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Vol. 10, No. 3 Spring 1992 159 theory to the situation of the Jews in this period. He could have benefited from a careful study ofRichard Horsley's accounts offormative Christianity. Cohen then applies his model to an account of the nature of rabbinic academies of learning (chapter 8) and to procedures for installing officials into offices of power in the community (chapter 9). Overall Cohen is not self-conscious enough about how much "the concept of the three ketarim (crowns)" is internal to, and constrained by, rabbinism. He also holds on for too long to this tripartite division as a tool of inquiry. Eventually, not only does the idea lose its vigor, it seems to constrain fruitful study. Cohen's presentation at times resembles an academically charged-up version ofthe classic "Devar Torah," i.e., the homiletical style of discourse dfmodern OrthodoxJudaism. I dwell on this criticism of the work because it strongly influences my judgment about its potential audience. Israeli Orthodox Jewish English-speaking academics will find this book totally comprehensible and exciting. On the other side of the spectrum, nonJewish American scholars of religion will have to confront the obstacles of its idiosyncratic style of expression and its synthetic and composite methodology . Throughout, the work is infused with a sense of devotion and not of criticism, and of fervor rather than analysis. Some readers may see this as an asset. For most, it will be a liability. Tzvee Zahavy Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies University of Minnesota From Tradition to Commentary: Torah and Its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy, by Steven D. Fraade. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991. 343 pp. $18.95. There has been a recent spate of studies of rabbinic texts like this one examining midrash, as suggested on the back cover of the present work, "in relation to the perspectives of literary and historical criticisms. '.' The author focuses on the texts of a major rabbinic book of commentaries to Deuteronomy. The text has been worked on thoroughly by scholars of note. Saul Lieberman did the critical edition (Sifre to Deuteronomy, reprinted- New York, 1969), and Jacob Neusner completed a modern 160 SHOFAR English translation (Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Introduction to the Rhetorical, Logical and Topical Program, three volumes, Atlanta, 1987). Accordingly much of the foundation for higher level analysis and criticism for the text has been solidly set. Serious work setting forth the principles of critical methodologies for midrash study have also been published recently. They range from a variety of essays collected by Geoffrey Hartman and Sanford Budick (Midrash and Literature, New Haven, 1986) to more specialized critical inquiries by, again, Jacob Neusner. His Invitation to Midrash, New York, 1989 and The Midrash: An Introduction, Northvale, 1990, summarize many of the principles for critical study. The present volume is supposed to develop "a model for a dynamic understanding of the literary structure and socio-historical function ofearly rabbinic commentary." Fraade pays attention at the outset to other Judaic alternatives such as the pesharim of the Dead Sea community and the HellenisticJewish commentaries of Philo ofAlexandria. He focuses on how Sifre presents the revelation at Sinai, the role of the rabbi, legislator and judge. The book is clearly the result of many years of research and great erudition. It has over a hundred pages of footnotes and thirty pages of bibliography. The author has done his homework on the subject of midrash, there is no doubt. The author promises to take the reader "on a series of firsthand textual tours of some of the most striking landscapes, always with an eye to their broader cultural and socio-historic settings, both within the larger text of the Sifre and without" (p. 1). The book does this and so satisfies many of the needs of the midrash sightseer. Unfortunately, the book does not make any tangible advance in the scholarly study of rabbinic texts. With all its ostensible erudition it suffers from far too many minor flaws and major methodological misconceptions. Here are a few examples ranging from the picayune to the serious: p.4: (IQpHab missing closing parenthesis (9.3-12): p.4: beca[u]se amusing attempt...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 159-162
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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