The Method of Doubts: Problematizing the Bible in Late Medieval Jewish Exegesis

Saperstein Marc

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
The Method of Doubts: Problematizing the Bible in Late Medieval Jewish Exegesis

Show Summary Details


Scholars of medieval Jewish exegesis have devoted considerable energy to various matters of content. This chapter describes a structural model and exegetical technique widely associated with Isaac Abarbanel and Isaac Arama, who flourished at the end of the 15th century. It raises a series of “doubts”, “questions”, or “difficulties”, which are resolved in the ensuing exegetical treatment. This hermeneutical technique is referred to as the “method of doubts”. The origins of this form in Jewish literature, its prevalence in the generation of the expulsion, and the cultural significance of this phenomenon have yet to be analyzed. Three related genres of Jewish writing are considered: biblical exegesis, sermons, and discursive philosophical texts. Some examples of a similar form in the same genres of Christian writing from antiquity and the Middle Ages are given. The challenge will be to see where these two traditions might meet. Finally, the chapter analyzes the cultural significance of this exegetical mode, which is called the “problematizing” of the Hebrew Bible by the exegete.

Keywords: Hebrew Bible; method of doubts; problematizing; medieval Jewish exegesis; Isaac Abarbanel; Isaac Arama; expulsion; Jewish writing; Christian writing

Chapter.  13740 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.