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Monday, 12 October 2015


Torah and Canon: 2nd Edition,
James A. Sanders, Cascade Books, 2005, page xi

Sanders next turns his attention to defining Midrash:

Midrash ... at least means the function of an ancient of canonical tradition in the ongoing life of the community which preserves those traditions and in some sense finds its identity in them. When one studies how an ancient tradition functions in relation to the needs of the community, he is studying midrash.

Notice how Sanders concentrates on what midrash does, how it functions, rather than how it does it or of what it is comprised.

Any definition of midrash which limits its scope to the citation and use of an actual biblical passage is deficient. The more common and well known a biblical concept was, the less likely the community was to cite it in its final written form and the more likely they were to assume that the congregation or community would know it and its canonical authority.

Notice here how Sanders credits canonical authority rather than absolute authority - a text or passage has authority not because it was given or inspired by God, but because the community accepts it as canonical.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:00am Comment Comments: 2

Monday, 12 October 2015
Comment -

That's very similar to the observation made by Donald E Gowan in his monograph "Bridge Between the Testaments" in which he argues that canonicity is achieved when the text has authority over the community rather than when the community has the authority to make a book part of the canon.

Posted By Timothy Butlin 01:01pm


Monday, 12 October 2015
Comment -

Sanders writes, "Any definition of midrash which limits its scope to the citation and use of an actual biblical passage is deficient."

This a an unfortunate example of linguistic re-engineering.

Midrash refers specifically to a body of work produced by the Jewish sages of Galilee in the first centuries of the common era. The most basic characteristic of EVERY individual midrash (thousands of them) is that it comments on "an actual biblical passage." To say that this is deficient is to say that the inventors of midrash had a deficient definition of midrash!

Posted By Carl Kinbar 01:47pm