Thursday, February 11, 2016

Otzar ha-Qodesh (Apocrypha in Hebrew)

Today I did some hunting for the Hebrew and Aramaic versions of Tobit. I hunted down several, but one of interest I'd like to highlight here appears in a rare book called Otzar ha-Qodesh, a slim volume from 1851 that contains Hebrew versions of most of the biblical Apocrypha (Tobit, Judith, the additions to Daniel and Esther, Baruch, the Prayer of Manasseh, but no Maccabees, Ben Sira, or Wisdom). Only one copy was known to Moses Gaster. Now it's online for everyone at HebrewBooks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On-Line Books Related to the Christian Apocrypha (assembled by Tony Burke)

The gap between the Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament Apocrypha is much larger than the gap separating the Old and New Testaments. While the New Testament was largely written by Jews, the New Testament Apocrypha was written by Gentiles who either knew little about Judaism or pretended it did not exist. This attitude is also reflected in the New Testament Apocrypha's treatment of biblical history. I remember looking at the Scripture index of an updated version of M. R. James' Apocryphal New Testament and finding one or two columns for Genesis and a few scattered other references--but nothing else.

Therefore, I have not posted much on the New Testament Apocrypha (called here Christian Apocrypha, although I think most Pseudepigrapha are Christian Apocrypha as well), which are Jesus-centric to the exclusion of everyone else. Tony Burke, an expert on these writings (who has recently published a general introduction), has a page on his blog with lots of links to free stuff, including some excellent resources for anyone interested in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Apocrypha. Among these are Migne's Dictionnaire des Apocryphes and Gibson's Apocrypha Arabica (which contains a version of the Cave of Treasures, one of my favorites).

Check it out.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Qisas al-Anbiya: A Bibliography

Today I am clearly more interested in book-hunting than real work. Some time ago I posted an Arabic text of Thalabi's oft-printed Qisas al-Anbiya ("Stories of the Prophets," also known as Arais al-Majalis, the "Brides of Sessions" according to Brinner, one of the work's translators). I could not decipher which edition of the text I was looking at. I wanted to find another edition, but unfortunately I couldn't find another PDF of the astoundingly popular text with 81 editions in the World Catalogue

I did, however, stumble upon a provisional bibliography of Qisas-related material. It contains most of the books I know about, although it does not list the English translation of Rabghuzi, the author of a Turkish Qisas which was translated around 1995 and recently updated in a new, expensive edition (damn you, Brill!).

There is a 15th-century manuscript for sale at Christies, however, for only slightly more than the cost of Brinner's translation.

Mekhilta (Midrash on Exodus)

I am adding this just to complete the collection of halakhic midrashim. Mekhilta is the commentary to the legal portions of Exodus (although with some haggadic portions). There are two of them:


1. The Mekhilta of R. Ishmael is the "standard" one. The critical edition of Lauterbach is the current go-to version, but this is outside the public domain. If you want a free text, you have options. M. Friedmann, whose works have frequently figured on this blog, has an edition.

2. The Mekhilta of R. Simeon b. Yohai (the alleged author of the Zohar) is a lost text known from medieval citations that was only recently reconstructed. Hebrew Books has two versions, both of which are attributed to Jacob Epstein. The meatier, more recent version is here.

"Mekhilta" by itself invariably refers to the first of these. 

Sifrei Numbers and Deuteronomy

The halakhic midrash called "Sifrei" is actually two distinct works--the legal midrashim to Numbers and Deuteronomy. I know little about the Numbers midrash, but Deuteronomy has a non-PD standard edition (that of Finkelstein) and English translations published in my lifetime, one by Reuven Hammer and one by Jacob Neusner.

Like all the halakhic midrashim, the focus is on the legal aspects of the book. Sifrei to Deuteronomy breaks from this mold and includes substantial amounts of haggadah (narrative material), which is my bread and butter. The Deuteronomy midrash is apparently incomplete, and bits and pieces of early rabbinic commentaries to Deuteronomy come out of the woodwork now and then.

Although the standard edition is not in the public domain, a readable version of Sifrei is available on Hebrew Books. Like Sifra, the small number of pages means that one can affordably print and bind it (I've decided that the Kindle is not the best medium for reading ancient texts).

I should note that my personal goal is not to have the best text but to have an enormous library of readable texts in order to improve my language skills, the reason being that "best texts", if they exist, are frequently not in the PD. Original language texts, in any case, are cheaper than translations (if they exist).

Sifra (Midrash on Leviticus)

Yesterday, I tried to define my own personal limits of research by outlining the corpora of Jewish literature that were of lesser interest, which included the halakhic Midrashim, Kabbalah, medieval Bible commentaries and the, uh, Talmud.

Nevertheless, to make sure that I am not making a rash decision, I started searching for examples of these works to establish my non-interest. So, yesterday, I began fishing out the "official" editions of the halakhic midrashim, which are the oldest rabbinic Bible commentaries. Among these is Sifra, the first commentary on Leviticus, which focuses on verse-by-verse exegesis of the halakhic (legal) portions. There is a non-halakhic "commentary"--Leviticus Rabbah--which is actually a series of homilies on the holiday cycle, which is more fun to read than Sifra or the actual book of Leviticus.

Hebrew Books sports several editions of Sifra, which is hiding under the name Torat ha-Cohanim (the Torah of Priests). The standard edition is Weiss' 1862 Vienna edition, which is here. Like almost all rabbinic texts, this one is an editor's nightmare and a critical edition is not forthcoming.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Midrash Tanhuma (ed. Buber)

Midrash Tanhuma is a post-classical midrash collection on the Torah organized according to the Jewish lectionary cycle. It exists in at least two versions, a printed version from the sixteenth century and a distinct recension discovered by the prolific Solomon Buber and published in 1885. The Buber recension is generally recognized as an older form of the work. The portions on Genesis and Exodus are significantly different from the printed edition, while Leviticus through Deuteronomy are more similar (and, furthermore, resemble the collections on these works in Midrash Rabbah).

I found the printed Tanhuma some time ago, but the Buber recension escaped me until today. It was posted on Archive earlier this year. Solomon Buber normally attaches overlong introductions to his works. He outdid himself this time: Half of the first volume is introductory material (over 200 page). Genesis can be found in Volume One; the rest is in Volume Two.

Volume 1

Volume 2