Thursday, February 9, 2012

Handbook of Patristic Exegesis: The Bible in Ancient Christianity

Just started to get into it:

Handbook of Patristic Exegesis: The Bible in Ancient Christianity

Something I thought was interesting:
"Two Judaism and Rhetorical Culture
b. Midrash
Th e second group of texts which refl ect biblical interpretation dating from
the Amoraic period in Eretz Israel is called midrash. Th e term ( מִדְרָשׁ , from
דָּרַשׁ , darash, “to seek,” “inquire,” “investigate”) refers to a method of expounding
the text and to a collection of such texts. Th ese texts are commentary and
elaboration on the Written Torah. Th e various collections which fall under
the head of midrash, however, can focus on deriving rabbinic halakah based
on Scripture, or provide elaborations on narrative passages in the Bible. Th ey
may be organized according to the order of the biblical text, or arranged as
homilies corresponding to the lection on Sabbaths and Holy Days.
In midrash we can discern some of the interrelationship of Judaism
and Christianity during the early Christian period. Th ere are some remarkable
parallels in hermeneutical method between the midrashim and Greek
and Syriac patristic literature. Origen and Jerome are explicitly aware of
midrashic traditions. Moreover, in the third century tensions between Jews
and Christians (including Origen and Eusebius) living in Eretz Israel rose
to a level of confrontation. Th ese debates can be discerned in the pages of
midrash from this period, and the development of midrash in Eretz Israel
(not in Babylonia) may in part be the result of Jewish eff orts to confront their
Christian counterparts regarding interpretation of the Scriptures.

An example of rabbinic response to Christianity can be found in Genesis
Rabbah on the sacrifi ce of Isaac (the Akedah, Gen :–). Th e account
begins with the command to Abraham to go to the place he would be told,
and sacrifi ce his son (Gen :). He took two slaves and Isaac on the journey.
Th en he “saw the place from afar” (Gen :; מָקוֹם (maqom), meaning “place”
also serves as a euphemism for God. Th e midrash asks, “What did he see?”
“He saw a cloud attached to the mountain”—i.e., a manifestation of the divine
presence, which made it clear to him that this mountain was the place which
God had commanded as the appropriate place to off er up Isaac.
He [Abraham] said: “It would appear that is the place upon which the
Holy one, blessed be He, commanded me to sacrifi ce my son.” He said
to Isaac: “My son, do you see what I do?” He told him, “Yes.” He said
to his two young men, “Do you see what I do?” Th ey said to him, “No.”
He said: “Since you do not see it, REMAIN HERE WITH THE ASS
[Gen :], for you are like the ass [which also does not see].” (Gen.
Rab. .–)
We learn from other sources that the Gentiles are “a nation resembling an ass.”
Christians and Jews debated vehemently in the third and fourth centuries
about the possibility of how, aft er the destruction of the Second Temple, that

BblRieba ltebo b ttoihn teihc S eLe Sipteteupratautguainrgetin t 
one could verify divine revelation, and whether divine revelation to a non-
Jew was possible at all. In the above passage we observe the denigration of
the two non-Jewish servants. Th ey do not have any perception of the divine.
As non-Jews they are like the ass, a dumb animal incapable of perception.
Modern scholars may have some disagreement about whether or not the
“people who is like an ass” refers specifi cally to Christians or more generally
to pagans. Nonetheless, there are many passages in midrash literature which
focus on the theme of Verus Israel and God’s continued covenant with the
Jewish people in their exile.

i. Tannaitic Midrashim
Th e oldest group of midrashim are the so-called Tannaitic midrashim, sometimes
called halakic midrashim or מִרְשֵׁי הֲלָכָה (midreshei halakah, meaning
“midrashim of the halakah”). Th e works included in this subgroup are the
Mekilta d’Rabbi Ishmael and the Mekilta de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai on Exodus,
Sipra on Leviticus; and Sipre on Numbers and Deuteronomy. Th e Tannaitic
midrashim may be said to form a continuous commentary on the Pentateuch
from Exodus to Deuteronomy. In these midrashim there is extensive use
of rabbinic hermeneutics to demonstrate how various expansions of the
Oral Law are grounded in Scripture. Despite the use of the name halakic
midrashim, these collections all contain commentary on narrative passages
in their respective biblical books.

ii. Exegetical Midrashim
A second set of midrashim consists of those referred to as “exegetical” and
“homiletic.” Th e “exegetical” midrashim are later than the midreshei halakah, but
a number were compiled during the fi ft h century. It is important to remember
that the midreshei halakah are exegetical, but modern scholars refer to them as
“exegetical” because these collections are organized according to the biblical
verse order. Th e term “exegetical midrashim” merely distinguishes them from
the next group to be described, which are called “homiletic midrashim.”
Genesis Rabbah explicates the book of Genesis. Scholars postulate that
it was redacted in the fi ft h century. It is considered by some to be the best
example of the exegetical midrashim because the rabbis reveal deep layers
of meaning within the text. Th e meanings the rabbis sought in the Scriptures
included truths which pertained to their own age. Genesis Rabbah provides
many examples of rabbinic apologetic against pagan and Christian arguments.
In the narratives about the patriarchs and matriarchs, it is possible

Two Judaism and Rhetorical Culture
to discern their veiled arguments against Christian claims that these biblical
fi gures reached their true fulfi llment only in Christ.
In this period exegetical midrashim were also edited on the fi ve books
in the Hebrew Bible called the Five Megillot, or “Five Scrolls.” Th ese biblical
books were read as part of the synagogue liturgy for the three pilgrimage festivals:
Passover (Canticles), Pentecost (Ruth), and Tabernacles (Ecclesiastes);
and on Purim (the Feast of Esther) and the Ninth of Ab commemorating
the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Lamentations). Th e earliest
description of the liturgical role for these books is in the Mishnah, tractate
Th ese midrashim would include Canticles Rabbah; Midrash Ruth (also
called Ruth Rabbah); Lamentations Rabbah; Midrash Qoheleth (also called
Ecclesiastes Rabbah); and the fi rst half (§§ –) of Esther Rabbah.

iii. Homiletic Midrashim
“Homiletic” midrashim are so called because the order of their composition
follows the readings for Sabbaths and for special Sabbaths, or Holy Days, in
the liturgical year. Th ese collections do not follow the order of the biblical
text. Rather, they develop thematically. As we have them, these homilies have
sometimes been subjected to abbreviation or other editorial reformulation.
Th e most signifi cant collections dating to the Amoraic period include Leviticus
Rabbah, containing thirty-seven homilies, which dates to the fi ft h century
(perhaps later); the Pesiqta de Rab Kahana, a collection of homilies for feasts
and special Sabbaths, redacted in the fi ft h century, though subject to later additions;
and the Tanhuma on the Pentateuch, which contains some material
from the Amoraic period but was not redacted until the medieval period.
Modern scholarship has concentrated considerable eff ort on the structure
of these homilies, especially the formal conventions for their beginning
and conclusion. Th e petiah, which is generally understood to be a kind of
proem or introduction to the homilies, is the most common rhetorical form
in midrashic literature. Petiot aim at artfully leading the hearer from verses
in other parts of the Hebrew Bible, such as Psalms or Proverbs, to consider
the opening verse(s) of the Pentateuchal reading of the day. Th e atimah, or
peroration of the homily, has also been studied. Particularly in the Pesiqta de
Rab Kahana, and Tanhuma, these atimot lead to an eschatological teaching
which concludes the homily with a message of hope in the messianic deliverance
of the Jewish people from the harshness of its exile. Th ese atimot may
off er students of patristic literature some understanding of the development
of early Christian typological exegesis." [1]

[1] pages 130-132 from the Handbook of Patristic Exegesis: The Bible in Ancient Christianity by Charles Kannengiesser






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