On the medieval rabbinic assumption that the early sages knew the peshat

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Medieval peshat commentary constitutes a new stage in the history of Jewish biblical exegesis. Despite many points of continuity, it is customary in academic research to distinguish this approach from those of previous periods. The essential difference between these eras lies in the use of the peshat method, specifically the commentator's awareness of its methodological principles and commitment to them. It is therefore interesting that medieval scholars, including the peshat commentators themselves, casually assumed that peshat exegesis had been known from time immemorial and that even the rabbinic sages had been aware of its principles. From their perspective, the difference between them and the sages was merely a matter of choice: the sages, for a variety of reasons, paid scant attention to peshat exegesis, while they themselves devoted considerable attention to it. However, in their eyes, the peshat methodology and its principles were not in themselves innovative. I will present this view of the medieval scholars and try to explain its origins and rationale.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)256-275
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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