What’s the p’shat?

Jim Davila shared a book review this morning titled “Why we need Akkadian: How One Semitic Language Sheds Light on Another.” Jim’s point in sharing was to reinforce the necessity of the humanities, particularly an obscure discipline like Assyriology, in the midst of the current cost-cutting climate.

The review reminded me of a separate, but related, point that I tried to make once:

Reading the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, is tough. For one thing, it’s very, very old, and not refracting the text through our 21st-century prism is difficult. For another, it’s written in two odd languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, in such a way that even those familiar — even fluent — in these tongues find that the simplest passages beg analysis [emphasis mine].

“What’s the p’shat?” — the basic meaning of the text — is the toughest question of all.

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