Techniques and assumptions in exegesis

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Techniques and assumptions in exegesis

Post by nazarene » Tue May 21, 2019 6:39 am


Interpretive Techniques and Assumptions

Below are detailed some of the kinds of techniques and assumptions that was in use in the second Temple period and just after. Some of the names of the techniques and assumptions came to be used after the destruction of the Temple or are scholarly designations to identify the techniques and assumptions.

Peshat: Indicating the plain meaning of a text. The distinction of primary meaning.

Nomological: Refers to the reading of Scripture as though it were a legal document. The Whole of the Scripture is regarded as the Torah and every word carries equal weight and value. Identical phrases, wherever they occur relate to each other.

Ultra literal: Demands the literal understanding of the words used in a text even when it is denied by the context and by the plain meaning of the idioms used. Ignores plain sense of the context to establish primary meaning of the text. A nomological interpretation is based on the plain meaning of the text, the ultra literal interpretation however may ignore meaning in plain sense in its search for the literal meaning of each word of phrase.

Aqivan rules of extension and limitation: The rules find supplementary meaning in particles of speech such as אך or את which are interpreted as implying unspoken additions or exceptions to the Torah in which they occur.

Extension: את regarded as a particle of inclusion.
Limitation: מן regarded as a particle of exclusion.

A secondary meaning is one which is completely unrelated to the primary or plain meaning of the text. A secondary meaning may not imply that the primary meaning is to be discarded.

Qal VaHomer: Is the argument from the minor to the major.

Gezerah shavah [1]: Is the definition of an ill defined phrase or word in one text by its use in another text where its meaning is clearer. Assumes that the meaning of a word in one text is always the same as its meaning in another. Sometimes in rabbinic sources it is framed in the words of “Just also...”

Gezerah shavah [2]: Is the interpretation of one text in the light of another text to which it is related by a shared word or phrase. The two texts are often concerned with the same subject but the existence of the same word or phrase in two texts can suggest a relationship between them even if they are concerned with completely unrelated subjects. This can be seen as a result of nomological assumptions.

Heqesh: Is like gezerah shavah but depends on similarity of subject matter. It can connect two topics rather than two texts. Sometimes in rabbinic sources it is framed in the words of “Just also...”

Binyan ab: From two texts. This may have been the rule of contradiction between two texts.

Contradiction: Is where a contradiction between two texts is resolved both with and without the use of a third text.

Mashal: Comparison, anything from a metaphor to a complex parable, and illustrative story.

Order: This refers to an argument based on the order of words or phrases in the text.

Wordplay: This includes various methods from pun to the method called 'hint' or paronomasia.

No redundancy: This assumes that Scripture contains no superfluous or redundant phrases.

Two texts using the same rhetoric teach nothing new. Introduced with “if so, why is it written...”.

Precedent: This derives a general law from an incident in Scriptures treating it like an example in case law.

Reductio ad absurdum.

Logical inconsistency.

Pragmatism: This argues that a particular course should be followed because it is easier or because it results in the greater good. Sometimes to reasoning is thus “For the sake of the order of the world”.

Prophetic Fulfilment: The Scriptures are viewed as having a spiral type of nature where Prophecy can be reapplied given the correct set of circumstances [i.e. similar type of contextual events].

Rejection of parallelism: Unpacking parallelism from what may be considered a poetic way to bring emphasis. Parallelism can be indicated by reversing the order of the phrases so that 'x' is put first to indicate dependence.

Proem sermon: Exposition of a Torah text by means of a series of texts from the Prophets. The text from the Torah need not be cited but the chapter opens with a concept from the text and ends by leading back to the same text by linked concepts. This uses formal structural markers of careful exposition leading to a conclusion.

Symbolism: This says X is Y whilst a mashal says X is like Y.

Atomisation: This is the division of a text into different phrases which are interpreted individually. This is used even when there are no superfluous words or phrases. The interpretation may have little or nothing to do with the context.

Allegory: This says this scriptural story means X.

Amalgamation: This is the construction of a text by joining texts without an indication that more than one text has been used. This differs from chain quotations which are connected by ו [and].

Pesher: This deals first with the present. It treats the Scriptures as a mystery [raz] that is in need of interpretation.. It sees the revelation of current events as the springboard for interpreting the Tanach. The usual form of a pesher includes the phrase “This is that...” at the beginning or end. It often modifies the text that is being used to make it more applicable to the events of the day. The goal of the pesher is to explain the current situation via the interpretation of the prophecy of the Tanach. A pesher points to fulfilment in Tanach Prophecy in current situation.

Typology: This focuses on the past. This sees the history of the Tanach as the key to understanding current events. This is used to primarily disclose the historical pattern of Divine activity.

Typological: This treats the history of the Tanach as legal precedent for Divine activity in current and future actions. This demonstrates a continuity that underlines Divine activity.

Midrash: This offers practical commentary for the text, the absence of such commentary indicates that another method was employed. It can also search the hidden meaning of the text to provide current application.
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