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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

The Question of Contacts and Influence

The Hebrew Bible constituted the basis on which both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity claimed their legitimacy. Both the rabbis and early Christian leaders saw themselves as the legitimate interpreters of the Bible and claimed a monopoly on their respective interpretations. In rabbinic midrash a multiplicity of interpretations of each biblical verse stand side by side. Sometimes similarities with Christian Bible interpretations are observable, or rabbinic reactions to and contradictions of the ‘wrong’ Christian view (see Visotzky 1995). The extent to which rabbis were familiar with Christian Bible interpretation is impossible to specify, though. Some Christian views may have reached them indirectly, through hearsay, rather than being based on their own readings (the extent to which rabbis were able to read Greek is equally uncertain) or contacts with Christian scholars.

The tendency nowadays is away from the positivistic search for direct influences of one text on another, to view the development of ancient Judaism and Christianity in the context of the multicultural realm in which ancient Jews and Christians lived in the Near East and the ancient Mediterranean world, especially in cosmopolitan cities. Whether a particular Christian text actually influenced a particular rabbinic utterance, or vice versa, cannot be fully determined; nor is it of great relevance. What is much more interesting and important is to investigate the ways in which both Jewish and Christian exegesis participated in ancient hermeneutics at large, both where similar solutions were reached and where one tradition differed from the other. If this approach is applied consistently, the characteristics of ancient Jewish and Christian Bible interpretation and adaptation will become clearer. At the same time, the boundaries between the two traditions will become more blurred, and many analogies emerge.

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