chapter  2
18 Pages

Aggadah and Midrash

During the late fi rst and early second centuries there was a fl owering of midrashic scholarship that was refl ected in the emergence of two distinct schools, associated with Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ishmael. Each of these schools produced a body of interpretations to sections of the Torah that can be recognized by characteristic hermeneutical logic, terminology and the rabbis who appear in their works. When applied to legal analysis, the midrashic approach of the school of Rabbi Ishmael is more likely to treat biblical Hebrew as a natural language that is subject to normal stylistic considerations. Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, stresses the unique supernatural character of the revealed text, and derives new teachings from innocuous-looking features such as grammatical particles, superfl uous words and letters, or unusual word choices. The hermeneutical differences are less pronounced in passages that are devoted to aggadic topics.