PDF Gods Echo: Exploring Scripture with Midrash

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The authoritative textual understanding is not in heaven but with its earthly interpreters. God delights in the human imagination. No one person can claim to hold the key to unlock what God intended, because what God intended was for each generation to read its story into the text. In fact, the Torah itself teaches this: Surely this Teaching which I enjoin you this day is not It is not in the heaven No, the thing is very close to your mouth and in your heart, to observe it Deuteronomy In the Mishnah, we read the teaching of Ben Bag Bag concerning Torah: Turn it and turn it again, for all is in it, and contemplate it, and grow gray and old over it, and stir not from it, for you can have no better rule than this Avot These sources point away from a fundamentalist, literalist reading of the biblical text.

A Hasidic rabbi, Rabbi Mendel of Rymanov, offers the striking suggestion that what was heard on Mount Sinai was not the Ten Commandments but only the first letter of the first word of the first commandment. That Hebrew letter is aleph and it is silent or, more precisely, it is the very beginning of sound. You open your mouth ready to speak. That is the aleph.

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Revelation here is not understood as containing specific content. Burt Visotzky, a professor of midrash and interreligious studies, suggests that for the Bible to become more than an revered ancient book, but an eternal one that continues to speak to each new generation of readers, it must be open to interpretation: It is only in the reading and the rereading which each community does together that the Bible becomes a timeless text, the Word of God The give and take of interpretation creates an extra voice in the room, the sound of Reading the Book.

When that happens, the Bible speaks not only to each community of readers, be they Jewish, Christian or any other flavor, but to all humanity. Yet there is no reason to think that God ceased to guide a developing interpretation of that action. Indeed, the subsequent role of the Spirit in human history, in the history of the church and its pronouncements, in the writings of the Fathers and theologians enters into a Tradition that embodies the post-scriptural interpretation of the salvific action of God described in Scripture People have continued finding in the NT meaning for their own lives as they face new issues; they have asked what the NT books mean, not simply what they meant Once a work is written, it enters into dialogue with its readers, including future readers The text is not simply an object on which the interpreter works analytically to extract a permanently univocal meaning; it is a structure.

Once written, a text is no longer under the author s control and can never be interpreted twice from the same situation. I prefer to live my life with a question mark. The rabbis turned the text and turned it again. They delighted in reading the Bible with question marks to discover not just what the Bible meant but what it continues to mean.


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They entered into dialogue with the text and added another voice in the room. And it was from these voices and question marks that they wrote midrashim. Some historical background In order to appreciate the environment in which midrash flourished, it is necessary to understand Jewish life in the early centuries of the Common Era. During most of the first century ce, Judaism was socially, politically, and religiously diverse. Many different groups populated the spiritual landscape. The Sadducees were the priests who administered the Temple in Jerusalem.

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Descendants of the high priest Aaron, they belonged to the upper social classes. The Sadducees constituted a hereditary group who interpreted the Bible literally. It was destroyed by the Babylonians bce , subsequently restored during Persian rule bce , and then renovated and expanded during the rule of Herod the Great 20 bce. Built and rebuilt in the heart of Jerusalem, the Temple was the center of Jewish life until its destruction by the Romans in 70 ce. Its remains are now located in the Old City of Jerusalem.

They understood themselves to be the successors of Moses, to whom God had entrusted the Torah at Sinai.


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The Pharisees took a more lenient approach to the Bible, interpreting Scripture and developing an Oral Torah alongside the Written Torah. Other groups such as the Essenes, who preached an ascetic lifestyle in anticipation of the end of days, and the Zealots, who espoused political rebellion to overthrow Roman rule, helped to make up this heterogeneous community. In addition, various messianic and apocalyptic movements that yearned for divine redemption were part of the Jewish community of Israel and the Diaspora. By 70 ce, when the Romans destroyed the Temple, everything had shifted. The messianic movement that had come to center around Jesus of Nazareth eventually gave birth to Christianity.

Many of the Essenes had secluded themselves in a small area by the Dead Sea, Qumran, essentially withdrawing from society.

The Zealots were defeated in their rebellion against Rome, and their political power was crushed. The priestly Sadducees lost their power base with the destruction of the Temple. It was left to one group, the Pharisees, to rescue the Jewish people from the political and spiritual catastrophe they had experienced and to ensure a Jewish future.

The Pharisees and their successors, the rabbis, secured Judaism s survival by teaching new ways of coming close to God through study, prayer, and deeds of loving-kindness. In place of the Temple, the rabbis elevated the home as a small sanctuary mikdash ma at and established synagogues and academies as places of assembly, learning, and worship. In those academies, the rabbis developed new ways of interpreting Scripture. They read the biblical text in light of the historical, political, and religious upheaval of their time, addressing the displacement and despair of their generation.

These rabbis, the inheritors of the Pharisaic tradition, became the guardians of Torah.

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Late in the first century ce in the city of Yavneh or Jamnia , the rabbis engaged in the process of canonizing the Hebrew Bible, which came to be organized into three sections Torah, Nevi im Prophets , and Ketuvim Writings. Most sacred of all the divisions was the Torah, which had been established since the time of Ezra. Parkhurst, Jr. Course I. The thirst and desire for God CCC, nos. Within all people there is a longing for God.

To understand Christian stewardship we must accept that God is the creator of everything, owner of everything, and the perfect. When Did Miracles Cease? Have you ever heard someone say it s a miracle!? Parents promise to do things for children. Politicians, business people, and friends make promises. We have all had. As you get to know. Originally published in the Pentecostal Evangel, March 24, Lee Editor s note: This is the second in. Bible Time for.

Bible reading can take. The Mystery of God The word mystery means an unspoken secret. God had an unspoken secret that He kept to Himself for 4, years. It was the biggest and best secret of all time, and it s about you and. Matthias has been chosen to replace Judas. Creation turned away and in this. The Body and Blood of Christ? You may have forgotten why we. Jesus and the Counsellor in John s Gospel In Jesus farewell speech, recorded in John s Gospel chapters Jesus introduces the disciples to one he calls the Counsellor.

This Counsellor the name itself. Every worldview answers the questions of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. In other words, every worldview asks the questions: Where. The Savior told Joseph Smith, I will reveal myself from heaven with power and.

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Preparation of the. Have you thought of the reality of the judgment day? Judgment day is a real day! Judgment day is a.

But if. Instead, he will go to an intermediate Heaven.