The Cen­sor, The Edi­tor, and The Text: The Catholic Church and The Shap­ing of The Jew­ish Canon in The Six­teenth Century

Amnon Raz-Krako­rzkin; Jack­ie Feld­man, trans.
  • Review
By – February 27, 2012
With the rise of the print cul­ture in the mid-16th cen­tu­ry, in addi­tion to the threat of Chris­t­ian reform­ers, the Church imple­ment­ed many poli­cies designed to restrict Jew­ish life and lim­it con­tact with Chris­tians. One of these was the ban­ning of cer­tain Jew­ish texts, or at least the expur­ga­tion of pas­sages that were con­sid­ered threat­en­ing, not least those per­ceived to express crit­i­cism of the Church and its doc­trines. Rec­og­niz­ing both the vio­lent and asym­met­ri­cal action this rep­re­sent­ed, as well as the mis­sion­ary moti­va­tions of these poli­cies, Raz- Krakorzkin’s aim is not so much to fur­ther denounce the oppres­sive nature of the Catholic cen­sor, as it is to study the dynam­ics of cen­sor­ship. He seeks to clar­i­fy the prin­ci­ples of edit­ing at work, and the rela­tion­ships between the agents of con­trol, includ­ing the cen­sors, Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and the Chris­t­ian Hebraists, Chris­t­ian schol­ars who had a new inter­est in Hebrew texts dur­ing this peri­od. Cen­sors sought to pre­vent the pub­li­ca­tion of for­bid­den con­tent, but they had to become famil­iar with this mate­r­i­al to do so, there­by autho­riz­ing that which passed the test. Thus, in addi­tion to what was omit­ted from Jew­ish texts, much Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture was incor­po­rat­ed into Chris­t­ian dis­course in new ways as per­mit­ted knowl­edge, hence, effect­ing the reshap­ing of the lim­its of Catholic ortho­doxy, espe­cial­ly in response to inter­nal Chris­t­ian dis­putes with the Reform­ers. In addi­tion, Jews now gained explic­it per­mis­sion to pub­lish those com­po­nents of their lit­er­ary her­itage that passed the test. Among the many inter­est­ing twists and turns revealed in this learned vol­ume, is the fact that the Tal­mud could no longer be denounced as post-Bib­li­cal, because that played into legit­i­mat­ing the Reform­ers’ claims against the author­i­ty of the Church Fathers as post-Bib­li­cal, and thus not author­i­ta­tive. Bib­li­og­ra­phy and index.
Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, is the author of Mys­tery­of Romans, win­ner of the 1996 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, Charles H. Revson­Award in Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Relations.

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