Hebrew term for "Interpretation" or "Exposition." The word generally used for any written or oral commentary on a biblical text. The original purpose of midrash was to resolve problems in the Hebrew text of the Bible. As early as the 1st c. CE rabbinic principles of hermeneutics & philology were used to bring the interpretation of difficult passages in the literal text of scripture into line with the religious & ethical values of the teachers. This method of interpretation was eventually expanded to provide scriptural pretexts to justify oral tradition. Thus, midrash exposes the values & worldview of the rabbinic interpreter & audience rather than the original intention of the author of the biblical text. There are two types of midrashim: halakhic midrash [focusing on the legal implications of a biblical passage] & haggadic midrash [non-legal expositions designed for general edification]. Haggadic midrashim may, like later commentaries, follow the narrative of a biblical text or they may be composed as homilies, following the lectionary cycle of the synagogue. The literary production of rabbinic midrashim began during the period of the formation of the Mishna [2nd c. CE].

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