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Reviewed by:
  • The Tanhuma-Yelammedenu Literature: Studies in the Evolution of the Versions, and: Megillat Ta‘anit: Versions, Interpretation, History, and: Pirke de-Rabbi Elieser
  • Catherine Hezser
Marc Bregman. Tanhuma-Yelammedenu Literature: Studies in the Evolution of the Versions. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2003. Pp. x + 302 (Hebrew section); pp. x + 9 (English section).
Vered Noam. Megillat Ta‘anit: Versions, Interpretation, History. [Hebrew]. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2003. Pp. 451.
Dagmar Börner-Klein. Pirke de-Rabbi Elieser. Nach der Edition Venedig 1544 unter Berücksichtigung der Edition Warschau 1852, aufbereited und übersetzt. Studia Judaica 26. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2004. Pp. xlix + 800.

The text- and literary-critical study, edition, and translation of rabbinic works is of fundamental importance, since it constitutes the basis of all forms of "higher criticism" investigating the meaning, historical context, and religious significance of the respective texts. Unfortunately, this groundwork has not yet been accomplished for all rabbinic documents. The three books discussed here all contribute to this task. The first two works are revised versions of doctoral dissertations submitted to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Marc Bregman's study of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu literature is an analysis of the textual witnesses of this corpus of traditions, the printed edition, the Buber version, references in the Midrash Rabbah and Pesikta literature, and further fragments and quotations. Altogether Bregman has identified more than two hundred complete or partial manuscripts which contain Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu–related material. These manuscripts are described in the second chapter of his book, following a review of previous scholarship on the issue (chapter 1). The third chapter focuses on one particular text passage, namely, the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu commentary on Ex 7.8 ff. The four different versions are compared and their literary character and evolution determined. In the fourth and final chapter Bregman provides concluding remarks on the nature and development of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu literature as well as suggestions for further scholarship.

Bregman points out that from the linguistic and literary point of view [End Page e39] the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrash cannot be considered a unified whole. One rather has to distinguish between different strata which developed over hundreds of years and differ from each other with regard to language, style, date, and place of composition. The earliest corpus of material seems to go back to late amoraic times, to the time of the editing of the Talmud Yerushalmi, Genesis Rabbah, and Leviticus Rabbah in the fifth century C.E. Most of the material was created in the sixth and seventh centuries, however, in the time preceding the Islamic conquest of Palestine and its impact on the Jewish community. Later additions and accretions were made in the geonic period. These later editors and scribes may have changed some of the earlier material as well.

The next step would obviously be a critical edition of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu material and the critical analysis of a larger number of textual passages, combining lower with higher criticism. A combination of a critical edition and a literary analysis of a text has been accomplished by Vered Noam in her book on Megillat Ta'anit, a text which is much shorter than the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu literature and therefore constitutes a very good basis for a detailed literary-critical study and edition. Megillat Ta'anit, which originated in the Second Temple period, lists thirty-five days of victory and rejoicing on which fasting is prohibited. It is arranged according to the order of the year and the events range from the time of Ezra to the early Roman period, with a special emphasis on the Hasmonean victories.

The first part of Noam's work consists of a critical edition of the Aramaic text of Megillat Ta'anit based on the Parma manuscript with variants from the Oxford and other manuscripts and the versions of the Yerushalmi and Bavli; and a critical edition of the Scholium, the later Hebrew commentary, presenting the two versions of the Scholium synoptically, with manuscript variants below. In addition, references to biblical passages and parallels in rabbinic works are listed as well. In the second part of her work Noam explores...