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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

Pesharim

Though rabbinic interpretation is seen as the normative or mainstream type of premodern Jewish interpretation, that mode of interpretation is really not new, but shows much continuity with the postbiblical interpretation seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in Greek Jewish writing as well. The genre of Qumran literature called Pesher literature, in which a biblical text is first quoted, and then its interpretation is adduced, is structurally similar to rabbinic Midrash (see below) and medieval commentary. Pesher literature is distinct, however, from rabbinic literature (though not from the type of Jewish interpretation evidenced in much of the New Testament) in that it typically applies (mostly prophetic) texts to the author's current situation with the assumption that the biblical text, though written long ago, refers to the later author's time period. For example, Pesher Habakkuk quotes (in a slightly different form) the words of the seventhcentury prophet Habakkuk (2.15), “Alas for you who make your neighbors drink, pouring out your wrath until they are drunk, in order to gaze on their nakedness,” and then continues: “Its interpretation concerns the Wicked Priest who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness [the leader of the Qumran community] to consume him with the ferocity of his anger in the place of his banishment, in festival time, during the day of Atonement. He paraded in front of them, to consume them and make them fall on the day of fasting, the sabbath of their rest (trans. Florentino García Martínez and Elbert J.C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, Leiden: Brill, 1977, vol. 1, pp. 19, 21).

An example of (proto)rabbinic interpretation of legal material already found in this prerabbinic community is illustrated by the following interpretation from the Damascus Covenant, another key text of the Qumran community: “No one should do work on the sixth day, from the moment when the sun's disc is at a distance of its diameter from the gate [= the horizon], for this is what it says [Deut 5.12 ], ‘Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy’” (CD X.15) (Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, ibid. , pp. 567, 569). This legal text is quoting the Decalogue from Deuteronomy, and is interpreting the first word, shamor, in a more literal sense as “guard“; it continues by suggesting that the way in which one guards the sabbath day is by ceasing from work a bit before the sabbath actually begins, the time when the sun is one diameter away from setting. This would, of course, help to prevent violation of the sabbath, which, according to the Bible, is a capital offense. Yet such stringent observance is never actually required by the biblical text; rather, it is “found” in the text through a slightly unusual reading, using (only mildly) creative philology on the Hebrew word shamor, “observe,” which is understood as “guard.”

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