The Pesher Method

PESHAR

Another method of the Sod level (and sometimes the drash level) we must also include a type of interpretation used at Qumran (presumably by Essenes) called “Peshar” (Strong’s 6590 & 6590) the Aramaic cognate of Hebrew “Patar” (Strong”s 6622). Although this word means “interpretation” it is generally used to refer to the interpretation of dreams and visions (as in Dan. 2:4; 4:4; 5:16; Gen. 40:8) or the solution to a puzzle. The object of the Peshar method was not to interpret a Scripture simply by examining the text itself, but by reading the text with openness to the mind of Elohim, in much the way one might interpret a dream.

The “New Testament” does in fact give support for this method of interpretation:

Now we have not received the spirit of the world but the spirit that is from Eloah, so that we might know the gifts that were given to us from Eloah, Which also we speak, not in the teaching of words of the wisdom of sons of men, but in the teaching of the spirit,
and to spiritual men we compare spiritual things. For the son of man who is in the soul does not receive spiritual things, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know that which is judged spiritually. Now the spiritual man judges all things, and is not judged from man. For who knows the mind of YHWH that he might instruct him? (Is. 40:13) But we have the mind of the Messiah. (1 Cor. 2:12-16)

Now if a man from you lacks wisdom,
let him ask from Eloah,
who gives to all liberally and does not reproach, and it will be given to him. (Ya’akov 1:5)

And you also, if the anointing that you

received from him abide with you,
you will not need a man to teach you. But as the anointing is from Eloah, it teaches you concerning everything
and it is true and there is no falsehood in it. And as he has taught you, abide in him.
(1 Yochanan 2:27)

These passages do not mean that Elohim just zaps the meaning of a scripture into our heads. It does mean that the Spirit illuminates the text to us. By comparison I will have much greater success reading a text in a lighted room than in a dark room. Now this does not mean that if we are in a lighted room we need not read and study the text to understand it. In a similar way the Spirit illuminates the text and opens our minds to the text, nonetheless we must read and study the text in order to understand it.

Several examples of the Pesher method are to be found in the commentaries found at Qumran, which are therefore known as “Pesharim” (plural for Peshar). These Pesharim frequently take the form of citing a passage of Scripture followed by the words, “peshero” (i.e. “the interpretation is…”) or “pesher-ha-davar” (i.e. “the interpretation of the word is…”. Often the interpretations involved reading the recent history and beliefs of the Qumran sect (presumably Essenism) into the text.

For example the Habakkuk Commentary (1QpHab) on Habakkuk 2:4b reads:

But the just shall live by his faith (Hab. 2:4b) The Pesher is, this concerns all those who observe the Torah in the House of Judah, whom Elohim will deliver to the Beit Din because of their sufferings and because of their faith in the Teacher of Righteousness.

A similar tendency seems to have existed among the ancient Nazarenes. For example the Nazarene writer Hegesippus (c. 180 C.E.) writes concerning the martyrdom of Ya’akov HaTzadik (James the Just):

…and they fulfilled that which is written in Isaiah [3:10]

Let us take away the just, because he is offensive to us; wherefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings°.

More examples may be found in the fragmentary remains of the Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah, five portions of which are preserved by Jerome in his commentary on Isaiah.

 

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