06 May 2008

Quoting the Author

Apropos of my earlier posting on the importance of Talmudic/Rabbinic citation, I found the following quote a while back of interest:
The piece of art or the secular Constitutional document is being evaluated in almost total isolation from their respective authors. Change the authors and the evaluation will remain the same. Not so in a religious statement. There the author is inexorably connected with the authority of the statement. It is he who lends validity to the statement, he who makes it worthwhile studying it in the first place. Remove the author and the statement loses all its efficacy and the weight of its authority. In such a context, history and exegesis converge. The exegete is a historian of the text. He brings out the original intention of the author, reproduces what had transpired in the mind of the author during the enunciation of the statement, capturing thereby a particular historical moment. To usurp, therefore, a person's name, a person's authority for an interpretation which that person did not intend, or, what is worse, outrightly rejected, smacks of historical distortion.
-David Weiss Halivni, "Contemporary Methods of the Study of the Talmud," Journal of Jewish Studies 30, no. 2 (Autumn 1979), 197.

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