Introduction to Midrash

A little late to the party, but I made it! I first read about midrash in a book by the late Rachel Held Evans called Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. She explained midrash as “those imaginative explorations and expansions of Scripture that serve as the most common form of biblical interpretation in Jewish traditions (p. 22).” Evans called midrash a “cross between biblical commentary and fan fiction” and a way to free the text (p. 23).

There are a few more pages on midrash in Inspired, then I found Practicing Midrash by F. Timothy Moore. The teacher in me had an idea with great intention: to share midrash with the sons of God because midrash will draw us closer to God by enhancing our study of God’s Word! I planned a series that did not go as I hoped, but the information is out there for review and consideration. I hope you’ll take advantage.

This video is the beginning of the planned-not-fully-executed series on midrash. It’s an intro to the concept and three elements of midrash explained by F. Timothy Moore. Simply stated, midrash helps us free the bible to say what the bible is saying, to “enter the conversation” of the text for proper interpretation and modern relevance, and to fearlessly confront the contradictions of Scripture without feeling like we are attacking God’s integrity.

The three elements of midrash are:

  1. Free the stories to speak for themselves — Resist the urge to fix and reconcile the differences. Begin with the similarities.
  2. Listen to the stories as contrasting voices of God — Do not look at the contradictions as enemies, but as the voice of God from different perspectives. Try to overcome fixing one side to create only one view of God (we can plainly see where that’s gotten us!)
  3. Find where you want to join the divine conversation — From the earliest times until now, and even after us, the conversation about God’s Word keeps going. There’s more to learn and to apply to the current day. We know how to go deeper in our God experience in prayer, in worship. Midrash is how we go deeper in the Word. It’s not comfortable because it takes us away from indoctrination. It forces us to see what is written, not the adaptations of cute phrases and common speech that pass down through the years.
Dr. Shaunta Scroggins presents the Intro to Midrash on The Bereans’ Commentary YouTube Channel. Subscribe today!

In Practicing Midrash, F. Timothy Moore in presenting the contradiction of Creation. Yes, you read that right. There are TWO CREATION STORIES. This is powerful and directly connects to our view of God, because whichever version of God we ascribe to sets the foundation of our faith (and provides some insight on the continuum of faith we see alive and well today). Midrash is not about answers, but about paying attention to and listening to the voices of Scripture. When we explore the Bible in this way, we find God on the journey.

F. Timothy Moore’s Chart of Differences in the Two Creation Accounts (p. 14)
AuthorsThe PriestsThe Storyteller
The passages are read from the perspective that an editor put these opposing accounts together sometime after the Babylonian exile… one from the Priests of Judah and the other by a Storyteller.   The perspective of the priests was holiness;   The Storyteller describes a God who gets his hands in the dirt and comes close to fashion us.  
Name for GodElohimYahweh Elohim
Elohim (priestly version, Genesis 1)   Yahweh Elohim (Storyteller version, Genesis 2-3)    
PassageGenesis 1:1 – 2:4Genesis 2:5 – 3:24
First Creation Story (from the priestly tradition and perspective) God was holy, not like man, and far from us. This holiness theology makes God powerful, precise, methodical, and flawless. God is distant in his holiness, and we are created in his image – a reflection of God. Order is also a manifestation of holiness; God put things in their place because that is how order comes from chaos.   Second Creation Story (from the Storyteller) Not orderly. God has human qualities – he breathes, and wants to be close to us. This is not the holy God of the priests.   God resides on earth (2:4b) and notices something that is not good. It is not good for man to be alone. No theology of holiness here. God partners with humans in creation; Adam had the privilege to name the animals.   The world is complex. Everything is here in the garden, but some things are prohibited. Companionship covers nakedness, or vulnerability, but they may still be exposed. God gave warnings for disobedience. God is RELATIONAL, and involved with us – not just giving the orders…        
Period of CreationSix days, plus SabbathOne day
Order of CreationLight, sky, dry land, vegetation, sun, moon, animals, & humansEarth, a human (Adam), vegetation, animals, and a second human (Eve)
Mode of CreationMethodically plannedTrial and Error
HumansMade in God’s image Given dominion over earth Given every plant on earthBecome living souls with God’s Breath Made caretakers of the garden Given the fruit of every tree, except one
EvaluationIt was very goodSome things were not good
ConclusionGod rested on the SabbathParadise was lost
Table to visually describe F. Timothy Moore’s explanation of the two different creation stories.

If you’re interested in midrash, watch the video. At the very least you’ll be intrigued and have some awareness in your bible study time. And that’s a worthwhile effort! If there are resources we should know about, please add them in the comments. Let’s grow together in the spirit of discipleship and Godly transformation. Let’s forsake the temptation to be right, and to resolve the word of God in pretty little knots and bows to satisfy our need for answers. Amen? Amen.

Dr. Shaunta Scroggins is the founder of and lead contributor to The Bereans’ Commentary.

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