Friday, September 14, 2012

Another Christian Midrash (Duteronomy 30:12/13)

What was it about the first century that made is such a ripe time for Midrash making? Aside from all the Rabbis wrote, we also have the creations of the first century church, including the very famous Christian midrash on on Isaiah 7:14. Were minds raised differently then? Were people taught to be more flexible and inventive in their thinking? Or were they just raised to treat the written word with a different kind of reverence?

In any event, another famous Christian midrash can be found on a verse in this week's parsha. The words in the text, as they appear in Deuteronomy 30 are (something like)  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Whowill ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us andbring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

As Paul understands it the whole verse is about faith in Jesus, as he darshans in Romans 10
For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”  (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
This is the New King James translation. Not knowing Greek, I can't tell you how the parenthesis are handled int he original, but they are present in several translations.

In this polemic, Paul seems to turn the verse in Deuteronomy on its head. Gone is any mention of "doing" anything. Therefore, the verse in Romans is often described as a misquote. I prefer to think of it as interpretation.

As we Jews read it, the law (or the commandments, or the ability to study, or the power to give a psak,  - it depends on which Jew is doing the interpreting!) is what's present., and in our hands.

As Paul reads it, faith (in Jesus) is what we have in our hands.

When I have more time, I'll attempt to explain this further. 

Search for more information about Paul 

No comments: