Sunday, September 26, 2010

Medieval Answers to Modern Questions

Adele Berlin
Presenter: Adele Berlin (University of Maryland) with response from Corinna Körting (Norwegian School of Theology)
From the Abstract: a tour of the most famous medieval Jewish exegetes on Psalms: Saadia, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, David Qimhi. 1. How do they balance peshat with midrash? 2. Who wrote the book? What is their theory of the meaning of words?

Adele had women impersonating men in nice contrast to Shakespearean practice. Each actor had a sign indicating who they were:
  • Saadia (882 Egypt, anti-Karaite and inter-Jewish polemic (sic)) never casts aspersions on David
  • Rashi 1040 France - his Bible commentary was the first printed Hebrew book
  • Abraham Ibn Ezra - Spain
  • Qimci (c=x=ch) Provence 1160
(More on Karaites later when we come to the original music of the temple which we heard recreated in the Worcester chapel - perhaps I will be able to put a track online - or even better perhaps the university will give us a link to the recorded service.)

A good introduction and commentary on medieval Judaism is in Uriel Simon's book Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms (1982, tr. from the Hebrew 1991) - available at UVIC library for readers in Victoria.

(The following are almost direct from my notes without confirmation.) Generally these four were against Christian interpretations and Islamic accusations and held that the Bible and its language were no less perfect than the Koran. 

Rashi - Christian as enemy. You are my son refers to David or the eschatological Messiah. In answer to the question "who wrote the psalms" he would note that there were the 10 psalm writers as inscribed, and Adam and Melchizedek.

Saadia maintained that the psalms are not prayers and can only be used liturgically outside the temple.

Ibn Ezra maintained that all the psalms are contemporary with David.

No note on (David) Qimci - still trying to pronounce the name! Good summary of the family here

Response: Corinna (1 and 2 below)

Rashi criticized Psalm 105:15 - re anoint I ask - how to recognize when we can go beyond parochialisms?
Luther called the psalms a prayer book that the believer should take up and read. Gunkel claimed there was no order at all. Now - study and meditation.

Re 1. divine/human - no contradiction among them. Hillel and others note that the Bible speaks in human language.

I recall my superscription for Bob's Log - unchanged since 2006:


The study is for joy - the correction is remarkable - not so much correcting my translation - that's part of study, but correcting me by the one who plays the music in the spaces. Anyway - enough - I think the experience is not lacking in anyone - I just happened to become more intensely aware of it through the psalms and I don't shy away - like the horse that needs bit and bridle, as you might have noticed.
a very long squash

Corinna's second note: how to bring ancient interpretation into the present. (in my notes, I cannot always distinguish my response from the lecturer's points. There may have been moments of jet-lag.) In the 1960's - 80's there was no pre-modern mention at all re "the one true meaning". Now tradition is too wide. Our response is to cherry pick or pick an approach - out of context.

There was a time when I reduced the faith to three prayers: thanks, sorry, help. I think I must add listen / act to those. When the squash is so long, it cannot be eaten at one sitting.