The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

R. Yosef Kara, Andrew of St. Victor and the Special Case of the Book of Isaiah

While as early as the 19th Century, wissenschaftliche studies of Jewish and Christian exegesis of the Book of Isaiah focussed on overt Jewish and Christian polemics with respect to such examples as chapter 53 (e.g., Neubauer and Driver’s The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah, According to the Jewish Interpreters), and there has been no dearth of attention paid to key texts such as Isaiah 7:14, a thorough, comparative-contrastive investigation of Christian and Jewish interpretations of the book nonetheless remains a desideratum. The present paper seeks to prepare the ground for that very thing, by sketching out a working procedure and pointing to several trenchant examples. These latter concern both the expected differences of interpretation, rooted in the two respective religious traditions, and some of these are attended by explicit polemic. However, at other times one can discern a common hermeneutic shared by both Christian and Jewish exegetes, and among these are interpretations that are fundamentally literary (or literary-historical) in character. By redefining the central question from a narrow one that focusses on explicit, triumphal or denigratory polemics into a broader consideration of shared consensus about the reading process (the intellectual and methodological means by which exegetes of both traditions interrogate Scriptural texts), we may gain insight into a more accurate understanding of how medieval Jews and Christians received and read the Bible.