Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Peeling the Onion (continued)

Revisiting the Midrash on Ruth

One of the greatest challenges to understanding a midrashic approach to a text is understanding the logic that underlies the connections between the text and interpretations which appear subjective and even fantastical.  Let's revisit the midrash from the Ruth Rabbah in a previous post.

The verse under consideration:

"And at mealtime Boaz said to her, 'Come here and eat some bread, and dip your morsel in the wine.' So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her parched grain; and she ate until she was satisfied and had some left over"  (Ruth 2:14).

B. R. Yochanan interpreted the phrase "come here" in six ways:

C. "The first speaks of David.

D. "'Come here:' means, to the throne: 'That you have brought me here' (II Samuel 7:18).

E. "' . . . and eat some bread:' the bread of the throne.

F. "' . . . and dip your morsel in vinegar:' this speaks of his sufferings: 'O L-rd do not rebuke me in Your anger' (Psalm 6:2)

G. "' So she sat beside the reapers:' for the throne was taken from him for a time."

H. [Resuming from G:] "'and he passed to her parched grain: 'he was restored to the throne: 'Now I know that the L-rd saves His anointed' (Psalm 20:7).

I. "' . . . and she ate and was satisfied and left some over:' this indicates that he would eat in this world, in the days of the Messiah, and in the age to come.

This line of interpretation is repeated and applied to King Solomon, King Hezekiah, King Manassah, culminating in the King of Kings, King Messiah.  It would appear that tremendous liberties are being taken with the text and that the plain meaning of the text is being compromised.

First and foremost, all the words recorded in Ruth are Divinely inspired and are no less revelatory of G-d's truth than the rest of Scriptures.  There is much to be gleaned from Scriptures that seem to be nothing more than narrative or historical accounts.  The Bible is not merely a historical record or genre of literature, it is literally G-d's word written down by men who were animated and inspired by His Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh).

As G-d's Word, it is eternal and contains truths and lessons that transcend time.  As G-d's Word, Divine revelation, it is given by inspiration of G-d, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of G-d may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (cf. II Timothy 3:16).  And so nothing is taken for granted when digging deeper to discover the next layer of meaning that may be revealed in the text.

So, even a simple conversation between Ruth and Boaz, or between Sarah and Abraham will be packed with layers of meaning, layers of meaning which are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good mitzvah.

If we were to sum up the message of the entire Bible it would be simply this: All of the Bible is a revelation of how G-d has taken care of the problem man introduced into His world i.e. sin and death.  The Bible progressively reveals the work of the Messiah from his first mention in Genesis to the last Amen in Revelation.  The story of the Bible is simply the story of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of man back to Himself.

And so what the Sages are doing when they consider the verse from Ruth 2:14 above, is that they understand the verse from within a paradigm.  Ruth and Boaz are certainly real people who lived at a particular time in history, they are flesh and blood and just as human as we are.  But the key events of their lives have been recorded in G-d's Word, and so the snapshots of their lives recorded in the text are going to be packed with meaning for us.

Boaz is the kinsmen redeemer,  Ruth is a Moabitess, an outsider who was excluded from the assembly of Israel according to the Torah, and she was encouraged by Naomi at one point to return to her people and to her gods.   The rabbis are also working from the understanding that from this remarkable union, the Davidic monarchy is going to be established, not to mention the line of the Messiah.  Ruth is the great-grandmother of David.

The verse which records Boaz's statement to Ruth is now going to be examined within the larger and more encompassing framework of this redemptive and prophetic paradigm which is formed by the union of Ruth and Boaz.  The phrases 'Come here,', 'eat some bread,' 'dip your morsel in vinegar,' 'beside the reapers,' 'parched grain,' 'ate and was satisfied,' etc., have other layers of meaning which will all be considered in light of this paradigm.  In other words, the union of Boaz and Ruth, in fact the entire chains of events recorded in the book of Ruth can be read symbolically, or midrashically.  

A midrashic approach also recognizes patterns in Scripture.  In this midrash, the rabbis recognize four kings who will eventually descend from the union of Ruth and Boaz, four kings who have a number of things in common, things which can be thematically linked to the original verse under discussion.  This pattern of the four kings also builds towards and culminates in the King for Whom we are all waiting with great anticipation, the King Who will not judge by the sight of His eyes or the hearing of the ear, but in righteousness, the King of Kings, King Messiah, Whose reign will last forever and ever.

King Messiah's reign is also marked by the same elements of the previous kings mentioned and of course King Messiah is in the line of Boaz and Ruth.  Also, King Messiah, like Boaz, is a kinsmen Redeemer bar none Who even made salvation and redemption available to those who were outside the House of Israel and excluded from His promises.

Another facet of midrash is to think of it as writing with Scripture. The power of the rabbinic exegetes was in their ability to see the whole of Scripture contained in each one of its parts. They put the whole together systematically.  Then they came to the parts and placed them into the context of that systematic reading of Scripture.  Individual verses of Scripture then serve as proof-texts for conclusions reached in the reconstruction of the Scripture's own internal patterns.

We observe a similar process at work with the example of Galatians which we introduced on the previous post.

A Difficult Midrash: Galatians 4

Paul begins with a question to those who seek to be justified before G-d through works of the Law:

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? (Galatians 4:21)

He then goes on to tell us what the law says about two sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael.  The Torah has recorded the circumstances of each of their births and how they came about.  Paul identifies another layer of meaning in those circumstances as well as in the subsequent events surrounding their birth and lives, not to mention in the lives and relationships of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.  

Paul asserts in verse 22 that Hagar was a slave woman (bond woman) and that Sarah was a free woman.  Straightforward enough.  The text also tells us that one son was born of Hagar (the bond woman) and the other son, Isaac, was born of Sarah (the free woman). Again, straightforward enough.  And then things begin to ramp up a bit.  Paul states the following premise:

But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the free woman through promise, which things are symbolic.  (Galatians 4:23-24)

Weren't they both born according to the flesh?  They were both born of women and experience the physical process of birth?  Is this not being born according to the flesh?   Yes and no.  What's the larger context?   What's the paradigm?  G-d has been clear, the birth of Isaac which is connected with the promise G-d made to Abraham is going to come through Sarah.  G-d's promise was made to Abraham and Sarah, not to Abraham and Hagar. The birth would be nothing short of miraculous and clearly G-d's doing as both their physical bodies were as good as dead.  They were both well past the age of being able to bring children into the world, which is precisely the point G-d is trying to make.  

The promise is not thwarted and Sarah does give birth to a son just as G-d said she would, a direct result of His promise.  Prior to this however, Abraham and Sarah decide to take matters into their own hands and Abraham takes the bond woman, the slave woman, and she becomes pregnant with Ishmael, with whom there is no mention of a promise by G-d. The implication is that Hagar is not past child-bearing age and through Abraham's efforts, according to the flesh, a son of the slave-woman is brought into the world.

What does Paul say about all of this?  He says these things are symbolic.  In other words, these things recorded in the law can be read and applied midrashically, that is, layers of meaning can be extracted that are applicable to a present situation with which he is addressing.  How is Hagar connected to Sinai?

Paul continues to build his midrash:

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar -- for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children -- but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 

(Galatians 4:24-26)

Apparently, there is even a geographical connection between Hagar and Sinai and Paul probably had a number of Scriptures in mind as he formulated his next point.  After all, Hagar came from Egypt (a place that is clearly connected with slavery and bondage for the Jewish people), the other side of Sinai.  When Sarah mistreated her, she fled to Shur, just north of Sinai (Genesis 16:7) and later, following the permanent expulsion, she took Ishmael to the wilderness of Paran—next to Sinai (Genesis 21:21).

Like Moses at Sinai, Hagar saw G-d (Genesis 16:13).  This is a due reminder that Paul's point is not simple denigration of either Hagar or Torah; rather, he is making a point about the prophetic significance of the Abrahamic promises, Isaac, and the Messiah, over against Ishmael and Hagar.

What about the basic manner in which Paul connects to Ishmael and Isaac here?  Although there is no record in Genesis that Ishmael was treated as a slave in Abraham's household, yet there are two important points of contact with Paul's argument: (a) Ishmael was a child of a slave; and (b) Ishmael, while blessed in many respects, did not inherit the things which G-d promised Abraham.

Abraham's "seed," and therefore the connected promise, would not be placed in Ishmael but in Isaac (Genesis 21:12).  Isaac was the seed through whom the covenant with Abraham would be established (Genesis 17:18–21) and thus becomes a sort of second point between Abraham (discussed in Galatians 3:6–9) and the ultimate Seed, the Messiah, for whom the promise was given (Galatians 3:16). Given this Abraham-Isaac-Messiah connection, the contrast to Ishmael, both as the son of a slave, and as the son who does not inherit, is fairly straightforward for Paul's midrash.

The context is the most important clue to Paul’s line of thinking. He has been telling the Galatians that to rely on the Law for justification is foolish. If the righteous live by faith, those that rely on the law are under condemnation, because man cannot be justified by the law.  The Law was never intended to justify anyone before G-d.  What Paul is primarily addressing is the misuse of the Law, and he relies on the authority of the Law itself to do so. The irony is that some in Galatia were trying to use the Law for something the Law itself said it could not be used for i.e. justifying and declaring a man righteous before G-d!  

Recap and Summary

As taught in parashat Vayera, Abraham had two sons: Ishmael, the son of the slave Hagar, and Isaac, the son of Sarah.  Ishmael's conception was "natural," i.e., was "of the flesh" and the result of human intervention and calculation; Isaac's conception, on the other hand, was supernatural and the result of G-d's miraculous intervention and design. The Apostle Paul interprets these historical events in midrashic (i.e. allegorical) terms.

The two mothers "represent" two distinct covenants: Hagar (who, according to Jewish tradition and midrash was the daughter of Pharaoh) represents the covenant made at Sinai that results in "children born of slavery," whereas Sarah represents the covenant made earlier, a covenant that is rooted in and established on a Divine promise that results in freeborn children (Galatians 4:24­-27).

Mount Sinai is in the barren wilderness ­­ the starting point of a nation that was once enslaved in Egypt; but Mount Zion/Jerusalem (representing the fulfilled promise) is in the "land flowing with milk and honey" ­­ the ending point of a nation that is divinely elected. Mount Sinai is ultimately barren, but Mount Zion is "the perfection of beauty" (Psalm 50:2) who bears innumerable children (Isaiah. 54:1).

In chapter four of Galatians, Paul, having been thoroughly trained in the best rabbinic methods of Bible interpretation of his day, builds a midrash.  A midrash is the Jewish way of saying that an allegorical, sermonic, or homiletic interpretation of the Scripture is about to take place.  This midrash is in Galatians 4:21–31.  It is difficult to understand, as all midrashim (plural of midrash) are.  Its difficulty has discouraged and confounded many a Bible interpreter.

Sha’ul uses this midrash to illustrate the point he made in chapter three with his comparison of the two important covenants, the Abrahamic and Mosaic (not the old and the so-called new).  Just as Abraham was putting Hagar before Sarah in order to fulfill G-d’s promises of descendants by means of his own efforts i.e. works, so there are those presently in Paul's day who are attempting a works justification by putting Sinai (covenant of obedience) before Abraham (covenant of  promise).

G-d called Abraham to a life of faith. G-d promised Abraham that He would give him children in his old age. G-d intended for the children would come through Sarah. Time went by and no children came.  Apparently, Abraham thought he would attempt to secure God’s promises by his own efforts instead of relying on G-d to perform it. Thus, he had a child through Hagar. Although this was perfectly in keeping with the established customs of his day, it was not perfectly in keeping with trusting G-d. Abraham should have trusted G-d and waited for Sarah to have a child.  Ishmael, therefore, was a child of works, a result of Abraham's efforts, but Isaac was the child of faith, a result of G-d's promise.

Paul is now midrashically applying the text of the Torah to his present situation of the Galatians and arguing that anyone who tries to secure G-d’s gracious promises of salvation and justification by obeying the Torah (going to Sinai) is not unlike Abraham trying to secure G-d’s gracious promises through his own efforts with Hagar. In the Galatian congregation, they were simply putting “Sinai” before “Abraham,” when they should have been putting “Abraham” before “Sinai.”  

This does not nullify Torah observance, but rather puts faith and obedience back into their proper perspective. Obedience must follow faith, obedience is an outflow of faith, otherwise it is not in response to faith. Obedience, that is, following “the rules” for their own sake, does not provide justification before G-d. This is to be compared to Hagar and her son in Paul’s midrash. Only by faith in G-d is justification before G-d achieved, not through our own performance of the mitzvot; then and only then, does obedience to the Torah of G-d have full meaning. This is to be compared to Sarah and her son in Paul’s midrash.

It should also be obvious that the contrast is between the Abrahamic and Sinai covenants and does not allow for a replacement of one over the other, a point Paul had articulated earlier in the epistle:

What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by G-d, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but G-d has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

(Galatians 3:17-18)

One More Note

It should be remembered that Paul's idea that Hagar and Sarah represent "mothers of two different peoples" can be (and has been) easily misunderstood (2 Peter 3:15­-16). Historically, many traditional Christian commentators have used the allegory as a means of rejecting and diminishing the importance of the Torah.  It is clear, however, that Paul had the highest regard for the revelation at Sinai and positively upheld the law (Galatians 5:14,22; Romans 3:31, 7:12, etc.).

Any attempt at "justification" based on personal merit or by din of our own efforts, is simply a step away from that which comes freely to those who trust in the divine promise of eternal inheritance. In other words, the doctrine of "justification by grace through faith" is a fundamentally Jewish concept, amply illustrated and taught in the Torah as Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate in this epistle and others. 

Salvation is "from the Jews" (John 4:22), and G-d has promised that there would always be a remnant of His people who would believe (Isaiah. 1:9, 10:21, Jer. 23:3, 31:7, Joel 2:32, Romans 9:27, 11:5, etc.).  In the end, "all Israel shall be saved" and all of the divine promises given to the Jewish people through the prophets will be realized.

An honest reading of the Book of Galatians shows that Paul was not simply rejecting legalism, but any form of work­-based salvation.  Israel should have known this, since the Torah (and prophets) prophesied that a new era of "circumcised hearts" would come. Therefore Paul puts forward the idea that salvation by the grace of G-d is in perfect harmony with the teaching of Torah.

My intention is not to connect all of the dots, but to provide enough direction to begin recognizing this method of exegesis when it is encountered and hopefully provide a better understanding of some of the 'logic' which drives the method.  Rather than attempting to employ the method, I encourage the reader to first learn to recognize, familiarize himself with, and better understand the method.  You will soon be discovering and appreciating layers of meaning you never knew were there.

(To be continued . . . .)

19 comments:

  1. Rabbi B,

    I wanted to let you know I checked in. I'm going to have to think through this a bit before I comment and ask questions.

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  2. I'm willing to accept that Paul acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit produced authentic and accurate midrashim. The question then becomes "how does one determine an accurate midrash from a fantasy?"

    I'm still not sure about your Ruth example.

    Res Ipsa

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  3. "I'm still not sure about your Ruth example."

    That's fine and certainly fair enough. My goal is for you to recognize the method when you see it and understand how it works. What I often glean from midrashim like Ruth are the glimpses and insights into how the Sages understood the Messiah and His role. More times than not, their perspective is remarkably spot on and applicable to Y'shua the Messiah. The more salient points in this regard for me:

    1. The Kingship of the Messiah is undeniable.

    2. That the Sages maintain the Messiah will suffer and even cite Isaiah 53 as a
    proof text that He clearly suffers vicariously for sin.

    3. That vinegar is connected with His suffering. Reminded me of Y'shua dipping his
    morsel in the vinegar in reference to Y'hudah Iscariot who would soon betray
    Him. Also the vingegar that was given Him when He was suffering in the tree.

    4. The mention of 'the bread of the throne' and Y'shua identifying Himself as the
    bread of life and of course the rightful King of Israel.

    5. Appearing and then being hidden. He told His disciples at the last Pesach they
    observed together that He would not partake of the cup at that time but would
    drink it anew in the kingdom which would be restored to Him at His return.

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  4. Regardless of whether we fully understand or even agree fully with the midrash on Ruth above, some of their conclusions and applications hit the mark very well. Again, I am not arguing that rabbinic midrash is inspired Scripture, but it is a powerful method of uncovering other layers of meaning and application of a text.

    Here is a text to consider . . . tell me what you think and what conclusions (midrashically) you might draw from this narrative recorded in the book of Joshua:

    Joshua 3

    Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the L-RD your G-d, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.

    "Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before." And Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you."

    Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, "Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people." So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people. And the L-RD said to Joshua, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.

    "You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, 'When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.' "So Joshua said to the children of Israel, "Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God." And Joshua said, "By this you shall know that the living G-d is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites:

    "Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. "Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. "And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the L-RD, the L-rd of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap."

    So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan.

    So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the L-RD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Some points of interest for deeper consideration:

    1. Two critical Hebrew words to consider: Jordan and Joshua. Jordan comes from
    the Hebrew word yarden and connotes the concept of judgment, din. The word
    can then be read 'down from judgment'. The river then is that which flows 'down
    from judgment'.

    2. Geographically, the river also flows down from the territory of Dan, near one of the
    headwaters of the Jordan river.

    3. The Hebrew word Joshua of course is where we get Y'eshua whose root means
    salvation. Joshua is the one who is about to lead the people into their
    inheritance which lies on the other side of Jordan, which they must cross over.

    4. The text also tells us exactly where the flow of the river was stopped: at a town
    called Adam. Th river rolled all the way back to a town called Adam, located on
    the Jordan river about one third of the way from Jericho to Kinneret.

    5. There was also a definite order to the crossing over.

    I will leave it here as an exercise for now. What is your take? Is there a layer of meaning that you could deduce midrashically from the text in light of the redemptive work of the Messiah?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it is possible to produce several parallelisms with the extra information you provided.

      1. The salvation is retroactive to Adam.
      2. The Lord's Salvation is brought by someone named Joshua
      3. A case for salvation coming after passing through the water.

      Then you can have fun with the numerology.

      1. Three days
      2. Division of time into thirds
      3. 2,000 as an approximation of distance from the beginning of the conquest to the main body arriving

      I'm not sure if the last three points are a midrash or something else,like a Sod.

      Res Ipsa

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  6. I see and accept the midrash as a legitimate homiletic tool. The only qualification I would add to that statement is the already underlying assumption that it conforms to the peshat. Maybe that is why some examples are easier for me to accept than others. When the parallelism is obvious or in the case of the example cited by Paul, given by a person whose anointment by Roach Hako’desh is not in question, I'm able to see the connection.

    I've been intrigued by the esoteric word studies ever sense I read Chaim Ben Torah's book. I haven't developed the skills necessary to do my own studies into the Sod. I've got my hands full right now with peshat Torah study and my class on eschatology that I'm teaching. If I could make study my full time job, I still wouldn't have enough time to learn everything I want.

    I'm going to reflect more on your remarks before I respond further. I need to think through the material a little more.

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  7. "I see and accept the midrash as a legitimate homiletic tool."

    Then I would say mission accomplished.

    "The only qualification I would add to that statement is the already underlying assumption that it conforms to the peshat. Maybe that is why some examples are easier for me to accept than others."

    Yes, the midrashic literature is what it is, and I presented the bare bones of the Ruth midrash without much elucidation, only to emphasize and illustrate the method.

    There is nothing that say that we must accept all of it or agree with all of it. There is plenty of disagreement and challenge among the Sages as I am sure you are well aware.

    You have probably encountered a bit of this already if you are spending any time with the Ramban, who is constantly challenging and rejecting interpretations of Rashi and the Ibn Ezra right and left, and agreeing only occasionally.

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    Replies
    1. If I had to guess, Ramban is reacting to the fact that Rashi's more traditional take is overly friendly to a gentile Christian POV. However even in his commentary he accepts some of Rashi's thoughts that support the Christians.

      I've not gotten very far in Ramban. I'm still working my way through the more generalized commentary.

      Res Ipsa

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    2. As you get more into the Ramban, I think you will discover that he often takes issue with Rashi along the lines of compromising the p'shat and chronology of events. He often accuses Rashi of taking liberties with text that are not justifiable.

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  8. Some thoughts on your series on Jewish exegesis to date:

    The evangelical tradition in which I grew up prized the equivalent of the p’shat (calling it “literal interpretation”). I have been taught to approach the scripture primarily looking for that level of meaning, seeking to understand how the text of scripture would have been understood by its original readers (or the words of a preacher by his original audience). I am still convinced this is the most useful level of interpretation when sharing the truth of God with a general audience.

    As you mention, typology is the Christian equivalent of the remez. As a young Christian, I loved this idea and did a great deal of Hebrew and Greek word study seeking these sorts of “hints” in historical scriptures. But my enthusiasm for study of the remez (beyond the instances in which Christ and the apostles plainly engage in it, of course) waned considerably after enduring a 12 part series on the gates of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem that seemed to me more fancy than fact. I have found studies of typology in the tabernacle and Old Testament sacrifices alternately edifying and perplexing. There is always the danger of whimsy overwhelming truth.

    I have heard about the sod level of interpretation in evangelical circles, but never credibly. I accept that the number of the beast might be one of these, but if this mystical level of interpretation is really concealed on a large scale in scripture most Christians will never be able to access it, and for that reason I would tend to minimize its importance in the believer’s life.

    The midrash is interesting, however. As with the sod and remez, I suspect it is probably more beneficial in personal meditation than profitable in platform ministry or Bible study groups. Still, your examples of New Testament midrashim open up a whole new area of understanding, and I’m grateful for the way you have laid these passages out so clearly. I had recognized in a couple of NT cases you cite that Paul was making some kind of formal, stylized argument, and it should have been logical to assume that it was rabbinical in nature rather than patterned after Socrates or some such, but now that you lay it out line by line, it seems much more apparent.

    I am particularly intrigued by the idea that these Old Testament midrashim find fulfillment in the person of Christ. It would explain his words on the road to Emmaus, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

    Necessary indeed. But I note that he did not begin merely with the prophets (where the references to his suffering and glory are more obvious) but with Moses as well, where such references are often a little more veiled.

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  9. Tom,

    Sod study is more common than I thought. You may have seen things written about "Bible Codes" and the like. This is a kind of Sod study. There is of course more to it than that, but I've not spent much time on esoteric studies. An example of a Sod that comes to mind is Rabbi Eliezer prediction of a 10 dimension universe, which is what some scientific schools believe today, based on Torah study. The Kabbalists are big into Sod study.

    My issue with these more expanded methods of study is repeatability. If they are true, I should be able to do the same sort of study and achieve similar results using the same method. Rabbi B will probably chastise me for that Greek mindset, but truth isn't subjective.

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  10. Agreed. I'm not saying there's nothing to it, but if there is, it should be demonstratable in some way. The other two less-obvious methods are certainly shown to be valid by the writings of the apostles or the words of the Lord Jesus.

    I think it would be entirely possible for the entire Bible to be a numerologist's dream, since God is infinitely capable. I just haven't seen evidence that he chose to do things that way. Yet.

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  11. entirely possible for the entire Bible to be a numerologist's dream

    From what I've read about septological patterns in the original languages it is. I've still got a lot I want to pursue in straight forward studies so I've not tired to get into this side of things. I would suspect that with computers that doing this sort of study would be considerably easier than in the past.

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  12. Here is an interesting study I stumbled across that may be of interest along these lines.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvKlP7hEo-Q

    The presentation is a little dramatic, but the connections are interesting.

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  13. Very interesting. If it's a trick, it's a clever trick. I'm not a total dope, and I can't see how it might be faked. Maybe Michael Mann can fill me in ...

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    1. Yes, especially since he is using linear regression as the metric. Oh, the depths, the riches, the wisdom of G-d. We have no idea.

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  14. I watched that last night interesting stuff. It gives a bit of credence to Edenics too.

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  15. I learned about this approach to Scripture from a gentile source, just before you started your blog. When you wrote this series I was excited to read about it from the perspective of those who have followed it for millenia. (I put it off because I wanted to read it all at once, and this is the first I've had time since you finished.) I'm encouraged to see how God is causing gentile believers to come back to our roots.

    Thank you for writing. I don't say much, but I read every post and am often blessed.

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