Exegetical Imagination / Edition 823

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Overview

Exegesis--interpretation and explanation of sacred texts--is the quintessence of rabbinic thought. Through such means and methods, the written words of Hebrew Scripture have been extended since antiquity, and given new voices for new times. In this lucid and often poetic book, Michael Fishbane delineates the connections between biblical interpretation and Jewish religious thought.

How can a canon be open to new meanings, given that it is believed to be immutable? Fishbane discusses the nature and rationale of this interpretative process in a series of studies on ancient Jewish speculative theology. Focusing on questions often pondered in Midrash, he shows how religious ideas are generated or justified by exegesis. He also explores the role exegesis plays in liturgy and ritual. A striking example is the transfer of speculative interpretations into meditation in prayer. Cultivation of the ability to perceive many implicit meanings in a text or religious practice can become a way of living--as Fishbane shows in explaining how such notions as joy or spiritual meditations on death can be idealized and the ideal transmitted through theological interpretation. The Exegetical Imagination is a collection of interrelated essays that together offer new and profound understanding of scriptural interpretation and its central role in Judaism.

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Editorial Reviews

Society for Old Testament Study [UK]

One of the leading specialists in the history of Jewish interpretation of the Bible has here applied himself to the broader matter of Jewish hermeneutic and how it is employed in the theology, mythology and theosophy of Judaism...A sound and useful corrective to those with a narrower notion of Jewish exegesis.
— S. C. Reif

Journal of Theological Studies

Professor Fishbane has been for some years at the forefront of a new wave of American scholars writing on Jewish biblical exegesis, whose primary concern is literary and theological rather than historical or philological. This collection of 11 unconnected essays presents his approach in general terms and illustrates it with examples chosen from a range of rabbinic and post-rabbinic sources...The book addresses major topics in Jewish religion, and the exegetical approach illuminates them in a distinctive and thought-provoking way.
— N. R. M. de Lange

Theological Book Review [UK]

This is a beautiful and sensitive book, giving insight into the ethos and inner life of Jewish exegesis in the rabbinical tradition. It can make much customary academic exegesis seem impoverished and even perfunctory! We get a sense of the literary-cum-spiritual depth of this work, developed over so many centuries. It now offers interesting similarities with the recent literary-critical methods of the Western academy's scriptural work. The presupposition is that 'Jewish thought and theology arise in the thickness of exegesis and are carried by its forms'. This collection of essays makes an enriching book that has much to contribute to any instructed student with an imagination ready for kindling.
— Leslie Houlden

Society for Old Testament Study [UK] - S. C. Reif
One of the leading specialists in the history of Jewish interpretation of the Bible has here applied himself to the broader matter of Jewish hermeneutic and how it is employed in the theology, mythology and theosophy of Judaism...A sound and useful corrective to those with a narrower notion of Jewish exegesis.
Journal of Theological Studies - N. R. M. De Lange
Professor Fishbane has been for some years at the forefront of a new wave of American scholars writing on Jewish biblical exegesis, whose primary concern is literary and theological rather than historical or philological. This collection of 11 unconnected essays presents his approach in general terms and illustrates it with examples chosen from a range of rabbinic and post-rabbinic sources...The book addresses major topics in Jewish religion, and the exegetical approach illuminates them in a distinctive and thought-provoking way.
Theological Book Review [UK] - -Leslie Houlden
This is a beautiful and sensitive book, giving insight into the ethos and inner life of Jewish exegesis in the rabbinical tradition. It can make much customary academic exegesis seem impoverished and even perfunctory! We get a sense of the literary-cum-spiritual depth of this work, developed over so many centuries. It now offers interesting similarities with the recent literary-critical methods of the Western academy's scriptural work. The presupposition is that 'Jewish thought and theology arise in the thickness of exegesis and are carried by its forms'. This collection of essays makes an enriching book that has much to contribute to any instructed student with an imagination ready for kindling.
Society for Old Testament Study [UK]
One of the leading specialists in the history of Jewish interpretation of the Bible has here applied himself to the broader matter of Jewish hermeneutic and how it is employed in the theology, mythology and theosophy of Judaism...A sound and useful corrective to those with a narrower notion of Jewish exegesis.
— S. C. Reif
Journal of Theological Studies
Professor Fishbane has been for some years at the forefront of a new wave of American scholars writing on Jewish biblical exegesis, whose primary concern is literary and theological rather than historical or philological. This collection of 11 unconnected essays presents his approach in general terms and illustrates it with examples chosen from a range of rabbinic and post-rabbinic sources...The book addresses major topics in Jewish religion, and the exegetical approach illuminates them in a distinctive and thought-provoking way.
— N. R. M. de Lange
Theological Book Review [UK]
This is a beautiful and sensitive book, giving insight into the ethos and inner life of Jewish exegesis in the rabbinical tradition. It can make much customary academic exegesis seem impoverished and even perfunctory! We get a sense of the literary-cum-spiritual depth of this work, developed over so many centuries. It now offers interesting similarities with the recent literary-critical methods of the Western academy's scriptural work. The presupposition is that 'Jewish thought and theology arise in the thickness of exegesis and are carried by its forms'. This collection of essays makes an enriching book that has much to contribute to any instructed student with an imagination ready for kindling.
— Leslie Houlden
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674274624
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 823
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Fishbane is Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies, and Chair of the Committee on Jewish Studies, at the University of Chicago. Among his many books are Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israeland Judaism: Revelation and Traditions.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 Midrash and the Nature of Scripture 9
2 "The Holy One Sits and Roars": Mythopoesis and Midrashic Imagination 22
3 The Great Dragon Battle and Talmudic Redaction 41
4 The Measure and Glory of God in Ancient Midrash 56
5 Midrashic Theologies of Messianic Suffering 73
6 Five Stages of Jewish Myth and Mythmaking 86
7 The Book of Zohar and Exegetical Spirituality 105
8 Substitutes for Sacrifice in Judaism 123
9 Contemplation of Death in Jewish Piety 136
10 Joy and Jewish Spirituality 151
11 The Mystery of Dance According to Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav 173
Notes 187
Credits 232
Index 233
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