An Introduction to Medieval Jewish Biblical Interpretation

Barry D. Walfish

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
An Introduction to Medieval Jewish Biblical Interpretation

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The Hebrew Bible is the classic example of a sacred text frozen in time which must satisfy the religious needs of succeeding generations of believers. Early on in its history, Judaism developed the concept of an oral tradition which expanded upon and interpreted the text of sacred scripture. The Jewish study of the Bible in the Middle Ages begins with the Geonim of Babylonia (9th–11th centuries), who under the influence of the Islamic sages of the Qurʼān began to subject the biblical text to the same kind of critical and textual analysis as was being applied to the Qurʼān by their Muslim compatriots. The best-known exegete of this period is Saadia Gaon, a polymath. Medieval Jewish exegesis maintains an important position in the canon of Judaism to this very day. Most of the major Torah commentaries are available in English editions aimed at a popular audience. This book advances the study of medieval Jewish biblical interpretation, opening up new areas of research and hopefully providing new insights into topics or exegetes already well researched.

Keywords: Hebrew Bible; biblical interpretation; Middle Ages; Judaism; Geonim of Babylonia; Saadia Gaon; exegesis; commentaries; sacred scripture

Chapter.  5960 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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