Biblical Interpretation in Judaism and Christianity

Article excerpt

Biblical Interpretation in Judaism and Christianity, edited by Isaac Kalimi and Peter J. Haas. New York and London: T&T Clark, 2006. 265 pp. $156.00.

One of the more exciting developments in recent decades in the field of biblical studies has been the turn away from a fixation on the prehistory of the sacred text to the study of its reception. This new interest in the history of scriptural interpretation is promising for a number of reasons. It has the potential of overcoming the (often artificial) divide between the scholarly community and the communities of faith, and it rallies together scholars from a variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines - secular and faithful, Jewish and Christian, of the modern and the pre-modern periods - around a common topic. The present volume, which brings together some of the leading scholars in their respective fields, is a most welcome addition to the rapidly growing number of publications on the history of biblical exegesis, as it reaches these objectives formidably.

The book comprises sixteen articles. Of these most (we are not told which) were originally presented at a conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 2004, organized in honor of the publication of Isaac Kalimi's book Early Jewish Exegesis and Theological Controversy (Assen, 2002).

Following an introductory essay by Isaac Kalimi, the articles are organized in three parts. Part one, with seven essays the longest section in the book, deals with classical and medieval Jewish biblical interpretation. Part Two, consisting of three articles, deals with the intersection of Judaism and Christianity in biblical interpretation. And Part Three, with six articles, turns to modern Jewish biblical studies.

The three sections of the book differ markedly from one another. The focus of a conference volume of this sort will necessarily be on case studies, the study of individual texts and their interpretations, rather than on broader, systematic overviews. This is particularly true for the first group of articles, with articles on the pre-modern Jewish history of reading of Gen 4:8, and of Gen 35:22, and an essay on the shape of the Menorah. Two articles in particular are interesting. In Isaac Kalimi's article "Targumic and Midrashic Exegesis in Contradiction to the Peshat of Biblical Text," the reader is treated to a wealth of cases in which the Rabbis deliberately part from the plain meaning of the biblical text in order to arrive at a certain interpretation. The other article that stands out, both for the breadth of the (otherwise little known) materials the author adduces from diverse Jewish Psalms commentaries and for its insightful conclusions, is Alan Cooper's "On the Typology of Jewish Psalms Interpretation." Cooper argues that there are three different types of Davidic personae in these intriguing commentaries: the king of yore, the longed-for Messiah, and the Everyman of the present. …