Sacred books, hermeneutics and exegesis - Religious studies

Sacred books, hermeneutics and exegesis

Judaism is often called the religion of the book, and for this there are reasons. It is based on the Holy Scripture (which compiled the first part of the Christian Bible, ie, the Old Testament). The composition of the latter is close to the first part of the Christian Bible, but has a number of differences, including in the order of arrangement of one hundred parts (books that make up the whole text). Usually it is called Tanakh.

The most honored part of it is the Torah (the first five books), or the Pentateuch of Moses. It is there that the Decalogue - the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai during the covenant (union) with the people. It is considered not just a inspired text, but having an unearthly origin, the very letters of it are considered to be filled with mystical power. Some theologians even believe that it existed forever as a peculiar hypostasis of God. Therefore, no random clerical errors are allowed in the text.

The Torah is not only studied and commented on, it is a liturgical book. For this purpose, only a special scroll in Hebrew is used. This is the main shrine in the synagogue. On the holiday of Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah) it is carried in a solemn procession.

Translations and transcriptions of biblical texts into conversational Aramaic were called Targums.

A huge authority in orthodox Judaism is possessed by the Talmud, which arose as a detailed theological commentary on the Bible. In terms of importance, he is second only to the Torah. In the medieval period it became the formative beginning of Jewish culture. There are two versions of the Talmud: Jerusalem (III-IV centuries) and Babylonian (III-VII centuries).

The Talmud includes the Mishnu (the oldest part that fixes the so-called Oral Law ) and Gemara (development and commenting on the Mishnah's ideas). His knowledge is an indispensable condition for a candidate for rabbis and is highly desirable for a pious believer. He acts both as a reference book, and as an interpretation of the Torah, and as a sacred text, in itself requiring careful study; he gave birth, in turn, a lot of text-comments. It contains the most authoritative opinions and instructions on the most varied doctrinal, ritual, religious and legal issues, for example family issues.

The totality of all the laws of Judaism is called Halacha, based on Written law - Torah, from which the Oral Law grows. An important halachic document is the collection Shulchan-Arukh (Covered Table), a kind of commentary on the Talmud, used as a common theological and ritual reference book. The development of Halacha is caused by the need to give interpretation to new cultural realities, which earlier simply could not have been, at the same time this process is by no means arbitrary, requiring at least authority and education.

The great authority of the Bible brought to life not only the need for interpretation of sacred texts, but also the elaboration of ways of this interpretation. This determines the great importance of the methods of interpretation for both Judaism in general, and for its theological thought. The very interpretation of the Decalogue and the Bible is a living process of interpretation that makes up the tradition.

The interpretation rests on the principle of the semantic layeredness of the text, when different interpretative rules are used to identify different meanings. Four levels of meaning have already been cited above. A number of interpreters specified both the number of extracted meanings, and interpretative procedures and reasons causing difficulties in interpretation, without introducing in them neither arbitrariness nor chaos. Even with the desirability of portable ways of interpreting a particular fragment, literal reading retains its primary importance. The main thing is the direct sense of the commentary passage. Interpretation does not affect the recognition of the divinity of the Torah.

As a result of interpretation activities, entire genres of comments on sacred books arose. The art of interpretation had an impact on science, including hermeneutics and even linguistics. In the XX century. attempts were made to decipher the text of the Torah using methods of mathematical linguistics and information theory. There are reports that the mathematician G. Cantor came to the creation of a new mathematical theory (set theory), trying to develop mathematical grounds for the interpretation of sacred texts, but Cantor's own records and his correspondence with one of the cardinals indicate that he was inspired by the mystery of the Christian Trinity.

Due to this peculiarity, theological thought in Judaism focuses on sacred texts and their interpretation and, to a lesser extent, on systematization. This determines the great role of the authoritative experts of the Law, which confirm the interpretation of the norm by the power of personal authority. The appearance of strict dogmatics is usually associated only with the activities of Maimonides. Not everyone agreed with his idea to put the teachings of Judaism in strict formulas that would approximate the structure of the dogma, for example, to the Christian model.

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