on 24 July 2012
In this rabbinic Commentary,Samuel Lach's presents Talmudic and Midrashic texts
that were of the time schema of the New Testament or later - his criteria being that if later they enclosed a more primitive origional. They were also a help in explicating Judaic practice in the Synoptic Gospels.
This methodological approach was standard from the previous two centuries, but
Lach had the advantage of the reflections of more comparitive literature such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In his 450 page book he was balanced in his appreciation of Judaism and Christianity, preferring a mediated approach rather than confrontational.
In spite of this admirable temperament, he was not short in criticising Claude Montefiore's 1930 classic, 'Rabbinic Literature and Gospel Teaching' where he thought this writer had overstepped the mark in some of his deductions because of Montefiore's liberal Jewish outlook. His pharasic polemics where to Lach's
way of thinking unfair to the Pharasees as a class.
One might profitably compare Lach's treatment of The Beatitudes, Matt.5:3-12
with Montefiore's, where the former has more recent material to adduce his arguments. What is pleasing about this challenging aspect is that all three Gospel's are thrown into the mix, so that they are a Synopsism ie. explored
as in a Synopsis; whereas Montefiore used only Matthew and Luke (omitting Mark), in isolation rather than in combination.
(A reprint of Montefiore's book, intended as a supplement to his 2 volume Synoptic Gospels, came out in 1970 courtesy of Ktav Publishing House.)
If Lach's Commentary can be the subject of a written critique it is that he does not cater for the general reader as he might. He relegates too much Talmudic and Rabbinic literature to mere mentions in notes rather than giving a summary of that text. Many readers do not have a large personal library or easy access to these works.
The specialist of course will delight in convergence and disagreement as is their wont. But another feature which makes this tome interesting is the way that the author assidously trys to sort out textual problems by turning back the Greek into what is perceived as a semitic original.
This of course is not cast-iron, but it adds another layer of consequence from factor texts that open new possibilities and horizons.
Whatever one might think of his conclusions , Samuel Lach's contribution to biblical scholarship was undimmed throughout his life-time.
He deserves a vote of thanks from we lesser mortals for his close attention to detail and rigorous persistence in the search for truth which is reflected in his Commentary.