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Leading Midrash Scholar Speaks Out
Shlama all--

I was reading this great book by one of the world's leading authorities on midrashic literature, and found a real pleasant surprise for you all.

The scholar is Dr. James Kugel, Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature, Harvard University.

The book is called "In Potiphar's House: The Interpretive Life of BIblical Texts."

Let me set this up. Dr. Kugel is interested in uncovering ancient strands of Hebrew storytelling tradition. He is particularly fond of the Joseph narrative in Genesis (hence the title), and delves into an amazing level of detail what primary sources such as Onkelos, Genesis Rabba and even some fragmentary Aramaic poems and the Koran have to say about various passages.

About 3/4 through this amazing Joseph study, Dr. Kugel begins talking about the Hebraic idiom "angels ascending and descending" and if it refers to one group of angels or many, etc. Then he makes the point that "bo" in Hebrew could point to the angels ascending and descending on the patriarch Jacob as opposed to a general area (p. 114).

Then on p. 115 Kugel writes:

"It is interesting that there is even an echo of this midrash in the New Testament:

Y'shua answered him, 'Because I said to you I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.' And he said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of Elohim ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'

John 1:50-51

"How can we know that this New Testament passage is part of the above midrashic tradition and not simply an allusion to the mention of angels ascending and descending" in Genesis? Because it clearly says 'angels of Elohim ascending and descending on the son of man'. Clearly this belongs to the exegetical school represented by R. Yannai above, that is, the one that takes BO in Genesis to mean not 'on the ladder' but 'for Jacob'. So here too, BO is being taken as referring to a person, namely, 'the son of man'. (IT IS WORTH NOTING THAT, ALTHOUGH THE GOSPEL OF JOHN WAS PRESUMABLY WRITTEN IN GREEK, THIS PARTICULAR PLAY ON WORDS DOES NOT WORK IN GREEK, SINCE THE WORD FOR 'LADDER' IN THE GREEK BIBLE IS FEMININE, AND THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE TO 'ON IT' WOULD THUS BE 'FOR HER'.)"


So even though he "presumes" Greek NT primacy, the text he is looking at points to a Hebrew-Aramaic heart. Cool no? <!-- s:bigups: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/bigups.gif" alt=":bigups:" title="Big Ups" /><!-- s:bigups: -->
Shlama w'burkate
Andrew Gabriel Roth

Messages In This Thread
Leading Midrash Scholar Speaks Out - by Andrew Gabriel Roth - 10-25-2004, 11:48 PM
[No subject] - by byrnesey - 10-26-2004, 05:23 AM

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