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With Reverence for the WordMedieval Scriptural Exegesis in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam$
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Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Barry D. Walfish, and Joseph W. Goering

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195137279

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195137279.001.0001

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The Method of Doubts: Problematizing the Bible in Late Medieval Jewish Exegesis

The Method of Doubts: Problematizing the Bible in Late Medieval Jewish Exegesis

(p.133) 9 The Method of Doubts: Problematizing the Bible in Late Medieval Jewish Exegesis
With Reverence for the Word

Saperstein Marc

Oxford University Press

Scholars of medieval Jewish exegesis have devoted considerable energy to various matters of content. This chapter describes a structural model and exegetical technique widely associated with Isaac Abarbanel and Isaac Arama, who flourished at the end of the 15th century. It raises a series of “doubts”, “questions”, or “difficulties”, which are resolved in the ensuing exegetical treatment. This hermeneutical technique is referred to as the “method of doubts”. The origins of this form in Jewish literature, its prevalence in the generation of the expulsion, and the cultural significance of this phenomenon have yet to be analyzed. Three related genres of Jewish writing are considered: biblical exegesis, sermons, and discursive philosophical texts. Some examples of a similar form in the same genres of Christian writing from antiquity and the Middle Ages are given. The challenge will be to see where these two traditions might meet. Finally, the chapter analyzes the cultural significance of this exegetical mode, which is called the “problematizing” of the Hebrew Bible by the exegete.

Keywords:   Hebrew Bible, method of doubts, problematizing, medieval Jewish exegesis, Isaac Abarbanel, Isaac Arama, expulsion, Jewish writing, Christian writing

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