Written in Stone? Writing and Rewriting the Bible

By :  Benjamin D. Sommer Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages Posted On Oct 24, 2022 / 5783 | Dangerous Ideas Monday Webinar

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Part of the series, “Dangerous Ideas: Censorship Through a Jewish Lens”

This session is generously sponsored by Yale Asbell, JTS Trustee, and George Goldberg, in loving memory of Janet Kesselman Goldberg and Max J. Goldberg, MD

With Dr. Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages 

Examine the way biblical scribes updated texts, sometimes replaced (and thus in a way censored) the older text, but sometimes kept the older text intact even as they added to it. In several cases, a text was updated with the intention of replacing the older one, but then the canon of the Bible ended up including the older version as well as the newer one.We also look at how rabbinic liturgy sometimes turns a biblical passage on its head—but in ways that match what biblical scribes themselves did to the passage in question. It turns out that in the biblical period, what was written in stone had some degree of flexibility. 


Throughout Jewish history, certain texts and ideas have been deemed too dangerous to circulate—whether by outsiders who banned Jewish writings, or Jewish leaders who suppressed ideas considered heretical or beyond the pale. In this series, JTS scholars will examine efforts to control knowledge from ancient to contemporary times, exploring the ways in which censorship both reflects and shapes broader ideological struggles. They will discuss the varying motivations for controlling or revising narratives, and consider whether and under what circumstances it might make sense to suppress certain ideas. These discussions will illuminate past struggles and help us understand the battles over censorship and free expression playing out today. 


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