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The Invention of Jewish Identity

Bible, Philosophy, and the Art of Translation

Aaron W. Hughes

Publication Year: 2010

Jews from all ages have translated the Bible for their particular times and needs, but what does the act of translation mean? Aaron W. Hughes believes translation has profound implications for Jewish identity. The Invention of Jewish Identity presents the first sustained analysis of Bible translation and its impact on Jewish philosophy from the medieval period to the 20th century. Hughes examines some of the most important Jewish thinkers -- Saadya Gaon, Moses ibn Ezra, Maimonides, Judah Messer Leon, Moses Mendelssohn, Martin Buber, and Franz Rosenzweig -- and their work on biblical narrative, to understand how linguistic and conceptual idioms change and develop into ideas about the self. The philosophical issues behind Bible translation, according to Hughes, are inseparable from more universal sets of questions that affect Jewish life and learning.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xviii

This monograph provides the first sustained analysis of Bible translation in Jewish philosophy. It conceives of translation as the originary practice of Jewish philosophy, functioning as the means both to domesticate philosophy and philosophize domesticity. ...

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pp. xix-xx

Several friends and colleagues have listened to and commented on (and argued with) what I present here: Kalman P. Bland, James A. Diamond, Sergey Dolgopolsky, Dana Hollander, Martin Kavka, and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. ...

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About the Cover

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pp. xxi

Palimpsest, which is from a Greek root palimpsestos, literally, “scraped again,” is a surface that has been used multiple times. In the writing-over, there is a trace of what has been previously inscripted; indeed, with regard to this surface, inscription and erasure cannot be separated as it is precisely the erasure that facilitates the inscripting. ...

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1. Introductory and Interpretive Contexts

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pp. 1-17

In the so-called Letter to Philocrates, Aristeas relates how the Egyptian king Ptolemy II Philadelphus was so impressed by the sanctity of the Hebrew Bible that he asked Eleazar the High Priest to send him six elders from each tribe of Israel. For the next seven days, the king put a series of philosophical questions to the seventy-two individuals, ...

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2. The Forgetting of History and the Memory of Translation

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pp. 18-40

The task of translating the Bible was as much a salvific act as it was one of scholarship. The struggle with temporality and the attempt to confront the ontological hiatus between pure and mundane languages resides at the heart of virtually all the translation projects discussed in this study. ...

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3. The Translation of Silence and the Silence of Translation: The Fabric of Metaphor

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pp. 41-67

Saadya’s and Rosenzweig’s determination to revive Hebrew’s imagination, showing its mute traces in a foreign narrative, set in motion a concern for uncovering a language beyond language and thereby revealing a divine message to which the words of scripture could only point. ...

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4. The Apologetics of Translation

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pp. 68-92

Emerging delicately from the interstices of translation and memory—including the desire to purge all historical and anthropomorphic infelicities from the biblical narrative—was the need to make the Torah superior to all other literary creations. ...

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5. Translation and Its Discontents

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pp. 93-110

To this point I have been interested in nuancing and teasing out what I consider to be several of the constitutive pieces that make up translative activity in Jewish philosophy. On a historical level I have suggested that this activity opened Judaism to other intellectual trajectories as it paradoxically erected boundaries between Judaism and others. ...

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6. Translation and Issues of Identity and Temporality

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pp. 111-130

In one of his earliest essays devoted to the subject of education—addressed to no less an authority than Hermann Cohen—Franz Rosenzweig proclaims that the “German, also the German in the Jew, can and will read the Bible in German—in Luther’s, in Herder’s or Mendelssohn’s versions; ...

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Conclusions: Between Spaces

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pp. 131-134

I turn in the remaining pages to translation’s necessity and, as it were, its celebration. I move toward an end that I hope reveals itself as a beginning; an end that, like all ends, takes place in the endless present and in the dreamtime of temporality’s thrownness. ...


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pp. 135-156


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pp. 157-170


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pp. 171-176

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004796
E-ISBN-10: 0253004799
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355379

Page Count: 202
Publication Year: 2010