Fishbane-The Torah of All

Michael Fishbane in Sacred Attunement reminds me that the Pharisaic or Rabbinic school of Judaism, which in the New Testament stood over against the Sadducees and some other parties, provides the theological foundation for contemporary Judaism.

The Pharisees believed in the Oral Torah.  The Sadducees did not.   The Oral Torah is important for Fishbane’s theology.  He says that over time Judaism came to understand that the Written Torah, as important as it is to have a carrier of the spirit of ancient Israel, is not adequate to the vast and ongoing involvement of the divine reality in the daily life of the Jewish people.  Or, as he says, “the immense “Shall-Be” of God ever exceeds the written “just this” of scripture.”  He wants to grasp the “Torah of All”.

So for Fishbane Jewish theology is hermeneutical theology.  Hermeneutics is a fancy word for interpretation.  And what Fishbane means at its simplest is that theology involves the interpretation of both scripture and life.  There is a back-and-forth relationship between the old texts and the continuous stream of human life.  We commonly understand that scripture illuminates life.  But it works the other way too.  Our paying attention to life helps us decode or re-appropriate the texts.

He has a vision of Judaism as a form of reading or study that encourages a God-centered life.  I like that.

Moreover, he says Judaism has contributed four ways of reading scripture.

First,  there is peshat–the reading of scripture for its plain meaning.

Second, there is derash–“the far-ranging theological and legal reformulations of scripture”.

Third, there is remez–the discovery of hints and allusions that lead to philosophical and psychological allegories.

Fourth, there is sod–the intuitive reading that unites scripture with the mystical apprehension of God that comes to us through paying attention to the universe.

He has quite a bit of discussion of each of these.  His main theme, though, is that by combining them or using them all we see all reality and God as partaking of a single, complex truth.

I think I get what he is saying.  But at this point I am longing for examples to make his ideas more concrete, especially in regard to remez and sod.

Perhaps these will come as I read on.  But that is all I have for today.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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