• “And Both are Equal”: Exegesis Creating Values in Ancient Jewish Texts

    Amit Gvaryahu (see profile)
    Late Antiquity
    Law, Punishment, Rabbinical literature--Study and teaching, Jewish law
    Item Type:
    talion, punishment, law, philo, josephus, mekhilta, sifra, penalty, Rabbinical studies, Talmud, Midrash, and Rabbinics, halakhah
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    “And Both are Equal”: Exegesis Creating Values in Ancient Jewish Texts Amit Gvaryahu There are many gaps between the primary or literal interpretation of what is written in the Torah and the way the Sages interpreted it in midrashim, the Mishnah, and the Talmud. Many scholars see these gaps as a result of the Sages’ imposition of external values on the Torah. Sometimes this paradigm can explain these gaps -- but not always. In this article I focus on one issue—the laws of personal injury, with an “eye for an eye” at their center—and show that the Sages were fully aware of the discrepancy between the Torah and their interpretation of it. In the Torah they found an ethical norm and general interpretation that the law must apply equally to everyone and strove to apply this concept to every detail of Torah law. A comparative historical inquiry into the discussions about the proper application of “an eye for an eye” shows that this hermeneutical method has its roots in groups the Sages did not identify with. The use of this method in rabbinic literature means a considerable expansion of the exegetical horizon of scriptural interpretation. This method can ground the considerable differences between Torah law and rabbinic law in the scriptural text itself, without recourse to outside values.
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    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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