TIP of the day: Use of Scripture in Rashi commentary ....

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Aug 12 2015 5:44 PM

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In the "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (March 18, 1994) the issue of using Scripture to interpret Scripture is addressed in several ways. The text addresses the usefulness of applying the techniques of Jewish exegesis that notes among its strengths "methods of associating otherwise unrelated texts". In the section on the characteristics of Catholic interpretation the Commission notes:

"One thing that gives the Bible an inner unity, unique of its kind, is the fact that later biblical writings often depend upon earlier ones".

Finally, the document notes inter-textual reading guards against excess in interpretation:

"Granted that tensions can exist in the -relationship between various texts of sacred Scripture, interpretation must necessarily show a certain pluralism. No single interpretation can exhaust the meaning of the whole, which is a symphony of many voices. Thus the interpretation of one particular text has to avoid seeking to dominate at the expense of others."

The assumption that Scripture is harmonious assures the validity of the interpretation rules which interpret Scripture through reference to other Scripture. Dr. Hendel identifies six basic ways in which the Medieval commentator Rashi (Rabbi Solomon bar Isaac) uses Scriptural cross-references to provide:

  • confirmation
  • procedure
  • detail
  • modification of meaning
  • multiple proofs
  • explanation of a term

(see below for actual links)

This leads to useful technique for reading commentary

1. In a commentary attach a note to each scripture reference in the commentary.

2. Add links to the passage being commented on and the passage used in that commentary

3. Add a comment noting what the commentator intends to prove or support by this reference - along with observations as to whether or not it serves the commentator's purpose.

Over time, one builds a strong set of intertextual references of Scripture interpreting Scripture.


Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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