The Search for Truth in Sacred Scripture: Jews, Christians, and the Authority to Interpret

Stephen D. Benin

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
The Search for Truth in Sacred Scripture: Jews, Christians, and the Authority to Interpret

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The rabbinic Sages, in their attempt to explain the eternal validity of a time-bound text, claimed that all their teachings stemmed, at least in principle, from Sinai and were accordingly part of revelation itself. Both Jews and Christians developed interpretive traditions, and these very traditions presented an exegetical conundrum. After all, did Jewish scholars of later centuries have the same authority, indeed capacity, to interpret the sacred scripture as had the earlier rabbis, and did successive Christian exegetes share the auctoritas patrorum antiquorum? Might tradition stifle new approaches and avenues of biblical interpretation? Medieval Jewish and Christian exegetes confronted this dilemma and found similar means and stratagems to address and surmount the problem of tradition. This chapter examines the attempt of Jewish and Christian exegetes to explain in an innovative manner the eternal validity of a supposedly time-bound text while maintaining respect for received tradition, a position expressed in the medieval adage, “We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Keywords: Sages; Jews; Christians; authority; rabbis; biblical interpretation; sacred scripture; exegetes; tradition

Chapter.  11318 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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