Medieval Bible Commentaries

University of Minnesota

Heb 3121: Medieval Bible Commentaries

Course Syllabus, Winter, 1995

Professor Tzvee Zahavy

This course teaches the student how to undertake the critical study of selected rabbinic exegetical texts. You will learn how to study the medieval biblical commentaries to the Torah. You will become familiar with the classical edition of the traditional commentaries, and the equivalent scholarly editions where available. This quarter the course focuses on selected medieval rabbinic texts out of the works of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Nachmanides. The course examines the content of several major selections and traces the sources of authority and the history of ideas in the materials back to the Midrash, the Mishnah, the Babylonian Talmud and other rabbinic sources. You will examine some of the following issues:

•the sources of Rashi's commentary in the books of the Midrash;

•Rashi's own contributions;

•the Rashbam as literalist;

•Ibn Ezra and the early attempts at critical study;

•Ramban as inheritor of tradition, mystic, and synthesizer;

•Samples of other commentators.

You will study specific passages in depth with all the relevant commentaries. The course introduces the student to the tools necessary for the study of these texts and guides the student in the explanation and analysis of selected pericopae.

The class will be held seminar-style. Students will take responsibility for preparing specific selections of texts and presenting them in class. Presentations will be graded, reworked and submitted in writing for final evaluation.

Grading is ABCD/NC or S/NC. Incompletes are rarely permitted.


Selected passages from the classical exegetical works.

Selections from the texts will be available for duplication.

Hebrew Editions:

Mikraot Gedolot to be supplemented by the critical editions of:

A. Berliner, Rashi on the Torah

C. Chavel, The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (Ramban)

A. Weiser, Ibn Ezra on the Torah

Secondary scholarship:

General: M. Segal, Scripture Commentaries

Focus on the problem of plain vs. fancy interpretation [peshat and derash]:

Sarah Kamin, Rashi's Exegetical Categorization: In respect to the distinction between Peshat and Derash, Jerusalem, 1986