Midrash and exegesis – distant neighbours?


  • Albert van der Heide Universiteit Leiden


Midrash, Bible, Old Testament -- Criticism, interpretation, Jewish, Rabbinic literature


The term Midrash should be reserved for the specific quotation literature of the rabbinic sources of classical Judaism. Decisive is its literary form: the combination of rabbinic statement and biblical quotation. All other rabbinic and non-rabbinic texts should better not be called Midrash. Great caution is needed in the use of the term exegesis in relation to Midrash. For the modern mind exegesis is something connected with critical philology and history. In principle Midrash is something completely different and could more aptly be called ‘a kind of theology’ than the usual designation as ‘a kind of exegesis’. In fact, the association of Midrash with exegesis implies a great injustice towards Midrash. Despite all appearances, Midrash is not exegesis, nor a ‘kind of exegesis’, although it does contain elements of biblical exegesis. Although Midrash has certainly played a role in the origin and history of modern biblical exegesis, this particular role is a matter of the past. The relation between Midrash and modern exegesis now has become merely platonic, a source of inspiration and, possibly, admiration as an example of textual sensitivity&&as a vehicle of rabbinic theology&&and – eventually – as a model for a new post-modern system of hermeneutics.



How to Cite

van der Heide, A. (1999). Midrash and exegesis – distant neighbours?. Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 20(1-2), 7–18. https://doi.org/10.30752/nj.69555