Reanimating Qohelet’s Contradictory Voices

Studies of Open-Ended Discourse on Wisdom in Ecclesiastes

Series:

Jimyung Kim

Ecclesiastes, also known as Qohelet, is a fascinating text filled with intriguing contradictions, such as wisdom’s beneficial consequences, God’s justice, and wisdom’s superiority over pleasure. Under the paradigm of modernism, the contradictions in the book have been regarded as problems to be harmonized or explained away. In Reanimating Qohelet’s Contradictory Voices, Jimyung Kim, drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s insights, offers an alternative reading that embraces the contradictions as they stand. For Kim, Qohelet’s or the protagonist’s contradictory consciousness is dialogically constructed by his contact with a complex web of discourses. Instead of harmonizing them or explaining them away, Kim identifies various dialogic voices available to Qohelet and demonstrates how those voices constitute Qohelet’s contradictory utterances and construct his unfinalizable identity.

Wisdom and Torah

The Reception of ‘Torah’ in the Wisdom Literature of the Second Temple Period

Series:

Edited by Bernd Schipper and D. Andrew Teeter

A proper assessment of the manifold relationships that obtain between “wisdom” and “Torah” in the Second Temple Period has fascinated generations of interpreters. The essays of the present collection seek to understand this key relationship by focusing attention on specific instances of the reception of “Torah” in Wisdom literature and the shaping of Torah by wisdom. Taking the concepts of wisdom and torah in the various literary strata of the book of Deuteronomy as a point of departure, the remainder of the book examines the relationship between wisdom and Torah in Wisdom literature of the Second Temple period, including Proverbs, Qohelet, Ps 19 and 119, Baruch, Ben Sira, Wisdom, sapiential and rewritten scriptural texts from Qumran, and the Wisdom of Solomon.

Asceticism, Eschatology, Opposition to Philosophy

The Arabic Translation and Commentary of Salmon ben Yeroham on Qohelet (Ecclesiastes). Karaite Texts and Studies Volume 5

Series:

James T. Robinson

Salmon b. Yeroham (fl. 930-960) – foundational figure in the Jerusalem school of Karaite exegesis – produced a substantial and influential corpus of polemical writing and biblical interpretation, including commentaries on Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Qohelet, Esther, Ruth, and Daniel. Asceticism, Eschatology, Opposition to Philosophy: The Arabic Translation and Commentary of Salmon ben Yeroham on Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) presents a first critical edition of the Judaeo-Arabic Qohelet commentary together with an annotated English translation. The introduction situates Salmon’s work in the history of Jewish Qohelet exegesis, explains Salmon’s method of translating Qohelet into Arabic, identifies his sources and discusses his method of interpretation. The main themes Salmon finds in “Solomon’s” book of wisdom – central themes in the early Karaite movement in general – will be explored at length, especially asceticism, eschatology, and an uncompromising opposition to reading “foreign books.”

"Robinson’s edition is exemplary...This volume is an important addition to any collection of Karaitica, medieval Jewish biblical exegesis and Judeo-Arabic studies."
Pinchas Roth, Tikvah Scholar at the NYU Tikvah Center

L'énigme du bonheur

Étude sur le sujet du bien dans le livre de Qohélet

Series:

Bertrand Pinçon

This study deals with the question of happiness in the book of Qoheleth, starting with the contemporary debate among modern writers concerning the status of various encouraging statements that emerge out of a general context in which “all is vanity”. The first part of this study describes the current position of research, examining the debated questions. The second part proposes an exegetical and contextual inquiry of the words for happiness, drawn up by these authors. The third part suggests a way of resolving the enigma of happiness, based upon an additional formula of happiness, located at the beginning of the second half of the book. Gradually, a conviction takes shape: happiness does not have the same status in the two parts of the book. If, at first, happiness is presented as the only alternative given by God to help man to hold on when faced with the fleetingness of things in life, it later becomes an art of living, apt to be taught to future generations.

A Philosopher of Scripture

The Exegesis and Thought of Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi

Series:

Raphael Dascalu

Tanḥum b. Joseph ha-Yerushalmi (d. 1291, Fusṭāṭ, Egypt) was a rigorous linguist and philologist, philosopher and mystic, and a biblical exegete of singular breadth. As well as providing us with an insight into the inner world of a profound and original thinker, his oeuvre sheds light on a Jewish historical and cultural milieu that remains relatively poorly understood: the Islamic East in the post-Maimonidean period.

In A Philosopher of Scripture: The Exegesis and Thought of Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi, Raphael Dascalu presents the first detailed intellectual portrait of Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi. Tanḥum emerges as a polymath with a clear intellectual program, an eclectic thinker who brought multiple traditions together in his search for the philosophical meaning of Scripture.

Series:

James T. Robinson

Yefet ben ‘Eli (fl. 960-1005) was the most prolific and influential biblical exegete in the Karaite tradition. He was possibly the earliest Jew to write a commentary on the entire Hebrew Bible, and his writings were cited and borrowed from by Karaites and Rabbanites alike, from his own time to the early modern period. Despite his importance, however, only a small percentage of his works have been published. The present volume makes available for the first time his commentary on Joshua, which includes an Arabic translation of this difficult book with full Arabic commentary. The story of Rachab, the “second circumcision,” the covenant with the Gibonites, and the Sun standing still are among the things that captured Yefet’s interest, who surveyed different views on these crux passages before presenting his own, very original exposition.

Series:

Lindsey A. Askin

In Scribal Culture in Ben Sira Lindsey A. Askin examines scribal culture as a framework for analysing features of textual referencing throughout the Book of Ben Sira (c.198-175 BCE), revealing new insights into how Ben Sira wrote his book of wisdom. Although the title of “scribe” is regularly applied to Ben Sira, this designation presents certain interpretive challenges. Through comparative analysis, Askin contextualizes the sage’s compositional style across historical, literary, and socio-cultural spheres of operation. New light is shed on Ben Sira’s text and early Jewish textual reuse. Drawing upon physical and material evidence of reading and writing, Askin reveals the dexterity and complexity of Ben Sira’s sustained textual reuse. Ben Sira’s achievement thus demonstrates exemplary, “excellent” writing to a receptive audience.

Tradition and Innovation in Biblical Interpretation

Studies Presented to Professor Eep Talstra on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday

Series:

Edited by Wido Th. van Peursen and Janet Dyk

The theme of this volume in honour of Eep Talstra is ‘Tradition and Innovation in Biblical Interpretation’, with an emphasis on the innovative role of computer-assisted textual analysis. It focusses on the role of tradition in biblical interpretation and of the innovations brought about by ICT in reconsidering existing interpretations of texts, grammatical concepts, and lexicographic practices. Questions addressed include: How does the role of exegesis as the ‘clarification of one’s own tradition, in order to understand choices and preferences’ (Talstra) relate to the critical role which Scripture has towards this tradition? How does the indebtedness to tradition of computer-driven philology relate to its innovative character? And how does computer-assisted analysis of the biblical texts lead to new research methods and results?