Thursday, May 22, 2008

Artscroll: Modern scholarship buttresses the Rashbyic authorship for the Zohar

A חבר (in both senses of the term) pointed out to me an amusing bit in Artscroll The Rishonim,* (Brooklyn: 1982), p. 98.

The entry for R' Moshe de Leon:

"R' Moshe earned his livelihood as a traveling scribe, copying old manuscripts. Thus, he discovered and published the Zohar, the principal book of the Kabbalah, compiled by the Tanna R' Shimon bar Yochai. . . .

Modern scholars have pointed out that the kabbalistic ideas expressed in R' Moshe's own works do not accord with those of the Zohar, making untenable the supposition, first recorded in Yuchasin and echoed by subsequent generations of the Kaballah's opponents, that R' Moshe himself authored the Zohar."

Interesting in itself that the question of Ben Yochoic authorship should find mention in a book by Artscroll. More interesting is that it marshals "modern scholarship" (whom?) in implied defense of Ben Yochoic authorship (compileship?), while modern scholarship definitely opposes the idea that the Zohar is a true tannaitic work, that is, compiled or taught mainly in the 2nd century by R. Shimon ben Yochoi (friendly trends which credit the Zohar for containing pre-13th century material that may in fact be many centuries old is not the same thing).

Still, it's worth mentioning! Happy Lag Le-omer!

*This book, and it's sequal The Early Acharonim, is a biographical compendium of the Shem Ha-gedolim genre. It is unclear if another volume in this series was ever intended, but the second volume ends at the end of the 18th century. Once you get into the 19th century, the ideological purity headache begins, and perhaps the company wished to avoid it. Perhaps not. In any case, over at What's Bothering Artscroll? I had begun a series of posts on "controversial rabbis" as covered by the company, particularly in their Early Acharonim (link). I would have - and probably will - posted about R. Yehuda Aryeh Mi-Modena, R. Eliyahu Bachur and others . These books are an example of a type of openness which Artscroll exhibited in its early years, which it later learned to check. Thus, it is doubtful to me if today they would include De Rossi and Modena in such a collection. Incidentally, in this post I acknowledge that The Early Acharonim elucidated one of my Main Line posts - even if The Early Acharonim doesn't 'fess up to its sources. ;)

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