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Jewish Methods of Exegesis in the New Testament

Henry Wansbrough


The majority of writings which compose the New Testament contain puzzling passages founded on references to scripture, where the modern reader can no longer appreciate the strength of or indeed follow at all the argumentation employed by the New Testament writer. The principles of exegesis employed in the first century were widely divergent from those used by modern scriptural scholars. At a time when the Jewish matrix of Christianity is becoming more and more valued, and when our knowledge of the New Testament world is increasing so dramatically through the final full publication of the Scrolls from the Judean Desert, it is appropriate to examine again the extent to which Jewish methods of exegesis have shaped the New Testament. Five principal matters will be discussed:


1. The fullest theoretical account of the contemporary Jewish methods of exegesis is tabulated in the seven middoth attributed to R. Hillel in the late first century BC. Although this attribution must be treated with caution, although the theoretical rules are less enlightening than the practice of exegesis, and although the importance of these rules for the NT is very uneven, I shall begin with a short explanation of these middoth, and a survey of their use in the NT.


2. The fullest body of actual scriptural exegesis at roughly the time of the composition of the New Testament is provided by the writings and scriptural commentaries of Qumran and the other locations in the Judean Desert. Only recently has what Geza Vermes refers to as ‘the academic scandal par excellence of the twentieth century’ begun to be overcome by their full publication, so that the full extent of the similarities may be seen.


3. The highly sophisticated use of argumentative proofs from scripture in the Epistles of Paul and the other New Testament letter-writers will be considered by means of a selection of passages.


4. Suggestions of use in the New Testament of a more extended Jewish scriptural homily-form will be examined.


5. The gospels and Acts, being primarily narrative, make use primarily of narrative techniques, though arguments based on scripture, especially legal arguments, do occur in the course of the narratives. There would be room for a considerable treatment of the way such narrative techniques are based on the Old Testament. A few introductory sketches will have to suffice.



1. Methods of Rabbinical Exegesis and the New Testament


The first of the properly rabbinic systems of exegetical rules are the seven middoth attributed to R. Hillel and catalogued in Tos. Sanhedrin 7.11 (Soncino ed., p. 427). It is, however, strongly questionable whether they really stem from Hillel or have been subsequently attributed to him. Neusner maintains that the story of Hillel and the Bene Bathyra about the coincidence of Sabbath and Passover cannot have occurred while the Temple still functioned, since the problem would have been too familiar to need a new pronouncement.


On one occasion the 14th fell on the Sabbath and they [the Bene Bathyra] forgot and did not know whether the Passover overrides the Sabbath or not. ... [Hillel said] Surely we have many more than 200 Passovers during the year which override the Sabbath! In its appointed time [Nm 28.2] is stated in connection with the Passover and In its appointed time is stated in connection with the tamid. Just as In its appointed time which is said in connection with the tamid overrides the Sabbath, so In its appointed time which is said in connection with the Passover overrides the Sabbath. ... Thus I have received the tradition from Shemaiah and Abtalyon. (b Pes 66a, Soncino ed. Mo'ed, vol 2, p.333).


This story, then, would constitute no more than a claim that these middoth were sanctioned by Hillel, rather than that they originated with him. Daube (HUCA 1949) maintains persuasively that several of them, at least the first two, are simply Aristotelian rules of logic and had been current in the mediterranean world for centuries before Hillel. There is a hint of this in the story that Hillel derived the middoth from Shemaiah and Abtalyon, who were proselytes from Alexandria, and were (according to a hostile Sadducean tradition given in bPes 70b) the first to be called darshanim, so models of the type of exegete. The principles were certainly already well known in classical jurisprudence. More developed and later systems were formulated in the 13 rules attributed to Rabbi Ishmael (d. 135) and the 32 rules of Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose ha-Galili (d. ?160). Of interest to us are only Hillel's rules, since only they claim to predate the New Testament. These methods are, however, of very uneven value and importance.


1. Qal wa-homer, either a minore ad maius or a maiore ad minus.

This argument appears frequently in the Hebrew Bible: Gn 44.8; Ex 6.12; Nm 12.14; Dt 31.27; 1 Sm 23.31; Sm 23.3; Esth 9.12; Jer 12.5 (twice); Ezek 15.5; Prov 11.31, and also in rabbinic writings.

Example: Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem used to say, 'Let your house be wide open and let the poor be your household and talk not much with the woman'. If he said this about his own wife, how much more then about the wife of his friend? (Abot 1.5)


Of all the middoth, this is the argument most widely used in the New Testament. Sibley Towner (HUCA 1982, p. 134) claims 'among formal arguments only qal vahomer can be found'. In the words of Jesus it is used typically and properly to give grounds for a legal decision. It is perhaps interesting that Lk, the least semitic of the evangelists, uses it only in material shared with Mt; he does not seem to have introduced it himself except in Lk 13.15-16, and there his use of it is not entirely satisfactory. This suggests that he is handling material not entirely familiar. The narrative is closely parallel to the story of Lk 14.1-6, each starting off with kai. iv,dou av,nqrwpoj / gu,nh. Lk's narrative of the woman was formed by him in fulfilment of his regular pairing of women with men. His argument may be less good than Mt's, if it was indeed it was forbidden to untie knots on the Sabbath, as Strack-Billerbeck II.199 maintained.


The argument is used Mt 6.30; 7.11; 10.25; 12.3-4, 5-6 (omitted by Lk), 10-13; Jn 7.23; 10.34-36 (an Ich-Wort); Rm 5.15, 17; 8.32; 11.12, 24; 1 Cor 6.2-4 (to ground action); 2 Cor 3.7, 9, 11 (a triple use with posw/| ma/llon, to contrast the glory of the two ministries, and also interwoven with a Targumic interpretation); Heb 9.14; 10.29.


2. Gezerah shawah (=equal decision or determination), argument from analogy. The two texts are linked together on the grounds of verbal similarity; the two texts are then used to illustrate and amplify one another. According to the later rules the argumentation must be founded on texts from the Torah, and the hinge-word be the same. Obviously this principle can be used and abused very widely, so that the limitation mentioned above, that its use must be authorised by tradition, seems wise.

Example: In one passage on divorce, Dt 24.1, the command withxlv implies a written document, so also it must imply a written document in the case of the command withxlv on the manumission of slaves in Exodus 21.27 (Mek. on Ex 21.27).


Use in NT: Mt 12.1-4 (an argument from analogy, but not using one word nor founded on a Torah-text); Ac 2.25-28 + 34 (hinging on evk dexiw/n mou in the two texts for an understanding of the resurrection); Rm 4.1-12 (justification by faith accounted to Abraham and to others. As in the tamid example, the argument is centred on the hinge-word, logi,zesqai: its meaning is determined by Ps 32, and then this meaning is applied to the Genesis-quotation to show that such people are blessed); Ga 4.27 stei/ra). The same technique of mutual interpretation justified by a shared word is used in Ga 3.10-14, linking Dt 27.26 to 21.22 by 'cursed' and Hab 2.4 to Lv 18.5 by 'live'.


Clearly it is possible to attain different results by combining different texts, and this is precisely the movement of midrash. So in Rm 4.3 (// Ga 3.6) Paul uses Gn 15.6 to prove that faith alone suffices. The celebrated passage in Jas 2.18-23 which Luther disliked so much draws the opposite conclusion by relating Gn 15.6 to the Aqedah (Gn 22.9, a key text in Jewish thinking about Abraham, used also by Josephus, 4 Mc and Jubilees) in v.21. The conjunction of the two texts is justified by the presence in both of the promise of descendants like stars of the sky. To make doubly sure, Jas 2.23 also inserts the seemingly superfluous 'and he received the name "friend of God"'. The point of this becomes clear only in view of the fact that both Is 41.8 and 2 Chr 20.7 refer to the promise to 'Abraham my/your friend'. Thus Jas is bringing the Prophets and the Writings to confirm his interpretation of the Torah.


3. Binyan ab mi-katub ehad= a construction of a 'father', from one text and the application to others, i.e. one scriptural passage forming the basis for interpretation of others.

Example: acmy yk 'if there be found' is followed in Dt 17.6 by 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses'. So 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses' is applied to a whole family of texts which begin 'if there be found' (e.g. Dt 18.10; 22.22; 24.7) detailing various crimes, so that two or three witnesses are required for them all. Sifre Dt 17.2.

There do not seem to be examples of this in the NT.


4. Binyan ab mi-shnei ketubim. This is the same as the preceding. The interpretation is stronger because the principle is drawn from two texts.

Example from Mekhilta de R. Ishmael (neziqin 9): Using Ex 21.26 and 27, which prescribe that a master must let his slave go free if he damages the slave's tooth or eye, it is argued that a major and irreplaceable organ is envisaged; a class is constituted from the two examples. A master must therefore release a slave if he has damaged any of his major, visible and irreplaceable organs.

Again no clear NT example, though perhaps Mt 12.25-29.


5. Kelal u-perat, u-perat u-kelal (general and specific and specific and general) - what applies to the general applies also to the specific. This may be used in two directions. Either the narrower term is understood to restrict the wider, so that Lv 1.2 excludes wild beasts, or the wider term generalises the narrower, as in Ex 22.9. Each of these is familiar from Roman Law.

Example uses Lv 1.2 'You shall bring an offering from the cattle [general], from the herd or the flock [specific]' in Sifra, intro 7.


Use in NT: Ga 5.14; Rm 13.8-10, both arguing that the whole law, in all its commands, is fulfilled by fulfilment of the law of love.


A very common similar figure, one principle summing up many examples, occurs of course in the Golden Rule, attributed to both Jesus and (unreliably, see Alexander 1990) to Hillel, and in the six antitheses about observance of the Law in Mt 5.20 + 21-48, and on the classic good works of Judaism in Mt 6.1 + 2-18. The same figure seems to be used in Lv 18.1, 'You are not to behave as the Egyptians do', followed by a series of prohibitions of sexual relations with close relatives, many of which were common in Egypt.


6. Keyotze’ bo be-maqom aher is interpretation of one passage by another similar passage in scripture.

Example: in bBaba Kamma 86b, interpreting the 'killer' of Num 35.31 by means of the 'killer' of Dt 19.3, and 'guilty' in Dt 25.2 by means of 'guilty' in Num 35.31.


Use in Ga 3.8, 16: the promise to Abraham and his spe/rmain Gn 12.3 and 22.18 are similarly understood (see below). As we shall see from the section on Paul, this argument is very widely used by him. Establishment of the meaning of a word from one passage, followed by application to another, seems to be one of his chief methods of interpretation. By the modern principles of exegesis it is not always used legitimately, and indeed often seems to do violence to the context. It obviously needs to be used with a certain respect for the final middah.


One extreme use of it is in CD 16.14-15: the wordmrx, meaning 'net' in Mi 7.2, is interpreted as 'votive offering', an entirely different sense, to underpin a regulation prohibiting consecration of some foods. Indeed at Qumran interpretations often seem to hinge on an obvious misuse or misapplication of a word, just as Mt misapplies quotations at Mt 1.23 and 8.17. Of the three quotations in 1QS only the quotation of Ex 23.7 in 1QS5.15 would pass a modern jury. The quotation of Is 40.3 at 1QS 8.14 was originally intended as a merely rhetorical command announcing God's march across the desert; it is understood by 1QS, John the Baptist himself and the whole gospel tradition as a real command to make ready. The third example, Is 2.22 quoted at 1QS 5.17, involves twisting bvxn from 'reckoned, i.e. valued' to 'reckoned, i.e. considered a member of a community'. Another example is the change of var in Dt 32.33 from 'poison' to 'head' at CD 8.8-12.


7. Dabar ha-lamed me-inyano (a word that learns from its context).

Example: in bSanh. 86a the prohibition of stealing (Ex 20.15) is interpreted as a prohibition against stealing human beings because the general context is one which involves capital punishment.


There is nothing specifically Jewish or rabbinic about this middah. It is an obvious respect for a text that ambiguity in a single phrase should be settled by context. Cicero enunciates the principle: ex superiori et inferiori scriptura docendum id quod queratur fieri perspicuum (De Inv 2.40.117). In the NT this method of arguing is used in Rm 4.1-12. The relative positions of the two Genesis texts are used to argue that circumcision does not justify: Abraham is justified in Gn 15, but circumcision is prescribed only in Gn 17. Similarly in Ga 3.17, Abraham's justification is by faith rather than the Law, since it occurs 430 years before the Law is given. Similarly, in Heb 3.11-4.11 the meaning of 'enter into the place of rest' in Ps 95.11 is clarified from Gn 2.2.


There is, then, a certain similarity between the use of these middoth in Judaism and in the New Testament, and especially in the sayings of Jesus. The only one of these middoth to be used with any frequency as prescriptive in a halakhic way in the sayings of Jesus is the first. It is this also which is common in the Old Testament. Although this argument is a piece of 'natural', Aristotelian, logic it is still significant for our purposes, in that it is also especially important within Judaism.


Paul's use of the arguments is, however, far more subtle than the usage in the gospels. Paul uses his rabbinic training to muster a more varied and sophisticated armoury of arguments. From the preponderance of such argumentation Jeremias argued (Jeremias 1969) that Paul must, in confirmation of Acts 22.3, have been a Hillelite. This presupposes too definitely that the middoth do in fact stem from Hillel and that they were confined to his school. It is also notable, of course, that the arguments are used especially in Ga and Rm, when he is writing with a Jewish audience in mind. Longenecker (Longenecker 1975) reckons that of explicit biblical quotations in Paul over half (45) occur in Rm, 10 in Ga, 15 in 1 Cor and 7 in 2 Cor. This may be partly because Paul is more concerned with tight and cogent argumentation in the 'great' letters, but principally because the argumentation presupposes a large and theologically formed Jewish community. It may well be that such places as Thessalonica and Philippi had a theologically less developed Jewish community.


The middoth are, furthermore, only a codification of practice, and a partial codification at that. Philip Alexander (Alexander 1993, p. 306)compares midrash to a game played with strict rules: 'Midrash can be seen as a game like chess, played to strict but complex rules; it has a field of play (the chessboard), aims and objectives (checkmating the king), forces to be deployed and strategies followed to achieve the aims and objectives (the chess pieces, their moves and set patterns of play)'. He rightly insists that it is far more instructive to watch the rabbis at the 'game' of midrash than to read the book of rules.


It is questionable whether the term 'midrash' should ever be used of processes in the NT. J Fitzmyer (Fitzmyer 1981) considers that it should be used only of Ga 3-4, 1 Cor 10 in part, 2 Cor 3.7-4.6 and Heb 7. In the past it has been used so widely as to mean little more than any commentary on scripture in general. This usage seems to stem from R. Bloch's article 'Midrash' in DBS 5 (1957), col 1263-81. Starting from the general description 'un genre édifiant et explicatif étroitement rattaché à l'Ecriture dans lequel la part de l'amplification est réelle mais sécondaire' she characterises it later in various ways, e.g.

- le Chroniste reprend les matériaux anciens pour les réorganiser suivant les conceptions théologiques et les visées apologiques propres.

- le réemploi des textes sacrés transmis, avec une réflexion réligieuse sur leur contenu avec l'actualisation qui les rapporte dans un but pratique à la situation présente.

- la référence constante aux données bibliques, la dramatisation et la réinterprétation des évènements et des aspirations de l'époque.

Her final definition seems to be 'le genre midrashique, qui comporte une explication et un approfondissment de la Bible par la Bible'. In The Anchor Bible Dictionary (1992) Gary Porton opts for a possibly even wider definition as 'a type of literature, oral or written, which has its starting-point in a fixed canonical text, considered the revealed word of God... in which this original verse is explicitly cited or closely alluded to' (p. 819). This definition hardly fits his own usage in the next column, in which he importantly distinguishes the midrashim from the pesharim of Qumran on various grounds:

1. The pesharim start with a lemma and explain it,

2. The midrashim quote scholarly opinions, often without the original context,

3. The purpose of the Qumran pesharim is always to show the present realisation of the biblical texts, whereas those of the rabbis are much more diverse.

In The Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993) Philip Alexander is considerably stricter, considering only the midrashim of the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods (c. 70-500 AD). He describes them briefly as 'intensely argumentative, at pains to make clear their exegetical reasoning and quote divergent and often contradictory opinions of various scholars' (p. 305). It is important to distinguish between the form and the methods of midrash (Alexander 1984). The midrashic form, with its quotation of authorities pitted one against another, cannot occur in the NT, where the only authority is Christ; there are no two human figures whose authoritative words can be pitted against each other. The methods, however, do occur. More important still, the basic attitude which underlies the method is also present. It was, of course, suggested by Michael Goulder (Goulder 1976) that Mt is a midrash of Mk. Whatever the relationship of Mt to Mk, the term is unsuitable principally for two reasons: firstly, midrash seeks to enhance a text for the reader, whereas Mt seems to intend to replace Mk; secondly, midrash should be done on a canonical text, whereas it is doubtful that Mk had such status already.



2. Methods of Exegesis at Qumran compared to those of the New Testament.


The single most important group of witnesses to Jewish methods of exegesis at the time of the New Testament is the material from Qumran and other sites in the Judean Desert. Its importance comes partly from its volume and coherence, partly from the similarity which might be expected from the similarity of its area of provenance and background (which distinguishes it from the Philonic material), and partly from the similarity which examination shows in fact to have existed. Here was a community dominated by eschatological ideas, just as is the community of the New Testament. The most important difference lies in the fact that the sectaries of Qumran were still looking to an event in the future for the fulfilment of their eschatological hopes, whereas the authors of the New Testament principally looked back to the fulfilment of hope in the life, ministry and resurrection of Jesus, though they did still look forward to its completion in an event in the future. However, the similarity of outlook on scripture is not confined to a mere general eschatological emphasis.


1. The basis of all the interpretation is that the prophecies were to be fulfilled in the time of the sectaries' own community, cf. Lk 4.16-30. Unbelievers will not necessarily appreciate the fulfilment, cf. Mk 4.10-12; Rm 9-11.


The men of violence and the breakers of the Covenant will not believe when they hear all that is to happen to the final generation from the Priest, in whose heart God set understanding, that he might interpret all the words of his servants the prophets, through whom he foretold all that would happen to his people and his land (1QpHab 2.6-10).


2. The sectaries of Qumran believed that the prophets did not themselves know the fulfilment of what they had written:


God told Habakkuk to write down that which would happen to the final generation, but he did not make known to him when time would come to an end. And as for that which he said, That he who reads may read it speedily, interpreted this concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the mysteries of the words of his servants the prophets (1QpHab 7.1-5).


3. This passage also shows that, though in practice the fulfilment was perceived by the interpreters, the commentators of the documents, in theory all the understanding was ascribed to the Teacher of Righteousness, from whom presumably the commentators are assumed to have derived their knowledge. In the New Testament the theme is constant that understanding is granted only through Christ, e.g. Mt 11.25-30; Jn 14.6.


4. Pesher is distinguished from midrash in that pesher requires special revelation or insight, whereas midrash is argumentative. It is significant that the word pesher appears in the Bible chiefly (30 times, otherwise only in Qo 8.1) in Dn 2, 4 and 5, of the interpretation of dreams, for which Daniel has the special gift of inspiration. Its corresponding object is raz, a term which is key in the exegesis of Qumran (1QpHab 7.5, 8, 14; 1QS 3.23). This of course has its Pauline equivalent in musth/rion(e.g. Rm 16.25; 1 Cor 2.7; 13.2; 15.51; Eph/Col passim). Just as the Qumran interpreters are teaching the secrets revealed to the Teacher of Righteousness at the end of time, so Paul is teaching the ultimate meaning of the scriptures, at last revealed in Christ and promulgated in Paul's gospel.


A detailed comparison to demonstrate the similarity of methods of using scripture at Qumran and in the NT may build on Fitzmyer's presidential address to the Society for New Testament Study (NTS 7 [1960/1], 297-333). He categorises the similarities:


a. Introductory Formulae The outline similarity of usage in the two communities is first indicated by the similarity of introductory formulae used at Qumran and in the New Testament:

ou`twj ga.r ge,graptai       bwtk !k yk

ka,qwj ge,graptai         bwtk rvak

kata. to. eivrhme,non          rma rvak


b. Application of the texts The use of the quotations divides into the same classes in both the Qumran texts and the New Testament:


1. Literal or historical sense, when the quotations are used in the same sense as in the original, e.g. 'Concerning the saying, "You shall not take vengeance on the children of your people", if any member of the Covenant accuses his companion without first rebuking him before witnesses...' (CD 9.2). In the NT: Mt 4.4; Jn 6.31; 10.34; Ac 7.3.


2. A modernized application, when the biblical words are indefinite enough to be reapplied to a new situation and shed light on it, e.g. 'The "star" is the interpreter of the Law who shall come to Damascus, as it is written, "A star shall come forth out of Jacob..." (CD 7.15-20). This particular application goes into allegorical detail, a list of five correspondences to Amos 5.26-27; 11.11; Nm 24.17 in as many lines - strongly reminiscent of the gospel interpretation of the parable of the Sower. In the NT this usage is particularly common, e.g. Mt 4.15-16; Lk 4.16-21; 2 Cor 6.2.


3. Accommodated texts, wrested from their contexts (though it is often difficult to decide whether texts should fall into this or the previous category), e.g. 'No member of the community shall follow them in matters of doctrine and justice... as it is written, "Keep away from the man in whose nostrils is breath, for wherein is he counted?"'(1QS 5.17). In the NT: Mk 12.26; Rm 2.24; Eph 4.8.


4. Texts which can be understood eschatologically and applied to a specifically eschatological situation: e.g. 'They shall strengthen all the mighty men of war. They shall recount what you said through Moses, "When you go to war in your land against the oppressor who oppresses you, you shall blow the trumpets and you shall be remembered before God"' (1QM 10.8). This is perhaps the most important and relevant for the NT. Particularly the Qumran pesharim take a general, often wisdom-type, text and apply it without any justification to a particular historical situation in the story of the community. E.g. in 4Q171, Commentary on the Psalms, ‘Though he stumble he shall never fall’ is applied to the Teacher of Righteousness (3.15), or ‘The wicked watches out for the Righteous’ is applied to the Wicked Priest (4.6). In the same way e.g. Mt takes a general text about the Servant of the Lord and applies it to Jesus (8.17); Paul, in his turn, takes the celebrated promise to Abraham and his descendance and focusses that on Jesus. Also in the NT: Mt 7.23; Rm 11.25-26; 1 Cor 15.54-55.


This list of references represents, of course, only a small selection of texts. The references could be multiplied vastly for both elements of the comparison, both Qumran and the New Testament. It is, however, enough to show that a closely similar approach to the use of scripture was operative in both these eschatological communities.


The Qumran pesharim can also be divided into three classes: continuous commentary on lectio continua (e.g. 1QpHab), thematic collections commented (e.g. the eschatological gathering on the last days 4Q174+177, or on the Messiah 11QMelch) and use of proof texts to prove a point of legislation (e.g.1QS5.15 or 8.14). For a comparison of methods with the New Testament 11QMelch is one of the most stimulating of the Qumran texts, closely related to Lk 4.16-30.


11Q Melch starts from the prescriptions of Dt 15.2 for the Jubilee Year, interpreting it of the year of grace for Melchizedek, the day of salvation when Melchizedek will execute the judgement of God and bring good news as the anointed one of the spirit. Associated, therefore, with the basic text of Dt are Dn 9.25 and Is 52.7; 61.2-3. The actualisation of Is 52.7, linked with Dn 9.25, is extraordinarily reminiscent of the similar usage in Lk 4.16-30, where Jesus begins his message of good news, the year of grace, in the power of the Spirit. The Melchizedek aspect is missing in Lk, but receives ample use in Heb 7. There are two notable differences in the treatment of Melchizedek between Heb and the Qumran text, namely:

1. despite the framework of the Day of Atonement in 11QMelch, Melchizedek is there presented not as atoning but as judging, whereas in Heb the emphasis is on Melchizedek as priest rather than judge, and

2. in 11QMelch Melchizedek is presented as a quasi-divine figure, executing judgement on the holy ones of God as Elohim; this is closely parallel to the Christology of Heb 1.5, but not to the treatment of Melchizedek in Heb 7.


This may be the moment to remark that Heb 7 is one of the most typical examples of argumentative midrash in the NT, corresponding neatly to the later rabbinic genre. It takes its point of departure from the text of Gn 14, actualises it of the present situation, illustrates it by bringing in another text, Ps 110.4, uses the rabbinic argument from silence (quod non in Tora non in mundo) about Melchizedek's lack of ancestry or end. This sort of rabbinic argumentation recurs continually in Heb. For example, in the Christological development of Heb 1 there are the familiar moves of qal wahomer (contrasting the Son with the angels), the minor changes of text (introduction of the two articles h` r`a,bdoj th/j euvqu,thtoj in v. 8, the change of order Su. katV avrca,j in v. 10) to strengthen the argument, and the illustration of one text by another through verbal coincidence: Ui`o,j joins Ps 2 and 2 Sm 7 in v. 5 (cf. Bateman 1995, p. 11-27, who points out the similarity of argument and technique between Heb 1 and 4QFlor).


The New Testament has, of course, little corresponding to the systematic biblical commentaries of Qumran, consisting of lemmata followed by pesharim (e.g. 1 QpHab; 4Q169, etc). These commentaries take as their starting-point the biblical books and understand them in the light of present events. This type of continuous commentary on biblical books simply does not occur in the New Testament. The writings of the New Testament start, so to speak, at the other end: the New Testament writers are concerned above all to interpret the Christ-event. They take the Christ-event as their starting-point in order to interpret that in the light of biblical texts. This method does, however, occur in short passages in Paul and the Letter to the Hebrews. A close New Testament equivalent to the Qumran pesharim is provided Rm 10.5-13, which gives a phrase-by-phrase interpretation of Lev 18.5, followed by Dt 30.12-14.


Of all the New Testament books, the pesher technique is used most frequently in Hebrews, although the pesher-formula is not used: Heb 2.6-9 gives a pesher-style interpretation of Ps 8.4-6; Heb 3.7-4.12 an extended commentary on Ps 95.7-11; Heb 10.5-10 a pesher-style interpretation of Ps 40.6-8 phrase by phrase. There is another pesher-technique in evidence here. It is common in pesher-interpretation to change words slightly, especially by means of a sort of pun by changing the order of letters. The change from LXXwv,tia tosw/ma in Heb 10. 7, (cf. 1QpHab 4.4, the change from rbc to rcb, and 8.5 the change frompsa to psy) therefore represents a common feature of pesharim. Heb 12.5-13 comments Ps 3.11-12 in the same way.



3. Pauline Use of Jewish Techniques


Paul in fact uses a number of techniques other than those codified in the middoth which are typical of rabbinic argumentation, e.g. haruzin (called by Longenecker 'pearl-stringing'), the technique of stringing together quotations joined only by 'and' or 'and then' in Rm 3.10-18; 9.12-20; 15; Ga 3.10-13 (cf. Ber. 18a; Sanh. 38b; Mak. 13b), or the quoting of Law, Prophets and Writings in quick succession (Rm 11.8-10; 15.9-12).


Rather than taking the middoth as a starting-point for the investigation of Paul, it will be useful at this stage to detail a number of Pauline passages where he seems to be specifically reliant on Jewish methods of exegesis. It has, of course, been specifically argued that Paul drew his interpretation of the vicarious sacrificial death of Jesus from the Aqedah; there seems, however, to be no link of detail or vocabulary between Jewish treatments of this well-known theme and Paul’s treatment of Jesus’ sacrifice.


One pattern is, on the other hand, frequently apparent in Paul's use of the Jewish tradition of interpretation. Not content with pulling certain Jewish interpretations round to centre them on Christ, he is an artist at using such interpretations precisely to show the inadequacy of the older view, thus leaving the proponents of the Jewish argument hoist with their own petard. There is a whole series of passages where Paul stands the accepted interpretation on its head.


1. Moses' ascent to heaven to fetch the Law (Rom 10.6-8, cf. M. McNamara, 1966). The Jewish character of the argument is already hinted by the formula used to apply the scripture,tou/t v evstin, so common in the Qumran pesharim (vv. 6, 7, cf. 1QpHab 2.1-10). Paul also, however, takes over the reasoning. The Palestinian Targum understands the passage Dt 30.12-14 of Moses' ascent into heaven to fetch the Law. It understands the descent into the depths (the original text of Dt has only 'cross the seas') of Jonah's 'resurrection', in which he brings up the Law with him. Paul applies them both to the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. Not surprisingly he omits both mentions in the passage of Dt about 'putting the Law into practice', which would not further his argument.


The same idea of Moses' ascent to heaven to fetch the Law is surely reflected also in Eph 4.1-8. Here Ps 67.19 is quoted as VAnaba.j eivj u[yoj hv|cmalw,teusen aivcmalwsi,an( e;dwken do,mata toi/j avnqrw,poij. This departs from the LXX, which hase;labej do,mata evn avnqrw,poij (so the Targum changes toqlx fromxql). The Targum, however, simply incorporates its interpretation into the text, 'You ascended the firmament, prophet Moses, you took captivity captive, you learned the words of the Law, you gave them as gifts to the sons of men'. Just as in Rm 10, the role of Moses is in Eph, without further ado, simply assigned to Christ.


2. The rock which followed the people in the desert (1 Cor 10.4) is another famous rabbinic interpretation, based on Nb 21.17. The tradition in the rabbinic writings grew gradually. It was either a rock, or a well the size of an oven or a beehive which followed them.


And so the well which was with the Israelites in the desert was a rock, the size of a large round vessel, surging and gurgling upwards, as from the mouth of this little flask, rising with them up onto the mountains and going down with them into the valleys (Tosephta Sukka 3.11; cf. Targ Jer on Nb 21; Deut.R. 6.11; Nm R. 18.22).


The curious exegesis of the rock as following Israel seems to be drawn from the fact that the miracle is related in two different places, Rephidim (Ex 17.2) and Meribah (Nm 20.11). The song about the well is then taken to apply also to the list of places which follows in Nm 21.17-20. As usual, Paul 'corrects' the interpretation to centre it on Christ.


3. Thus Josephus Ant. 15.5.3 (cf. Jubilees 1.29-2.1; Apoc Moses, pref., etc) instances the mediation of angels in 'learning from God the most excellent of our doctrines and the most holy part of our Law'. Mediation by angels is frequently mentioned in the Jewish tradition, and is seen as a sign of the high value of the Law. In Ga 3.19, however, Paul uses the promulgation through angels precisely to show the inadequacy of the Law.


4. Similarly the veil over Moses' face (2 Cor 3.13-16) would normally be interpreted as evidence of Moses' reverence and of the greatness of the divine glory he experienced. Paul, on the other hand, interprets the veil as a symbol of lack of perception, and uses it precisely to make a contrast between the two covenants, to the disadvantage of the former covenant. First he uses the technique of gezerah shawah, bringing together two texts to illustrate each other, or in this case three texts. evggegramme,nh evn kardi,aij (2 Cor 3.3) occurs only twice in the LXX, of which one instance is Jer 38.33. Similarly kainh/j diaqh,khj occurs only Jer 38.31; thus Jeremiah's promise of a new covenant is decisively indicated. The parallel passage in Ezekiel is also indicated by kardi,aij sarki,naij) which occurs only in Ez 11.19 and 36.26. The contrasting covenant evn plaxi.n liqi,naij of course refers to Ez 34. So Paul's first pesher on this passage is to actualise the texts by the claim that the Corinthians are this new covenant. He applies this somewhat artificially (and strained interpretation is often a feature of this genre) in claiming that he has no need of letters of introduction since they are his letter, o[ti evste. evpistolh. Cristou/ diakonhqei/sa u`fV h`mw/n. Paul continues to play with the idea of the new covenant for a few verses, bringing in also the notion of his empowerment, comparing it with that of Moses, who complained in Ex 4.10 that he was not i`kanoj to speak. Paul has been put in the position of Moses by God o]j kai. i`ka,nwsen h`ma/j. He then develops the contrast with Moses and his covenant, with scintillating technique.


Three times in 2 Cor 3.7-11 Paul uses the qal wahomer argument. Eiv de.......pw/j ouvci. ma/llon and eiv ga.r pollw/| ma/llon (twice). Then, after a couple of bridge verses he turns in vv. 14b-17 to give a pesher of Ex 34.34. This is signalled by the comparatively rare expression h`ni,ka de. (2 Cor 3.16 and Ex 34.34). Typical features of the genre are not only the explanation of key-expressions, e.g. o` de. ku,rioj to. pneu/ma, evstin, explaining who the ku,rioj is to whom they must turn, but the actualisation by change of tense from Exodus' imperfect to present. Paul also calls to his aid in interpretation a passage from Isaiah (6.9-10) from which he draws the change from Exodus' eivsporeu,omai to evpistre,fw. The passage was already suggested by the idea of seeing the divine do,xa and by the concept of hardening of hearts. However, the interpretation of the re-entry into the tent as a conversion (evpistre,fw) may well be assumed by Paul to be standard in his readers, since it comes also in Targ. Pal.


5. In 1 Cor 15.45-47 Paul insists that Christ is the Second Adam. ou[twj kai. ge,graptai( VEge,neto o` prw/toj a;nqrwpoj VAda.m eivj yuch.n zw/san( o` e;scatoj VAda.m eivj pneu/ma zw|opoiou/n) avllV ouv prw/ton to. pneumatiko.n avlla. to. yuciko,n( e;peita to. pneumatiko,n) o` prw/toj a;nqrwpoj evk gh/j coi?ko,j( o` deu,teroj a;nqrwpoj evx ouvranou/. He is clearly combating an interpretation by which Adam is considered the heavenly Man. This can be found also in Philo, who explains the two creation-narratives in Genesis as concerning two Adams, one heavenly and the other clay-ey: 'There are two types of men, one a heavenly, the other an earthly man. The heavenly man, being made after the image of God, is altogether without part or lot in corruptible and terrestrial substance; but the other was compacted out of clay' (Leg. All. 1.31). I do not suggest that Paul in fact encountered this idea in Philo; it is not clear how influential was Philo's philosophy outside Alexandria. C. Spicq argued especially for a close link between Philo and the author of Heb, but current thinking seems set in the opposite direction. There is no typology in Philo and plenty of allegory, while in Heb we find no allegory and plenty of typology. For Heb Melchizedech is a type of Christ, whereas Philo merely allegorises his priesthood as contributing 'lofty and sublime and magnificent ideas about God' (Legum Alleg. 3.82). The list of heroes of faith in Heb 11 is not unlike some lists in Philo, but whereas the heroes catalogued in Heb are real examples to be imitated, those listed in Philo are allegorised (Legum Alleg. 2.57-59), or serve merely as an introduction to philosophical reflection (Quis her. 260-262). As they are, the ideas about Adam stand parallel in the two writers. In any case, Paul stands this interpretation on its head by insisting that the first Adam was the one compacted out of clay, and that the second Adam, Christ, is the one without part or lot in corruptible and terrestrial substance. He makes use of this interpretation also, of course, in Rm 5.12-20. Indeed, Paul's exegesis of these two passages is really a massive attempt to upset the normal Jewish understanding of Hab 2.4, as instanced e.g. in 1QpHab 8.1: 'interpreted this concerns all who observe the Law'.


6. The allegory about Sarah and Hagar (Ga 4.21-31) is another instance of Paul's skilful use of Jewish exegesis to his own ends, in stark opposition to the way it was normally used. Normally Sarah and her son stand for the true Israel and for the glorious Jerusalem, whereas Hagar and Ishmael stand for the despised gentiles. Paul, on the other hand, by concentrating on the aspect of promise rather than physical descent, paints the rejected Hagar and Ishmael as Israel kata. sa,rka. This is all the more pointed in that Ishmael was understood at Qumran as progenitor of the 'sons of darkness' (1QM 2.13). Paul does not make clear whether the 'slavery' of Jerusalem is to the Romans, to the Law or to the 'elements of this world'. In the course of the passage Paul also uses two other elements of Jewish interpretation:

(1) The persecution of Isaac by Ishmael is a particular interpretation of qxcm in Gn 21.9 which appears also in Tg Ps-J , Tg Neof ad loc (but not in Josephus’ treatment of the story, Ant 1.215). The details and vocabulary of Paul’s treatment suggest that he is familiar with the targumic interpretation. Their context also is inheritance; both mothers and both sons are mentioned by name.

(2) The link of the barren mother (Gn 11.30) to barren Jerusalem (Is 54.1) is a typical example of gezerah shawah, the sense of a word in one passage of scripture interpreted by the sense established from another passage.

The hostility of Paul's exegesis culminates in the sharp advice from Gen 21, 'Drive away that slave-girl and her son'. Despite eirenic interpretations of e.g. O. Betz, Galatians (Hermeneia), Paul does seem to be driven by the heat of controversy to argue that the representatives of 'Ishmael' should be expelled from the Christian community.



4. Jewish-type sermons in the New Testament


Peder Borgen in his book (Borgen 1965) made the important discovery that Jn 6.31-58 shares several features with not only the later Palestinian midrashim (with which his chief component of comparison is Midrash Rabbah on Exodus) but also with contemporary homilies of Philo, particularly Legum Allegoriae 3.162-8 and De Mutatione Nominum 253-63. The similarity extends not only to the general shape but to detailed treatment and verbal techniques. Some hesitation has been expressed at the term 'homily' because of the dialogue present both in Jn 6 and in the Exodus Rabbah. This hesitation is accepted by Borgen (Borgen 1987, p. 137), though he does point out that Jn represents Jesus as speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum. The similarity is detailed:

1. The ruling quotation is from the Pentateuch (in the case of Jn 6 this is Ex 16.15) is discussed phrase by phrase successively, and returns in the summing up.

2. In each case there is a subsidiary quotation from the prophets (Jn's is Is 54.13).

3. The pattern of yrqt la is used. In the case of Jn 6 this enables the speaker to correct in the rabbinic manner the tense of the verb (not 'gave' but 'gives'), the subject (not Moses but the Father) and the recipients (not 'them' but 'you').

4. Further determinants are added such as o` a;rtoj tou/ qeou and o` a;rtoj th/j zwh/j, and purpose clause (ouvc i[na poiw/ to. qe,lhma to. evmo.n avlla.).

A number of these elements is present also in Paul's extended treatment of Gn 15.6 in Ga 3 and Rm 4 - more fully in the latter, in which the initial statement returns fully at the end. Both have subsidiary quotations, but lack the successive treatment of each phrase in the lemma. This adds force to the claim that these are elements common to scriptural argumentation at the time.


In the same way, and seemingly independently, John Bowker (NTS 14) claimed that several of the speeches in Acts are in the same form of a Jewish proem-homily. For instance Paul's speech in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch could be built on the proem-text 1 Sm 13.14, linking together a seder text of Dt 4.25-46 and a haftarah of 2 Sm 7.6-16. The idea is attractive, though the connection to Dt 4.25-46 is very general. Bowker honestly characterises it as no better than 'a reasonable guess' (p. 103). The claim is made more interesting by the observation that the proem-text of 1 Sm 13.14 is given by the double, side-by-side, forms of targumic and LXX text. It is, however, necessary to suppose also that Paul begins his homily with a historical introduction (Ac13.17-21), which has no parallel in the proem-homilies which have come down to us, so that Bowker suggests that we have here a more primitive form of the proem-homily. If Paul's speech in the synagogue at Antioch is acceptable as a proem-homily, this would strengthen the even weaker evidence that Peter's speech at Pentecost (Ac 2.21-36) and Stephen's defence are in the form of proem-homilies. So Peter's speech would be a proem-homily on Joel 2.32, using Dt 29.1-21 as seder and Is 63.9-19 as haftarah. The connection to both these texts seems to me tenuous, but there is definitely a complicated midrashic argument in process, by which the meaning of words is established by one text and transferred to another. Thus 'freeing him from the pangs of death' (v. 24) is a reminiscence of Ps 113.3. This is then applied to the resurrection by the quotation in v. 27 of the same phrase in Ps 16.10. A further transfer follows: the same passage Ps 16.8 justifies the link to Ps 110.1, referring to the exaltation of Christ to God's right hand. So, even if it is not wholly convincing that the speech is in the form of a proem-homily, there is little doubt that the argument of gezerah shawah is in progress.



5. The presentation of events and stories in the NT


Thus far we have considered Jewish methods of the interpretation of scripture as it is used in argument in the NT, roughly equivalent to halakhah. It is time now to turn to haggadah, or the presentation of events and stories.


A first element to be considered is the infancy stories of Mt and Lk. These have been so often used and so fully treated recently, especially by Raymond Brown that I can be brief. In view of the definition of midrash previously given it is well not to call these stories haggadic midrashim, for they do not embroider or enhance a biblical text. Raymond Brown suggests that they are best classified in the genre of 'infancy narratives of famous men'. Our concern is not to establish the historical core of the stories. Raymond Brown (1977, p.34-35) lists eleven points shared by the two narratives. These may form the historical core. All but one of them occur in the single passage Mt 1.18-2.1. Our concern is that the manner of treatment of the two narratives is, each in its own distinctive way, markedly similar to Jewish use of the Bible in the first century.


Perhaps the closest parallels in method to Mt's account come from the accounts of Moses' birth in Josephus, Philo and Pseudo-Philo. Just as Mt and Lk share a certain substratum but weave around it different arabesques, each in function of his theology, so Josephus and Pseudo-Philo. Thus Josephus, even eager to make the Jews attractive to his Roman masters, insists on the charm and attractiveness of the baby in the bulrishes:

When she saw the little child she was greatly in love with it on account of its largeness and beauty, for God had taken such care in the formation of Moses that he caused him to be thought worthy of bringing up.

Jos. A.J.,, tr. Whiston


Pseudo-Philo, on the other hand, much more rabbinic and arguably written in late first-century Palestine (Feldmann 1989, p.60) makes sure that Pharaoh's daughter checks his circumcision:

Filia autem Pharaonis lavare in flumine secundum quod in somnis viderat et viderunt ancillae eius thibin. Et misit unam, et accepit et aperuit eam. Et ut vidit puerum et dum vidisset in zaticon, hoc est in testamentum carnis, dixit, De filiis Hebraeorum est.

Ant. Bibl., 9.15


Philo Judaeus, for his part, brilliant psychological raconteur that he is, expatiates on the motivation of each of the characters, even on the grumpiness that day of Pharaoh's daughter (1.14) as well as making good use of his local knowledge to stress that the Nile is - unlike most rivers - in full flood in summer (1.5).


Much of Mt's account is reminiscent of the haggadic midrashim written around the young Moses. It would not, I think, be unfair to say that it is merely more carefully written and theologically denser than these pretty and casual midrashim. Luke, on the other hand, uses quite different techniques, his use of scripture being much more allusive than direct. But here again there are close parallels. The manner in which the Canticles of Lk 1-2 are composed, using a plethora of biblical phrases, is especially reminiscent of hymns in Jdt 16, 2 Bar, 4 Esr. Most particularly they approximate to the sentiments of the poor expressed in the Qumran Hodayoth (1QM 11.8-16; 1QH 2.31-36; 5.12-16; 18.14-16).


This is typical of the technique of relecture. The presentation of events and persons in terms of previous events and persons in order to show their significance is constant throughout the Bible. The return from exile is presented in terms of the first deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Is 43.16-21: creation of a path where none existed, provision of water in the desert, the praise of God by his people; or Is 48.20-23), just as the final restoration of Zion is represented in terms of the fruitful rivers of Eden (Ezek 47.1-12, followed by Joel 2 and Zc 14.8-11). Ephraim's infidelity is represented by Ho 12.3-9 in terms of the historic trickery of Jacob, defrauding his brother, growing rich by trickery, seeing God at Bethel. Joshua is repeatedly shown to be a second Moses, continuing his work and holding his position for a new generation: Jos 3.7, 'as I was with Moses, so shall I be with you,'; 4.14, 'that day Yahweh made Joshua great in the eyes of all Israel, who respected him as they had respected Moses.' The typology is continued in the crossing of the Jordan dryshod (3.14-15, a mirror-image of the crossing of the Red Sea, also roughly at paschal time, 5.10-11). In the Maccabean wars Mattathias is compared to Phinehas for zeal (1 Mc 2.26) and his son Judas, like a young lion roaring over its prey, is equated with his namesake, the son of Jacob in Gn 49.9. The technique continues into later literature, such as Josephus, who has the gall to interpret his understanding of dreams (B.J. in terms of Daniel, and the abuse he received from his fellow-countrymen in terms of that suffered by Jeremiah (B.J. In the Psalms of Solomon 17 recent disasters are represented in terms of the Babylonian exile, and from v. 21 onwards the coming of the Messiah is presented in terms of David and the messianic psalms.


In the gospels the Death of Judas is an excellent and complex example of the technique. Mt 27 seems to attribute to Jeremiah the text of Zc 11.12-13. In fact, rather than 'then was fulfilled the word spoken through the prophet Jeremiah' being a careless mis-attribution of this Zechariah-citation, Mt may well be referring to a different text in Jer 26.15, 'if you put me to death you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves' (cf. Mt 27.24-25). The Potter's Field as a burial-ground may, in its turn, be a reminiscence of Jeremiah's prophecy about Tophet as a burial-ground when he goes down to the potter and is then innocently imprisoned (Jer 19.11-20.2). The connection with Jeremiah is reinforced by the otherwise slightly awkward positioning of the story of the death of Judas immediately after the 'innocent blood' is handed over to Pilate.


It is only consonant with this typological approach to scripture that again and again the significance of Jesus is shown by describing him in terms of the central figures of the Bible. This is often done by way of allusion, in ways immediately obvious only to those familiar with the biblical background. Thus, as we have seen, Mt shows the significance of Jesus by presenting him as the New Moses, both in the infancy stories and throughout the gospel. The significance of a number of Jesus' miracles is shown by a deliberate modelling of the story on an Old Testament typology. The meaning of the Multiplication of Loaves (Mk 6.35-44) is shown by the modelling of the process of the story on the similar miracle performed by Elisha (2 K 4.42-44), which in turn derives its significance from Moses' gift of manna in the desert (cf. Heising 1966). The significance of the next miracle, the Walking on the Water, is made clearer through Exodus 14.19-31 and its interpretation in the tradition of the Targums (Stegner 1994).

Beyond the gospels, also, the scene of the conversion/vocation of Saul is narrated in dependence both on the unexpected conversion of Heliodorus, the persecutor of God's people in 2 Mc 3, and on several vocation narratives of the Old Testament (cf. Lohfink 1965).




Apart from the somewhat specialised writings and views of Qumran, lack of contemporary evidence of Jewish methods of exegesis restricts a comparison with the methods of the NT. The gospels do, however, suggest that some of the principal arguments later used by the rabbis in legal argument were already used by Jesus and presumably his contemporaries. The use of such arguments by Paul, Hebrews and Jude is far more sophisticated, suggesting that both author and recipients were familiar with a certain style of scriptural argument, based on quite specific rules. In certain of his letters Paul is particularly concerned to use such techniques specifically to argue against points of view widely accepted within Judaism, in order to show the centrality of Christ. Among these techniques the most important and obvious are qal wahomer, the interpretation of one text in function of another, the use of link-words, minor adjustments of the text (especially tenses and persons) to suit the interpretation proposed


In the gospels, as might be expected, Mt shows the deepest and most consistent familiarity with Jewish techniques of use of scripture, quoting scripture frequently in the manner of the Qumran pesharim and using it widely in legal and symbolic argument. He, more than any other evangelist, uses the techniques of haggadic midrashim in his story-telling (Infancy Narratives, Death of Judas, Pilate's Wife). John 6, and possibly certain passages in Acts, may also show traces of ancient Jewish homily-technique. For the gospel narratives, however, the most important of all the contemporary techniques is the presentation of figures and events in terms of previous biblical figures and events to underline their significance.



I would like to conclude with an exposition of Jude 4.19, 'the most elaborate passage of formal exegesis in the manner of the Qumran pesharim to be found in the New Testament' (Bauckham 1980, p. 233). This exegesis is the heart of the letter, taking up 16 of its 25 verses, wholly in the manner of the thematic pesharim - not, of course, the continuous commentaries - of Qumran. Here an outline will be followed by a commentary.


5-7 Text 1: three biblical examples of groups who failed and were punished

8-10: Application to the present day, with secondary texts.

11 Text 2: three biblical examples of individuals who led the people astray

12-13: Application to the present day, with secondary texts.


14-15 Text 3: An ancient prophecy: 1 Enoch 1.9

16: Application to the present day.

17-18 Text 4: A modern prophecy, an apostolic saying

19:   Application to the present day.


Features typical of Jewish exegesis, particularly that of Qumran, are:

1. The pesher-technique of eschatological application by means of ou-toi at the beginning of each application, vv. 8, 12, 16, 19.

2. The standard list of three examples of judgement: the desert generation (Nb 14), the fallen angels (1 En 10.4-6), Sodom and Gomorrah (Gn 19), which occur also in other lists:

Sir 16.7-10   The giants, Sodom and Gomorrah, the desert generation

3 Mc 2.4-7   The giants, Sodom, Pharaoh in the desert

CD 2.17-3.12 The heavenly watchers, children of Noah, the desert generation

2 P 4-7   The fallen angels, the flood generation, Sodom & Gomorrah.

3. The use of secondary texts to illustrate the primary texts: in the first interpretation the passage may well be taken from the lost ending of The Testament of Moses. In the second interpretation four texts illustrate delusive features in the four regions of the universe, clouds in the sky, trees on the earth, waves in the sea, and stars in the heavens. In 1 En 2-3 the clouds, the leaves and the stars are cited precisely as sure indicators, whereas in Jude they are cited as deceptive failures.

4. The catchword structure is typical of Qumran literature:

v. 5-11   avpw,lesen ... avpw,lonto, linking texts 1 and 2

15-18   avsebei/j) ...avsebeiw/n, linking texts 3 and 4

5,6-14,15   ku,rioj, kri,sin... ku,rioj, kri,sin, linking texts 1 and 3

16-18   kata. ta.j evpiqumi,aj e`autw/n poreuo,menoi, linking texts 3 and 4.

There are also verbal links between lemma and interpretation:

v. 5,7   ku,rioj... sarko.j     v. 8 sa,rka... kurio,thta

v. 9     blasfhmi,aj ku,rioj   v. 8 kurio,thta blasfhmou/sin

v. 11     pla,nh|       v.13 planh/tai

v. 15     evla,lhsan     v.16 lalei/,

and linking the introductory v. 4 with the exegesis: kri,ma( avsebei/j( ku,rion.


Much the same process, though less elaborate, is at work in the core passage 1 P 2.4-10. This forms the climax of the first part of the epistle, summing up the teaching on Christ and on the election of the new people of God. After the introductory v. 4-5 it is formed from three texts applied to Christ and linked by the catchword li,qoj (Is 28.16; Ps 118.22; Is 8.14), followed by three texts about the people of God, linked by the catchword la,oj (Is 43.20-21; Ex 19.5-6; Ho 2.23). The first trio is linked to the introductory statement by li,qoj and the second trio by the expression i`era,teuma a[gion. A further feature of midrashic exegesis evident in this passage is the adjustment of texts to fit the interpretation: thus in v. 6 the unusual text-form (found also in Rm 9.33) VIdou. ti,qhmi is preferred to the LXX in order to link with evte,qhsan (v. 8), and polutelh/ is omitted from the quotation of Is 28.16 in order to balance li,qon evklekto.n with ge,noj evklekto,n in v.9.


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Alexander, P.S.   ‘The Rabbinic Hermenteutical Rules and the Problem of the Definition of Midrash’ in Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 8 (1984), p. 97-125

*Alexander, P.S.   ‘Hillel, Jesus and the Golden Rule' in J.H. Charlesworth & Loren L. Johns (ed) Hillel and Jesus, Comparative Studies of two Major Religious Leaders (Minneapolis, Fortress, 1997), p. 363-88

Alexander, P.S. 'Interpretation, Jewish' in Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed.

Bruce M Metzger and Michael D Coogan (OUP, New York, 1993)

*Bateman, Herbert 'First Century Messianic Uses of the Old Testament: Heb 1:5-13 and 4Q Flor 1.1-19' in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 38 (1995), p. 11-27

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*Bauckham, Richard    The Climax of Prophecy (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1993)

*Bonsirven, J      Exégèse rabbinique et exégèse paulinienne (Paris, Beauchesne, 1939)

Borgen, Peder      Bread from Heaven (Brill, Leiden, 1965)

Borgen, Peder      Philo, John and Paul (Scholars Press, 1987)

Bowker, JW      'Speeches in Acts: a study in Proem and Yelammadenu Form', NTS 14 (1967/8), 96-111

*Brooke, George J   Exegesis at Qumran (Sheffield, JSOT, 1985)

Brown,Raymond   The Birth of the Messiah (NY,Doubleday, 1977)

*Chilton, Bruce   A Galilean Rabbi and his Bible (London, SPCK, 1984)

*Coppens, J     ‘Les arguments scripturaires et leur portée dans les lettres pauliniennes’ in Studiorum Paulinorum Congressus Internationalis Catholicus 1961 (Rome, 1963), 243-253

Daube, David      The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (1957)

*Daube, David   'Rabbinic Methods of Interpretation and Hellenistic Rhetoric' in HUCA       22 (1949), 239-264

*Davies, WD      Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London, SPCK, 1948)

*Dimant, Devorah   'Pesharim' in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 5

*Doeve, JW     Jewish Hermeneutics in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts (Assen, Van         Gorcum), 1954

*Dunn, James DG   '2 Corinthians III.17 "The Lord is the Spirit"', JTS 21 (1970), 309-320

*Earle Ellis, E     'Midrashic Features in the Speeches of Acts' in Mélanges bibliques B. Rigaux (ed. A. Descamps & A. de Halleux, Duculot (1970), 303-312, cf. ZNTW 62 (1971), 94-104

*Earle Ellis, E      Paul's Use of the Old Testament (London, Oliver & Boyd, 1957)

*Earle Ellis, E 'Midrash, Targum and New Testament Quotations' in Neotestamentica et Patristica, ed. E.E. Ellis, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1969), p. 61-69

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*Fishbane, M The Garments of Torah, essays in biblical hermeneutics (Bloomington, Indiana) 1989

*Fishbane, M (ed.)   The Midrashic Imagination (State University of New York Press,           1993)

*Fitzmyer, J     A Wandering Aramean (1979)

*Fitzmyer, J     The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament after 40 Years',         RQ 13 (1988), 609-620

Fitzmyer, J     'The Use of Explicit Old Testament Quotations in the Qumran          Literature', NTS 7 (1960/1), 297-333

*Fitzmyer, J     CBQ 23 (1961), 280

*Fitzmyer, J     'Glory on the Face of Christ (2 Cor 3.7-4.6 and a Palestinian          Jewish Motif' in Theological Studies 42 (1981), 630-44

*Furnish, VictorP   Theology and Ethics in Paul (1968), 33-40

*Gärtner, Bertil   'The Habakkuk Commentary (DSH) and the Gospel of            Matthew' in Studia Theologica 8 (1954), 1

*Goulder, Michael   Midrash and Lection in Matthew (London, SPCK, 1976)

*Gundry, RH      The Use of the Old Testament in Matthew (Leiden, Brill 1967)

Heising, Alkuin   Die Botschaft der Brotvermehrung (Stuttgarterbibelstudien, nr 15,          1966)

*Hobbel, Arne Jarand 'Hermeneutics in Talmud, Midrash and NT' in The NT and             Jewish-Christian Dialogue, ed. Malcolm Lowe, (Emmanuel 24/25,        1990), 132-46

*Horgan, MauryaP   Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books (CBQ

Monograph Series 8), 1979

Jeremias, J     'Paulus als Hillelite' in Neotestamentica et Patristica, ed. E.E. Ellis,        (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1969), p.88-94

*Le Déaut, R     ‘Traditions targumiques dans le Corpus paulinien’ in Bibl 42 (1961), 28-48

*Le Déaut, R     ‘La présentation targumique du sacrifice d’Isaac’ in Studiorum Paulinorum Congressus Internationalis Catholicus 1961 (Rome, 1963), 563-574

Lohfink, G     Paulus vor Damaskus (Stuttgarter Bibelstudien, nr 4, 1965)

Longenecker, R   Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Eerdmans, 1975)

*McNamara, M   The New Testament and the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch,         (Rome PBI, 1966)

*Moody Smith D   'The Use of the Old Testament in the New' in James M. Efird          (ed.), The Use of the Old Testament in the New and other essays          (Duke University Press, 1978)

*Porton, G     'Midrash' in Anchor Bible Dictionary (1992), vol 4, p. 818-822

Sibley Towner,W   'Hermeneutical Systems of Hillel and the Tannaim' in HUCA          53 (1982), 101-35

Stegner, William R   'Jesus Walking on the Water' in The Gospels and the Scriptures of Israel, ed. Craig A. Evans and William R. Stegner (Sheffield Academic Press, 1994)

*Stockhausen, CK   Moses' Veil and the Glory of the NewCovenant (Rome,PBI, 1989)




The Book of Revelation is not included in this list. It clearly builds heavily on the scripture for its rich imagery. A reading of the book which I find attractive is that of Richard Bauckham (Bauckham, 1993). He sees it in continuity directly with the OT prophetic books rather than with other Jewish apocalyptic works, such as 2 Bar and 4 Esr, whose imagery is much less fertile and less widespread. It was intended for study and explanation by other Christian prophets like the author himself. Obviously many of its obscure passages become clear by interpretation in the light of contemporary techniques, such as gezera shawah. Bauckham, p.296-326, gives an enlightening example in the exegesis of Rv 15.1-2 in view of the understanding of Ex 15.17-18 at Qumran and of Jg 5 in Pseudo-Philo.



There are, of course, four sacrifices each Sabbath.



Hillel is here arguing that since the importance of correct timing overrides one rule, so it can override a lesser rule. He uses the arguments qal wahomer and gezera shawah. The important reason why he finally cites his two teachers is that 'a man cannot argue by a gezera shawah of his own accord. He must have received from his teachers that a particular word in the Pentateuch is meant for a gezerah shawah, but he cannot assume it himself' (Moed, p. 336). This restriction of a widely used 'wild card' technique does not seem to apply in the NT. Perhaps it was formulated only later.





Jesus also uses the rabbinic principle (Mek. Hashirah 7 on 15.9)'there is no earlier and later in the Torah' in the controversy with the Sadducees about resurrection (Mk 12.26). It is this principle which makes possible frequent changes of tense, e.g. 2 Cor 3.15 and Mt 22.32.



Not to mention the strange and unexplained passage of 2 Cor 6.14-7.1. Fitzmyer (Fitzmyer 1961) understands this as a non-Pauline interpolation.



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