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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Aesthetics and Philosophy

At the same time that grammarians were refining their tools to better explain the biblical text, another school of thought was approaching the Bible from a different direction. Scholars trained in philosophy were using their newfound knowledge to reexamine the biblical text and then reinterpret it in the light of their philosophical insights. While none utilized the commentary genre, their works are full of comments on the biblical text, which they attempt to harmonize with their philosophical teachings. (See “The Bible in the Philosophical Tradition,” pp. 1948–75 .) Although he did not write biblical commentaries as such, Moses ben Jacob Ibn Ezra (ca. 1055–1138), a relative and friend of Abraham Ibn Ezra, made an important contribution to biblical hermeneutics by developing a literary exegetical theory based on Arabic theories of aesthetics. His Arabic treatise, Book of Discussion and Conversation, provides guidelines for writing Hebrew poetry in the Arabic style. To illustrate his points Ibn Ezra brings examples from the Bible and thereby indirectly provides an analysis of biblical stylistics in comparison with the ideal of Arabic poetry. Applying his theory to prophecy, he portrayed biblical prophets as poets, who supplied the literary form for the divine message. The implications for exegesis are obvious, since this means that biblical prophecies can be analyzed like any other poetry. Furthermore, if the ideas expressed are paramount, then the stylistic embellishments of these ideas do not have interpretive significance and can be ignored. Thisleads to the principle, characteristic of the Spanish school of peshat exegesis, that the Bible may repeat the same idea in different words for stylistic, aesthetic purposes, and that such repetition is not exegetically sig‐ nificant. Thus, for example, in “Abraham breathed his last and died” (Gen. 25.8 ), “breathed his last” (vayigva') renders “and died” (vayamot) superfluous. As part of his theory, Ibn Ezra enumerates literary ornaments of poetry, known in Arabic as badi, which he proceeds to identify in the Bible. Some, such as metaphor, simile, and allegory, were commonly recognized; for others, he could not find good examples. Nevertheless, in the attempt, he revealed many characteristics of biblical style, which had hitherto not been recognized. Ibn Ezra's aesthetic exegesis, written in Arabic, towards the end of the Golden Age of Spanish‐Jewish culture (10th–12th centuries, when Muslims controlled most of Spain), remained untranslated until recently, and thus had little impact on subsequent generations, living in Christian Europe with limited exposure to Arabic language and culture.

Baḥya Ibn Pakuda (ca. 1100) in his Duties of the Heart, elaborates a theory of biblical exegesis in which he identifies several levels of understanding, from the basic linguistic to the lexical to the contextual and finally to the esoteric, which is only attainable by those who have intellect and understanding. Baḥya was greatly influenced by the Sufi mystics of his time. Moses Maimonides (1138–1204) devoted much of his major philosophical work, the Guide of the Perplexed, to the interpretation of particular biblical texts. His primary purpose is to demonstrate that the inner meaning of the biblical text is compatible with Aristotelian philosophy. The whole first section is devoted to the elucidation of equivocal terms in the Bible, and sections of the Bible are interpreted or explained at various points in the work. Another major concern of his was the elucidation of parables, which he viewed as having two levels of meaning, revealed and hidden. Maimonides spends a great deal of effort in elucidating the biblical prophecies as well as the book of Job. For the former, a major concern was harmonizing the biblical text with reason and logic; the latter he read as a parable on divine providence and the problem of evil. He often uses midrashic interpretations as an aid for his exegesis, interpreting them philosophically as well. Maimonides' exegetical approach was very influential on succeeding generations of scholars. He was the prime representative and major spokesman for the Aristotelian school in Jewish philosophy, and subsequent Jewish philosophical exegesis shows strong signs of his influence.

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