Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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SPERLING / ISRAELI BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP
7
much o f this work remains unknown to the larger world o f
biblical studies. This state o f affairs is truly regrettable because
the medieval scholars often anticipated moderns in lexical com­
parisons, poetics and historical orientation. To pu t it bluntly,
parshanut
is much more germane to “mainstream” biblical schol­
arship than is generally realized.
Some distinctive aspects o f Israeli biblical scholarship must
be underlined . First, Israeli biblicists are especially a ttuned to
the realia, climate, terra in , flora and fauna o f the country. Sec­
ond , most are also at least minimally competent in read ing Mish-
nah and Midrash. These rabbinic texts o f late antiquity and
the early medieval period are sources o f lexical, grammatical
and syntactical information which shed enormous light on bib­
lical Hebrew. T h ird , in contrast to the American scene in which
the study o f the Bible against its ancient Near Eastern back­
g r o u n d is less p ra c t ic e d th a n it was some yea rs a g o ,1
comparatism is alive and well in Israel. One reason for the dif­
ference2in focus is tha t the wealth o f data and the accompanying
specialization within ancient Near Eastern studies have obviated
the need fo r American Assyriologists, Egyptologists and
Hittitologists to study Bible and biblical Hebrew. In contrast,
because the Hebrew Bible is p a r t o f Israeli culture, both secular
and religious, students cannot complete pre-university studies
without passing a proficiency examination in Bible. Accordingly,
scholars in ancient Near Eastern studies who would not identify
themselves as biblicists, nonetheless regularly make con tribu­
tions to biblical studies. Fourth , as will be seen in the accounts
o f individual scholars, a good am oun t o f text-critical work is
being done.
It should come as no surprise tha t women are increasingly
making the ir mark in Israeli biblical studies. Women scholars
are found on the Bible faculties at Jerusa lem , Tel-Aviv and Beer
Sheva and even at the O rthodox Bar-Ilan University.
1. See S.D. Sperling,
Students of the Covenant: A History ofJewish Biblical Schol­
arship in North America
(Atlanta, 1992), 119.
2. For some additional factors see Sperling, ibid.