The Torah in Transition: Imitative Aspects from Codex to Database

In: Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture

Because the significance of a sacred text comes not only from its content but also its format and materiality, the rise of digital formats is especially a concern for the Jewish community, the ‘people of the book’ (Am ha-Sefer) whose identity is rooted in the Torah. Drawing together scholarship on the history of the book in its changing formats and an illuminative case study of the Jewish Torah in its digital iterations, the Jewish case presented here is instructive but certainly not unique. Despite dramatic changes in reading technology throughout history, readers have time and again used a new technology to perform the same functions as that of the old, only more quickly, with more efficiency, or in greater quantity. While taking advantage of the innovation and novelty which characterize digital formats, a concerted effort to retain much older operations and appearances continues to be made in this transition as well. The analysis in this article aims to further dispel the misguided notion of technological supersession, the idea that new reading technologies ‘kill’ older formats in a straightforward model of elimination.

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