Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Parades: The Proper Way in Studying the Bible

The following outlines the proper way in studying the Bible. It is the Hebrew acronym for Peshat, Remez, Drash and Sod
  • Peshat is the plain meaning of the text.
  • Remez is a hint at another meeting. The Apostle Paul used this when he referred to not muzzling the ox when it treads the grain to also apply to helping out the Pastor who teaches the Bible to you.
  • Drash  is a story line on a verse brining in an allegory such as when Apostle Paul compared Hagar to Mt sinai and Sarah to Jerusalem.
  • Sod means secret and refers to hidden things where you have to dig a little deeper. Deut. 29:29  states: The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

The following information is directly quoted from the sites referenced....

Additional information: (http://fourquestions.us/judaism/messianic/besorot.php)

The Besorot and Rabbinic Hermeneutics

The four Besorot were written in four distinct ways that match the traditional Rabbinic teaching methods. The four methods of teaching are Peshat, Remez, Drash, and Sod, and they form the acronym PaRDeS (which means “garden”). These four methods and their interactions in the text of the Besorot are described in the table below.

DefinitionSimpleHintExplore, AskSecret
Literary LevelGrammaticalAllegoryParabolicMystical
Audience LevelCommon PeopleAristocrat, NobleRegal, KinglyMystic
Hermeneutic Level7 Laws of Hillel13 Laws of Ishmael32 Laws of Ben Gallil42 Laws of the Zohar
Rabbinic LevelMishnahGemaraMidrashZohar
PresentationServant of HashemSon of ManThe KingSon of G-d

The word Pardes, (lit. orchard) is an acronym that was used in the Middle Ages to refer to four types of biblical exegesis:
    Pshat: simple, plain, intended meaning (the opposite of Drash) (sometimes inaccurately referred to as the literal meaning- see below)
Remez: alluded meaning (reading between the lines). Remez in modern Hebrew means hint. Traditionally, remez referred to methods such as gematria (word-number values)
Drash: drawn out meaning. Homiletical or interpretative meaning. Not pshat.
Sod: (lit. secret). The mystical or esoteric meaning.

Here is an example of analysing the phrase: milk and honey according to the four models.
However, there are really only two categories: Pshat (what the text says/meant) and Drash (interpretations). Professor Barry Levy, Dean of Religious Studies, McGill University, has suggested a different apporach:
    I prefer to talk about four other categories of analysis: Text, Texture, Context and Pretext. Text concerns what the text is and what it says (that's close to peshat but I avoid the word because of all the ambiguities and problems alluded to above) . Texture deals with the literary qualities of the text. Context is the historical, geographic, and cultural settings of the text. Pretext is using the text for purposes not specifically articulated in it.

Why not only use Pshat? In a way, Pshat is what the biblical scholar is trying to do: determine what the TEXT really meant. Drash allows us to find new meaning and new ideas, answering the question, (not what did the text mean) but what does the text say to ME.
Pshat means the simple meaning of the text, but it is not so simple! First of all, we have to decide what is the Pshat. (One person's Pshat is another person's Drash). It has been apocryphally attributed to the great scholar of our generation the late Nehama Leibowitz that 'Peshat is what she thought the text meant and derash is what everyone else thought.' The problem is that every reading of 'Pshat' must also be an interpretation, just like every translation is (even though it doesn't MEAN to be an interpretation). Professor Barry Levy, Dean of Religious Studies, McGill University, writes,
    Another issue is the number of possible peshats a passage may carry. Some writers spoke of "the" peshat; others recognized a plurality of peshats and limited discussion to "a" peshat. The interesting evolution of the word in Yiddish to peshettle shows that peshat came to mean only "an interpretation." The diminutive suffix gives the word a meaning something like "a little peshat" but actually it means "a derash."
Let's look at these examples:

Moses says: Give-ear O heaven that I may speak,
Let the land hear the sayings of my mouth (Deut. 32:1)
Isaiah says: Hear O heaven, and give ear O land
for the Lord speaks (Isa. 1:2)

(This is a good example of symmetry; Isaiah was probably using the language of Deuteronomy on purpose.)
Now Rabbi Akiva (2nd Century) interprets that hearing is something you do from far; give ear is something you do from close (like whispering in someone's ear):
This teaches that when Moses spoke the Torah he was in heaven... but Isaiah who was on land, began by saying Hear O heaven as it was far from him.
Ibn Ezra (medieval commentator, we'll be introduced to him more formally next module) says:
Now there is no distinction between Hear and Give-ear according to the Pshat method.
So the first problem is deciding what the Pshat is. Did the text mean to be interpreted? And if it clearly (?) did, as in the case of a metaphor,
What is the Pshat of a Metaphor?!