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.