The Exegete and the Unspoken

I generally don’t post quotes by themselves, but I really enjoy this statement in Jean-Christophe Attias’ recently translated book “The Jews and the Bible”:

“The exegete may bring all his skills to bear on it, whether religious or secular, rabbinical or scientific. He enters into dialogue with his sources, quotes his predecessors, sometimes copies them without saying so, completes, corrects, and discusses them, criticizes them indirectly and refutes them openly. It is out of this endless face-off between loyalty and treachery, reproduction and emancipation, that his  commentary emerges. It sorts, selects, rewrites, contrasts, or combines material, underlining conflicts of interpretation or, on the contrary, seeking to reconcile the irreconcilable. Even the most sober commentaries, the ones most attached to pshat  of the biblical text, the ones least dependent on rabbinical, philosophical, or kabbalist tradition, resonate with a thousand presences hidden in their very silences, in the very things they forget or leave unspoken” (117).

I mainly appreciate his comment on commentaries and exegesis because it emphasizes the complexities and nature of bias in interpretation of a text, regardless of faith. I am unable to place my finger on it but there is something about how he writes that demonstrates a unique depth in his statement.


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