The Origin Of Biblical Interpretation

According to the second Midrashic exegetical rule, called the Middot, originated by Rabbi Hillel: where the same words or concepts appear in two separate scriptures, we are to give the same consideration in applying both scriptures to the same subject.⁠1

The term “Midrash,” came from the first use of the Hebrew word “darish” in the Old Testament—defined as “the seeking after knowledge, to search out, consult, inquire or study, for the purpose of discovering the deeper meaning,” as written in Ezra 7:10.⁠2

“For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it…” —Ezra 7:10

Ezra was “searching out” the true meaning of the Law of God so that he might teach it to the people. This began a long standing tradition amongst the earliest Hebrew scholars in understanding what God meant by each particular verse of scripture, in context with other similar verses, which described homologous concepts.

Also called “the Midrashim,” this form of Biblical interpretation is a method by which any person may understand what the specific meaning of a story or illustration is intending, from the mind and heart of God. This is accomplished by the comparison of other scriptures of similar context.

In the Midrashim, the Rabbi’s are not limited by the sequential reading of the text. As is so often the case, many of the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament are distributed within text that frequently have nothing to do with the prophecy itself.⁠3

In order to be able to correctly understand the prophecies of the Messiah from the Old Testament, certain rules should be observed to determine how much liberty a person may take in obtaining a correct understanding of the particular scriptures. Many people do not realize that there is no uniform agreements among scholars for how Biblical scriptures should be interpreted to produce the Midrashim. The two primary theses for correct interpretation come from Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ishmael B. Elisha. The differences between these two great men are substantial. Akiva is concerned with the smallest part of the text, which he believes can contain hidden meaning. Therefore, every letter is capable of producing a new law. Ishmael takes a more conservative view—believing that the Torah is written in the language of human beings and is intended for the common, ordinary person, as well as the scholar. Therefore, there are no hidden meanings in the text, only what is immediately perceived.⁠4

A Few Of The Midrashic Methods:

The most ancient of the Midrashim, called “the Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael,” began by Rabbi Hillel as seven specific rules to follow in order to properly clarify the Torah and to make correct deductions from the Laws of God.⁠5 These seven were later expanded to thirteen by Rabbi Ishmael.

Baraita Of Rabbi Ishmael

  1. Kal va-chomer: The principle of “from the simple to the complex, and the complex to the simple.” Conclusions regarding a particular word or passage of scripture are made from the simple to the complex or vice versa, depending on the nature of conclusion that the verse of scripture requires. This law is the same as the first rule of Hillel.⁠6
  2. Gezerah shavah: The principle of similar laws for similar verdicts. This is an argument by similarities of certain scriptures in parallel or likeness. A legal determination for one verse will also remain true for a second similar verse of scripture.⁠7
  3. Binyan ab: The principle of a standard being set by one verse of scripture, as the basis for a correct interpretation of many other scriptures. Where a principle is true of one verse, it will remain true for other verses which have characteristics in common. This rule is a combination of Hillel’s third and fourth rules.⁠8
  4. Kelal u-perat: The principle of the general and particular, which defines a verse by the limitations of it’s general use in any particular case.⁠9
  5. U-perat, u-kelal: The principle of the particular and the general, which defines a verse by the general use of a particular meaning.⁠10
  6. Kelal u-perat, u-kelal: The principle of the general, particular, and general, which derives an interpretation of a verse or story only from other cases which also resemble the particular verse of illustration.⁠11
  7. The general which requires clarification by the particular, and the particular which requires an explanation by the general.⁠12
  8. The particular implied in the general and excepted from it for instructional purposes clarifies the general as well as the particular.⁠13
  9. The particular implied in the general and excepted from it on account of the special regulation which corresponds in concept to the general, is thus isolated to decrease rather than to increase the rigidity of its application.⁠14
  10. The particular implied in the general and excepted from it on account of some other special regulation which does not correspond in concept to the general, is thus isolated either to decrease or to increase the rigidity of its application.⁠15
  11. The particular implied in the general and excepted from it on account of a new and reversed decision can be referred to the general only in case the passage under consideration makes an explicit reference to it.
  12. A conclusion based on the context.⁠16
  13. When two biblical passages contradict each other the contradiction in question must be resolved by reference to a third passage.⁠17

Today, many Bible readers assume that the narrative of the scriptures are written in chronological order. In antiquity, Hebrew scholars paid little attention to the flow of the stories, while placing great emphasis on the related topics that are interspersed throughout the scriptures themselves. There is an allusion to this important principle in the New Testament:⁠18

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

In the earliest form of the oral traditions of the scriptures, scholars committed the entire body of God’s word to memory. When a particular passage was recited, it would remind the listener of several other places in the scriptures where a similar passage spoke or illustrated a comparable principle.⁠19 It was through this method that early scholars divided the Hebrew Bible into sections. It was not until many years later that verses were added to delineate the text within the books of the Bible.

In the same manner, I have sought to rightly divide the scriptures. An Old Testament prophecy must have a similar counterpart of fulfillment in the New Testament, which exhibits similar characteristics to the Old Testament verse. The writers of the New Testament used this method themselves in determining which scriptures Jesus fulfilled from the Old Testament. They would often define these verses and their fulfillment by stating; “this was done, or this was said, that it might be fulfilled which was written by the prophet…”

Matthew 4:14 ...that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

It is by these techniques whereby we can rightly attribute Old Testament prophecies, that do not at first glance—seem to be attributable to the Messiah—as absolutely relevant to a correct understanding of any Old Testament prophecy.

Upon comparison of the 365 Old Testament prophecies contained within my new book: The Prophecies of the Messiah,” with the New Testament verses that appear to be the fulfillment of what the prophets wrote, we find, in many cases, the precise events being carried out by Jesus. When we compare the Old Testament prediction with the New Testament reference, they come into focus, as written for each other.

The failure in misunderstanding, or not perceiving the certainty of Messianic prophecy, contained within the verses of the Old Testament Scriptures, is easily alleviated by an education in Biblical interpretation. Even the novice may quickly find the relevance of a Hebrew Prophecy when they understand the principles that should be used in interpreting these scriptures. These methods are handed down to us over thousands of years, from Hebrew scholars, who are proficient in Messianic prophecy.

Sion, Avi (2010), “Talmudic Hermeneutics”, in Schumann, Andrew, Logic in religious discourse, Frankfurt, M. [i.e.] Heusenstamm [u.a.]: Ontos-Verl., p. 105, ISBN 978-3-86838-061-3
2 From Strong’s Hebrew Concordance word# 1875, “darish.”
3 Ibid
4 The Midrash, History, Content, and Purpose of  a Major Genre of Jewish Exegetical Texts. See also: “Rabbinic Midrash Methodologies (Exegetical Rules)”
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid
7 Ibid
8 Ibid
9 Ibid
10 Ibid
11 Ibid
12 Ibid
13 Ibid
14 Ibid
15 Ibid
16 Ibid
17 Ibid
18 Ibid
19 Ibid