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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Peeling the Onion

Concerning the previous post, Res Ipsa asks:

Please show me how/why the interpretation you used is the proper one and how or why I should have picked up on that and not the one I put forward.

Let's take a few steps back, and introduce a couple of examples from the writings of Paul which may aid us in grasping and better understanding the method of midrash

Galatians 4:21-31  

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.  His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.  

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.  Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.  

But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.  For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband."  

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.  At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.  But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son."  Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Paul is expositing on a text(s) from the Torah to prove that no one will be justified before G-d and considered righteous by Torah observance.  Let's consider the texts to which he is referring.  Paul says that it is written that Abraham had two sons.  Written where?

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

(Genesis 16:15-16)

Now the L-RD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the L-RD did for Sarah what he had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time G-d had promised him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.

(Genesis 21:1-3)

Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the L-RD.

(Isaiah 54:1) 

But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." 

(Genesis 21:9-10)

The first part of Paul's argument in verses 21-22 and the Genesis passages upon which his statements are based are relatively straightforward.  But what are we to make of the rest of the passage (verses 23-31) and the passages he cites as proof texts, especially Genesis 21:1-3 which is an exchange or conversation that takes place between Abraham and Sarah?  (In the previous post, we examined the Sages' understanding of a conversation that took place between Ruth and Boaz).

How is Paul justified in taking the words of Sarah from a conversation recorded in the Torah (the first five books of Moses) and using those words to support his thesis here in Galatians 4?  Wasn't Sarah just vehemently reacting to the mocking of Isaac?  Furthermore, how can Paul take the mocking of Isaac by Ishmael and apply it to the persecution he and others were presently enduring (i.e.  . . . even so it is now)?  

How can he assert that Isaac and Ishmael are representative of two covenants: one from Mount Sinai, which is Hagar, corresponding to present-day Jerusalem, when nothing in the text explicitly indicates that this is so?  And what are we to make of the Isaiah passage cited as support for the premise that the Jerusalem above is free and the mother of us all?  Curious.

Hint: midrash.

We will continue unpacking this "Pauline drash" in subsequent posts in hopes of further elucidating and helping us to better understand this challenging method of exegesis, G-d willing.  

(To be continued . . .)

1 comment:

  1. You are doing a great job explaining the method utilizing Paul's writing. Thank you it is enlightening.

    ReplyDelete