Monday, February 25, 2008

R. Saul Lieberman on being historical: tikkunei soferim and not conflating ancient with modern sensibilites

Saul Lieberman,"Corrections of the Soferim," in Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, pg 33-34 1994 edition:

"Jacob Reifmann collected a great number of Biblical passages which contain rougher expressions than many of those included among the corrections of the Soferim. Why then, he asks, did the Soferim (or the verse) modify some utterances while they left others unchanged? Why the inconsistency."

"However, we cannot apply our modern standards to the ancients. We are not in a position to measure their sensitivity to certain expressions and their definition of rudeness of style. We really find no consistency in the use of euphemisms even in later rabbinic literature. We are in no position to judge the ancients for their seeming inconsistency; they were guided by their own standards and reasons. We must also take the individuals, times and places into consideration."

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