Book Review: A Scripture Index To Rabbinic Literature

A Scripture Index To Rabbinic Literature, by Caleb T. Friedeman

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

This is a most useful book that it is easy to appreciate. It is to be sure that not many people will think that a scriptural index to rabbinic literature is needful, but such people will be extremely pleased with what this book has to offer. This is a book that is very well organized to provide the reader with a handy look at what rabbinic literature addresses particular scriptures in the Hebrew as well as New Testament scriptures, both in direct quotation as well as more implicit remez references. Those readers who want to be better acquainted with classical Jewish thinking, both talmudic and midrashic, on the Bible will find in this one-volume reference book a great deal of help in being able to target their focus on particular works that address the same scriptures that one is looking to interpret and explain. The fact that the book provides detailed references to those rabbinic works which are available in English translations [1] encourages readers to focus their attention where it is easiest to gratify with success.

This book is a sizable one at more than 500 pages, and it is organized in a sensible and excellent manner. The book begins with acknowledgements as well as abbreviations that allow the work to be smaller than it would be otherwise, including of modern works, the Hebrew Bible, as well as the rabbinic works. After this comes a detailed introduction that includes the book’s purpose, general organization, literature and citation style, as well as a select introductory bibliography and a note on the editorial process and error reporting. The vast majority of the book is taken up in the scripture index to rabbinic literature which is organized in order of the chapter and verse in the Hebrew scriptures. This material, which takes up more than 500 pages, is divided into three sections, first the Hebrew scriptures, then the Apocrypha, and then the New Testament. The latter two sections are short, combining for about ten pages or so, with citations included for Tobit, Judith, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and 2 Esdras in the former section and Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James, 1 John, and Revelation in the latter. It is, unsurprisingly, in the Hebrew scriptures that the vast majority of citations are present. Roughly half of the material is provided for the Torah alone, in which nearly every verse of the first five books of the Bible is included in some commentary material. After that the editor includes those materials cited in the Former and Latter Prophets as well as the Writings.

It is not only that this book provides both detailed and concise references to rabbinic literature that makes it so noteworthy. The editor goes above and beyond expectations in seeking to sniff out and provide even hints where direct citations are not present, and provides the reader with a look at the different levels of reference that are included in the rabbinic information. Also of great interest is the editor’s discussion about how it is that the rabbinic material should be treated. The author notes, and this note is well worth considering, that it is very frequent that the rabbinic material is used in such a way that distorts its meaning. It is unclear whether the author weighs the rabbinic material as highly as some people do–I know that I myself as a reader find much to criticize in the talmudic material, and if I am more positively predisposed to the midrashic approach personally, that does not mean I find every interpretation to be particularly valid. If I am not predisposed to think well of such sources, though, I do feel it important to do justice by seeking to be fair about what those sources are saying rather than to view it poorly simply because of dislike, nor to be overawed by it simply because of its prestige.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/11/08/mekilta-de-rabbi-ishmael-volume-one/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/11/08/book-review-mekilta-de-rabbi-ishamel-volume-two/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/11/08/book-review-mekilta-de-rabbi-ishmael-volume-three/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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