Being True to the Text: From Genesis to Harry Potter

by Paul V.M. Flesher


1. This essay originated as the Senior Scholar Lecture for the AAR-SBL-ASOR Rocky Mountain/Great Plains Regional Conference, March 28-29, 2008. I thank Richard Hess and Hélène Dallaire, the conference organizers, for inviting me to present this lecture.

2. For further discussion of this point, see Flesher, P. V. M. and Torry, R., 2007, Film and Religion: An Introduction. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, pp. 71-85. For our analysis of The Passion of the Christ, see pp. 159-176.

3. General Stuff blog wrote on March 22, 2004, “T here has been an unfortunate crusade (yes, I will use this word fully aware of its meaning) to present this film as a second revelation of Scripture.” URL: Accessed August 9, 2008.

4. Targum scholars debate the role of the written targums in the synagogue service. The evidence makes clear that the Scripture reading was accompanied by a spoken translation of it into Aramaic, but it is unclear whether or how this was linked to a written translation. So while it is reasonable to assume the written targum was used in the synagogue service (and there is certainly no position accepted more widely), the evidence does not quite support that conclusion. For a summary of the discussion and further bibliography, see Smelik, W. F., 1995, The Targum of Judges, Leiden: Brill, pp. 31-39; and York, A. D., 1979, “The Targum in the Synagogue and the School,” JSJ 10.1. 74-86.

5. In Roman writings, these categories were known as verbum e verbo and sensus de sensu. See Brock, S., 1979, “Aspects of Translation Technique in Antiquity.” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 20. 69-87, esp. p. 70.

6. For a fuller analysis of the targums’ treatment of the Adam and Eve story, see Paul V. M. Flesher, P. V. M., 2000, “The Resurrection of the Dead and the Sources of the Palestinian Targums to the Pentateuch.” Handbuch der Orientalistik, Judaism in Late Antiquity, Part 4, Death, Life-After-Death, Resurrection & The World-to-Come in the Judaisms of Antiquity, Avery-Peck, A. J., and Neusner, J., eds., Leiden: Brill, pp. 311-331.

7. All English translations of Targum Neofiti come from McNamara, M., 1992, Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

8. For a fuller treatment of the notion of hidden interpretation in the targums, see Flesher, P. V. M., 2005, “Pentateuchal Targums as Midrash,” in Encyclopedia of Midrash, Neusner, J., and Avery-Peck, A. J., eds. Leiden: Brill. Vol. 2, pp. 630-646, esp. pp. 636-639. See also Flesher, P. V. M., 2002, “Targum as Scripture,” in Targum and Scripture, Paul V.M. Flesher, ed. Leiden: Brill. pp. 61-75.

9. Flesher and Torry, Film and Religion.

10. All Gospel translations into English are taken from the New International Version.

11. Luke here gives the rendering of the verse found in the Greek Septuagint (“all flesh shall see the salvation of God”) rather than that of the Hebrew Masoretic text (“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”). There are interesting Hebrew/Greek translation issues here, but they stand beyond the ability of this essay to address them.

12. The one time I gave a presentation about this passage to an audience of religion and biblical scholars, they failed to notice Isaiah 34 as well.

13. Rowling, J. K., 1997 & 1998, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, New York: Scholastic. p. 294.

14. The book places this scene in the hospital wing, p. 304.

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