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Levels of Meaning in Holy Scripture: PaRDeS

Professor Boaz Huss

Ben Gurion University

The PaRDeS hermeneutic system recieved a lot of scholarly attention - for those interested, some of the discussions in English are: Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York, 1974) 53-62. A. Van Der Heide, "Pardes: Methodological Reflections on the Theory of the four senses," Journal of Jewish Studies 34 (1983) 147-159; Moshe Idel, "PaRDeS: Some Reflections on Kabbalistic Hermeneutics,in  J.J Collins and M. Fishbane, Death, Ecstasy, and other Worldly Journeys (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995) 249-268.

Some of the scholars have noted the Chrisitian parallel, and argued for influence.  I am not sure if any of them noted the Islamic fourfold interpretation system (the late Hava Lazarus Yaffe wrote about it  but I am not sure where she published her study). Abraham Abulafia oh the other hand, developed a sevenfold hermeneutic system which was studied by Idel (Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives 235-237; Idem, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia  82-124). I would like to turn your attention to another fascinating fourfold interpretative system created by R. Isaac of Acre, called NiSAN: Nistar - hidden, Sod-secret; Emet  - truth and Emet Nehona - corect truth). Isaac of Acre's system is an exellent example of  mystical hermeneutics - his system is not intended only to reveal deeper levels of meaning in scripture, but to reach, through the interpretative activity  a mystical ascent (and finaly, a mystical union) with the divine levels that revealed in the text. I hope to publish soon a study of Isaac of Acre's mystical hermeneutics and its relation to the more famous PaRDeS.

I wonder if connections between Kabbalists and the Ghulat groups could have taken place before Sabbatianism. I remember readind Halms' exellent book "Die Islamiche Gnosis", that deals mostly with the Nusairi's, and noting many parallels to Kabbalah (especialy concerning reincarnation and cosmic cycles).  Scholars were looking everywhere for Gnostic origins of Kabbalah - yet, quite typicaly, they ignored the possible conection between Kabbalah and Gnostic Islam.

posted on Donmeh forum
Sat, 3 Jul 1999

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