Thursday, December 17, 2009

4 Modes of Interpretation, c4p2

Earlier I introduced the idea that the 4 Gospels are modeled after the 4 levels of Oral writings. I also associated them with the 4 hermeneutical principles, but that is somewhat misleading because each Gospel has a mixture of all of the principles; it’s just that each Gospel identifies more strongly with a particular view. In other words, Mark has parables and allegories; it is just that Matthew has more parables. But it is at the verse level that we really see how the 4 modes were used by the writers.  This is succinctly explained by David H. Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary on pages 11-13. Here is an excerpt from that book:
We must understand the four basic modes of Scripture interpretation used by the rabbis. These are:
(1) p’shat (“simple”)—the plain, literal sense of the text, more or less what modern scholars mean by “grammatical-historical exegesis,” which looks to the grammar of the language and the historical setting as background for deciding what a passage means. Modern scholars often consider grammatical-historical exegesis the only valid way to deal with a text; pastors who use other approaches in their sermons usually feel defensive about it before academics. But the rabbis had three other modes of interpreting Scripture, and their validity should not be excluded in advance but related to the validity of their implied presuppositions.
(2) Remez (“hint”)—wherein a word, phrase or other element in the text hints at a truth not conveyed by the p’shat. The implied presupposition is that God can hint at things of which the Bible writers themselves were unaware.
(3) Drash or Midrash (“search”)—an allegorical or homiletical application of a text. This is a species of eisegesis—reading one’s own thoughts into the text—as opposed to exegesis, which is extracting from the text what it actually says. The implied presupposition is that the words of Scripture can legitimately become grist for the mill of human intellect, which God can guide to truths not directly related to the text at all.
(4) Sod (“secret”)—a mystical or hidden meaning arrived at by operating on the numerical values of the Hebrew letters, noting unusual spellings, transposing letters, and the like. For example, two words, the numerical equivalents of whose letters add up to the same amount, are good candidates for revealing a secret through what Arthur Koestler in his book on the inventive mind called “bisociation of ideas.” The implied presupposition is that God invests meaning in the minutest details of Scripture, even the individual letters.
These four methods of working a text are remembered by the Hebrew word “PaRDeS,” an acronym formed from the initials; it means “orchard” or “garden.” 
P’shat means simple, yet it has 7 techniques that add richness to the mode and are found in many places in the Bible. The techniques were defined by Hillel, who was a very influential force in the first century. Jesus frequently expressed himself using these techniques.
Rule #1:  kal-va-HO-mer,  Simple and complex.  Light to heavy

Rule #2: ge-ze-RAH sha-VAH, An inference drawn from analogy of expressions, that is, from similar words and phrases elsewhere. 

Rule #3: bin-YAN av mi-ka-TUV e-HAD, A general principle established on the basis of a teaching contained in one verse, constructing a leading rule from one passage.   
Rule #4: bin-YAN av mi-shNE ke-tu-VIM, General principle from two verses.   
Rule #5: k'LAL uf'RAT uf'RAT u-k'LAL,  An inference drawn from a general principle in the text to a specific example, or vice versa. 

Rule #6: ka-yo-TSE bo be-ma-KOM a-HER, Something similar in another passage.   

Rule #7: da-VAR ha-la-MED me-in-ya-NO, An interpretaton of a word or passage derived from its context.    

Example of Rule #1
Scripture from the Old Testament:    NIV Exodus 23:5: "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."   How Jesus (Yeshua) alluded to the verse and used Rule #1:   NIV Matthew 12:11: " He said to them, 'If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 'How much more' valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.'”
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