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Scripture, Interpretation or, Jewish.

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We here present some details supplementary to the art. (See INTERPRETATION) (q.v.).

I. Among the Rabbinic Jews. Immediately after the close of the canon, the study of the Old Test. became an object of scientific treatment. A number of God-fearing men arose, who, by their instruction, encouragement, and solemn admonitions, rooted and builded up the people in their most holy faith. The first among these was Ezra, who read and explained the law to the people (Nehemiah 8:8). As the Bible formed the central point around which their legends, sermons, lectures, discussions, investigations, etc., clustered, a homiletico-exegetical literature was, in the course of time, developed, which was called Midrash (מדרשׁ ). This Mid-rash again developed itself in the Halachah (הלכה ), i.e. current law, fixed rule of life; also called שׁמעתא, what was heard or accepted, and Hagadah (הגדה ), i.e. what was said, without having the authority of a law, i.e. free exposition, homilies, moral sayings, and legends.

Starting from the principle that Scripture, especially the Pentateuch, contained an answer to every question, the text was explained in a fourfold manner, viz.:

1, פשׁט, in a simple, primary, or literal;

2, דרשׁ , secondary, homiletic, or spiritual;

3, רמז , allegorical;

4, סוד , recondite or mysterious sense, which was afterwards designated by the acrostic Parries (q.v.).

These four modes of interpretation were also espoused by the celebrated Nicholas de Lyra (q.v.), which he describes in the well-known couplet

Littern gesta docet, quid credas Allegoria, Moralis quid agas, qua tendas anagogia."

Long before De Lyra, we also find a threefold mode of interpretation by Origen, viz.: σωματικός ψυχικός , and πνευματικός (comp. περὶ ἀρχῶν, lib. 4:c. 2). As the Midrashic literature has already been treated in the art. (See MIDRASH) (q.v.), we can only refer to it. The fourfold mode of interpretation, however, was not sufficient for the explanation, and, according to the old saying that "the law can be interpreted in forty-nine different modes" (התורה נדרשׁת במט פנימ, Midrash Rabb. Lee. § 26:p. 149 b), all impossibilities could be made possible. Hence the necessity arose for laying down and fixing certain laws for the interpretation of the Scripture.,This was done by Hillel the Great. (q.v.) by his ז מדות, or seven rules, according to which the law was to be explained, viz.:

1. Inference from minor to major (קל וחומר ). Thus, e.g., in Exodus 22:13 it is not said whether the borrower of a thing is responsible for theft. In Exodus 22:9-11, however, it is declared that the depositary who can free himself from making restitution in eases of death or accident must make restitution when the animal is stolen: while in Exodus 22:13 the borrower is even obliged to make restitution in eases of death or accident. Hence the inference made from the minor (i.e. the depositary:) to the major (i.e. the borrower) that he (in 22:13) !S all the more responsible for theft (Bobs Metsia, 95 a; camp. also for other examples, Berakoth, 9:5 reed.; Beza, v, 2; Sanhedrin, 6:5; Eduyoth, 6:2).

2. The analogy of ideas or analogous inferences (גזתרה ). This rule was employed by Hillel himself against the sons of Batheira, who pretended not to know Whether or not the Paschal lamb might be slain on the Sabbath, when the evening of the Passover happened to fall on that day. Hillel affirmed this question on the ground of the analogous inference. In Numbers 28:2 it is said concerning the daily sacrifice, "to offer it in its time" (במועדו ); and it is also said respecting the Paschal lamb, "let the children of Israel keep it in its time" (במועדו, Numbers 9:2). He thus concluded since the daily sacrifice can be offered on the Sabbath, so likewise can the Paschal lamb (Pesachim, 6:2; Jerus, Pesachim, 66 a; Tosephta Pesachim, c. 4).

3. Analogy of two objects in one verse (מכתוב אחד בנין אב ). Thus in Leviticus 15:4 two objects are mentioned, the bed and the chair (משׁכב ומושׁב ), which, though belonging to two different classes, have the common quality of serving for repose. And as these are declared to be unclean when touched by him who has an issue, and to have .the power of defiling both men and garments through contact, it is inferred that all things which serve for resting may be rendered unclean by him who has an issue, and then defile both men and garments.

4. Analogy of two objects in two verses (משׁני כתובים בנין אב ), e.g., though the command to light the lamps in the sanctuary (נרות, Leviticus 24:4) is different from the command "to put out of the camp every leper" (Numbers 5:2), inasmuch as the former is enjoined for all times (Numbers 5:3), while the latter enjoins only the speedy carrying-out of the injunction (Numbers 5:4); yet, because they both have in common the word צו command, the conclusion is that every law with regard to which the expression צו is used must at once and forever be carried out.

5. General and special (כלל ופרט ). Hereby is meant that wherever a special statement follows a general one, the definition of the special is to be applied to the general use. Thus in Leviticus 1:2 we read, "If any man of you bring an offering to the Lord, from cattle, from oxen, and from sheep." Here cattle is a general expression, and may denote different kinds of animals. Oxen and sheep is the special whereby the general is defined, and therewith it is rendered coextensive. Hence it is inferred that only oxen and small cattle may be brought as sacrifices, but not beasts.

6. Analogy of another passage (אחר כיוצא בן ממקום ), being an extension of 3 and 4.

7. The connection (דבר הלמד מענינו ). Thus the prohibition in Leviticus 20:11, "Ye shall not steal," only refers to stealing money, because the whole connection treats upon money matters.

To these exegetical principles Nahum of Gimso (q.v.) not only added another canon, but he also maintained that certain defined particles employed in the text were to be looked upon as so many indications of a hidden meaning in the words. In this he was opposed by Ne-chunjah ben- Ha-Kanah (q.v.), on the one hand, and seconded by Akiba (q.v.), on the other, who not only adopted this principle, but went much beyond it. Starting with an erroneous notion of the character of inspiration, he refused to submit the sacred text to the same critical rules as other writings. He maintained that every sentence, word, and particle in the Bible must have its use and meaning. He denied that mere rhetorical figures, repetitions, or accumulations occurred in the Bible. Every word, Syllable, and letter which was not absolutely requisite to express the meaning which it was desired to to indicate a special meaning. Akiba reduced his views to a system. The seven exegetical principles of Hillel were enlarged into forty-nine, and were strictly applied to every possible case, irrespective of the consequences of such conclusions. Great as the authority of Akiba was, yet as formerly Nechunjah ben-Ha-Kanah had opposed the exegetical principles of Nahum of Gimso, so now rabbi Ismael ben-Elisa (q.v.) rejected those of rabbi Akiba, and kept by the rules of Hillel, which he somewhat altered by rejecting one, adding another, and subdividing a third into five parts. These principles of rabbi Ismael are known as his thirteen exegetical canons, the מדות שׁלשׁעשׁרה, by which alone the Scriptures are to be interpreted (שׁהתורח נדרשׁת בהם ), and which are:

1. Inference from minor to major (קל וחמר ).

2. The comparison of words or ideas (גזירה שׁוה ).

3. Building of the father, or the chief, law from one verse, and the chief law from two verses (בנין אב מכתוב אחד ובנין אב משׁני כתובים ).

4. General and special (כלל ופרט ).

5. Special and general (פרט וכלל ).

6. General, special, and general (כלל ופרט וכלל ).

7. A general subject which requires a special one, and a special which requires a general subject (כלל הצריךְ לפרט ופרט הצריד לכלל )

8. When a special law is enacted for something which has already been comprised in a general law, it shows that it is also to be applied to the whole class (אלא ללמד על הכלל כולן יצא ויצא מן הכלל ללמד לא ללמד על עצמו יצא דבר שׁהיה בכלל )

9. When a subject in a general description is excepted from it for another enactment, while it restrains in all other respects like it, it is excepted to be alleviated, but not aggravated אחי שׁחוא כעניני דבר יצא לחקל ולא להחמיר שׁהיה בכלל ויצא לטעון טעון ). it for another enactment, while it is also not like it in other respects, it is excepted both to be alleviated and aggravated, i.e. its connection with the general law entirely ceases (ולהחמיר ויצא לטעון טעון טון אחר שׁלא כענינו ויצא להקל דבר שׁהיה בכלל ).

11. If a subject included in a general description has been excepted from it for the enactment of a new and opposite law, it cannot be restored again to the general class unless the Bible itself expressly restores it (להחזירו לכללו עד שׁיחזירנו הכתוב בפירושׁ בכלל ויצא לודון בדבר החדשׁ אי אתח יכול דבר שׁחיה ).

12. The sense of an indefinite statement must either be determined from its connection, or from the form and tendency of the statement itself (מסופו דבר הלמד מענינו ודבר הלמד ).

13. When two statements seem to contradict each other, a third statement will reconcile them (ויכריע ביניהים המכחישׁים זה את זה עד שׁיבוא הכתוב השׁלישׁי שׁני כתובים ).

This canon of Ishmael was soon followed by a more extended one Of Elieser ben-Jose the Galilean, of the 2d century, who laid down thirty-two rules, which are given in the art. MIDRASH (q.v.), § iv.

Besides these rules, the Scripture was explained according to the Notaricon (q.v.), or according to the Gematria (גימטריא ), a word borrowed from the Greek, either corresponding to γεωμετρία or γραμματεία The idea of this rule was, since every letter is a numeral, to reduce the word to the number it contains, and to explain the word by another of the same quantity. Thus from the words "Lo! three men stood by him" (Genesis 18:2), it is deduced that these three angels were Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, because והנה שׁלשׁה, and lo! three men, and אלו מיכאל גבריאל ורפאל, these are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, are of the same numerical value, as will be seen from the following reduction to their numerical value of both these phrases:

ה +שׁ +שׁ +נ +י

5+300+30+300+5+50+5+6=701.

ל + א + י + ר + ב + ג + ל + א + כ + י + מ + ו + ל + א

30+1+10+200+2+3+30+1+20+10+40+6+30+1

+ ל + א + פ + ר + ו

+30+1+80+200+6=701.

From the passage, And all the inhabitants of the earth were of one language (Genesis 11:1), is deduced that all spoke Hebrew, שׁפה being changed for its synonym לשׁון, and חקדשׁ =5+100+4+300=409, is substituted for its equivalent אהת = 1 +8 +400 =409.

Another mode of interpretation was according to the אל תקרי, i.e. read not so, but so a very important rule, which exhibits the beginnings of the Masorab (q.v.) In the 3d and 4th centuries nothing new was added to the exegetical canons, and the rabbins of this period did not go beyond their predecessors. The main study was devoted to that branch of literature which found its climax in the Mishna and Gemara, now constituting what is termed the Talmud (q.v.). In the 7th century, however, "we find ourselves with Jewish scholars who had begun to be awake to the importance of serious inquiry into the true meaning of the written Word of God, and men who brought to the task of such investigations minds not only teeming with the traditions of their forefathers, but educated in the severer science of their own age. Of this class the representative is Saadias (q.v.) Gaon, who was beyond compare, both as a philologist and theologian, the most competent expositor of Holy Scripture that had hitherto appeared in the schools of Judaism; and who was followed by men yet more powerful, in Aben-Ezra, Rashi, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and others, who have been, or will vet be, treated in this Cyclopedia. These commentators do not all adopt the same principle of interpretation. They teach the same doctrines substantially, they write under the influence Of similar prejudices more or less strong, and they aim at like objects; but they go to work in different ways. One class address themselves to unfold what they consider to be the simple or literal meaning of the words of Scripture; and of this class, some not only attend to the idioms of the language and the lexicographic import of words, but descend to the niceties of the Masorah, and profess to show how different shades of meaning may be brought out of words by the diacritical use of the vowel-points and accents. Another class bring to their aid the mythical apparatus of the Midrashim, and crowd their pages with the legends and sagas of the Hagadoth. Others, again, advance from the literal into the allegorical mode of exposition, and consider the letter of the document as the signature or indication of a higher and more spiritual teaching; while a fourth school, disdaining all these lower modes of exegesis, seek the transcendental regions of the Cabala."

II. Among the Hellenistic and Alexandrian Jews.- While the Talmudic and Rabbinic Judaism, with all its dogmas and pharisaic decisions, stood upon the firm ground of the Old-Test. revelation, it was entirely different with Hellenistic Judaism. Separated from their brethren of Palestine, the Jews of Egypt constituted an almost independent sect. Left to themselves, and set free from those elements which led to the development of Rabbinism in the mother country, the Alexandrian Jews pursued a different direction. They had to defend their faith from the attacks of a philosophical system apparently related to it, but claiming for those initiated into its mysteries a higher spirituality and a loftier elevation. To retain the truths of Platonism in Judaism, to vindicate them for, and to elicit them from, the Phi Test., such was the first task of the Alexandrian Jewish apologist. The medium of allegorical exposition served for this purpose, as it necessarily comes into existence everywhere, when the religious faith has taken up an attitude of contradiction to the contents of those documents which yet are received as divine, and are firmly retained (see Gfrorer, Philo, i, 69).

The beginnings of this interpretation can be pointed out so early- as B.C. 180, in the Εξηγήσεις τῆς Μωυσέως Γραφῆς , by Aristobulus, an adherent of the Aristotelian philosophy; Homage was done to it by the Therapeutce (q.v.), who, according to Philo (De Vita Contem-plativa led. Mang.], ii, 483), regarded the entire νομοθεσία (that is, the Holy Scriptures) as a living being (ζῶον ), and held "the words to be the body, and the deeper sense, which is veiled under the words, to be the soul: into this the rational soul gazes, looking into very bidden thoughts by means of the words, as it were by a mirror" (see Gfrorer, Philo, ii, 292 sq.). Josephus, it seems, also fancied this mode, as can be seen from his words in the preface to his Antiquities, that Moses, in his works, had only indicated some things, and others he had communicated in allegories worthy of the topics (τὰ μὲν αἰνιττομένου τοῦ νομοθέτου τὰ δὲ ἀλληγοροῦντος μετὰ σεμνότητος ). But it reached its zenith in the writings of Philo (q.v.) of Alexandria, the whole of which are occupied with explanations or allegorical interpretations of the books of Moses. Like most Jewish theologians, Philo places the authority of Moses above that of the other inspired writers, who are considered rather as his interpreters and followers than as his equals. But even in Moses we have to distinguish what he attained by philosophical acquirement from that which he received from God, either in ecstasy (a state more or less attainable by all initiated), in answer to his inquiries, or by direct communications. The results of all these are laid down in the Scriptures. But all deeper spiritual truths appear there veiled; the letter conveying comparatively low and carnal views in order to condescend to the gross and carnal notions of the vulgar, so as to bring at least some truth to them, and perhaps gradually to attract[ them to higher and more spiritual views. It were impossible, it is ridiculous, to interpret literally many scriptural statements, which, so understood, are contrary to reason, and would degrade Judaism below the level of heathen philosophy. In explaining the supposed allegories of Scripture, the Greek text of the Sept. is rigidly adhered to by Philo, though traces of an imperfect acquaintance with the Hebrew occur. A good deal was, of course, to be left to the exegetical tact of each interpreter, but the following seem to have been some of the principles of Alexandrian exegesis:

1. The terms in the text may be expanded, and its statements applied to any or all topics to which the same expressions might figuratively be applied. Thus the word "place" might, besides its proper meaning, apply to the Logos, and even to God, who contains and fills all.

2. The idea conveyed in the text may be educed from the words by showing a similar etymological derivation, and hence an affinity between the words and the idea.

3. Everything not absolutely requisite in the text was supposed to point to some special and hidden meaning.

4. Attention was to be given to the exegetical traditions of the fathers, which especially showed itself in the explanation of proper nouns.

5. Above all, the commentator may, by reaching the ecstatic state of the inspired writer, sympathize with and gain an immediate view of the same truth.

6. Several differing interpretations may all convey portions of truth. Such being the procedure of Philo, the natural consequence was "that he completely altered the peculiar subject-matter and spirit of the religion of the old covenant, whose essential character is constituted by the revelation of God in facts and history; and that he volatilized the truth of God into abstract ideas." (See PHILO (JUDAEUS).)

III. Among the Cabalists. An entirely different attitude towards the Old Test. was assumed by the Cabalists, the Jewish theosophists of the Middle Ages; for they endeavored to lay a foundation for their theosophic doctrine and theories formed by fusing Greek and Oriental speculations, together with the Old-Test. revelation, in allegorical and mystical interpretations of the Old Test., especially the history of creation in Genesis, and Ezekiel's vision of the chariot of God. For this purpose they availed themselves of the artificial hermeneutical methods of the Talmudical Hagadah. They not only made use of the four modes of interpretation comprised in the mnemotechnic Pardes, of the Notaricon and Guimatria mentioned above, but also of the Tsiruph (צירו ), an anagram which consists in the change of any word into others by the transposition of the component letters, which form various words.

Thus בראשׁית, "in the beginning," has been anagramatized ברית אשׁ, "a covenant of fire," to accord with Deuteronomy 33:2; the Temurah (תמורה ), or permutation, or a change of the letters of the alphabet, by first reducing its twenty-two letters to eleven couples, coupling the first with the last, the second with the one next to the last, etc., as את בשׁ גר דק חצ ופ זע חס טנ ימ כל, and then forming mysterious words from the substituted letters. They assert that Jeremiah, in order that he might not provoke the king of Babylon against him by making use of the word .Babylon, artfully substituted שׁשׁךְ (Jeremiah 51:41), and that it is the same as בבל . Without going into details, we will quote the Jewish writer Zunz, who (in his Gottesdienstliche Vortridge, p. 403) characterizes the Cabalistic treatment of Scripture in the following manner: "The contents and signification of the Biblical and Talmudical doctrines were linked on to traditional or self-imagined laws for the regulation of the world in the mysteries of the Divine Majesty. The secrets of the law became now the deeper sense of the old precepts and opinions when this had been unriddled. It was believed that these secrets had been deposited in the letter of Scripture, but were legible only to the initiated or inspired, who knew how to set free the spirits confined in the words.

Thus, then, in all that was given by the Scripture and the Hagadah, men saw a sum of letters and signs, whose arbitrary combination led to the unveiling of mysteries, and as the use of similar means occurred already in the Hagadah, such a spiritualizing of the letter, by means of which the connection of Judaism with the eternal order regulating the heavens became known, was held to be the glory of the law, the highest attainment of all exposition, and the final aim of all wisdom. The contents of the Holy Scriptures, the Halachah as well as the Hagadah, the secret doctrine and the results of philosophy the whole was the bearer of an order which regulated the world in which God and law were the foundation, the written Word was the symbol, but the alleged body of tradition was the truth. Into that domain of the 'Mercabah' and the ' Bereshith' 'the Chariot' and the Creation', at one time kept at such a distance from the public, everything of expositor?, material which antiquity had bequeathed was gradually drawn in, and was extended into philosophico-mystical systems of Judaism, in writings of the most manifold description." (See CABALA).

IV. Among the Karaites. Their opposition to Rabbinism would also lead them to a rejection of their mode of interpretation. They expounded the Old Test. simply and naturally, and their expositions manifest an obvious effort to reach the true spiritual understanding. In general they have penetrated deeper into the spirit of the Old Test. than their opponents. See Hartmann, Die enge Verbindung des Alten Testaments mit dem Neuen, p. 384-731; Hirschfeld, Der Gelst der talmudischen Auslegung der Bibel Erster Theil, Halachische Exegese (Berlin, 1840); id. Die hagadische Exegese (ibid. 1847); Frankel, Vorstudien zu der Septua-ginta, p. 163-203; id. Ueber den Einfluss der palastinensischen Exegese auf die alexandrinische Hermeneutik and Programm zur Eroffhung des judisch- theolog. Seminars zu Breslau (1854); Welte, in the Tub. theol. Quartal- schrift, 1842, p. 19-58; Hamburger, Real-Encyklop. s.v. "Exegese;" Schurer, Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte, p. 446 sq.; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, iii, 175 sq.; 4:55 sq., 427 sq.; id. in Frankers Monatsschrift, 1851- 52, p. 156-162; Pinner, Einleltung zur Uebersetzung des Tractates Berachoth, p. 17 b-20 a; Pressel, in Herzog's Real-Encyklop, 15:65l sq.; Zunz, Gottesdienstliche Vortrage, p. 58 sq., 86 sq.; Edersheim, Hist. of the Jewish Nation, p. 182 sq., 570 sq.; Eisenmenger, Neuentdecktes Judenthum, i, 453 sq.; Wahlner, Antiquitates Ebraeorum, i, 376-532; Hottinger, Thesaur. Philolog. p. 560-562; Bodensehatz, Kirchi. Verfassung der heutigen Juden, iii, 237-246; D'Aquine [Ph.], Veterum Rabbinorum in Exponendo Pen-tateucho (Paris, 1622); Maimonides, More Nebuchim (see Rosenmuller's Handbuch, 4:124 sq.); Keil, Introduction to the Old Test. ii, 380 sq.; Ginsburg, Kabbalah, p. 48 sq.; id. Ecclesiastes, p. 30 sq.; Margoliouth, Modern Judiaism Investigated, p. 13 sq. (B.P.)


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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Scripture, Interpretation or, Jewish.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/scripture-interpretation-or-jewish.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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