Radak's contribution to the tradition of figurative biblical exegesis
Cohen, Mordechai Z.
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Scholarship of medieval Jewish exegesis often views figurative exegesis as a reflection of philosophical and polemical considerations. This study, however, evaluates the linguistic and literary perceptions reflected in Radak's figurative exegesis. Radak clearly borrowed terminology and linguistic concepts from Ibn Ezra and Maimonides, his predecessors in the rationalist exegetical tradition. Yet he adapted these components to create an innovative system of figurative exegesis that yields a sharper analysis than provided by his predecessors.;The first part of this study outlines the three key terms Radak employs in connection with figurative language. He (1) applies the term mashal to all types of figurative language (metaphor, allegory, simile); but (2) limits hash'alah to a small number of single-term metaphors. He (3) uses melizah to signify the literal sense of a mashal.;The second part identifies Radak's contribution to the exegetical tradition by comparing him with Ibn Ezra and Maimonides, both of whom interpret biblical metaphors by providing a simple literal paraphrase. In so doing, they ignore the literary beauty of the metaphorical imagery. Radak borrows the terminology of his predecessors but more fully captures that literary beauty.;Following Maimonides, Radak uses hash'alah, in contrast to mashal, for dead metaphor, i.e. a standardized metaphorical usage that no longer activates its original sense (e.g. the leg of a triangle). Apparently for philosophical reasons, Maimonides classifies most biblical metaphors as hash'alah. Radak, however, reverses the Maimonidean hash'alah-mashal ratio and makes mashal his primary category. By isolating dead metaphor in the marginal hash'alah category, Radak limits mashal to active, poetic metaphors, for which he devises a special exegetical mode.;Radak introduces the notion of melizah in his mashal exegesis to analyze metaphor as a dynamic interaction of the image with the real-world referent. By employing distinctive formulas of comparison, e.g. "kemo x ken y," he incorporates the imagery conveyed by the melizah into his mashal readings. In so doing, he indicates that the formulation of biblical figurative language is essential to its meaning, a conception that motivates him to provide richer, more incisive figurative readings.