Did the Ba'al Midrash Haggadol Use Qohelet Rabbah or an Earlier Midrash? Philological Comparisons between Midrash Haggadol to Qohelet Rabbah and Vayyiqra Rabbah - Part One
Keywords:Qohelet Rabbah, Vayyiqra Rabbah, Midrash Haggadol
There is a scholarly consensus that Midrash Haggadol used the composition known to us as "Qohelet Rabbah". In a recent article I questioned this consensus on the basis of a specific instance of textual analysis. But of course one instance cannot justify conclusions regarding entire compositions; can we find additional other evidence relevant to this question?
This type of analysis is not at all simple, mainly because Midrash Haggadol does not hesitate to change and "correct" his source. Therefore, if you find in one pair of parallels differences between the text of Qohelet Rabbah and the text of Midrash Haggadol, we cannot conclude that Midrash Haggadol used a different source and not Qohelet Rabbah. Perhaps he used Qohelet Rabbah and changed it. It is also possible that Midrash Haggadol in general did use Qohelet Rabbah, but this specific passage was taken from a different composition.
Similarly, a specific instance of a close parallel between Qohelet Rabbah and Midrash Haggadol does not prove that the Midrash Haggadol used Qohelet Rabah. After all, quite obviously, Qohelet Rabbah did not change his source in every line: in this case Qohelet Rabbah and an earlier midrash on Qohelet presented the same text and Midrash Haggadol used the latter.
The same hesitations that arise regarding one pair of parallels are also present when the comparative study includes several pairs of parallels – especially if the choice of the cases in question is done purposefully.
On the other hand, it seems that if you examine all the parallels between Qohelet Rabbah and Midrash Haggadol and in the great majority of them you see that there are no real editorial changes, it is appropriate to conclude that Midrash Haggadol is based on Qohelet Rabbah. And if the great majority of them contain editorial changes, it is appropriate to conclude that Midrash Haggadol is not based on Qohelet Rabbah.
I did not examine in this article all the parallels between Qohelet Rabbah and Midrash Haggadol. I contented myself with thirteen parallel sections; I started from the beginning and stopped when I felt that the amount of proof that had been generated was indicative. It is worth emphasizing the methodological importance of studying a continuous unit that is large enough so that the laws of logic and probability transfer the conclusions based upon this unit to the entire composition.
My conclusion at the end of the article is unequivocal: the midrash we know by the name Qohelet Rabbah was not used by Midrash Haggadol.
In order to preclude hesitations concerning this conclusion because of the putative practices of Midrash Haggadol when generating his composition, I also compared passages from Vayyiqra Rabbah to their parallel passages in Midrash Haggadol. Here, too, I looked at thirteen parallel sections. The purpose of these studies in Vayyiqra Rabbah is to see if the affinity of Midrash Haggadol to the parallel text in Vayyiqra Rabbah is similar to the affinity of Midrash Haggadol to the parallel text in Qohelet Rabbah. These comparisons are contained in the second part of this article, to be published in the next issue of Sidra.