Hebrew Texts in Jewish, Christian and Muslim Surroundings
HEBREW TEXTS IN JEWISH – Book Sample
Hebrew Texts in Jewish, Christian and Muslim Surroundings
What unites Judaism, Christianity and Islam is that they are religions of the book. And their holy books are related, too. The Christian Bible can be seen as an extension of the Hebrew Tanakh, and the Qurʾan as the fully revised version of both predecessors. Anyone familiar on the field of the interpretation of these holy texts will realize that describing the relation between these holy books in this way is a vast simplification.
The problematic relation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in past and present times seems to indicate that there is more that divides than unites these religions. The motivation behind the present volume is not to give in to the present tendency of emphasizing the differences. On the contrary, in many different ways the following contributions will show that there is in an intricate web of relations between the texts of these three religious traditions.
This not only concerns the holy books themselves, but we also see on other levels how the different readings and interpretations intermingle and influence each other. Studying the multifaceted history of the way Hebrew texts were read and interpreted in so many different contexts may contribute to a better understanding of the complicated relation between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
These studies are attributed to Dineke Houtman on the occasion of her retirement as professor at the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam. In her academic career she always attempted to build bridges between the reli-gious communities. She is a specialist on the fields of the relationship between Mishnah and Tosefta, of the Targum, and of the history of the relationship between Jews and Christians from the Middle Ages until today. Most contributions in the volume touch upon these matters, but it will also become clear that there are more interesting aspects of the use and interpretation of Hebrew texts in all kinds of context.
Part 1 of this volume is devoted to the use of Hebrew texts in Jewish literature. Johannes C. de Moor, studies the phenomenon of ‘fallen angels who repented’ in Jewish literature. He notes many parallels between the names of the angels and evil Canaanite deities like Horan. From Ugaritic texts we learn that these deities could repent and change their evil nature. De Moor shows that in the Hebrew Bible, parabiblical literature, Targums and medieval incantations this subjection of the evil powers to the supreme god is further elaborated, so that some evil demons could become beneficent angels.
Klaas Spronk presents a new intertextual approach to the story of Jephthah and his daughter. Inspired by traditional Jewish exegesis he reads it in relation to a number of other Biblical stories, especially the story of Saul willing to sacrifice his son Jonathan. It can be demonstrated that already within its canonical context in Tanakh the story of Jephthah can be read as an example of a bad leader, prefiguring king Saul in a number of ways.
Eveline van Staalduine-Sulman follows the text of Hannah’s Song (1Sam 2:1– 10) in several Jewish recensions. It appears that the reader receives various images of the same God and diverse messages of what he/she is supposed to learn from this song.
For example, the Greek version encourages the reader to act with righteousness, while the Aramaic version stresses God’s intervention in history and eschatology. Special attention is given to the two women in this Song: the barren woman and the one with many children. The context determines how these two figures are being interpreted.
Lieve Teugels shows how in the midrash, specifically in Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael and Mekhilta de-rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a parable is used to explain Pharaoh and his servants’ change of heart in Exodus 10 and 14. The parable features a slave who has to eat a rotten fish and undergoes other humiliations because of the mistake of buying that fish in the first place. It is also found in the later Pesikta de-Rav Kahana and Tanchuma Buber. From the journey of this particular mashal we can learn about the processes and techniques with which parables were adapted and re-used in the course of the history of rabbinic literature.
Tamar Kadari considers Sarah’s beauty as reflected in rabbinic sources, in-cluding the Genesis Apocryphon discovered in the Qumran caves, with a more general discussion of the rabbis’ approach to the idea of beauty. The sages appear to use a diverse set of techniques to convey the experience of beauty’s intensity. They established a ranking of the four most beautiful women since the dawn of human history. They based their criteria for evaluating beauty on the appearance of the first woman on earth, the ‘icon of Eve.’ Real beauty will radiate out on its surroundings by invoking images of light and illumination, relating it to the figure of God, the epitome of perfect beauty.
Geert W. Lorein studies the way David’s strengths and weaknesses are rep-resented in the Targum of the Psalms, in order to find out whether the trend in late Old Testament theology idealizing the figure of David is also followed in the Targums. He concludes that, although David is represented many times as a stronger and more spiritual person, the opposite happens so often that it clear that the Targum has remained quite faithful to the Masoretic text. Apparently the Targumists have not given in to the tendency to represent the patriarchs (including David) as without sin or the historical David as completely mes-sianic.
F.J. Hoogewoud pays attention to an important aspect of the Buber/Rosen-zweig Bible translation: the phenomenon of its new ‘colometric’ presentation of the text. He relates it to some similar efforts in the field of New Testament studies in the same period. Although both Buber and Rosenzweig seem to claim that it was Buber who ‘invented’ the new presentation, colometric pre-sentations of New Testament texts in Greek and in German had already been published by Eduard Norden, Roland Schütz and Roman Woerner.
Cees Houtman presents an overview of Dutch Jewish educational literature on the biblical history in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, noting many parallels with earlier similar works by Dutch Protestants. Apparently these were imitated. The character of the educational literature is illustrated by analyzing the way in which it deals with five ‘uncomfortable’ biblical texts. Texts on sexual abberations were usually amended or left out, but massacres were pictured overtly and without embarrassment. Jewish and Protestant interpreters dealt with these texts in a similar way. A remarkable difference is that orthodox Protestant authors in particular do not spare the patriarchs Noah and Abraham.
Hebrew Texts in Muslim and Christian Surroundings
Using the example of the story of David and Bathsheba Marcel Poorthuis studies the Jewish influences upon early Islamic writers and upon Islamic hermeneutics in general. He shows that the generally accepted idea that the Islamic perspective of David rejected en bloc Jewish stories including the Biblical scriptures, fails to do justice to the profound influence of the Isrāʾīliyyāt, in which David’s actions are strongly defended. It was the chasm between these Rabbinical apologetics and Scripture itself, which eventually caused the rejection of the highly critical Biblical portrayal of David in Islam. The rise of a more rigorously inner-Qurʾānic hermeneutics could not prevent the massive and lasting influence of the Isrāʾīliyyāt about David in Islam.
Wout van Bekkum explores he religious or liturgical poetry Elazar ben Jacob of Baghdad, who was not only a prolific composer of devotional and social Hebrew verse, but also a Sufi-oriented mystic, a Hebrew grammarian, and prob-ably a zealous student of Neoplatonic astrology and philosophy. Special atten-tion is paid to a manuscript from Warsaw, containing a Sefer širim ʿAttiqim, a ‘Book of Ancient Songs’, compiled by Ephraim Deinard. It lists ten composi-tions ascribed to Elazar of Baghdad, with five of them unknown and not cata-logued.
Andreas Lehnardt pays attention to the fact that many Hebrew and Aramaic fragments of Rabbinic literature have been preserved in medieval bindings of books, registers and notarial files. In recent years several hundreds of these Hebrew binding fragments have been discovered in European libraries and archives. Through this unintended recycling Jewish tradition is kept-up in Christian hands. Lehnardt analyzes and translates a newly identified fragment with a text from Midrash Bereshit Rabbah, discovered in the University and State library of Jena. The fragment appears to be an important witness for famous midrashim, among them a dialogue between Matrona and Rabbi Yose, and the narrative on Diocletian and the rabbis in Paneas.
Hans-Martin Kirn puts the question whether we have to see Martin Luther as a precursor of modern antisemitism in a wider perspective. It was only from the 1870s that Luther’s late writings against the Jews began to attract antisemites of all colours, including Lutherans, who eagerly used them to legitimize their propaganda. Kirn makes a distinction between anti-Judaism as a primarily theologically motivated concept of defining Jews as ‘the religious Other’ and antisemitism in its different forms. With regard to Martin Luther he notes a dramatic change of practical attitudes toward Jews and Judaism from the early to the late Luther. His more negative attitude towards the Jews at the end of life is related to Luther’s apocalyptic thinking, which became more and more radical and extended to different opponents.
Harry Sysling studies the influence of Margit Rosenstock-Huessy on the Gritlianum and on Franz Rosenzweig’s The Star of Redemption. He describes the relationship between Rosenzweig and the wife of his best friend, Eugen Rosen-stock, between 1917 and 1922. Special attention is paid to a text Rosenzweig composed not long before he started writing down The Star of Redemption: a small dialogue between body and soul, the Gritlianum, a work he explicitly named after Gritli Rosenstock.
Gert van Klinken gives a detailed description of the Druze community in Palestine in the twentieth century, with special attention to the local leader
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