Structure Outline 1 John

Structure Outline 1 John

A part of the process of exegesis and hermeneutics is outlining what you are reading for clarity of understanding. Concerning the 1 John there are many opinions. Here are a few noted by New American Commentary

“7. Structure and Form of 1 John52
Few issues are more difficult in Johannine studies than the structure of 1 John. There are almost as many opinions as there are commentaries on the book. The problem lies, in part, in the fact that the genre of 1 John is something of an enigma.53 Sloyan points out that “1 John seems the least letter-like in its lack of the identification of a sender or an address to any recipients except the nonspecific ‘little children.’ It appears to be more a treatise sent broadcast to some in the John tradition.”54 Approaches to determining a structure or outline to the book can be divided into three groups: (1) traditional scholars who seek to discern basic topic or subject divisions (even sources) and an overarching outline through inductive analysis; (2) discourse analysis—linguist scholars who apply principles of semantic structural studies or “discourse linguistics” to discover the semantic relations that weave the epistle together as a unified whole; (3) rhetorical criticism—students of ancient rhetoric who seek to discover what, if any, rhetorical strategies common to the author’s world were used to set forth and further his argument.55
(1) Traditional Approaches
R. Brown provides an extensive survey of other scholars who have divided 1 John into two, three, and seven parts. His own approach will be explained later.
Sample Proposed Divisions of 1 John

Division into Two Parts

1:5–2:28
2:29–5:13

Chaine, Verde, Tomoi

1:5–2:29
3:1–5:12

Feuillet, Francis

Division into Three Parts

1:1–2:17
2:18–3:24
4:1–5:21
Thüsing

1:1–2:17
2:18–4:6
4:7–5:21
Ewald

1:1–2:26
2:27–4:6
4:7–5:21
Smit Sibinga

1:5–2:14
2:15–3:18
3:19–5:12
Erdmann

1:5–2:17
2:18–3:24
4:1–5:12
Hort, Hauck, Nestle,
Pratt,
Schnackenburg,
Schneider, THLJ,
Vogel, NEB

1:5–2:17
2:18–3:24
4:1–5:21
Gaugler

1:5–2:17
2:18–4:6
4:7–5:21
Westcott

1:5–2:27
2:28–3:24b
3:24c–5:21
Lutthart

1:5–2:27
2:28–3:24
4:1–5:12
Balz

1:5–2:27
2:28–4:6
4:7–5:12
Häring, Brooke, Jones

1:5–2:27
3:1–24
4:1–5:20
de Ambroggi

1:5–2:28
2:29–3:22
3:23–5:17
Huther

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:12
F.-M. Braun, de la
Potterie, Sk̭rinjar, SBJ

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:13
Malatesta

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:19
Nagl

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:21
Law

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:12
4:13–5:13
Dodd

1:5–2:29
3:1–4:6
4:7–5:13
JB

1:5–2:29
3:1–5:4a
5:4b–21
Bonsirven

2:3–28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:21
Oke

Division into Seven Parts

Lohmeyer

1:1–4; 1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–3:24; 4:1–21; 5:1–12; 5:13–21

Wilder

1:1–4; 1:5–2:17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–5:12; 5:13–21

Giurisato

1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–28; 2:29–3:10; 3:11–22; 3:23–5:4; 5:5–17

Houlden

1:5–2:11; 2:12–17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–21; 5:1–1256

Each of these proposals has some measure of merit, and each has gained at least a small following. Each has also been subject to criticism, usually because they, at some point, fail to account for the “flow of argument” in the epistle.
(2) Discourse Analysis
This approach is usually applied by linguists and Bible translators. Rooted in the structuralist theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, this method looks at how grammar works on both the paragraph and discourse level. Surface structure and deep structure issues are examined. Speech-act theory and rhetorical strategies are also studied, and the text, as it is, is carefully examined. K. Pike and R. Longacre are well-known representatives of this approach to the study of texts. The following are several proposals set forth by this school.
1 John (R. Longacre)
INTRODUCTION—1:1–2:29—Embedded discourse of seven paragraphs
1:1–4
1:5–10—Covert exhortation not to profess to be sinless but to “walk in the light,” confess our sins, and enjoy forgiveness.
2:1–6—Covert exhortation not to sin.
2:7–11—A new/old command is announced and inferentially connected with a covert command to love.
2:12–17—Ethical peak of this embedded discourse. Here the writer develops his reasons for writing the epistle and warns against loving the world.
2:18–27—Doctrinal peak. Remain in Christ and in his teaching in spite of adverse teaching and practice.
2:28–29—Closure. Echoes previous paragraph: “Hold steady; don’t get sidetracked.”
BODY—3:1–5:12—Embedded discourse containing seven paragraphs
3:1–6—Mitigated covert command to purify ourselves in v. 3.
3:7–12—Mitigated covert command not to practice sin (v. 9).
3:13–18—Mitigated command (not covert) to love by laying down our lives for the brethren (v. 16b; note use of “ought”).
3:19–24—“Hortatory essence” of book given in v. 23: “We should believe on Jesus and love one another.”
4:1–6—“Doctrinal peak” of the book; believe correctly regarding Jesus Christ.
4:7–21—“Ethical peak” of the book; composed of two paragraphs (7–10 and 11–21). No mitigation now but covert exhortation: “Let us love one another.”
5:1–12—Conclusion of this embedded discourse (body) in that v. 1 refers to those who believe and love, harking back to the two previous paragraphs.
CONCLUSION—5:13–21. Theme of book clearly stated in v. 13, “that you may know.” Purpose in writing is Assurance.57
A second discourse approach comes from a student of Longacre, Helen Miehle. She builds on his treatment but reaches different conclusions at certain points.
1 John (H. Miehle)
INTRODUCTION 1:1–10
A. 1:1–4
B. 1:5–10
BODY 2:1–5:12
I. 2:1–3:6
2:1–27
2:1–17
2:1–11
2:1–6
2:7–11
2:12–14
2:15–17
2:18–25
2:26–27
2:28–3:6
II. 3:7–5:5
3:7–24
3:7–18
3:7–10
3:11–18
3:19–24
4:1–6
4:7–5:5
4:7–10
4:11–21
5:1–5
5:6–12
CLOSURE 5:13–2158
D. T.-C. Wu attempts something of an intersection between rhetorical and linguistic (discourse) approaches. Drawing upon the work of G. Guthrie and his work on Hebrews (Guthrie speaks of “rhetorico-discourse analysis”), he offers a more eclectic study.59 One will observe that his analysis is quite similar to more traditional approaches, but his method for arriving at his conclusions is not.
1 John (D. T.-C. Wu)
I. PROLOGUE: THE WORD OF LIFE (1:1–4)
II. LIGHT AND DARKNESS (1:5–2:27)
A. Walking in the Light (1:5–2:2)
(a) God is Light (1:5–1:7)
(b) Renouncing Sin (1:8–2:2)
B. The Command to Love (2:3–2:11)
(a) Knowledge of God and Keeping His Commandments (2:3–2:6)
(b) New Commandment (2:7–2:11)
C. A Digression about the Church (2:12–14)
D. Three Warnings (2:15–2:27)
(a) Warning against the World (2:15–2:17)
(b) Warning against the Antichrist (2:18–2:23)
(c) Warning against the Lie (2:24–2:27)
III. The Privileges and Responsibilities of God’s Children (2:28–4:6)
A. The Revelation of God’s Children (2:28–3:10)
(a) The Confidence of God’s Children (2:28–2:29)
(b) The Identity of God’s Children (3:1–2)
(c) God’s Children and the Children of the Devil (3:3–3:10)
B. The Community’s Message (3:11–3:12)
C. The Marks of God’s Children (3:13–3:24)
(a) Love in Community Life (3:13–3:18)
(b) Shoring up Christian Confidence (3:19–3:24)
D. Test the Spirits (4:1–6)
IV. FAITH IN GOD AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER (4:7–5:12)
A. God’s Love Evokes Human Love (4:7–4:11)
B. Confidence in God’s Love (4:12–4:18)
C. Appealing to Love Each Other (4:19–4:21)
D. The Victory of Faith (5:1–5:5)
E. Testimony to the Son (5:6–5:12)
V. EPILOGUE: FINAL REMARKS (5:13–5:21)
A. The Confidence and Certainties of Believers (5:13–5:20)
B. The Final Exhortation (5:21)
In a work prepared, in part, to assist missionaries in Bible translation, G. Sherman and J. Tuggy argue persuasively, in concert with Longacre, that 1 John “is a hortatory discourse, based on the occurrence of imperative verbs and other command forms.”60 They also point out that the surface form of 1 John is somewhat similar to modern English free poetry, making it difficult to always discern the relationship between various parts of the discourse.61 Concerning this latter observation, we would imagine all students of 1 John would heartily agree. Building on the insights of several discourse approaches to 1 John, they structure and organize the epistle as shown in the chart on p. 48.
(3) Rhetorical Criticism
The application of rhetorical criticism and strategies to the biblical material became quite popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although the results have been somewhat uneven, a better understanding of how biblical authors sought to persuade their audiences to see their perspective and hear their argument has certainly been enhanced.
First John has received significant attention because of both its brevity and the difficulty in deciphering its structure. As we have seen, previous approaches have failed to produce a consensus, and it is the case that this approach also fails to bring a definitive solution. A number of scholars have argued for a chiastic structure for 1 John. Note the following examples:
1 John (P. Berge)
A. The word of life 1:1–4
B. God is light 1:5–4:6
B′. God is love 4:7–5:5
A′. The witness of faith 5:6–2162
J. C. Thomas63 acknowledges the insights of Brown64 and wisely builds his proposal around “the use of similar catch words/phrases and sections which parallel one another in terms of content.” He goes on to argue that the structure of 1 John was intended to aid in its memorization.
1 John (J. C. Thomas)
A. 1:1–4—Prologue—Eternal Life
B. 1:5–2:2—Making Him a Liar (Walking)
C. 2:3–17—New Commandment
D. 2:18–27—Antichrists
E. 2:18–3:10—Confidence—Do Not Sin
F. 3:11–18—Love One Another
E′. 3:19–24—Confidence—Keep the Commands
D′. 4:1–6—Antichrists
C′. 4:7–5:5—God’s Love and Ours
B′. 5:6–12—Making Him a Liar (Testimony)
A′. 5:13–21—Conclusion—Eternal Life
In an excellent article that surveys various approaches to 1 John, P. J. Van Staden also argues “that the observance of the so-called chiastic styles presents an important key to a better understanding of the structure of 1 John.” He does not argue for an overall chiasm but believes the letter can be divided into three main sections (1:5–2:17; 2:18–3:17; 4:1–5:12), which themselves contain numerous chiastic or parallel units.65 K. Hansford argues in somewhat the same vein, stating that “the form of 1 John is a highly structural text, probably a homily or sermon, with poetic parallelisms and chiastic structures that the writer deliberately created to make his message more pleasurable and memorable for all time.”66 E. Wendland and K. Tollefson have recognized the contrastive or antithetical or dialectical strategies John employs in making his argument.67
D. Watson has attempted consistently to apply classic Greco-Roman rhetorical style and invention to 1 John. He argues:
Repetition and emphasis, so common in 1 John, is integral to the rhetor’s use of amplification techniques of Greceo-Roman rhetoric. These techniques include strong words, argumentation, comparison, accumulation, expolitio, reflexio, regressio, conduplicatio, distributio, synonymy … antithesis, personification, hyperbole, emphasis and development of commonplaces. Amplification is correctly found throughout the epistle. It must be pointed out that virtually every known rhetorical technique for amplification is utilized in the epistle.68
He identifies 1 John as primarily epideictic rhetoric (as opposed to judicial or deliberative) because its goal is to increase the readers’ commitment to values they already hold. First John was written to the faithful community as an appeal to strengthen their devotion to stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a value held by both the speaker and his audience.69
Talbert believes 1 John (like 1 Peter) alternates between the twin concerns of ethics and Christology.70 Strecker focuses on the polemical nature of 1 John and outlines the book alternating Parenesis and Dogmatic Exposition.71
H. York argues that when a comparison is made between discourse analysis and rhetorical criticism, significant similarities exist and common results are gleaned. The methods can be complementary. He provides as an example a side-by-side comparison of the discourse model of Longacre and the rhetorical analysis of Klauck.
Comparative Structural Analysis of 1 John

Longacre (Mitigated Hortatory)
Klauck (Deliberativum)

I. Introduction (1:1–2:29)
1:5–2:17
Capitatio Benvolentiae

1:1–10

1–4

5–10

2:1–6

2:7–11

2:12–17 (ethical peak)

2:18–27 (doctrinal peak)
2:18–27
Narratio

2:28–29 Closure
2:28–29
Propositio

II. Body of the Book (3:1–5:12)

3:1–6
3:1–24
Probatio

3:7–12

3:13–18

3:19–24

4:1–6 (doctrinal peak)
4:1–21
Exhortatio

4:7–21 (ethical peak)

5:1–12
5:1–12
Peroratio

III. Closure of Epistle (5:13–21)72

York’s conclusion is basically correct. There are genuine areas of compatibility, synthesis of methodology, and agreement between the two approaches. Neither method alone or together, however, has decisively settled the issue of the structure of 1 John. Significant disagreement still exists within both disciplines, though it is clear major strides have been made in better understanding the structure, strategies, and argument of 1 John.
A Proposal: The outline we propose attempts to utilize the best insights from traditional studies, discourse analysis, and rhetorical criticism. First John does exhibit a hortatory and epideictic rhetorical strategy. We also find Brown’s proposal persuasive, which states that 1 John is modeled on the same general structure as the Fourth Gospel. Both have a fourfold division overall, with the themes of light and love developed variously in sections II and III. Note his comparison:
The Gospel of John
I. The Prologue (1:1–18)
II. The Book of Signs (1:19–12:50): “To his own he came; yet his own people did not accept him.” The public revelation of the light brought a judgment, which separated believers who came to the light from the world and “the Jews” who preferred darkness to light.
III. The Book of Glory (13:1–20:29): “But all those who did accept him he empowered to become God’s children.” The “hour” of Jesus’ glorification where he speaks and acts on behalf of a new “his own”—the believers.
CONCLUSION (20:30–31): A statement of the author’s purpose.
IV. The Epilogue (chap. 21)
I John
I. The Prologue (1:1–4)
II. Part One (1:5–3:10): The Gospel that God is light, and we must walk in the light as Jesus walked.
III. Part Two (3:11–5:12): The Gospel that we must love one another as God has loved us in Jesus Christ.
CONCLUSION (5:13–21): A statement of the author’s purpose.73
This commentary’s outline does the following:
1. It recognizes the two dominant themes of the epistle as being Light (1:5–3:10) and Love (3:11–5:12)
2. It seeks to utilize rhetorical devices such as “hinge verses” (e.g., 2:28; 5:20) and other structural markers that most scholars use to separate one subject from another.
3. The outline is itself hortatory, admonishing the reader to heed John’s expected response to his word of instruction. R. R. Reno summarizes the situation well when he writes:
The text of 1 John shimmers with what has been seen, heard and touched. The text speaks plainly, directly and clearly, and what is said is a proclamation that has the power of fellowship: our fellowship with each other, our fellowship with God and the fellowship of the Father with his Son. Like the name of God which the Psalmist invokes as the very power of salvation, a power of invocation which the author of 1 John echoes when he explains, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13), so does the particular linguistic structure of 1 John contain the power to draw us into the fullest possible destiny in God’s love.74

52 The form and structure of 2 and 3 John are examined as part of the commentary on those letters.
53 Talbert, Reading John, 6.
54 G. S. Sloyan, Walking in the Truth (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1995), 1.
55 Grayston notes: “Despite the common agreement that the Epistle lacks a discernible structure or logical progression of thought, even the most pessimistic critics attempt an analysis” (The Johannine Epistles, 4). He proposes a sixfold division dependent on emphasis rather than subject matter. J. Hill argues that 1 John is an example of the “community rule” or “church order” (“A Genre for 1 John,” in The Future of Early Christianity, ed. B. A. Pearson [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 367–77). His argument, though interesting, is not adequate.
New English Bible
Brown, Epistles of John, 764. Law, Tests of Life, 1–24; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966), 366–67; and D. Jackman, The Message of John’s Letters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 18, are representative of those who see the letter structured in the form of a spiral, inverted pyramid or cone whereby John again and again returns to address certain themes. There is certainly some truth to this perspective. Marshall (The Epistles of John, 22–30) gives a more detailed analysis of the outlines of Law, Brooke, Dodd, Malatesta, P. R. Jones, Schnackenburg, and Feuillet. He does not find any of these approaches adequate overall. He goes on to examine the redactional theories of K. Tomoi, E. von Dobschütz, Bultmann, Windisch, Preisker, Braun, Nauck, and O’Neill. He concludes that these theories also fail to account for the structure of the letter.
57 R. E. Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44.
58 H. Miehle, “Theme in Greek Hortatory Discourse: Van Dijk and Beekman—Callow Approaches Applied to 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Arlington, 1988. Miehle obviously sees chiastic patterns in various sections. For our purposes we are more interested in simply showing her paragraph/section divisions. See G. H. Guthrie, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis (Leiden: Brill, 1994). Guthrie’s work is warmly commended by W. L. Lane in his commentary on Hebrews in WBC (xc).
59 D. T.-C. Wu, “An Analysis of the Structure of 1 John Using Discourse Analysis,” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997.
60 G. Sherman and J. C. Tuggy, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of the Johannine Epistles (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1994), 6.
61 Ibid., 7.
62 P. S. Berge, “The Word and Its Witness in John and 1 John: A Literary and Rhetorical Study,” in Word and World, Supplement Series 3 (1997): 143–62. As the title suggests, Berge sees a parallel literary relationship between the Gospel of John and 1 John. He also presents internal chiasms within his four major divisions (p. 151). The argument at this latter point is not very compelling.
63 J. C. Thomas, “The Literary Structure of 1 John,” NovT XL 4 (1998): 369–81.
64 Brown, Epistles of John, 371–72.
65 P. J. Van Staden, “The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 47/ 2 (1991): 494. M. Sweazey makes a similar argument, though she divides the epistle at 1:5–2:28; 2:29–4:6; 4:7–5:13. See her “Chiastic Study of the First Epistle of John,” Master’s Thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1986.
66 K. L. Hansford, “The Underlying Poetic Structure of 1 John,” JTT 5 (1992): 125–74.
67 E. R. Wendland, “ ‘Dear Children’ Versus the ‘Antichrists’: The Rhetoric of Reassurance in First John,” JTT 11 (1998): 40–84; K. D. Tollefson, “Certainty within the Fellowship: Dialectical Discourse in 1 John,” BTB 29, no. 2 (1999): 79–89. His outline of 1 John (p. 84) is helpful and interesting. D. Neufeld draws somewhat similar conclusions through the use of speech act theory (Reconceiving Texts as Speech Acts: An Analysis of 1 John (Leiden: Brill, 1994). His analysis is helpful at points, but many of the positions he takes on historical issues are unnecessarily skeptical and unduly suspicious.
68 D. F. Watson, “Amplification Techniques in 1 John: The Interaction of Rhetorical Style and Invention,” JSNT 51 (1993): 117–18.
69 Ibid., 119. See also Watson, “An Epideictic Strategy for Increasing Adherence to Community Values: 1 John 1:1–2:29,” in Proceedings: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies 11 (1991), 144–52.
70 Talbert, Reading John, 7.
71 Strecker, The Johannine Letters, xliv.
H. W. York, “An Analysis and Synthesis of the Exegetical Methods of Rhetorical Criticism and Discourse Analysis as Applied to the Structure of 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993. The two outlines come from Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44 (previously noted); and H.-J. Klauck, “Zur rhetorischen Analyse der Johannesbriefe,” ZNW 81 (1990): 204–24.
73 Brown, Epistles of John, 124. A. Feuillet concurs with Brown’s assessment that 1 John is patterned after the Gospel of John, though he outlines the letter differently. See his “Structure of 1 John,” BTB, vol. III, No. 2 (1973): 194–216. Van Staden’s criticism of Brown’s proposal, in our judgment, is unconvincing (“The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” 489–90).
74 R. R. Reno, “The Marks of the Nails: Theological Exegesis of the First Letter of John for Easter,” Pro Ecclesia, Vol. VI, No. 1 (1997): 53.

Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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Defining Kabbalah

Defining Kabbalah

For more discussion on the Kabbalah visit our forum https://www.divinesoteriology.com/forums/topic/definingkabbalah/

“KABBALAH [kə bälˊə] (Heb. qabbalâ “tradition”). † According to the Midrash, those books of the Hebrew scriptures contained in the Prophets and the Writings, as well as the corpus of oral law.
More commonly the term designates the system of Jewish theosophy and mysticism which developed after A.D. 1200, according to which God manifests himself through ten mysterious emanations. Of particular interest are aspects of creation and the visionary portions of Scripture. Abbreviations of words and the transposition of letters, with emphasis on their numerical values and symbolism, are the concern of gematria, a method of interpretation which seeks hidden meanings. In a less technical sense the Kabbalah comprises all esoteric Jewish doctrine from the beginning of the Christian era on.”
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (pp. 616–617). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

“Kabbala (Rabbinic Heb. קַבָּלָה, qabbālāh, ‘tradition’). A system of Jewish *theosophy which, by the use of an esoteric method of interpretation of the OT, including cyphers, was believed to reveal to its initiates hidden doctrines, e.g. the creation of the world by means of emanations from the Divine Being. It was a development of tendencies akin to *Gnosticism, and reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and at the Renaissance. A Christian form of it also had considerable vogue in the 15th-16th cents., its Christian exponents such as J. *Reuchlin and *Paracelsus professing to deduce by its means such doctrines as the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Divinity of Christ.

The Zohar tr. into Eng. by H. Sperling, M. Simon, and P. P. Levertoff (5 vols., 1931–4). Extensive extracts ed. F. Lachower and I. Tishby, tr. D. Goldstein, The Wisdom of the Zohar (3 vols., Oxford, 1989), with introd. by I. Tishby, 1, pp. 1–126. Shorter selection tr. by D. C. Matt (Classics of Western Spirituality, 1983). Other material tr. by R. C. Keiner, The Early Kabbalah, ed. with introd., by J. Dan (ibid. [1986]). G. G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (Jerusalem, 1941; 2nd edn., New York, 1946; 3rd edn., London, 1955); id., Zur Kabbala und ihre Symbolik (Zurich, 1960; Eng. tr., 1965); id., Ursprung und Anfänge der Kabbala (Studia Judaica, 3; 1962; Eng. tr., Princeton, NJ [1987]); id., Kabbalah (Jerusalem [1974]); M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, Conn., and London [1988]); S. Shokek, Kabbala and the Art of Being, ed. M. Leavitt (2001). J. L. Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (New York, 1944); F. Secret, Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964). G. G. Scholem, Bibliographia Kabbalistica (Berlin, 1933; additions in Kirjath Sepher, Jerusalem, 1933 ff.). Id. in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 10 (Jerusalem, 1971), cols. 489–653, s.v. ‘Kabbalah’; R. Goetschel and O. Betz in TRE 17 (1988), cols. 487–509, s.v., both with bibl.”
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 923). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

“Cabala (reception).—The secret tradition of the Jews, the origin of which may be traced to pre-Christian times, but which grew up mainly after the beginning of the tenth century, and flourished for many generations. The Cabala was employed first in a mystic explanation of the Deity and cosmogony, and in the creation of hidden meanings for the sacred Hebrew writings, thus drawing into its province all the Hebrew law and theology. Later, Cabalists pretended to find wonderful meanings even in the letters and forms of the sacred texts, and made for themselves elaborate rules of interpretation.”

Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (p. 127). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.
“Kabbalah n. Hebrew (kah-bah-LAH) Literally, “to receive.” The Jewish mystical tradition. Through the ages, Kabbalah has been primarily transmitted orally from a teacher to a disciple who was over 40 and well versed in the teachings of the Torah and Talmud. Rabbis worried that the Kabbalah would be misinterpreted or used for superstitious practices if it were studied by someone unfamiliar with Jewish texts; in its early years, it was practiced in secret. Kabbalists have developed meditative practices and distinctive theories on heaven, reincarnation, the coming of the Messiah, and creation. They use a system called gematria, in which each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value, to uncover the secrets that they believe are hidden in the Torah.
Kabbalists believe that these teachings were revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai as a secret part of the Oral Law. In the 2nd century C.E., Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph was a leading figure in Jewish mysticism; his search for paradise is mentioned in the Talmud. The earliest known Kabbalistic text is Sefer ha-Bahir, edited in Provence in the mid-12th century. It describes the 10 sefirot, through which the hidden God is revealed. Around 1290, the Spanish mystic Moses de Leon compiled the teachings of Kabbalah in the Zohar, which remains the classic text of this tradition. He credited the Kabbalah teachings to the 2nd-century writings of the talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Kabbalah was practiced by large numbers of Jews following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s. In Safed, in the mid-16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria furthered Kabbalistic thought with theories about the Ein Sof, the creation of the universe, the origins of evil, and how to repair the world (tikun olam). Lurianic Kabbalah played a major role in the development of Hasidism. Today, there is revived interest in Jewish mysticism among Orthodox Jews and those in the Jewish Renewal movement; synagogues and schools offer courses on Kabbalah and other topics of Jewish mysticism”
Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 76). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“A form of Jewish mysticism known as the kabbalah arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Among those who contributed to the religious and intellectual style of kabbalah was Moses de Leon (1240–1305). De Leon composed the majority of the Zohar, a multivolume work that includes a commentary on the Torah. His writings develop the idea that the stories and laws found in Scripture create a map or pattern for God. De Leon believed that a holy life, marked by an accurate execution of rituals, allowed humanity to reinstate God’s perfect order. By the sixteenth century, the Zohar was read far and wide and remains at the core of kabbalah practice.”

Rusten, S. with E. Michael. (2005). The complete book of when & where in the Bible and throughout history (p. 187). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
“BOOKS ON THE QABBALA

Reuchlin, De Verbo Mirifico. Basle. 1494.
——De Arte Cabbalistica. Hagenau. 1517.
Raymond Lully, De Auditu Cabbalistico. Strasb. 1651.
Kircher, Œdipus Ægyptiacus. Rome. 1635.
Jellinek, Beiträge zur Gesch. d. Kabbalah. Leipzig. 1852.
Franck, La Kabbale. Paris. 1843. Uebersetzt vom A. Jellinek. Leipzig. 1844.
Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, its Doctrines, Development, and Literature. London. 1865.
——Coheleth, London. 1861.
Munk, Mélanges de Philos. Juive et Arabe. Paris. 1859.”
Farrar, F. W. (1886). History of interpretation (p. 482). London: Macmillan and Co.

“Moses Cordovero (1522–1570)

Focusing upon Talmudic and legal commentators, we have not discussed important figures such as Moses de Leon, whose role in the production of the Zohar cannot be minimized, or Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic Movement. Still, we cannot ignore the special contributions of Moses Cordovero, known as Ramac, whose role is pivotal in the history of Jewish understanding of sacred texts. Ramac was the student of Joseph Caro, the composer of the Shulhan Arukh, and of the great Kabbalist Solomon Alkabez. His students were the powers behind the school of Lurianic Kabbalah in Sefad, which wholly integrated Kabbalah into a halakhic framework. What is generally viewed as the great, new impulse of Isaac Luria—the Ari—was already expounded, without detail, by Ramac: the mystical doctrines of tzimtzum, the four levels or worlds of emanation, and the configurations of the sefirot. The Ari developed and refined these ideas and became the master teacher of the new movement in Kabbalah. Ramac’s Or Yakar is a complete commentary to the Zohar, and he wrote many other books as well, such as Or Ha-Shamayim, Sefer Shiur Ha-Koma, Tfilah le-Moshe, Or Neerav, and Tamar Devora. Sermons of his and a commentary to the Pentateuch remain in manuscript, as yet unpublished.”
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, p. 1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

“JEWISH MYSTICISM: AN INTRODUCTION
J. H. Laenen
Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, 292 pp.\

In the preface to his book Laenen declares that he seeks to bridge the gap between scholarly studies and popular works on Jewish mysticism. His aim is to provide a book which, while based on scholarly research, will be of use to the interested non-specialist who does not have a broad knowledge of Judaism. In the introduction he answers the question, ‘What is Jewish mysticism?’. He then proceeds to describe the emergence and history of Jewish mysticism from biblical times to the present day. He works his way from ancient Jewish mysticism, through classical, Lurianic, and Hasidic Kabbalah. An extensive chapter is devoted to the seventeenth century mystic, Sabbatai Zvi and further sections discuss language mysticism and popular literature on Kabbalism.
Laenen is at his best when he is describing and explaining the complex systems of Kabbalah, such as the ten Sefiroth which are characteristic of Lurianic thinking, and describing the importance of major writings such as the Zohar. He is also very good at biographical descriptions of the main individuals and provides interesting and clear accounts of figures such as Joseph Caro and Sabbatai Zvi (although the reader may wonder why so much space has been devoted to this ‘heretical’ character).
The most satisfying parts of the book are those which deal with specific themes, for example the chapter on language mysticism. The main problem with the book lies in its attempt to provide an introduction to Kabbalism while assuming that the reader has little knowledge of Jewish thought and history as a whole. Repeatedly we find that the basic ideas of Judaism itself have to be introduced. Kabbalah is such a complex subject in its own right, that unless the book is going to be very ‘popular’ in its target group, there needs to be some understanding of the ‘first principles’ of the Jewish religion. Thus, Laenen finds that it is necessary, in his chapter on Lurianic Kabbalah, for example, to give a short history of Messianism within Judaism. This rather confounds the chronological pattern which he has set himself to follow. Moreover, although one could see why he has opted for the chronological schema, this writer found herself wishing that he had taken more account of his own observation that the mystical tradition in Judaism did not develop in a straight line (105). The desire to avoid ‘lumping all Jewish mysticism together’ without recognising differences between movements and times is laudable, but unfortunately has sometimes resulted in a rather confusing picture. It would have been very interesting to learn more of the place of Kabbalah in present day Judaism.
Undergraduates and graduate students wishing to have a basic knowledge of the subject will find this book most useful if ‘dipped into’ rather than read through from beginning to end. In other words, the readers should use the index to guide them to themes and characters rather than pursuing the chronological method of the book. There is a good bibliography to aid further study.”
Carson, M. (2003). Review of Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction by J. H. Laenen. Themelios, 28(2), 118–119.

“Sefer Yetzirah n. Hebrew Literally, “Book of Creation.” The first classic text of Kabbalah. It is considered to be an early Babylonian or Palestinian work dating from the 2nd century C.E. The Sefer Yetzirah theorizes that the 10 sefirot and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the building blocks of creation and the channels through which Divine consciousness flows into creation.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Tree of Life n. English 1. One of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. Fruit from the Tree of Life gave immortality to those who tasted it. 2. An image, used in Kabbalah, to depict the sefirot. In this tree of life, the roots are in heaven and the branches extend toward earth. 3. The wooden poles to which a Torah scroll is attached. This is a metaphor, in that the teachings and laws of the Torah are a “tree of life” to those who believe and follow them. In Hebrew they are called atzei chayim. 4. A common artistic representation of a tree, used in synagogue art and Judaica. Because halakhah does not allow the use of human figures as ornamentation, trees of life, along with animals and fruit, are popular themes.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 174). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“sefirah n. Hebrew (seh-fee-RAH); pl. sefirot (seh-fee-ROTE) One of the 10 emanations, or varying aspects, of the Divine presence. This is one of the theories central to the Jewish mystical tradition, or Kabbalah. According to Kabbalistic teaching, sefirot are the 10 attributes that Ein Sof, the infinite unknowable God, created and through which He can be known to man and the universe. sefirot, sometimes called the building blocks of creation, are often depicted as spheres, pillars, or a tree of life, in which the roots are in heaven and the branches extend down toward earth. The sefirot are said to correspond with parts of the body. The 10 sefirot are keter, hokhmah, binah, chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut. Da’at, literally “knowledge,” is sometimes used in place of keter.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Radbaz was the Chief Rabbi of Egypt. He introduced the practice of counting years on documents from the Anno Mundi as was the custom in the West, and he reintroduced the silent recitation of prayer that Maimonides had abolished in Egypt. He left there and resettled in the Holy Land, where he had first gone after he was expelled from Spain in the great expulsion of 1492. His printed responsa number close to 2500, but there are more in manuscript. He deals with questions of every type, and his personal authority is stamped in every answer. He defended the study of philosophy and science and was an avid student of Kabbalah himself, so that his commentaries are in a Kabbalistic manner. His comments on issues in Talmudic study are cited in Shita Mekubetzet by Bezalel Ashkenazi, his student. Keter Malkhut, his work on the liturgy for Yom Kippur, remains very popular.”

Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1216–1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

“Zohar n. Hebrew (ZOE-har) Literally, “radiance.” A mystical book that is the core text of Kabbalah—one of only three canonized Jewish sacred texts (the other two are the Torah and the Talmud). The Zohar, written in Aramaic, includes interpretations and commentaries that explore the secrets and symbols in the Torah. The Zohar proposes a distinct theory of Creation in which emanations from Ein Sof created a secret spark of awareness, from which emerged and radiated all light. Levels of creation, sefirot, and the worlds above and below are discussed throughout the Zohar. The Zohar holds that The Song of Songs, with its allusions of love and eroticism, contains more secrets of the universe than any other Jewish text. The Zohar was introduced into Spain around 1290 by the mystic Moses de Leon, who claimed it was the mystical 2nd-century writings of talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Most scholars believe that de Leon authored the text himself.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 195). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

 

 

Hebrew Idioms

Hebrew Idioms

ANTIPHRASIS. 

Antiphrasis is a forme of speech which by a word exprest doth signifie the contrary: as when the speaker sayth, wisely, or wittily, understanding the contrary. Also to say You are alwayes my friend, meaning, mine enemie. You are a man of great judgement, signfying unapt and unable to judge.
Peachum, H. (1977). The Garden of Eloquence (1593): Tropes. Medford, MA: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, Inc.

“antiphrasis. n. The use of a word in a sense opposite to its normal meaning (ἀντιφράζειν, “to express by the opposite”). E.g., 1 Corinthians 4:8, 10. See also irony”.

DeMoss, M. S. (2001). In Pocket dictionary for the study of New Testament Greek (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“To nullify threats, oaths or self-imprecations, and blasphemy various alterations and substitutions were made in wording. For example, in Num 16:14 Dathan and Abiram defy Moses’ order, “Should you gouge out the eyes of these men (to avoid saying “our eyes”), we will not go up.” David’s self-curses in 1 Sam 20:15f. and 25:22 are redirected to David’s enemies. Similarly, in Nathan’s rebuke of David for scorning the Lord (2 Sam 12:14) the text was altered to read “enemies of the Lord” to avoid directly accusing David of blasphemy. Naboth was charged with “blessing” (i.e., cursing) God and king (1 Kgs 21:10, 13), and the antiphrasis “bless” for “curse” is similarly used in Job 1:5, 11 and 2:5, 9. This usage survives in contemporary speech:in “Bible Belt” parlance, “he blessed me out” means “he cursed me,” while “bad” means “good” in colloquial Afro-American English. A common device to eliminate blasphemy was to turn the derogation back on the speaker. Eli’s sons’ vilification of God (1 Sam 3:13) was turned back on them by omitting the first letter of the word for God, ʾlhm, to make it mean “to them””

Pope, M. H. (1992). Bible, Euphemism and Dysphemism in the. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 1, p. 724). New York: Doubleday.

Curse

“1. As elsewhere in antiquity, so too in Israel the curse and its opposite (→ Blessing) were understood primarily as words of power that were thought to take effect magically. The curse was a materialized, harmful force that flew across the earth, overtook the one against whom it was uttered, and brought about his or her destruction (Zech. 5:1–4). To avert it, there was need of a countercurse (Gen. 27:29; Num. 24:9; Ps. 140:9–11) or of an opposing blessing (Judg. 17:2; 1 Kgs. 2:44–45). Fear of the automatic operation of a curse led to the use of “bless” as a euphemism for “curse” (Job 1:5; 2:9) or to the omission of selfcursing in an oath.”
Schottroff, W. (1999–2003). Curse. In The encyclopedia of Christianity (Vol. 1, p. 758). Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill.

“Other expressions also seem to be fixed idioms, although they are not limited to formation with ʾelōhîm: “fearful of God” (Gen 22:12; Exod 18:21; Job 1:1; Eccl 7:18; etc.), “to fear God” (Exod 1:17, 21; Job 1:9; etc.), “to curse God” (or, euphemistically, “to bless God”) (1 Sam 3:13 txt em; Job 1:5; 2:9; cf. Deut 21:23 “curse of God”), “to ask God” (Judg 18:5; 20:18; 1 Sam 14:36f.), “word of God” (Judg 3:20; 1 Sam 9:27; 2 Sam 16:23; cf. 1 Kgs 12:22; Mic 3:7), or “

“In the chapter on the scope and limitations of textual criticism the author lists virtually all of the elements necessary to a proper critical study of the OT text. These include Mas-soretic notations, discrepant readings in duplicate passages, the versions, variant Hebrew manuscripts such as those of Qumran, etc. His suggestion that an example of Massoretic tiqqûnê sôpᵉrîm (“scribal emendations”) that went unnoticed or unlisted by the rabbis is that of bārēk (“bless”) for qallēl (“curse”) in Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 may be questionable, how-
JETS 25:3 (September 1982) p. 366
ever. “Bless” for “curse” is clearly a euphemism, especially when God is the object, but it is gratuitous to assume that a pious scribe altered the text to make it less offensive when such euphemisms could well be expected on the lips of the original speakers (writers).”
(1982). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 25(3), 365–366.

of God” (Hos 4:1; 6:6; Prov 2:5). Such phrases sometimes refer intentionally to the “deity” (cf. also the denial of God, IV/5).”

Jenni, E., & Westermann, C. (1997). Theological lexicon of the Old Testament (p. 121). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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PESHAṬ

PESHAṬ

PESHAṬ: “Term denoting simple Scriptural exegesis, and derived from the verb “pashaṭ.” “Pashaṭ” in late Biblical Hebrew, as well as in the Mishnah, means “to spread,” “to stretch out,” and is figuratively used, therefore, in the sense of giving a full and detailed explanation, since through such elucidations the contents of a given Scriptural passage are extended and amplified. In the Mishnah and in the Tosefta “pashaṭ” is used but once in its figurative meaning (Mishnah Suk. iii. 11; Tosef., Pes. x. 9); and that this is the correct interpretation of “li-peshoṭ and “posheṭ” in both these passages, and not, as Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah declares, “to recite once,” is shown by the parallel passages in Pes. 119b and Suk. 39a, where the passage in the Tosefta reads: “R. Eliezer mosif bah debarim” (he added words), implying that R. Eliezer added his explanations and interpretations to the text (Abaye’s explanation of this passage can not be reconciled with the wording of the Tosefta, which has “posheṭ and not “mosif”).
“Pashaṭ” originally had, therefore, the same meaning as “darash.” A distinction between “peshaṭ” as the literal sense of Scripture and “derash” as the interpretation and derivation from Scripture could not have been made in antiquity for the simple reason that the Tannaim believed that their Midrash was the true interpretation and that their “derash” was the actual sense of Scripture, and therefore “peshaṭ” (see Midrash Halakah). Only later, in the period of the Amoraim, when on account of the development of hermeneutic principles the interpretations of the Midrash often seemed forced and artificial, did scholars come to the conclusion that the natural and simple sense of Scripture was different from that given in the Midrash; and a distinction was, accordingly, made between the simple literal sense, called “peshaṭ,” and the interpretation, called “derash.”
It is frequently the case, therefore, that, after a passage of Scripture has been interpreted, the question arises as to its literal meaning “peshaṭeh di-ḳera” (Ḥul. 6a; ‘Er. 23b). A rule, which was not, however, universally known (comp. Shab. 63a), was laid down that the literal sense must not be completely changed by the interpretation of the derash (Yeb. 24a; comp. Tos. Yom-Ṭob with Yeb. ii. 8), although it is noteworthy that this restriction of the meaning of “peshaṭ” as contrasted with “derash” is accurately observed only in the Babylonian Talmud. In the Palestinian Talmud “peshaṭ” has kept its original meaning, and is synonymous with “derash,” so that in the Palestinian Talmud (Shab. xvi. 15c and B. M. ii. 8d) the verb “pashaṭ” occurs in the same sense as “darash.” In like manner, in the midrashim (e.g., Gen. R. xvii. 3; Ex. R. 67:8), “peshaṭ” denotes the explanation of Scripture in general, and not merely its literal meaning. In cabalistic literature “peshaṭ,” as the simple literal meaning, is distinguished from “remez” (mere inference), from “derush” (interpretation), and from “sod” (the esoteric force contained in the Scriptures). All four methods of hermeneutics are comprised under the name “pardes,” formed by the initials of “peshaṭ,” “remez,” “derush,” and “sod.” In relation to the study of the Talmud, “peshaṭ” means a simple rational interpretation of that work in contrast to the subtle methods of Pilpul. The expression “pashuṭ gemara” is used also for the study of the Talmud with the commentary of Solomon Yiẓḥaḳi (Rashi) only, without the Tosafot or any later commentaries. The word “pesheṭel,” which is derived from “peshaṭ,” denotes the exact opposite of the latter, so that it is used like “ḥilluḳ,” to signify the subtle treatment of a Talmudic-rabbinic theme.”

Pes. Pesaḥim (Talmud)
Pes. Pesaḥim (Talmud)
Suk. Sukkah (Talmud)
Ḥul Ḥullin (Talmud)
. Ḥullin (Talmud)
‘Er. ‘Erubin (Talmud)
comp. compare
Shab. Shabbat (Talmud)
Yeb. Yebamot (Talmud)
comp. compare
Tos. Tosafot
Yeb. Yebamot (Talmud)
Shab. Shabbat (Talmud)
B. M. Baba Meẓi‘a (Talmud)
Ex. R. Exodus Rabbah
Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 9, pp. 652–653). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation
“Contrary to this apologetic trend, in which Jewish psychologists bracket their Jewish commitments and attempt to prove that the Jewish heritage illustrates Freudian ideas, it is possible to trace to the Rabbinic system of midrashic exegesis the roots of the contrary, pluralistic-democratic idea of freedom to choose one’s own interpretation of life and worldly events. A definitive account of how this psycho-philosophical principle of dialogic co-existence derives from the midrashic system of hermeneutic pluralism is in order.
Diverse hermeneutic systems take different stands on the ability of a single datum to support more than one meaning. Some psychological hermeneutics adhere to a dialectic either/or principle, which finds it necessary to replace a false interpretation that is eliminated with the one true explanation that has been identified. In dialogic systems, by contrast, two interpretations may co-exist. The first, Aristotelian either/or system is embedded in the idea of conflict; the hyphen in the dialogic principle of paradox, on the other hand, is rooted in the Platonic or Buberian I-thou idea, according to which truth stands between two co-existing, alternating or even opposing positions.
Interestingly, this principle of paradoxical interpretations stands at the foundation of many ideas central to Judaism. These ideas include the notions, for instance, that God’s midat hadin (quality of rigorous sternness) and midat harachamim (quality of merciful compassion) co-exist. At the very heart of Rabbinic Judaism, indeed, stands the concept of the written and oral Torahs, both revealed by God even though, prima facie, their texts seem sometimes to contradict each other. In interpreting canonical documents, the principle of paradoxical interpretations is further invoked, for instance, to explain the fact that, while the written Torah often specifies the death penalty, the oral Torah condemns as murderous any Jewish court that carries out this penalty even once in seventy years (B. Mak. 7a).
Even as it was used to comprehend contradictions between the oral and written Torahs, so the principle of paradoxical interpretations applied in the resolution of apparent contradictions within the written Torah itself. A classic example is the verse, “And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a help against him” (Gen. 2:18). Gen. Rab. 17:3 explains the two seemingly contradictory concepts, “help” and “against,” by applying a hermeneutic principle that reads them independently of each other. The woman will become man’s right-hand “help” if he deserves it; but if he does not deserve it, she will turn “against” him. A similar interpretation makes Israel’s deservingness of future redemption dependent on the freedom of choice to do good or evil. Here the two contradicting words beita achishena (Is. 60:22), which mean literally “I shall hasten it” (achishena) and “in its due time” (beita), were also read independently (Song Rab. 8:12) to mean: redemption will occur in due time if Israel does not deserve it (beita); but if they deserve salvation, I will hasten it (achishena).
This principle of paradoxical interpretations stands in opposition to “double bind” theories,4 which postulate that socialization via “double messages” may lead to psychotic breakdowns. By contrast, we refer to the Midrashic principle of “Al-tikrei,” which means literally “don’t read,” and is a catch-phrase for the full sentence, “Don’t read (the biblical text) as it is written, but, by switching or changing the letters, read it in a different way to reveal an alternate meaning.” The relevance of this paradoxical principle in the present context is that it entails the possibility of retaining two contradictory interpretations of a textual passage. This hermeneutic, which has extensive psychological implications, appears about 180 times in the Rabbinic literature,5 and some of its occurrences, in prayers and/or turned into popular slogans, remarkably affected socialization of Jews throughout the ages.
One of the most famous uses of the al-tikrei passages, recited by traditional Jews daily in the morning prayers, refers to Is. 54:13: “All your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your sons.” Concerning this verse, B. Ber. 64 says, “Do not read ‘your sons’ (banayich) but ‘your builders’ (bonayich).” Thus, while Isaiah states that peace shall be brought upon the Israelites’ children (“sons”) in general, the Talmud rereads his words to refer to “your builders” in particular, thus establishing a distinct ethical imperative to participate in the rebuilding of the Jewish nation.
In our current discussion, at issue is whether this mode of interpretation intends completely to replace and erase the original textual reading or only to add to it another level of meaning. Judah Eisenstein, editor of the Otzar Yisrael encyclopedia, answers this question by noting that both Maimonides and Nachmanides stressed that such formulations add an alternative interpretation to the biblical text but do not negate the original reading. Indeed, Nachmanides held that the hermeneutic idea inherent in the “al-tikrei” form allows even two contradictory interpretations both to be true. This is possible insofar as the biblical text is sufficiently powerful to endure both meanings. It is, accordingly, exactly the possibility of such an alternative that creates what I have termed a dialogic, or alternating, hermeneutic system. The reading “your builders” does not replace dialectically the original words, “your children.” The new reading, rather, facilitates the dialogic possibility of accumulative progress, according to which “your children” become “your progressing developers.”
Having posited that this ancient midrashic system of hermeneutic pluralism possibly comprised the bedrock of the democratic notion of dialogic co-existence, we may proceed now to introduce four different psychological dimensions, the first two entailing a time element and the subsequent two relating to space. The four subtitles, formulated in a comparative style, are articulated as four systems of psychological dialogues that people usually maintain on various levels with their surrounding environment:
1. The intergenerational psychology of Abraham’s binding of his son, Isaac (“Aqeda”): Here the possibility of maintaining a total personal identity by rearranging the intergenerational continuity between the “Abrahams” and “Isaacs” will be compared to the Oedipal psychology of intergenerational conflict.
2. The intrapersonal psychology of return to Judaism (“Teshuva”): In this section the possibility of recomposing one’s failing past according to the idea of repentance will be compared to the deterministic linear time conception of one’s past that follows from the concept of “original sin.”
3. The interpersonal psychology of bondsmanship (“Arevim”): In this section the communal idea of self-actualization via helping the other (alter-centrism) will be discussed by comparing it to the ego-centered actualization psychology of Darwinian Survival of the Fittest.
4. The superpersonal psychology of “PaRDeS”: This section discusses two dialogical levels: a) the hermeneutic notion of PaRDeS which provides a dialogical bridge between the rational-physical world and one’s irrational-mystical world, and b) the dialogical system of sexuality, which provides a bridge for regulating the flow of energy between the yetzer (carnal desire) and the yetzira (spiritual creativity).”

4 See G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York, 1972.
5 M. Zipor, “Al gilguleyhen shel derashat ˓Al-tikrei,” in Y. Refael, ed., Yovel Sinai (Jerusalem, 1987).
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1092–1094). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

“We conclude this chapter by isolating ten summarizing principles for interpreting Old Testament narratives that should also help you avoid certain pitfalls as you read.

1. An Old Testament narrative usually does not directly teach a doctrine.
2. An Old Testament narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught propositionally elsewhere.
3. Narratives record what happened—not necessarily what should have happened or what ought to happen every time. Therefore, not every narrative has an individual identifiable moral application.
4. What people do in narratives is not necessarily a good example for us. Frequently, it is just the opposite.
5. Most of the characters in Old Testament narratives are far from perfect—as are their actions as well.
6. We are not always told at the end of a narrative whether what happened was good or bad. We are expected to be able to judge this on the basis of what God has taught us directly and categorically elsewhere in Scripture.
7. All narratives are selective and incomplete. Not all the relevant details are always given (cf. John 21:25). What does appear in the narrative is everything that the inspired author thought important for us to know.
8. Narratives are not written to answer all our theological questions. They have particular, specific, limited purposes and deal with certain issues, leaving others to be dealt with elsewhere in other ways.
9. Narratives may teach either explicitly (by clearly stating something) or implicitly (by clearly implying something without actually stating it).
10. In the final analysis, God is the hero of all biblical narratives.”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., p. 106). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.