Personal bio and background RRC Books published Experience teaching in interfaith settings Clarify that I’m not “messianic” etc.
What is midrash? Well, first we have to say a word about the ancient Jews living in the Holy Land during the time of the Roman Occupation. They had a set of sacred writings they called “Scriptures.” These included the 5 Books of Moses (also known as the Torah, comprising Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Hebrew Scriptures at that time also included the books of many Hebrew prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Joel, to name a few. And they included the collection of religious songs and poems known as Psalms, as well as several books that told the history of ancient Israel over about a 1000 year period. All of these books together came to be known in Judaism as the “Hebrew Bible.” Christians refer to roughly the same set of books as the “Old Testament.”
Midrash / New Testament slideshow 1
Midrash and the
WITH RABBI MAURICE HARRIS
Why study Midrash alongside the New
Both Jews and Christians can gain new understandings of their sacred texts.
In learning about midrash, Christians can get new insights into the ideas, metaphors, and meanings of New
Jesus and his early Jewish followers were steeped in a religious culture that had been developing midrash as a method for
interpreting and expanding upon Scripture for centuries.
Many stories in the New Testament bear striking similarities to the way midrashic stories are constructed.
In studying New Testament stories through the lens of midrash, Jews can gain new insights into both midrash
and the Jewish context in which the earliest Chrsitian teachings developed.
Both communities can learn more about the early years of the development of rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.
Studying midrash and the NT side-by-side offers insights into Jesus’ Jewishness, and the midrashic context in
which some of his teachings took place. These insights often end up reducing some of the ways in which
Christians and Jews today misunderstand each other’s traditions. This form of study builds bridges of
understanding and mutual appreciation between Jews and Christians.
Doing this kind of interfaith study is not about conversion.
It’s not about using midrash to “prove” to Jews
that the New Testament is the truth and therefore
Jews should convert to Christianity.
It’s not about using midrash to “prove” to
Christians that the New Testament is “false” and
therefore Christians should convert to Judaism.
What is midrash?
• 1 Samuel
• 2 Samuel
• 1 Kings
• 2 Kings
• …and more
…a Jewish method and form of biblical interpretation
beginning around 400 B.C.E. in ancient Israel
The word “Midrash” comes from the Hebrew root
meaning "to study," "to seek out" or "to investigate."
Actually, to be more accurate,
…a set of several Jewish methods and forms of biblical
Midrash can be described as a form of storytelling that
explores ethics and values in biblical texts.
Midrash adds to, expands upon, or
even challenges the plain meaning of
the biblical texts it works with.
Midrash is a body of Jewish sacred literature that started out as oral
traditions passed from one generation of rabbis to another. Eventually,
rabbis began writing down these teachings. There are many different
books of midrash, organized in different ways. It’s a semi-organized,
vast collection of teachings spanning well over 1000 years.
Midrash is a sacred literature that embraces multiple opinions and
interpretations. Often, books containing collections of midrash include
several different midrashim (plural) offering varying & conflicting
interpretations of the same biblical text.
A midrash can be really short, like a single sentence. Or it can go on for
pages and pages, telling a very long story.
…is creative and almost free form, yet it does follow certain rules
Some midrashim take a biblical text and then explain or interpret it in a
fresh way (perhaps revealing a hidden, metaphorical meaning, or
connecting a biblical text to a contemporary situation facing the Jewish
people at the time).
In midrash, a biblical text that’s being explained (drashed) can be any
size at all – a whole chapter of a book of the Hebrew Bible; a single
verse; a phrase; even a single word or Hebrew letter of a word!
Some midrashim respond to unusual features or oddities in the
texts of the Hebrew Bible, often seeking to resolve confusing or
difficult aspects of the text.
To put it another way, many midrashim would get written
in response to one of several different kinds of “triggers” in
the biblical text.
Gaps in biblical stories
Contradictions within the Bible
Grammatical quirks or oddities in the biblical Hebrew
Unusual word choices
Apparent redundancy or repetition in the Bible
Word plays or literary associations in the biblical Hebrew
Unusual visual features found in certain Hebrew words in the Torah (enlarged
letters, upside-down letters, etc.)
Anything that might raise a question to a careful reader of the Bible in Hebrew
Elements of the Bible that seem to address contemporary issues facing the rabbis
Triggers – Example: Gaps in biblical stories
Genesis 11:27 – 12:3
This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran
became the father of Lot. … Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the
name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah… Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son
Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran,
they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.
The ETERNAL had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I
will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you
will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on
earth will be blessed through you.”
Gap: who is this Abram?
Why did God pick him?
We’ve been told virtually
nothing about him! Do we
know more about him?
Abraham Smashing His Father’s Idols
Genesis Rabbah, Ch. 38
A midrashic book of running
commentary on the Book of Genesis
250 – 450 C.E. ??