Ibn Zimra's Responsum B: The Masorah and Fixing the Torah Text

B. Barry Levy

in Fixing God's Torah

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780195141139
Published online April 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780199834945 | DOI:
 Ibn Zimra's Responsum B: The Masorah and Fixing the Torah Text

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This chapter and Chapters 2 and 4–5 explore the principles that underlie medieval rankings of various types of halakhic evidence for deciding on a number of questionable spellings of the Torah text, including an important shift in ranking that received much support in the sixteenth century; they centre on a closely related group of four responsa (responses to questions) about the accuracy of the Bible text and closely related matters, by Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra (popularly known in English as Ibn Zimra, and in Hebrew as HaRaDBaZ). A careful look at Ibn Zimra's responses offers an important glimpse into how a leading sixteenth‐century rabbinic authority evaluated his predecessors’ treatments of textual questions and ranked the conflicting witnesses to the spellings or orthographic irregularities of certain biblical words; it also clarifies the halakhic literature's overall approach to fixing the Bible text and reveals what appears to be a major inconsistency in Ibn Zimra's attitude towards the Masorah (the collective textual notes and other additions to the text of the Torah itself). Translations of each responsum are given, and an analysis made of the sources and nuances of their author's arguments, with observations on the relationships between these documents and other issues and compositions of masoretic and halakhic importance. The second responsum, which is covered in this chapter, shares much with some well‐known medieval polemical literature, and is an important statement on the origin and authority of the Masorah and the extent to which it should be used to determine the correct spelling of biblical words.

Keywords: accuracy; ancient texts; David Ibn Zimra; halakhic evidence; Hebrew Bible; Masorah; responsa; spelling; Torah; translations

Chapter.  12869 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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