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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Medieval Jewish Interpretation

Barry D. Walfish

The Way of the Peshat

The Bible has been the focus of a rich exegetical tradition, which began to evolve even before the canonization process was completed. The techniques of inner‐biblical ex‐ egesis, pesher‐type interpretation as practiced at Qumran, and rabbinic midrash are all examples of the application of the Bible to the changing spiritual needs of a faith‐community. (See “Inner‐biblical Interpretation,” pp. 1829–35; “The Bible in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” pp. 1920–28; and “Midrash and Jewish Interpretation,” pp. 1863–75 .) Rabbinic midrash treated the entire Bible as an or‐ ganic whole, whose parts were infinitely significant and ripe for interpretation. This led to atomizing the text, reading words and verses out of context, and making connections between verses from various biblical books. Halakhic midrash attempted to anchor current practice in the biblical text, while aggadic midrash shed light on the character of biblical personalities and derived moral, educational, and theological lessons from biblical narra‐ tive through a variety of creative techniques, which often had little regard for the literary coherence or earlier meanings of the text. The midrashic method adequately satisfied the community's needs well into the early Middle Ages, when significant forces came to bear which called for new approaches to the biblical text and gave birth to the commentary genre. In contrast to midrashic collections, which are anthologies of comments by various sages, arranged either as a commentary on a biblical book or as a collection of sermons, the commentary bears the distinct stamp of a single author. From the 8th century onward, in Iraq, Judeo‐Arabic paraphrases of biblical texts begin to appear, replacing Aramaic works of a similar nature. These are the precursors of the commentary genre. By the middle of the 9th century, a steady stream of commentaries begins to flow through the veins of the Jewish body politic, nourishing and invigorating it, and providing instruction and inspiration for each succeeding generation.

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Oxford University Press

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