g. Tumah on wet food, not slaughtering of an animal mother and kid on the same day, and the mixing of certain species—Kilayim).
The Effect of Jewish-Christian Polemic
Polemics begin as early as the 9th century. Agubard M'Leon authors complaints against Jews and "their second-class religion" in his Der Superstitionibus Judaicis. He forces Jews to listen to Christian preaching, and eventually Jews are forced (in 937) by Pop Leo VII to allow Christian preachers into their Shuls. Guides are written by Patrus Domianus (2nd half 11th century) for use in polemics.
Rashi writes how to combat the polemic in his commentary, but it is removed in the printed versions. Manuscripts contain the original entries. For instance, Rashi states that the troublesome verse in Tehilla 2 is referring to King David, but in the manuscript writes that while Chazal interpret it as referring to the King Messiah, due to the Minim it is best to stick to the King David interpretation. Tens of such examples can be found in Rashi's Bible commentary, many of which were eliminated for fear of censorship. These changes in Rashi's approach are likely to have begun after the decrees of 1096.
Rashbam, as well, demonstrates the influence of combating Christian polemics, for use by a Jew in a religious argument with Christians. Sometimes he explicitly states: Based in the simple meaning of the text and as an answer to Minim." His attempt to avoid finding fault with the forefathers can also be seen as a result of the polemic.
RY Kara's commentary is even more influenced by the anti-Jewish polemic, although he avoids mentioning it explicitly. It seems that he was concerned about a Christian backlash or censorship. R Y Kara's anti polemic-driven commentary can be found in the Lutzki 778 manuscript where he writes "be quick/fluent in you response to XXXXX (word erased) (Eric Levy: See rest of quote regarding the virgin birth nonsense.) Sometimes, he is so concerned about the Christians that he deviates from the simple understanding of a text in order to distance it as much as possible from the Christological interpretation (e.g. Yirmiyahu 11:2-3 on the old/new covenant; also, Amos 5:2). He also places stress wherever punishment is followed by mercy and forgiveness, arguing against the permanent excision of the Jewish-God relationship.
Assuming the best of our Forefathers' Actions
The affect of the Jewish Christian Polemic in biblical exegesis in France finds expression in the tendency to find no fault with the actions of our Forefathers. This is particularly true in Rav Y Bechor Shor's commentary. At the time, many Christian guides and works were written about the faults in Jewish ancestry. "Yaakov was a thief, a usurer, interest charger, liar and trickster with Laban, he went to Gehenom (Eric Levy: Ya'akov's words after he hears of Yosef's "death"). The children of Yaakov murdered their allies, Moshe was a sinner and pirate, Shmuel went to Hell, Avraham was full of doubts even by the Akeidat Yitzchak (which is seen of Christian Messianic terms). In response to this, Jewish commentary creates interpretations to steer away and combat these charges, sometimes at the expense of Peshat.
Shir Hashirim is interpreted a dispute between the Jews (right) and the Nations (wrong). Bechor Shor (or perhaps his students) fights against the trinity interpretation of Shema (Eric Levy: strikes me as a little paranoid, bit I wasn't there.)
Sanctifying Gods Name
As a result of the times and the life-sacrifices made in 1096, an emphasis is placed by the commentaries on "Kidush Hashem." This can be seen in Rav Yaakov HaLevi's interpretation of the Retzeh blessing in the Shmoneh Esreah. "Ishei Yisrael" is those humans who sacrificed their lives.
Many Jews, including the children of prominent Rabbis were converting. The fear was ever-present.
Three factors caused the generation of the Pshat school in the second half of the 11th century Northern France:
1. Spanish influence
While the last has been stressed in this article, the first two are probably the primary causes.
As quickly as the Pshat School rose, so too did it set. This appears to be caused by two factors:
1. The setting of the Renaissance
2. Downgrading of the Jewish social status in Europe.
While intellectuals still followed their words, most people returned to the more spiritual interpretations as can be seen by the preference to Rashi's commentaries.
Peshat and Drash are two poles of a single continuum where one end favors the text and the other end favors the exegete who interacts with the text. The Pashtan transforms himself and his knowledge into a tool for extracting the true meaning of the text, while the Darshan enriches himself with the information he brings to the exegesis. The former stresses objectivity, the latter creativity. The former asks what the text precisely say, and the latter asks what lesson is to be derived from it.
Ibn Ezra characterized Peshat as needing to be true to both the grammar/language as well as the limits of logical and reason. While it is true that philological rules change, as well as logical parameters, and what was once accepted Peshat may later be judged to be Drash, the rules that set apart the Pashtan and the Darshan are clear. Of course, diminishing the message if Peshat’s weakness. The Darshan is always part of the creative process, and will loosen the structures of language and logic to allow this creativity. Heinemann refers to this as “creative philology” and “creative historiography,” daring sometimes to even “rewrite scripture” (e.g. “Do not read X but rather Y.”)
Drash is not Peshat that has missed its mark, and labeling an interpretation Peshat does not mean it is correct. Each method has it’s own “truth-standard” by which it is judged.
E. M. Lifshitz states that Drash is a necessary part of any interpretation of legal texts. Peshat is too limiting since it only takes into account a single meaning within its given context. Legal interpretation requires that a law be freed from its local setting so that it can be applied to other situations, conforming to other laws and their previous interpretations. A judge reviewing the application of a law does not take the actual Peshat into account, but sees how the current interpretation is made.
Rashi’s interpretations—employing non-rigorous Peshat with reasonable Drash—provide a wealth of feeling and thought over strict Peshat exegetes. That Rashi’s commentary is pre-eminent attests to the great education and spiritual significance that people apply the Drashot that he cites. The conflict between Dras and Peshat is well expressed by Luzzato’s remark on Yishayahu 5:18: “This is a fine and true lesson, but it is not what the verse means.”
Peshat on the other hand is very constraining. While there is a principal of 70 facets to Torah, purist Peshat exegetes reject the exegetical truth of Drash, believing they are only used as prooftexts to established Halachik tradition. The Rashbam is exceptional in his ability to adhere unfailingly to Peshat while believing that the Peshat interpretation will not negate the Midrashic interpretation needed for establishing legal practice.
Since the Peshat relies on reason to understand the text, it intensifies the realism in which he understands the biblical Narrative, personalities, and events, comparing them to his own experiences. In Rashbam’s terminology: it is the need for “expertise in how people conduct themselves.” This creates a danger of hyper realism, which reduces biblical personalities and events to our own level, and blurs the greatness of the figures and the sublime situations they found themselves in. The golden mean between over idealization and hyper-realism is not always apparent. On the other hand, where the Pashtan can try to render the Biblical figures in a righteous light, they must often sacrifice their own strictures regarding textual interpretation.
While there clearly problems in the Peshat approach initiated in the middle ages, the scientific modern Peshat approach is even more problematic. In modern times, Peshat preeminence has passed to Christian scholars, which, abandoned by us, is often hostile to Israel and Judaism, both in approach and conclusions to the “Old” Testament. Yehazkel Kaufman alerted Jews to the danger and we began to pick up the Peshat exegesis, but its focus was combating the Christian Bible Scholarship, rather than becoming a continuation of classical Jewish Peshat exegesis. This revival shines in areas of philology, literary knowledge, and methodological refinement. However, the method becomes an end in of itself, pushing the text aside. While the critical approach invites positive inquiry, the inquiry can turn into a curse when it becomes hyper critical, and religious dogma is simply replaced by the dogma of rationalism. Another problem is that Modern Biblical scholarship is well in tuned with history, and the changes apparent in the religion portrayed by the biblical picks which span a great deal of time. This however, detracts from the desired homogeneity that we desire from a holistic religious canon.
Moreover, scholarship anchors a biblical within that historical era, not allowing it have meaning in a modern historical setting. Bible scholarship is often afraid to draw a lesson from the text, lest it compromise its scientific objectivity. While scientific conclusions must be valid within and outside of the fait community, there is no reason that there should be a total dispassion, and caution lest the text arouse in the reader (heaven forbid) a response in his heart.
More to come…
Is a traditional teacher of Talmud obliged to explain the text in consonance
with Chazal’s interpretation, even when it does not seem to accord with the
plain sense of the verse? Most teachers attempt to follow the exposition
of Chazal in teaching the legal material, but for the narrative make an effort
to search out the plain sense of the verse, paying little attention to Medrashic
sources. In the latter, they use Peshat Exegetes, e.g. Ibn Ezra, Rashbam,
and even commentators not accepting of the divine nature of the bible.
There are three basic criteria that separate Peshat from Derash:
* Is the explanation logically coherent;
* Does it fit the context; and,
* Is it compatible with the language.
Since the third item applies to Halachik texts as well as narratives, it poses a problem to the teaching wishing to conform to out oral traditions regarding legal exegesis. To wit: Rav Yosef Ibn Caspi (early 14th century Provence) says (Exodus 21:7) “I cannot explain the texts dealing with the commandments in the fashion demanded by the normal usage of the language…Rather, we remain faithful to the custom of our ancestors who yielded to their explanations…But in matters which do not concern the commandments, I shall favor no authority and let truth take its course.” In this vein, so Rav David Zvi Hoffman (1843-1921 Germany), saying that since the interpretation of narrative passages was not given at Sinai, there is no reason to accept them. In reality, though, this is not the approach taken by most of the classical Peshat exegetes, who, based on the Talmudc passage “a text does not depart from its simple sense/plain meaning” do not limit their Peshat exegesis to narrative passages alone. (so Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi [1450-1525 Turkey], supported by a survey of the classical exegetes, including ibn Ezra who indicates that he will not deviate from rabbinic interpretation in legal matters. On the other side of the coin, Hoffman’s source regarding the freedom to ignore Chazal when explaining non-legal sections, Shmuel HaNaggid, seems to be referring to cases where the Medrash is totally irreconcilable with logic and a reasonable understanding. Case in point, Rashi searches for Medrashim that come are close to the plain sense of the verse.
Since our exegetes did not mean for us to practical halacha on the basis of their interpretations, we must say that when Rashi or some other exegete states that the Misdrash halacha is not the plain meaning of the verse, he means that we are not to measure the Medarsh by customary standards of textual exegesis. There is no derogation to the Medarash in stating that a Medrash is not the simple meaning of the verse. The Rashbam creates a divide between Peshat and Halachik Derash, keeping the former from impinging on the latter. (A factor that can have an effect on creating this divide is whether Oral Law is actually derived from Medrashic interpretations, or if the latter are merely a proof-text for the already extant former. ) The mutual acceptance of Peshat and Derash can be found in Rashi’s words to Exodus 6:9: “…But the Medrash is not in congruence with the verse..Therfore…let the problems of text be solved lipshuto..and let drasha be derived, as it says..my words…splitting into several sparks.” The drasha is not, Heaven forbid, invalid. The idea in it is both true and important. But the Drasha has nothing to do with the straightforward interpretation of the verse.
Before discarding Drash as incompatible for understanding the plain sense of the text, it must be noted that in many cases Medrashim that see, prima facia, to fundamentally misunderstand the text, are revealed upon further investigation, to be supplementary to the simple sense of the verse. The idea of double meaning—either side by side or superimposed on on the other—that is created by Derash is familiar to students from literatary analysis and is an important skill in teaching scriptures. Of course even the Rashbam, who divides but validates both Peshat and Derash would admit that some Drash comes close to supporting the plain meaning of the text. Other Derash presents itself as the plain meaning, when it is clearly not, and is a more difficult issue to resolve.
As teachers, we can increase our appreciation of Chazal if, while teaching Peshat, also teach the important exegetical and conceptual material than is contained within Midrashim. Referring to Chevron as the “Valley” (Gen’ 37:14) whose seeming topological incongruity imparts a sense of exile, whikle not the plain sense of the verse is instructive on the overall imminent descent into exile caused by Jacob's sending of Yosef to his brothers.
The name of the Septuagint derives from the legend that 72
elders translated the Pentateuch into Greek. The legend is found in
Rabbinic, Jewish-Hellenistic and Christian sources. The Epistle of
Aristeas has 6 leaders from each of the 12 tribes translating. 72 was then
rounded off to 70. Now, the translation of the entire bible is referred to
as the Septuagint, whereas the original Pentateuchal translation is referred to
as the Old Greek (translation). According to Aristeas, the
Pentateuch was translated in the third century B.C.E. Terminus ad quem for
entire work probably before 1st century B.C.E.
The LXX also contains some revisions to the old Greek done between the
1st century B.C.E. and the 1st century C.E. Originally, it was a
Jewish translation, done in Egypt by different translators, however by the 1st
century C.E. many Jews stopped using it because of its adoption by the early
Christians. In fact, the LXX influenced the NT and several church fathers
claimed that the LXX reflected the words of God more precisely than the Hebrew
bible. Today the LXX is still considered a sacred book by the Greek
Orthodox Church. The LXX is the earliest translation of the OT, and until
Qumran, was the oldest complete source of the Bible.
The Septuagint contains three sections a) Tanach, b) apocryphal books of Hebrew origin, and c) books originally written in Greek. The books are arranged into 3 genres: a) Pentateuch and Historical, b) Poetical and Sapiential, and c) Prophetic.
DeLagarde posited that all manuscripts of the LXX derive from an urtext and to create the original urtext, one must reconstruct it from the three main extant textual branches: the Hexapla, the revision of Lucian, and the revision of Hesychius. No reconstruction has been convincing, although the theory of an Urtext was widely accepted. Kahle questioned the existence of an urtext, or at least on that can be constructed. Kahle compared the development to the growth of the Aramaic tergumim, with various versions existing since none was considered authoritative. An intermediary opinion is argued by Brinkman, who described four stages of the development of the LXX text:
1. The original tradition
2. A multitude of textual traditions in the pre-Christian period
3. Textual stabilization in the 1st century C.E.
4. The creation of new textual groups and the corruption of existing ones through the influence of the revisions of Origen and Lucien in the 3rd and 4th centuries, C.E.
The Character of the Translation
As the first major translation of the Bible, and the first of an Oriental text into Greek, the translators had a lot of new ground to break. Existing translation techniques were “precise” and “free” with the LXX falling somewhere between. When attempting to determine the meaning of a word, they resorted to various sources of information:
· Exegetical traditions (Onkelos, Rabbinic, etc.)
· Post biblical Hebrew (translators seem sometimes more familiar with post biblical Hebrew than biblical Hebrew.)
· Aramaic, the lingua franca of Egypt and Palestine, which sometimes mislead the translators
· Previous translation of the Pentateuch
In spite of the sources, often the translations must be described as guessing.
Many words were translated as “stereotypes;” i.e. once a meaning was discerned for a root, that translation was always used, even when inconsistent within the context. A translation based on linguistic exegeses, such as Aquila’s, will display stereotyping.
Any translation that is not literal can be referred to as contextual exegesis. It often reflects the Weltanschauung of the translator, and therefore each book of the LXX must be dealt with individually. The following are the types of exegesis that show up and that are not contextual:
· Theological Exegesis. Theological concepts are fleshed out, e.g. “seeing God” becomes “seeing God’s salvation.” Also, anthropomorphisms may be removed, even though there are many cases of anthropomorphism in the LXX.
· Midrashic-style. So called, because while they are similar in exegetic approach to Midrashim, they are known from no external medrash. E.g. “the tree” becomes “the tree of life.” While these are not as wide spread as in the Aramaic targumim, the book of Proverbs is translated completely in Midrashic terms.
· Actualizations: Older terms, peoples, geographies are updated to contemporary ones, so that readers could relate to it. e.g. “Aram” is changed to “Syria”
Reasons for the existence of revisions:
· to keep the text in conformance to the changing Hebrew text.
· to remove ‘Christian’ elements
· Integrate Jewish exegesis
Revisions include a) the proto Hexaplaric revisions, b) the Hexapla, and c) post-Hexaplaric revisions.
1) The proto Hexaplaric includes the three revisions that would be included in the Hexapla. These are:
a) Kaige-Theodotian. Found in Nachal Hever, and closely resembling the 6th column of the Hexapla, attributed to Theodotian. Called Kaige because the Hebrew “Gam” is always translated as “at least” following a Rabbinic exegetical rule. Terminus ad quem is 50 C.E. or 1st century B.C.E. The revision prefers transliteration to guessing at meaning, and favors a precise translation.
b) Aquila: prepared around 125 CE, some say that Aquila is Onkelos, but while both translations are precise, the LXX is more so. We can not prove the mutual identity. Aquila inherited his translation from his teacher Rabbi Aqiba, so complex words are split up into multiple Greek words. An emphasis is placed on removing ‘Christian’ terms.
c) Symmarchus. Usually dated to the end of the 2nd century CE, two approaches are at odds in his translations. On one hand he was very precise, but he stayed away from stereotypes, using context to guide the translation Jerome preferred this method.
2) The Hexapla is the six column edition of the Hebrew bible and its Greek versions, prepared by Origen in the middle of the 3rd century CE. The six columns include:
a) The Hebrew source
b) A Greek transliteration
c) Aquila (for meaning)
e) detailed differences between MS and LXX, and
f) TheodotianPost-Hexaplaric Revisions. The important one being Lucian (312 CE).
Until the discover at Qumran, all three witnesses to biblical text were categorized as Samaritan, Massoretic, or the Hebrew Vorlage of the Septuagint. These three were referred to a recensions or text-types. Prophets and Hagiographic works were listed under the latter two since the Samaritans have only the Torah. Until Qumran few articles were written on the relationships between these three textual witnesses and how they relate to the development of the biblical text. The definition of the three as recensions was coined by Kahle who stated that each witness was a recension of an older text. The MT, for instance, he said, did not stabilize until 100 C.E.
Following the discovery of the Qumran texts, scholars at first held to the triparate view and tried to classify these new texts as belonging to one of the aforementioned three recensions, with some texts written originally as one type, and then modified to match another. Later, Tov suggested that these three represented a small number of a larger number of texts, rejecting the phrasing of “recension” and “text-type.” While there a relationship between these texts, each one contains unique readings.
The terms “text-type” and “recension” must be rejected in the absence of a visible systematic intent to change the typology, whether to expand, conflate, Judaicise, Christianize, harmonize, etc. The MT and the LXX do not show this tendency, except locally. The Samaritan does show this type of recensional activity, but since the changes can be identified in earlier texts no of the Samaritan community, that cannot be said to have been done to represent the Samaritan theology.
Limiting the group to only three must also be rejected since it was based on the prejudice that the three texts were created for the three distinct societies: MT for Jews, LXX for Christians, and Samaritan. It was also based on the accepted position that the NT is based on a Triparate division. The textual reality of the Qumran texts does not support this a triparate view. In fact, five different groups of texts have been identified at Qumran: the three that were known, and Qumran, and non-aligned. The non-aligned have so many independent and original reading that one must assume a large number of ancient texts
In grouping texts together, scholars often resort to matching errors in the text; however, one should note that the errors may have been introduced by the proximity of the scribal activity, and does not necessarily mean that one was based on the other.
Once critical analysis of the different textual witnesses was formulated, the matter of positing the original shape and content of the bible began. Bauer in 1795 talked about reconstructing of the original text. The idea was made famous by de Lagarde, forcing most scholars to take a stand, for or against. The question of the existence of an urtext, from which all other texts were copied, then became an issue. This issue is important, since only one believing in a urtext can propose that the reading of one witness is “wrong.” While the issue cannot be proved, in light of Qumran, the views continue to be clarified. The two camps were championed by De Legarde (pro urtext) and Kahle (multiple original texts). The former group believes that a series of editing preceded the one accepted text, whereas the latter group believe this work was done in parallel, and all parallel texts were accepted.
In resolving the issue of the form and content of original biblical text, a number of complication and limitations must be recognized:
· Qumran is still to far away from the original creation of almost all biblical texts to shed much light, especially on the earlier era which must assume a great deal of textual fluidity.
· Biblical books were written by different people at different times, especially the books that were modified over time.
· It is necessary to distinguish between an urtext of the bible and an urtext of the MT
· It is necessary to recognize genetic changes that link the parent with the child, and non-genetic changes that must be viewed as alternate readings.
· Many theories are based on known evidence of literary development from other works, such as Homer, Jewish liturgy, etc. These are, however, only analogies.
It should be kept on mid that the two opinions are quite dogmatic, and should be termed “beliefs.” nonetheless it possible to propose the following theories which support one of these views:
· An original text is preceded by literary development, which can include multiple versions. It is not until the work is “finished” that the transmission process begins. This allows variants to the original from “unofficial” copies, without negating the idea of an urtext for any given biblical book.
· Most of the versions are closely related and the changes are linear, indicating no parallel accepted text, but rather a single original.
This and other logic points at a single original text. On the other side of the argument, the following is brought to support parallel “canonical” texts:
· The existing of alternate texts, neither of which seems to change the other or be in error, points to multiple valid sources.
Tov argues however that just because two readings are valid dosen’t mean that one is not original, and the other secondary. Also, the amount of alternate readings, rather ones that can be shown to be linear or in error is small for a supposed alternate parallel text. We may therefore define the urtext theory as follows:
After a period of literary development a book is considered authoritative, if only by a small group of people. Then, during the textual transmission that ensues, complications make rendering the work in its original difficult. All textual witnesses, except the ones copied before the work was finished, derive from this original authoritative copy. Textual criticism should attempt to reconstruct this original. It should be noted that during the development cycle, shorter or alternate versions were copied, partially or completely.
The text of the Hebrew Bible is made up of three historically distinct elements: in order of antiquity and stability they are the consonants, the vowel letters, and the system of diacritical marks for vowels and cantillation. The present system of diacritical marks was developed by the Massoretes at Tiberias in the 9th century. The Massoretic ideal remained, however, unachieved as thousands of minute differences touching the vowel, letters, participles, copula, singular and plural, and the like, remained.
Paul Kahle in publishing a manuscript dated to 1008/9 copied from a codex made by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher-the last of the Tiberian Massoretes-for the first time a genuine Massoretic text (not the Massoretic text, which is now recognized as a will-o'-the-wisp) but the text of one famous Massorete was made available.
It is perfectly plain that all the Genizah manuscripts belong to the same consonantal recension, and that this was made long before the Massoretes.
Jewish tradition attributes several types of textual activity to the Sofrim-the 'bookmen' of the Persian and Hellenistic period-and especially to the archetypal sofer Ezra. Paleo-Hebrew to the so-called square script, doubtful passages were marked with dots, simmaniyyot 'marks.' Two other types of text-critical activity are termed “tiqqun sofrirm” and “ittur sofrim.” Five examples of 'deletion' (ittur) are given by an n 11th century Talmudic thesaurus (Arukh) who gives this interesting explanation of the deletions: "village people were not careful in their Bibles...the [Bookman] removed these waws [the people had inserted]..." Vulgar readings were recognized by the bookmen and expunged from authoritative manuscripts. By Maccabean times the text had been largely standardized-at least that of the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms. Josephus, writing toward the end of time 1st century A. B. writes of the Scriptures that "during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them." This was the period of the Hasmonean dynasty, whose rise gave birth to a cultural as well as a political renascence among the Jews. Hasmonean interest in reestablishing time Temple archives seen in 'Hanukka letter.' Indeed, it would have been odd had the Jews not had such an archive at Jerusalem. Other signs point the same way.
There appear to have been several authoritative Torah scrolls in the archive, and the editorial activity on them was a continuing process. Case in point: Codex Severus having been captured in Jerusalem and brought to Rome, consisted of scribal errors, orthographic peculiarities reflecting earlier practice, ad was placed in Geniza. Also Aqiba exhorts his students: 'When you teach your son, teach only from a corrected text.' The presence of vulgata containing small deviations is demonstrable from citations throughout Rabbinic literature.
The received text is the end result of work on one recension. Two other recensions of the Torah attest to the type of text which was set aside by that of the boookmen: the Samaritan Pentateuch and time Hebrew Vorlage of the Septuagint. In the Samaritan Pentateuch, Archaic grammatical are replaced with later forms. Words and phrases are added, to make time text smoother and more repetitive without altering the meaning, e.g. the accounts of Exodus and Deuteronomy are neatly combined, giving a fully harmonized story. The antiquity of the Samaritan text has, accordingly, been questioned. Important for the Samaritan antiquity, however, is forthcoming from a source of undisputed antiquity, its matching in 1/3 of the variants from the Proto Massoretic with the Septuagint. In earlier days this agreement served the ends of theological polemic: the Catholic Church sought to discredit the received Hebrew on the basis of the Septuagint and Samaritan.
The first sober verdict was given by Gesenius in 1815 who maintained that the two must have originated in a Hebrew text than the fixing of our MT. The matter is more complicated, however. None of the large scale harmonizing and transposing of verses of the Samaritan appears in tile Greek. Thus changes to the Samaritan represent an early Hebrew text type. Its fullness, its harmonizations and levelings were in circulation from before the text-critical work of the bookmen provoked the search for better, less expanded (anti therefore less Popular) recension. Remains of early Greek translations preserved in out of the way places appear to reflect a Samaritan-like Hebrew Vorlage. At some time toward the middle of the 2nd century B. C. new Greek translation of the Torah was produced. Thus the Septuagint Vorlage will represent an intermediate stage between the full Samaritan and tile pruned received Hebrew.
The materials from Khirbet Oumran show a great variety in their orthography. One type of orthography may be considered vulgata. The orthographic and grammatical peculiarities of this vulgata reflect a type of Hebrew strongly influenced by Aramaic and similar in several respects to the Hebrew known from Samaritan. Another series have an orthography generally similar to late Biblical books. Of particular interest is an Exodus manuscript having throughout additional verses and expansions often identical with those of the Samaritan Pentateuch. Fragments of Samuel and Deuteronomy from the same cave (IV) show variations and additions with Septuagintal affinities. There are some manuscripts with the standard biblical orthography. The Qumran material witnesses to a variety of text types all current contemporaneously
It would thus appear that the forerunner of our received text was extant and current during the last pre-Christian centuries. The Isaiah B scroll and Psalter A testify to this. Other texts were also current: the Samaritan type, amid manuscripts with Septuagint-hike readings in the Torah and Prophets. There is no standard text at Qumran. All this need not have reflected the state of affairs in official Jewish circles as can be seen from the finds in Wadi Murabat, a Jewish military post in the mid-second century for Bar-Kochba's rebel army. There is no question as to the orthodoxy of this group. After the fall of Jerusalem, when Rabbinic Judaism came into exclusive hegemony, the proto MT became the standard.
3(1931-32). (Click here for the entire article as a self viewing executable for Windows. 2 Mbytes)
27 (1980) 84-86. (Click here for the entire article as a self viewing executable for Windows. .4 Mbytes)