RASHI AND HIS SOURCES
Rashi and the Gloss both build on their rabbinic and patristic traditions. This chapter, on Rashi, and the next chapter, on the Gloss, will show that they both draw selectively on a range of different sources and adapt them using a variety of strategies to present their exegesis as arising directly from the biblical text. These strategies of adaptation and change allow them to present themselves as in continuity with their respective exegetical traditions.
At the same time, as these chapters will show, both commentaries represent themselves as reading the Bible as a self-glossing text: Difficult passages in one part of the Bible can be explained by reference to other parts of the Bible, and no sources outside the Bible are necessary to understand it. Paradoxically, the exegeses presented in Rashi and in the Gloss can be read as an original and rational response to the biblical corpus as a whole and also as an authoritative record of rabbinic or patristic opinion.
Rashi and the Gloss both build on their rabbinic and patristic traditions, and these clear continuities have affected how contemporary scholars have interpreted the central themes of these commentaries. Shaye Cohen, in his attempt to prove that there is no anti-Christian polemic in Rashi’s commentary on the Pentateuch, interprets Rashi’s heavy reliance on midrash as evidence that any polemic is that of the midrash, not Rashi.1 Elazar Touitou, who identifies a great deal of anti-Christian polemic in Rashi’s exegesis of the first six chapters of Genesis, describes Rashi as deriving this polemic, as well as many of his other ideas, directly from rabbinic sources.2 Similarly, scholarship on the Gloss by Beryl Smalley,3 Margaret Gibson,4 and Gillian Evans5 has tended to emphasize its continuity with patristic literature rather than its originality. However, the dichotomy between originality and continuity is a false one for both Rashi and for the Gloss in their commentaries on Genesis 22. Both draw on their respective sources, and both arrange and adapt these sources in a way that responds to their twelfth-century context.