A History of Peshat (Jewish 'plain-meaning' Bible Exegesis)


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I am investigating the phenomenon of the quest for the "simple" or "plain" or "contextual" meaning of the Bible among pre-modern Jews. Most biblical commentaries written in pre-modern times (and many that were written in modern times, too) were meant to strengthen the faith of the (Jewish or Christian) faithful and not primarily to explain what the Bible meant in its original context. However, over the ages a number of Jews and Christians rose above confessional considerations to write "plain" Bible commentaries. Jews referred to such commentaries as "peshat." Much of my scholarly work over the last two decades has centred on the phenomenon of peshat in the 12th century. In this study I will expand my research considerably and try to trace the history of Jewish "peshat" from the 2nd to the nineteenth centuries. Careful attention will be placed on comparisons with Christian exegetes who were also, from time to time, overcoming confessional interests and striving for the "sensus litteralis" of the biblical text.

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SSHRC

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