Classical Rabbinic Interpretation
By the 1st century CE, Jewish interpretation was beginning a long process of standardization and development. The Rabbis who carried out this program clearly believed that sacred texts contain timeless wisdom; but when preserved in writing, this timeless wisdom becomes in time obscure or difficult to understand, and must therefore be explained. This necessity is the origin of commentary, which can run along a continuum between “pure” types: from the effort to explain the text as it is in itself—what might be called the “original intent” or “plain sense” of the writing—to the effort to interpret the text in contemporary terms in the commentator's day—the “application” or “practical intent” of the writing. In this sense, rabbinic interpretation functions much as other interpretation does.