Ways of Reading: Jewish Bible Interpretation in the Middle Ages

Code: HEBRG147

Credits: 20 (for MARS students)

Course Description: Our main focus will be on closely reading, critically analyzing, and discussing selections from medieval Jewish interpretations of the Bible (in translation). After a general introduction to the Bible, classic Rabbinic interpretation in Late Antiquity, and the Middle Ages, we shall carefully read and analyze the first three chapters of Genesis, which discuss the creation of the world and of humankind. Then we shall examine a variety of medieval Jewish commentaries on these chapters, paying particular attention to the commentators’ historical and intellectual orientations, and to their interpretive agendas. We shall begin in Northern France, which is in the milieu of the Latin West, and then move to the Judeo-Arabic realm. Alternating between chronological and topical orientations, we shall study a variety of traditional, literary, philosophical, and mystical modes of interpretation. This will introduce us to the major trends and issues in medieval Jewish thought, and to creative tensions that intertwine literary theory, theology, philosophy, and the place of Jewishness in the world at large. We shall critically assess how these trends of thought both inform and are informed by the interpretation of scripture; and we shall pay attention to the intellectual and spiritual role of interpreted scripture.

In addition to class meetings:

*Special manuscript session at the British Library;

*Seminars featuring student presentations.

Tutor: Dr Israel M. Sandman

Assessment: Essay (50%), weekly assignments (40%), response paper to BL session (10%)

Time: First Term, Mondays, 2.00 - 4.00 p.m.

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