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Midrash / New Testament slideshow 1


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First of four presentations on connections between Midrash and New Testament texts.

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Midrash / New Testament slideshow 1

  1. 1. Midrash and the New Testament: Exploring Connections WITH RABBI MAURICE HARRIS Lesson 1
  2. 2. Meet the Instructor Rabbi Maurice Harris
  3. 3. Why study Midrash alongside the New Testament?  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 Testament writings. 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.
  4. 4. What is midrash? • Genesis • Exodus • Leviticus • Numbers • Deuteronomy • Joshua • Judges • 1 Samuel • 2 Samuel • 1 Kings • 2 Kings • Isaiah • Jeremiah • Ezekiel • Psalms • Proverbs • Ruth • Esther • …and more
  5. 5. Midrash is… …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." ‫מדרש‬
  6. 6. Actually, to be more accurate, midrash is… …a set of several Jewish methods and forms of biblical interpretation. Midrash can be described as a form of storytelling that explores ethics and values in biblical texts.
  7. 7. Midrash… 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.
  8. 8. Midrash… 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.
  9. 9. Midrash… …is creative and almost free form, yet it does follow certain rules and traditions. 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!
  10. 10. Midrash… 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.
  11. 11. Triggers  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
  12. 12. 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?
  13. 13. A Midrash: 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. ??
  14. 14. End of Lesson 1 LESSON 2 IS NEXT!