For the Talmud, the Translation of the Bible into Greek Was a National Tragedy. Azariah de Rossi Disagreed

Dec. 28 2017

Today, the fast of the Tenth of Tevet primarily commemorates the start of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 588 BCE, which culminated with the city’s destruction. But it is also associated with a handful of other anniversaries, including that of the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, completed, according to medieval Jewish sources, on the eighth day of Tevet. As this linkage with the fast day suggests, rabbinic tradition took a dim view of the Septuagint, as the Greek translation—legendarily executed by 72 Jewish sages on commission from King Ptolemy of Egypt in the 3rd century BCE—is known. In the early 1570s, the Italian rabbi and humanist Azariah de Rossi undertook to change that, for reasons summarized by Elli Fischer:

[The history of the Septuagint involved] an admission by classical Greek culture (represented by Ptolemy II) and Christianity (which preserved the work and considered it sacred) that the Jews held the original, authentic Bible and had access to its true meaning and wisdom. For a persecuted people—it had been barely a year since the expulsion of Jews from Bologna, and the Talmud had been burned publicly in several major Italian cities in the 1550s and 1560s, not to mention that Jews expelled from Spain constituted a significant part of Italian Jewry—such a work had great apologetic value.

Moreover, the Hebrew language played an important role in the two great movements that were transforming Europe at the time: the Renaissance and the Reformation. The Renaissance, as its name indicates, was perceived as a recovery and renewal of lost grandeur, a rebirth after a long, dark age. There was a return to Greek and Latin classical culture, but also to Hebrew.

In Italy and the Netherlands, Renaissance scholars studied Hebrew with Jewish or apostate tutors, attempting to gain access to Jewish texts—far more than just the Torah—without the mediation of translations or interpretations. . . . This emergent phenomenon, which came to be known as Christian Hebraism, required Jewish manpower. Indeed, 15th- and 16th-century Jewish scholars . . . found employment teaching Hebrew to Christians and translating Hebrew works into Latin and other European languages. That is, they were playing a role similar to that of [the Jewish sages who authored the Septuagint]. Azariah, too, . . . was approached by a Christian scholar [for assistance]. . . .

But Azariah was not just the analogue of Ptolemy’s [Jewish] sages; he was also their mirror image. They translated Hebrew into Greek; he translated [works] from Latin into Hebrew. They brought the Torah to the famed Library of Alexandria; he brought books and knowledge from the vast repositories accessible to him and embedded them in a rabbinic work.

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More about: Azariah de Rossi, Italian Jewry, Religion & Holidays, Septuagint, Tenth of Tevet, Translation

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict