Table of Contents
1.1 Objectives and Significance of the Study
1.2 Scope and Area of the Study
1.3 Method and Instrument
1.4 Case Studies and Expected Outcome
1.5 Definition of Keywords
2.2 Origin of Hermeneutics
2.3 Hermeneutics: A Historical Instrument of Interpretation
2.4 Ancient Greek Hermeneutics
2.5 Jewish Hermeneutics
2.5.2 Tanakh (Written Torah)
2.5.3 The Talmud (Oral Torah)
2.5.5 Early Practices of Jewish Hermeneutics
2.6 Christian Hermeneutics
2.6.1 The Gospel
2.6.2 Early Christian Hermeneutics
2.6.3 Middle Ages
2.7 Quranic Hermeneutics
2.7.1 Early Islamic Hermeneutics
2.7.2 Important Figures and Approaches
2.7.3 Esoteric Interpretation
2.7.4 After the Prophet
18.104.22.168 Sunni View
22.214.171.124 Shiite View
2.8 Contemporary Hermeneutics
2.9 Hermeneutics and Quranic Translation
3.2 A Philosophical Perspective
3.3 Steiner’s hermeneutic motion
3.3.1 Initial Trust
126.96.36.199 The Study Quran
3.3.2 Post-trust Motions
3.4 Case Studies
4.2 Case Study 1: Quranic Hermeneutics
4.2.1 Ta ’ wil
4.2.2 Send Down: Exclusivity of Meaning
4.2.3 The Mother of the Book
4.2.4 Knowledge of Mutashabihat
4.3 Case Study 2: Oral Tradition/Transition
4.3.1 Read & Recite
4.3.2 A Revival of Authentic Recitation
4.3.3 Translation and Original Message
4.3.4 Spiritual Touch
4.4 Case Study 3: Intertextuality in the Quran
4.4.1 Ruh al-Qudus: The Holy Spirit
4.4.2 The Inheritors of Earth
4.4.3 Names and Terminologies
4.4.4 Hapax Legomenon
4.5 Case Study 4: Quranic Imagery and Translation
4.5.1 Throne and Pedestal
4.5.2 The Light
4.5.3 Nazi’at: Angelic Mythos
5.3 Suggestions for Further Research
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
This study claims to have studied the pragmatic use and role of hermeneutics and intertextuality in translating esoteric and mystical contexts of the Quran. Thus, it examines and reviews such highly esoteric and mystic contexts by performing a comparative but descriptive analysis on two of the scholarly translations of the Quran ever produced: The classic translation of the Quran by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1930) that was the first scholarly translation produced by a native English scholar who was also a Muslim convert, and the latest scholarly translation of the Quran by Seyyed Hossein Nasr (2015), a professor of philosophy, comparative religion and mystic teachings. The purpose of the study is to show how the effective use of an intertextual hermeneutics can help increase the functionality and naturalness of the translation that are the keys to reach to the minds of Western readers who would experience a spiritual encounter with the theophany of the religion of Islam that is its central message, the Quran. The study uses Steiner’s (1975) four-fold hermeneutic motion to perform a comparative and intertextual examination on four major Quranic themes that are Quranic hermeneutics (ta’wil), verbal/oral transmission of the Quran, Quranic intertextuality, and Quranic imagery. The significance of the study is based on two justifications; the issue of authority over a particular discourse that inevitably is realised in translating the Quranic message for Western audience, and the flagrant chasm that exists between hermeneutical and translational studies of the Quran. The findings suggest that using an intertextual hermeneutics or any consciousness over that can facilitate the functionality and naturalness of the translation for Western receivers of the translation that have the essence of their spirituality forged based on Judeo-Christian discourse; considering the dramatic similarities that naturally happen among Abrahamic faiths.
Throughout the history of scholarly literature, hermeneutics has always had a close connection with translation. In fact, as some translation studies scholars claim, translation, in essence, is nothing more, but an interpretation of meaning (Gutt, 2000). On the other hand, the very existence of hermeneutics came to be as a result of man’s perennial confusion in fathoming the endless depth of sublime, but spiritual meanings which among the most important ones are canonical and Heavenly revelations. It is as if, the more religious scholars studied the meaning of such texts, the more they came to notice the gnostic and arcane meanings that were glowing at the enduring heart of such literature.
Regardless of the Judeo-Christian hermeneutics that contributed a great deal to the field, Quranic hermeneutics (ta ’ wil), as a newly born field of study, has very much to offer when it can enjoy and borrow a great deal from different hermeneutics schools specifically when the element of intertextuality can play well in the interpretation of esoteric and mystical verses of the Quran. On the other side, when it comes to the translation of Heavenly revelations, alongside having a deep linguistic knowledge both in the source and target languages, the translator needs something more (he needs to go beyond the calcified boundaries of linguistics and considers extra-textual elements) to produce a natural, effective and functional translation; an issue which can also be related to the recently noticed topic of translator’s disposition and habitus that does not limit translation to textual and immediate context, and it is a delicate point that also separates hermeneutics from exegesis (Simeoni, 1998, pp. 21-2). Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate the translation of those esoteric and mystic verses of the Quran via an effective use of hermeneutics and intertextuality. In other words, in this study, on the basis of a comparative examination, it is investigated and reviewed how a good and deep knowledge of hermeneutics and intertextuality can help translator in producing a more functional and natural translation that can make it possible for translation to serve the same function in target language (TL) as the original/source text (ST) does in the original language (Steiner, 1975, p. 299).
The reason for choosing the mystical and esoteric context is due to its complex nature of recognition and interpretation that regardless of translation, it has always been a matter of controversy and dispute among different schools of thought, which in later times, made them separate their ways of reading and interpreting of the Quran. In order to review the functionality and naturalness of the translations, this study extensively uses the element of intertextuality in its hermeneutics methodology to revive and maintain the same contextual features in TT as they originally give an exclusive character to ST. The theoretical approach is based on George Steiner’s four-fold hermeneutic motion that along with observing translation technicalities, it also channels in extra-textual features in offering a functional, natural and loyal translation to maintain the balance of the textual relationship.
1.1 Objectives and Significance of the Study
One of the reasons for doing this comparative study, regardless of the technicalities, is a descriptive review on the impact of belief, education, and culture of the translators, and consequently the interpretation which can be conceived by reading these two works. In fact, the role of interpretation is so extensive that one slight hermeneutical difference can change the whole course of a religion and bring about extremely opposite beliefs; as it classically happened In Shite and Sunni schism (Hazelton, 2010). Furthermore, it even caused remarkable differences in the same sect in terms of different hermeneutical readings of the Quran. As in our contemporary time, we can witness dramatic brutalities committed by radical followers, or mild compromise and intellectual treatment of religious Intelligentsia. In addition, they each justify their own principles via their own subjective readings and interpretive traditions of the Quran that is the theophany and canonical message (book) of this religion. Added to the depth of confusion, one also has to deal with the mystery of variant readings (recitation) of the Quran and the diacritic nature of Arabic language in which the meaning is very much subjected to the style of reading and recitation. On the other hand, the West has always had problems in understanding Islam. Western readers have long been very much under the influence of the orientalist translation and post-colonial movements toward the Quran (Said, 1978, pp. 63-65). This issue makes the translation of the Quran a delicate and risky task that only a few select might be competent to get to the work of translation.
The general hypothetical thought in the study is that having a deep knowledge both of intertextual hermeneutics and linguistics can help translators in producing a more accurate, functional, and natural translation for Western readers that makes them feel the honest visage of this noble message. Moreover, translation cannot happen without understanding and interpretation, and besides, that would be extremely difficult to go through the author’s, translator’s or reader’s minds to see their depth and scope of understanding. Thus, in every worthwhile translation, hermeneutics should be considered as an essential element in eliciting the closest, possible understanding and interpretation or even knowing how to go along during the interpretive process without necessarily reaching the final or original meaning. In fact, in hermeneutical studies, one needs to investigate the deepest layers of the author’s and translators’ minds via analysing the text and taking into account all the other possible factors that could simply contribute to this process so as to produce a more effective, natural and accurate translation.
The major motivation to work out toward an esoteric and mystical theme is the complex nature of meaning in such topics. Furthermore, hermeneutics is exclusively interwoven with complexity in nature. In fact, every mystical and esoteric reading is a hermeneutical quest. Another significance of such a study is the chasm that exists between hermeneutical and translational studies. There is also the issue of authority in introducing Quranic literature into Western culture. In fact, we are living in an age where the West, more than any other time, is willing to have a comprehensive understanding of the reality of Islam. There have been serious movements since the 9/11 in the West in taking a deeper labour to study the theophany of Islam that is its book. Many works have been produced and translated, a sheer number of articles have been written, to expand Western understanding of this faith. Thus, inevitably there should surface a discourse that prevails in such a movement, and the question to ask is who has got the authority to dominate and standardise such a discourse? Who has the authority to superimpose his reading and interpretation of the Quran to be later followed by ardent aficionados who based on their religious leaders’ interpretations can be as brutal and savage as the ISIS, or as compromising and pacifist as Muslim intelligentsia?
There is a verity of perspectives within the Islamic community, and they each claim the authority. As a result, when it comes to creating a discourse, there is the natural and inevitable issue of who has the right to have the upper hand? Who defines the outlines, the techniques, and the philosophy of such a delivery? Considering the nature, character, and contexts in which the translations in this study have been chosen, the issue of authority can also be challenged and shown in terms of the words and their functions that are in direct relationship with the complex interpretive minds and core of an ideology. One of the areas where the boundaries of interpretations can clearly be seen is in mystical and esoteric themes of Quranic studies that can help us perceive and show a clear image of interpretive discrepancies. Thus, this study, by applying Steiner’s hermeneutic motion, investigates the translation of mystical and esoteric verses of the Quran in terms of functionality and naturalness that can be attained via intertextuality.
1.2 Scope and Area of the Study
This comparative study of translation on the Quran will cover those verses whose very interpretation and as a result translation, would not be that easy to achieve specifically in the case of those verses that whose nature is to be considered mystical and esoteric. In fact, much of the research done in comparative studies of the Quran have mainly followed extreme methodologies in putting too much emphasis either on technicalities or totalities. They either pay too much attention to structural and mechanical features such as semantic or syntactical features or try to give a general account of the whole process and motivation behind the translation. On the other hand, In the case of hermeneutics, we come across a pure and calcified examination of mystic and esoteric analysis of the Quran which contains everything but translation technicalities. In fact, they very much focus on the interpretation and commentary that miss the technical review of the translation. Here, the study will try to pay attention to both aspects and keep in consideration an effective compromising notion toward the issues of combination; in order that bridge the gap between technicality and totality. Therefore, this study tries to answer the following questions:
1. How can a good knowledge both in hermeneutics and intertextuality help a translator in dealing with highly mystical and esoteric verses of the Quran?
2. How can a comprehensive knowledge of hermeneutics and intertextuality facilitate the process of a translator’s comprehension and improve the naturalness, accuracy and, functionality of the translation for TL readers in terms of a descriptive analysis?
1.3 Method and Instrument
In order to investigate the theoretical framework of this study, two of the most scholarly translations of the Quran by two erudite personages of literary writing and philosophy were chosen: Pickthall’s 1930 translation, and a recent collective work of 2015 titled as The Study Quran under the supervision of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a famous scholar in the area of philosophy and comparative religion. The reason for choosing these two works is due to the erudition of these two personages in studying religion, philosophy and literature, though the temporal and subsequently cultural gap cannot simply be ignored. An important point that should not be overlooked in this comparative study is that The Study Quran is a recent and collective project whose main editor and supervisor Nasr, a Twelver Shi'a Muslim, has been living in the West for years. On the other hand, Pickthall’s translation though today is considered a brilliant and classic work, received extensive clues and guidance from Islamic academia which among the most important ones Al-Azhar University can be mentioned that may bold out the influence he received from Sunni fundamentalists in performing his translation (Fremantle, 1938). In other words, in studying these two works, the background and spiritual mindset of the translators will also be considered as an important factor in shaping the translation. Furthermore, Pickthall’s translation was the first work whose translator was a prolific native English scholar and at the same time a Muslim convert. No two other translations of the Quran can provide us with this scholarly weight of erudition. The methodology applied enjoys the philosophical approach of George Steiner’s hermeneutic motion that takes the core of translation beyond its linguistic boundaries.
1.4 Case Studies and Expected Outcome
The study will go on based on a comparative study between those verses that from an esoteric and mystical perspective are of great importance. These verses are those with apocalyptic, prophetic, eschatological, supernatural, visionary, intuitional, and occult contents. Based on a selective method that emphasizes the importance of the themes in Quranic literature (the section was done according to the weight of emphasis in post- Quranic and interpretive literature), the verses were chosen, and in terms of a comparative study, the translations of these verses were studied based on a hermeneutical and intertextual context while keeping in consideration the linguistic technicalities such as semantics and syntax. In performing this hermeneutical and contextual study, similar contexts and texts were used that can facilitate the process of comprehension and resuscitation of the message and language both in ST and TT. The main theme of the study centres on the comprehensive use of hermeneutics with having an eye on intertextuality by making the most out of other related literature in three major Abrahamic religions that are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The study is expected to show how a comprehensive use of hermeneutics and intertextuality in translating esoteric and mystical texts can influence the final product of a translator in terms of naturalness, accuracy, and functionality. In fact, as it should be expecting from this comparative study, this influence can simply be felt when the translation is read in terms of more natural, accurate, and functional features. And this impact can also be shown by going through other texts and factors that are highly essential in receiving the best possible interpretation.
1.5 Definition of Keywords
Hermeneutics: The method, art, and science of interpretation first of texts, and secondly of the whole social, historical, and psychological world (Blackburn, 1994) Intertextuality: The need for one text to be read in the light of its allusions to and differences from the content or structure of other texts; the (allusive) relationship between especially literary texts (Bloor & Bloor, 2007).
Esoteric (of Esotericism): Intended for or understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest (Nasr, 1989).
Mystical (of Mysticism): Belief in union with the divine nature by means of ecstatic contemplation, and in the power of spiritual access to domains of knowledge closed off to ordinary thought. Also applied derogatorily to theories that assume occult qualities or agencies of which no empirical or rational account can be offered (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy).
Comparative study: Description or analysis of a single ST-TT (source text; target text) pair or a comparative analysis of several TTs of the same ST (into one or more TL (target language)). Smaller-scale of studies can build up into a larger body of translation analysis looking at a specific, period, language or text/discourse type (Holmes, 2004). Exegeses: critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture (Jahn, 1993) Natural translation: A translation that can serve the function as the original text does in a language (Steiner, 1975).
Although there may not be clear evidence on the exact origin of hermeneutics, the term itself can give us some clues to the point of its classic development. Furthermore, considering the seraphic nature of Heavenly revelations, one cannot overlook the religious and spiritual roots of its development (Manoussakis, 2016). However, there is one point that unites the philosophical and religious perspectives on hermeneutics, and that is when the essential function of both came to be recognised as a result of man’s perennial obsession in the quest for understating convoluted meanings (Osborne, 2007). This intricacy of meaning had actually been the very first incentive that led to a need to grasp every worthwhile meaning in its “totality”. In this regard, one can technically justify the very need that led scholars and spiritual seekers to invent and practice hermeneutics. In other words, in every hermeneutical effort, we come across a few factors without which a practical incentive cannot be justified: First we have to have a meaning of complex and unusual nature, second the need and urge for understanding and grasping that meaning that is highly functional per se (Kincheloe, 2008).
2.2 Origin of Hermeneutics
Historically and philologically the term ‘hermeneutics’ comes from a Greek origin: hermeneutikos meaning "interpreting," that comes from hermeneutes meaning "interpreter," from hermeneuein"to interpret," considered ultimately a derivative of Hermes (hermeneutic, 2017). Mythologically, it relates to the Greek god, Hermes, a master of oratory, literature, rhetoric, and poetry who was responsible for delivering the message between gods and men, and also between gods themselves (Brown, 1990). This intermediary role of Hermes in delivering the message can draw attention to the difference that happens between two worlds of understanding, and two levels of complexity; one considered to be of ephemeral, corporal and literal nature, and the other of sublime, ethereal and metaphorical. One of the initial bedrocks of historical hermeneutics is reviewing and interpreting texts in accordance with their original and contemporary contexts. It is a required step in every hermeneutical effort to first investigate the meaning, and then, seek interpretation in the original context in which the text under discussion was originally produced (McLean, 2012, p. 89).
2.3 Hermeneutics: A Historical Instrument of Interpretation
Hermeneutics might mostly be introduced as a methodology of interpretation induced by changes happening historically, and culturally when our preconception may have influenced our way of having things and ideas interpreted (Audi, 1999). In other words, people change as their perception and explanation change too. A good example in this regard is the word ‘logos’, a Greek word that first came to mean , word (any sign for a sound of communication), speech, discourse, also reason (logos, 2017). It first gained its classic meaning and interpretation via the great works of ancient Greek philosophers importantly in Plato’s Theaetetus, and in Aristotle’s Ars Rhetorica (Rahe, 1994). Later, it found its way in Judaism and was used in a religious sense to be interpreted as the Word of Yahweh that is the Torah (Heschel & Tucker, 2006). Hellenistic and Neo- Platonist philosophers also used it in a mystical and esoteric sense. In Christian theology, it appeared to be interpreted as the Word of God incarnate in Jesus (Hillar, 2012). In Islamic gnostic teachings, the word ‘logos’, under the influence of Greek Platonic philosophy, was translated to aql (ﻞ ﻘﻋ) that in Arabic means ‘intellect’. Other Muslim scholars followed a mystical Quranic approach, and interpreted ‘logos’ to be the Prophet himself as the Quran has given him the title of ‘Seal of the Prophets’ (33:40), who is "both a manifestation of the Logos and the Logos itself, both the beginning of the prophetic cycle and its end, and being its end and seal, as one who has contained from an essential and inward point of view the whole prophetic function within himself." (Nasr, 2004). There is a verity of interpretations, and all schools of hermeneutics justify their own hermeneutics by offering a subjective hermeneutics, and they also add more credit to their works based on their own understanding of the Quran. For example, a classic Islamic interpretation of logos is kalimat Allah (“Word of God”) or al-insan al-kamil ("Universal/Perfect Man"), and its manifestation is understood to be the Quran which is the central reality and theophany of this religion (Daftary, 1992). Therefore, if someone today is going to interpret and translate such a word, first he has to figure out the proper historical and cultural context, and the function of the word in which it was first used and served. In fact, he has to go through the minds of the author and people of that time and their culture to understand the word as people during that time understood and interpreted; a key step without which interpretation would be an utter failure. Thus, the question to ask is, did hermeneutics in ancient Greek mean what we make sense of today? In order to answer the question, we either need to go back to the past and ask those great philosophers, and live the life of their people to get an alike perception of the meaning that technically is impossible, or we can appeal to a method and instrument that can get us somewhere quite close to their understanding that can only be achieved by hermeneutics.
2.4 Ancient Greek Hermeneutics
Generally, in ancient Greece, hermeneutics did not mean an exclusive methodological investigation on complicated meanings as we have defined today (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy). In Plato's vocabulary, hermeneutics1 was used in its derivative Greek form that presented three meanings. In his dialogue, Cratylus2, he first speaks of herm ê neia that owes its origin to Hermes. Regardless of mythology, he emphasises on the intermediary role of “hermeneut” who was a messenger (angelos) between gods and men. The second use refers to dialektos, that is, conversation. In the Statesman and Epinomis, he speaks of ‘mantic’ art (mantik ê), and again refers to gods and men relationship that is the art that can help us communicate the will of gods, but not the art of interpreting gods’ revelations. However, he mostly used the term herm ê neia to mean “expression”. A good example can be found in the Theaetetus where “logos” is expressed in the sense of herm ê neia to show how the difference between one object is expressed in terms of the other that rather found its way in deconstructionism developed by Heidegger and later on Jacques Derrida (Norris, 2002).
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates speaks of a kind of meaning that has an odd nature (atopoi) and is in need of further investigation (episkepsis). However, the hermeneutics in ancient Greece did not offer a methodology of interpretation, but rather the mystical message itself was the centre of emphasis. In Socrates’ belief, there is something beyond the facade of every written and spoken word and structure that grammarians and herm ê n ê s cannot have them explained to us. This is a view that can effectively be related to the Heidegger’s “explained” and “understood” notion of the meaning, which is to say, there are meanings that we can understand and we can easily have them expressed and explained to others, and there are meanings that we can only understand
without been able to have them taken off our minds (Steiner, 1975). For Socrates, the idea of atopoi lies in spoken words. In the Philebus, Socrates uses the word herm ê n ê s in a communicative context to refer to the role of translator. The only place that Plato's usage of hermeneutics virtually suits our contemporary issues is in the Ion, where he discusses the relationship between gods, poets, and rhapsodes, and explains how the rhapsodes should be the herm ê nea of the mind of the poets, and further he points out how the poets are the herm ê n ê s of gods. Recognising the track of the context, some contemporary scholars came to translate herm ê n ê s to ‘interpreter’ (Grondin, 1994, p. 22), though some like Woodruff (1983) have argued that the meaning of the thought of the producer might be in direct contradiction to the textual meanings; therefore, they offered a different definition of the word.
In Aristotle’s vocabulary, hermeneutics is entangled with the art of ‘expression’. In the Poetics 1450b14, he describes language (lexis) that is a defined ‘expression’ (herm ê neia) through words. In other words, a lexis can go beyond its formal meaning and signifies something that is not the same as the usual meaning (herm ê neu ê tai). In the Topics 139b13-14, he categories two types of expression that are the clear form (sophestat ê t ê i herm ê neiai), and the unclear form (asaphei t ê i herm ê neiai). As he suggests, the one who tries to define the meaning should choose the clear form of ‘expression’ over the unclear form of expression because the very purpose is to facilitate the understanding of the audience. Ironically, one of the major works of Aristotle is titled as Peri herm ê neias (translated as On Interpretation) that has little to do with our modern perception of hermeneutics (Aubenque, 2009: 107, and Palmer, 1969, pp. 1-20), though some might consider it one of the earliest works dealing with the subject of interpretation. At the very beginning, he discusses the nature of the word and shows how words in terms of their functions (verbs, names, affirmations and so on) can be used in the sense of “expression”. He sees the relationship between words and meaning as a result of a natural similarity and not a case to be investigated for its convoluted interpretation. In one of his major treaties, De Anima 420b20 (literally means “on the soul”), where discusses the features of souls, he uses the word herm ê neia to mean 'communication'. In his notion, the tongue has two natural functions: One to taste that is not related to the subject of discussion, and the second that happens as a result of man's inherent inclination that is his pursuit of the good or herm ê neia, and in this context, he uses it to mean dialekton. We may notice that Aristotle’s use and emphasis on the tongue can give some clues to the oral nature of his notion of communication that is highly of expressive disposition and is similar to what Plato depicts as dialogue.
In the case of Greek ancient poetry, we can mention two main sources that offer cases of “interpretation”, though, in terms of our modern contemporary context, there might be some differences. Two of the famous characters are Pindar (522-443 BC) and Aeschylus (525-456 BC) who in their works, refer to a need for hermane ô n, one who has the skill and knowledge of getting complicated meanings clearly explained to those who may not have gained a good understanding. However, some have argued that this reading can also be related and translated in terms of literary and poetic contexts that is similar to Plato’s similar definition of herm ê n ê s that is based on an “expressive” language rather than “interpretive” (Palmer, 1969, p. 139). Aeschylus uses the word to rather mean a scale for recognising the truth from falsehood. Moreover, we should not overlook the consideration for the possibility of subjective reading of such texts that may lead the translator to come up quite with a different interpretation. Overall, there are two important points that can be understood from the hermeneutical activities in ancient Greece. The first is that during that time, “hermeneutics” was not what we today refer to mean an art, science, and methodology of “interpretation,” and it rather dealt with the art of “communication” and “expression”. The second point is about the nature of “hermeneutics” that was not a text-based investigation, and it mostly happened and practised in an oral communication context, though we should not miss the point that the Greeks realised the possibility of a hidden and abstruse meaning in words that mostly happened in mystical and poetical contexts.
2.5 Jewish Hermeneutics
Jewish hermeneutics or technically, Talmudic hermeneutics, has a long and obscure history. There is no recorded and authentic history on the exact origin of Jewish hermeneutics, though the survived interpretive texts have a well-organised and comprehensive corpus (Lieberman, 1962; Tigay, 1983). The very basis of Jewish hermeneutics centres on the Torah. In fact, a great deal of post-revelatory literature was produced as a result of Jewish scholar’s efforts to explain and elucidate the message of the Torah. However, before exploring the Jewish hermeneutics, it is necessary to give a brief introduction to the reality of the Torah that may be helpful in defining the nature of Jewish hermeneutics.
וֹתּ) is a Hebrew word mea ning"instruction”, “guidance”,רה:The word Torah (Hebrew or “teaching". It is considered as the central text of Judaism, though it may connote other meanings (Whitmore, 2013, p. 50). The word “Torah” can also have different meanings in different contexts; that is why sometimes it gets a bit problematic to clarify its point of reference. This issue can highly be related to the underlying process of hermeneutical thinking of the Jews, since the very first days of emergence of Jewish interpretive tradition. The first or perhaps the oldest point of reference for “Torah” is the Pentateuch3 or the first five books of the Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) (Sailhamer, 2012). As the Jewish tradition has it, these books were written by Israelite leader, Moses. The Pentateuch is often called the Five Books of Moses or the Torah. However, there is a second sense for Torah in which it refers to the entire Jewish Bible that is the total body of Jewish scripture, and for Jews, it is the Tanakh (Tanach) or Written Torah, and for non-Jews especially for Christians, it is the Old Testament. In a more ordered sense, it also refers to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings (Houston, 2013).
2.5.2 Tanakh (Written Torah)
The Written Torah is divided into three main sections: Torah (The Law), Nevi ’ im (The Prophets), and Ketuvim (The Writings). Although there are slight differences in the numbering of verses and some significant differences in the translations, the text of each
book is more or less the same in Jewish translations as what you can see in Christian Bible. There is no well-documented and historical record on when it came to be collected in its current status. However, according to the Talmud, it was first collected by the Great Assembly (Anshei Knesset HaGedolah 4 ), and since 450 BC, it remained unchanged (Katz, 2000, p. 353).
2.5.3 The Talmud (Oral Torah)
In addition to the written Torah, the Jews also have an “Oral Torah” that is a traditional explanation of what the Scriptures mean, and it offers methods on how to interpret and apply the Laws. In the opinion of Orthodox Jews, God taught Moses the Oral Torah, and Moses taught that to others until the present day (Grishaver, 2003, p. 34). This tradition of teaching and interpreting had been being delivered orally until the second century AD that the oral Law was compiled and recorded on written documents that are the Mishnah5. Furthermore, over the course of time, the Jews living in Jerusalem and Babylon, developed more interpretations on the Mishnah and recorded them. This post- Mishnaic interpretation was later called the Gemara6. The Mishnah and Gemara were completely collected together in the 5th century to be called the Talmud (Pasachoff, 2005). However, there are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud that is more comprehensive, and when speaking of the Talmud, the Jews usually refer to that. There have also been some other interpretations on the Talmud by Jewish scholars like Rashi (AD 1040-1105) and Rambam (AD 1135-1204). The latest interpretation on the Talmud was done by Adin Steinsaltz (1989) in which along with his own commentary, he makes comprehensive references to the Mishnah, Gemara, and Rashi commentaries. From a textual point of view, Mishnah is considered among abstruse Jewish literature. One of the major problems in reading the Mishnah is its diverse and rather indecisive stance of interpretation toward different issues that is in opposition to Jewish scholastic and prescriptive thoughts.
The Midrash (Plural, Midrashim) is as well another interpretive text in Jewish literature which is a large collection of writings that interprets the Hebrew Bible in the light of oral tradition. Midrashic activity reached its height in the 2nd century AD with the schools of Ishmael ben Elisha (90-135 AD) and Akiba ben Joseph (50-173 AD) (Heschel, 2006). The Midrashim are divided into two groups: Halakhah, which clarify legal issues; and Haggadah, non-legal writings intended simply to enlighten (Russel & Trible, 2006). The Midrashim are extensively quoted in the Talmud. The contents of the Midrash are mostly story-like explanations on incidents of the Bible in order to extract principles or Jewish law or to teach moral lessons.
The Jewish faith is highly mingled with interpretive texts that makes studying Jewish texts a hermeneutical routine. This point can mainly be felt when in Judaism we have sheer amount of post-Torah literature that the main motive for their production was a hermeneutical one. Thus, it can be said that the core of Judaism, in essence, is first based on interpretation. On the other hand, Jews living in exile for a long time experienced the scholarly cores of different cultures and civilisations that made them give an important attention to translation. Specifically, when Jews returning to Jerusalem after a long time of exile, realised that they were in danger of losing contact with one the important pillars of their religion that was the Hebrew language. Their language was something beyond a cultural and historical legacy to preserve; for Jews, the Hebrew language was a divine identity. A good example is this regard is the phenomena of Targum (plural, Targumim) that was actually spoken paraphrase, explanation, and expansion of the Jewish scriptures (also called the Tanakh) that a Rabbi would give in the common language of the listeners, which was often in Aramaic. In fact, there were any of several translations of the Hebrew Bible or portions of it recited into the Aramaic language. The word Targum originally indicated a translation of the Old Testament in any language but later came to refer specifically to an Aramaic translation (Garcia, 2016). After the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem (AD 70), Targumim became established in synagogues, where Scripture was read aloud with a translation in Aramaic. These readings and “recitations” eventually were mostly in the form paraphrase and commentary. Writing down the Targum was prohibited; nevertheless, some Targumatic writings appeared as early as the middle of the first century AD, though they were later not recognized as authoritative as the Jewish original Scriptures by the religious leaders (Franz, 1912). Some subsequent Jewish traditions (beginning with the Babylonian Jews) accepted the written Targumim as authoritative that finally caused an obsession in Judaism that later became a matter of controversial and long debates. Today, only Jews from the Republic of Yemen continue to use the Targumim liturgically (Heide & Derheid, 1997, p. 22). Targumim were considered as authoritative throughout the Talmudic period and began to be recorded in the 5th century. Other than to mean "translate", the verb Targum also means "to explain" (Philip, 1992, p. 320). The word Targum refers to "translation" and “argumentation” or "explanation" (ibid). This phenomenon of Targum can tell us about Jews view toward translation that was highly an interpretive practice.
2.5.5 Early Practices of Jewish Hermeneutics
There is not much availed on the exact origin and practice of Jewish hermeneutics. However, there are a few historical records on the early Jewish hermeneutical practices. The oldest records refer to the three Jewish sects that were the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. Each of these Jewish sects had a unique attitude toward the interpretation of the Pentateuch insomuch as that their attitudes sometimes reach a tough social encounter, and based on such beliefs and ideologies, they had separated their ways of living and interpreting.
The Sadducees were a Jewish orthodox priestly sect that flourished for about two centuries, until the destruction (AD 70) of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The Sadducees were generally richer, more conservative, and better connected to political matters than their rivals, the Pharisees. They believed in strict interpretation of the Torah and thus, rejected such ideas as the immortality of the soul, bodily resurrection after death, and the existence of angels. They viewed Jesus' ministry with mistrust and are believed to have played some part in his death. Their wealth and complicity with Roman rulers made them unpopular with the common people. The Sadducees were best famous for their literal interpretation of the Bible. Their written interpretation of the Pentateuch has mostly survived in the Talmud (Halivni, 1998). Compared to other sects, they had a rather liberal view toward the interpretation of the Scriptures. They played an important role in religious and political matters, and their arguments with Pharisee are famous. They also had clashing ideas with the Essenes over basic principles of Judaism (Freedman & Kuhlken, 2007, p. 79). A central figure among the Sadducees was Caiaphas7 (AD 37-100). The Sadducees rejected the Pharisees teachings because they believed that some of their teachings which later had become law were not in the written Laws of Moses. They were very much in favour of written laws and saw the oral interpretation of the Pharisees as a means of gaining authority rather than keeping the Divine Laws (Hesche, 1998).
After the Sadducees, the Pharisees had an important position amongst the Jewish sects. They were members of a Jewish religious party in Palestine that emerged 160 BC in direct opposition to the Sadducees. The Pharisees believed that the Jewish oral tradition was as reliable as the Torah. They did a great deal to democratise the Jewish religion, protesting that the worship of the Creator was not confined to the Temple of Jerusalem and taking care of the synagogue as a centre of worship. Their belief that reason must be applied in the interpretation of the Torah and its application to contemporary problems is now an accepted principle in Jewish theology (Britannica, 2007).
A famous figure among the Pharisee whose work later became the influential methodology of Jewish hermeneutics was Hillel, The Elder (110 BC-AD 10), who was a great sage of Christ’s time. The mustering of parts of the Talmud is attributed to the Pharisees. On the other hand, the interpretations produced by liberal Jews like the Sadducees are mostly lost. This mostly happened after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple which led the Sadducees to lose their influence and their writings. Pharisees interpretation was very much under the influence of the Hellenistic thoughts mostly by Homeric knowledge of interpretation (Kwall, 2015). They were considered among the Jews who had lived in the Diaspora and imported Hellenistic methods of interpretation into Jewish hermeneutics. Among the Pharisees, Hillel and Philo of Alexandria (d. 45- 50 AD), were the central figures of the Pharisees whose interpretations of Scripture had borrowed very much from the allegorised and philosophical methods employed in the Hellenistic world.
There was also another important Jewish sect that had taken quite a different approach compared to other sects. The Essenes were members of an ascetic sect of Judaism which largely settled the northern parts of the Dead Sea between approximately 200 BC to AD 100. Compared to the other sects, they were in minority and famous for their humble and ascetic lifestyle (Taylor, 2015). The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Caves Scrolls are attributed to the Essenes. The Qumran scrolls are the remains of the literature of the Essenes that used the Scriptures as a basis for their interpretation to justify their teachings, rules, and expectations. They highly had mystic, eschatological, and messianic beliefs, and had applied such attitudes in their interpretations insomuch as their ideology was strictly opposed by the Sadducees (Freedman & Kuhlken, 2007).
In their literature, the Sadducees were referred as Manasseh8 and the Pharisees as Ephraim9. Philo further explains that the Essenes’ hermeneutics was mainly based on the oral tradition of allegorical interpretation (Hanson, 1959, p. 45). The Essene also believed that the meaning of Scripture is beyond any time limitation and the main task of the interpreters is to interpret them to meet the spiritual needs of the present time. Jesus was also believed to have access to their teachings. This kind of connection can strongly be felt in his epic encounter with John the Baptist, who was supposedly one of the Essenes. Furthermore, his ascetic teachings and lifestyle, as reported in the Gospels, can add more weight to this claim (Taylor, 2015).
Perhaps the most important and respectable figure, throughout all the Jewish hermeneutical history is no one but Hillel the Elder (60 BC-AD 9), who is considered to be the architect of rabbinic Judaism and hermeneutics. He was born in Babylonia and went to Palestine to pursue his studies under the Pharisees. He became the honoured head of the school known by his name, the House of Hillel and his carefully applied method of interpretation came to be called the Seven Rules of Hillel. He freed texts from a calcified literal interpretation and based his methodology to directly represent the Law applicable to all Jews. His legal writings were also quite instrumental in compiling the Talmud that also contains many stories and legends about his own personal life. He is rather famous as a paragon of scholarship in hermeneutics and mostly is introduced as a communal leader, whose brilliance, patience, and goodness are to be emulated by all rabbis (Britannica, 2007).
Hillel’s seven rules of interpretation were also so influential that later on, many scholars of Talmudic hermeneutics like in the Baraita10 of Rabbi Ishmael (AD 90-135) expanded their methodologies based on them. Although these seven rules are ascribed to Hillel, the existence of such rules dates back to long before him (Daube, 1949).
Nonetheless, Hillel was the first one who wrote them down. These rules are so old that even they were used in the Old Testament interpretation. Hillel’s competitive rival during those days was Shammai (50 BC-AD 30). Hillel and Shammai were both contemporary during the days of Christ’s youth. Hillel was for famous his spiritual interpretation of the Law, and Shammai had a reputation in his literal interpretation. The House of Hillel and the House of Shammai were two important centres and schools of hermeneutical activities during the days of Christ. They were also famous for their hermeneutical and interpretive encounters (Scharfstein, 2008, p. 124). Except for a few legal cases, Jesus rather followed the School of Hillel in his teachings. For example, in Matthew 7:12, we read:
Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets.
A discourse that is very close to Hillel's famous statement:
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour that is the whole Torah ... (Babylonian Talmud: Shabbath 31) The Seven Rules of Hillel are a rather a prescriptive set of systemic principles to interpret the Law. These rules are like systemised procedures in interpreting the Law. Some of these rules are the very common practice of today’s contemporary and classic hermeneutics. The idea behind most of Hillel’s rules especially rules number two, three, four, five, and six are mainly based on the notion of intertextuality:
2. G'zerah Shavah (Equivalence of expression):
An analogy is made between two separate texts on the basis of a similar phrase, word or root - i.e., where the same words are applied to two separate cases, it follows that the same considerations apply to both.
3. Binyan ab mikathub echad (Building up a "family" from a single text): 26
A principle is found in several passages: A consideration found in one of them applies to all.
4. Binyab ab mishene kethubim (Building up a "family" from two or more texts): A principle is established by relating two texts together: The principle can then be applied to other passages.
5. Kelal uferat (The general and the particular):
A general principle may be restricted by a particularization of it in another verse - or, conversely, a particular rule may be extended into a general principle.
6. Kayotze bo mimekom akhar (Analogy made from another passage):
Two passages may seem to conflict until compared with a third, which has points of general though not necessarily verbal similarity.
(Singer & Adler, 1912)
Hillel’s fifth rule, in essence, is very similar to Heidegger’s hermeneutic circle; i.e., the idea that one's understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one's understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole (Steiner, 1991)
After Hillel, Rabbi Ishmael B. Elisha expanded Hillel’s Seven Rules into the thirteen rules by subdividing them, though his hermeneutics was famous for being simple and literal. Elisha’s approach was mostly opposed by Akiba ben Joseph, an illiterate shepherd who began to study after age 40. Akiba believed that Scripture contained many implied meanings in addition to its overt meaning, and he regarded written law (Torah) and oral law (Halakhah) as ultimately one. He collected and systematised the oral traditions concerning the conduct of Jewish social and religious life, thus laying the foundation of the Mishnah (JaVee, 2017).
2.5.6 Rabbinic Hermeneutics
In rabbinic Judaism, interpretation of the text of the Torah is based on a systematic methodology called Pardes11 that treats the text of the Torah based on four treatments. The noticeable point about Padres is the dramatic similarities which happen between Christian, and Quranic hermeneutics specifically Sufi hermeneutics methodology ascribes to the sixth Shiite Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq, that prescribed four approaches in terms of the level of meaning. Furthermore, the most difficult level of interpretation happens at the fourth stage where the hermeneut has to deal with highly mystical and esoteric meanings. In rabbinic hermeneutics, this fourth level is called Sod, In Christian hermeneutics, it is called anagogical or mystical level, and in Jafar al-Sadiq's hermeneutics it refers to as the deepest realities (haqa ’ iq):
שׁפּ) —"surface" ("straight") or the literal (direct) meaning.טPeshat (
) — " hints" or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaningרמזRemez ( beyond just the literal sense.
דּ) — f rom Hebrew darash: "i nquire" ("seek") — the comparativeרDerash (שׁ (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences. ) ( pronounced with a long O as in 'sore') — "secret" ("mystery") or theסוֹדSod ( esoteric/mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation. (1906, Jewish Encyclopaedia)
This four-fold classification actually shows the contextual awareness of Jewish interpreters in treating texts in terms of function and context. Furthermore, this systematic classification can depict how the depth and functionality of the message respect the consciousness and knowledge of audience insomuch as it designates a particular (“meaning”) message for each class of audience. This classification of audiences’ level of consciousness is not specific to Judaeo-Christian hermeneutics and, in the Quranic context, we can clearly see how God clearly addresses and identifies those who are worthy of such attainments. For example, one group that is highly addressed in being observant toward such realities is ulu ᦦ l-albab12 (literally means “possessors of the kernels,”) that symbolises the inner truth and reality of the Quran.
2.6 Christian Hermeneutics
Christian hermeneutics had a long, turbulent and creative history. The earliest records of Christian hermeneutics can be traced back to the teachings of Jesus himself, recorded in the Gospels. However, similar to Judaism, it is essential to clarify what the Gospel actually means, because what we know of Christianity and its method and purpose of interpretation is in direct relation to the canonical texts of this religion.
2.6.1 The Gospel
The word “gospel” comes from the old English godspel meaning "good news" from god ("good") + spel ("story”) or message, that is the Latin translation of bona adnuntiatio, and itself is a translation of the Greek word Euangelion, translated as "reward for bringing good news" (gospel, 2017). There are four canonical gospels compiled in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Three of these traditional gospels (Mathew, Mark, and Luke) are called Synoptic Gospels13 that describe the events from a similar point of view as contrasted with the Gospel of John that was later added to the New Testament (NT). The Gospels are actually a narrative biography of Jesus Christ’s life, and his acts. Although the writings of the Gospel are attributed to the Disciples, there is no decisive evidence that these gospels were actually written by the Disciples themselves (Burkett, 2002; Ehrman, 2005). On the other hand, right before these Canonical Gospels, there are Gnostic Gospels14 that offer a different narrative of Jesus life and teachings; emphasising on the mystical and esoteric aspects.
2.6.2 Early Christian Hermeneutics
If we rely on the Canonical Gospels narratives, hermeneutics in Christianity must have begun by Jesus himself and his teachings. Throughout the Gospels, we come across numeral cases where Jesus makes extensive references to the Old Testament, or when he preaches, he uses a highly anecdotal and allegorical language. However, historical Jesus is considered as a Jewish prophet, and his teachings are based on Mosaic Law, though in terms of the interpretations he sometimes encounters the Jews letting them know how they have not understood the Law as they should have (Schäfer, 2012). Moreover, these esoteric interpretations used by Jesus had a much older root in other Jewish sects. The earliest historical documents relate Jesus’ teachings to the Essenes. Even some sources mention him as one who was the fulfilled prophecy of the Essenes (Ricca, 2010). Jesus’ ascetic lifestyle, his pacifist teachings, his practising celibacy, and even his wearing white robe with humble sandals, and importantly his close spiritual connection with John the Baptist, who was considered one of the Essenes, they all make us ponder on this claim that he was probably one of the Essenes, or at least had some access to their esoteric teachings (Mead, 2013).
In addition, the Essenes’ teachings and hermeneutics were the earliest hermeneutical activity that had dramatic similarity with Christian classic hermeneutics that dates back to the Church fathers or Apostolic Fathers. They were named Apostolic Fathers because they had direct contact with the Disciples of Jesus Christ, though they borrowed very much from Jewish hermeneutics. The early Church Fathers based theirs basic interpretive principles on the referential method of the New Testament to the Old statement. They mainly used the contemporary methodologies and the contemporary Jewish rabbinic modes of dealing with the Bible text (Lightfoot & Andrews, 2016). Amongst these Jewish scholars, Philo and his use of allegory had an undeniable influence. The Church Fathers used many scriptural quotations or allusions in their literature in the early-church period particularly in letters, sermons, and treatises intended for Christian readers. They utilized the Scripture texts or passages as illustrations of what Christians should be or do in the particular circumstances before them. This referential use of Scripture is evident, for example, in epistolary materials from some of the earliest fathers, such as Clement of Rome (d. 101 AD). A remarkable feature of the early Christian hermeneutics was the comparative stratagem of denial that gave it rather an apologetic colour. For example, they made comprehensive use of pagan sources and detailed descriptions to show the supremacy of Christian ideology over other faiths. Famous figures in Christian apologetic hermeneutics were Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) and Tertullian of Carthage (AD 160-220) who produced a remarkable amount of polemical, doctrinal, and practical exposition. These apologists used Greek philosophical ideas to facilitate the communication of Christina ideas to non-Christians. A common problem for Christian missionaries even in the contemporary time is terminological problems for communicating unique Christian ideas. For example, they may have serious problems in interpreting the meaning of the terms like "Lamb of God" to people who have never seen sheep and lambs, or "whiter than snow" to persons who have never seen snow.
There were also some radical movements like Montanism15 who established their hermeneutical methodology utterly based on spiritual visions and inspiration in which new interpretations and meanings can be attained via a direct experience of the Divine. Although they followed a spiritual path of interpretation in some of their prophetic literature, they shifted to literal interpretation specifically in their eschatology (Colver, 2009).
The use of allegorisation in the Early Church16 was also a common trend. A good example is Irenaeus (AD 130-202), a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of John, the Apostle. His major work was Against Heresies, written about AD 185, in which he used extreme cases of allegorisation in his hermeneutics that was a more pervasive form of allegorisation than that of Irenaeus had used in the Epistle of Barnabas written as early as about A.D.
1 The Greek equivantls are herm ê neusai and herm ê neia to designate an activity, hermênês to designate the individual who carries out this activity, and herm ê neutik ê to designate a particular discipline associated with this activity.
2 Cratylus (Kratylos) is the name of a dialogue by Plato. Most modern scholars agree that it was written mostly during Plato's so-called middle period.
3 The word ''Pentateuch'' comes from two Ancient Greek words that mean "five books" or "five scrolls". The Hebrew term Chumash (also Ꮱumash) is a Torah in printed form (i.e. codex) as opposed to a Torah scroll.
4 אַ, "The Menנ שׁיכּ נסת הגּדוֹלהכּ) or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (נסת הגּדוֹלה:4 The Great Assembly (Hebrew of the Great Assembly"), also known as the Great Synagogue, or Synod, was, according to Jewish tradition, an assembly of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets, in the period from the end of the Biblical prophets since the early Second Temple period to the early Hellenistic period.
5 The collection of oral laws compiled about A.D. 200 by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi and forming the basic part of the Talmud.
6 The later of the two parts of the Palestinian or the Babylonian Talmud, consisting of a rabbinical commentary on the first part (the Mishnah).
7 The Roman-appointed Jewish high priest between 18 and 37 C.E., best known for his role in the trial of Jesus.
8 Menashe, male first name (Hebrew); (Biblical) older son of Joseph; tribe of Israel which is the descended from Menashe; king of Judah who ruled in the 7th century B.C
9 Male first name (Hebrew); Joseph's second son who was born in Egypt (Biblical); one of the 12 tribes of Israel named for Joseph's son (Biblical);
10 The Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael was a baraita (Jewish oral law not incorporated in the Mishnah) which explained the 13 rules of R. Ishmael, and their application, by means of illustrations from the Torah.
11 The term, sometimes also spelled PaRDeS, is an acronym formed from the same initials of the four approaches.
12 See 2:197, 269; 3:7, 190; 5:100; 12:111; 13:19; 14:52; 38:29, 43; 39:9, 18, 21; 40:54; 65:10; 39:9.
13 The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar wording.
14 The Gnostic Gospels is a collection of about 54 ancient texts based upon the teachings of several spiritual leaders, which were written from the 2nd to the 4th century AD.
15 Unorthodox religious movement started by the prophet Montanus during the 2nd century.
16 Formative period of the Christian church before the emergence of the centralized authority of the Roman Catholic Church in the West
- Quote paper
- Saeed Majidi Golvandani (Author), 2017, The Role and Use of Hermeneutics and Intertextuality in Translating Mystical and Esoteric Texts, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/416976