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The Challenge of Received Tradition: Dilemmas of Interpretation in Radak's Biblical Commentaries
Oxford University Press / 2012 / Hardcover
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One of the most vexing problems facing medieval Jewish interpreters of the Hebrew Bible was how to implement the new interpretive strategy of extracting the straightforward, contextual meaning of biblical verses (peshat), without neglecting revered ancient rabbinic modes of interpretation (derash), which tended to be more fanciful and homiletical. This book investigates the interpretive style of Radak (R. David Kimhi, c. 1160-1232), one of the most preeminent Jewish exegetes, who masterfully utilized both approaches simultaneously. Analyzing his idiosyncratic consistent juxtaposition of peshat and derash-type rabbinic comments, and thoroughly parsing his methodological statements, the book demonstrates how at times he finds rabbinic traditions essential to resolving textual questions that arise in exegesis, while at other times, he affords them only ancillary functions in his commentaries. Naomi Grunhaus also considers in depth Radak's criteria when challenging rabbinic teachings, whether in narrative or legal contexts, which leads to the conclusion that most often he rejects rabbinic traditions when they appear to contradict textual biblical evidence, but occasionally also on the grounds of implausibility. Particularly noteworthy is the author's discussion of Radak's apparent challenges to rabbinic legal interpretations of Scriptures, an approach which most other exegetes hesitated to take. The book considers the anomaly that Radak regularly quotes rabbinic traditions and relies on traditional authority, while simultaneously challenging this same authority when rejecting certain rabbinic interpretations.
Naomi Grunhaus is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University. She received her PhD in Judaic studies from New York University, an MA and MS from New York University, and a BS from Brooklyn College.
"A learned and lucid work. Grunhaus brings to light Radak's interpretive methodology, highlighting the distinctive interplay between peshat and derash and its importance for his exegetical program. The book is a model study of the complexities of medieval Jewish Bible interpretation. It also speaks to today's exegetes who seek to integrate midrash into their academic commentaries."--Adele Berlin, co-editor of The Jewish Study Bible
"With meticulous research and reasoned arguments, Naomi Grunhaus sheds much new light on the Bible commentaries of the medieval rabbi David Kimhi (Radak). Her book should be required reading for anyone interested in Jewish Bible commentaries or in the interplay of interpretive innovation and reverence for tradition."--Martin Lockshin, Professor of Humanities and Hebrew and Chair, Department of Humanities, York University
"Naomi Grunhaus has produced a first-rate study of Radak's inconsistent treatment of rabbinic law and lore, rendering his dilemmas into elegant and precise English. The late Frank Talmage would undoubtedly have found her a worthy scholar of Radak's commentaries in continuing the discussions he began."--Herbert Basser, Professor of Jewish Studies, Queen's University
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