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The Rise and Fall of Jewish Philological Exegesis on the Bible in the Middle Ages: Causes and Effects

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In the course of the ninth century CE Jewish intellectuals in the Babylonian cultural sphere began to interpret the Bible literally, on the basis of language, syntax, and context. This hermeneutic method, called peshat exegesis spread from the East to the West and reached its apex in the twelfth century in northern France. However, the peshat method of interpretation flourished for a short time only and then declined, first in lands under the rule of Islam and afterwards also in Christian Europe. The question of the causes that led to the development of this hermeneutical method, its waxing and its waning, is one of the most basic questions in the study of medieval biblical exegesis. Nonetheless, no study devoted to a comprehensive explanation of the factors leading to the rise and fall of the peshat method has been undertaken, and most academic attention to the subject has focused on particular aspects, specifically the question of the factors that led to the flourishing of the peshat method in northern France. In this study, I fill this gap. As will be made clear, my results differ in various points from the views presented in previous research.

Affiliations: 1: Kibbutz Netiv Ha-Lamed He, Doar Na Ha-Ella, 99855Israel


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