The Meaning of PaRDeS: The Four Levels of Scriptural Interpretation

One of the most important hermeneutical paradigms introduced by the early and medieval rabbis is a belief that the Scriptures contain more than one layer of exegetical meaning. This intertextual approach came to be known during the medieval era by the acronym  פַּרְדֵּס”PaRDeS,” standing for “Peshat,” “Remaz,” “Derash,” and “Sod.” Briefly defined, peshat is based on the literal and factual meaning of a verse[1] and roughly corresponds to the medieval concept of sensus literalis as developed by the medieval Christian scholars Thomas Aquinas and Nicholas of Lyra: “that which the author intends.”[2] It is also helpful to remember that the early rabbinic approach of peshat serves to define the practical character of a community.[3] Remez (allusions) refers to the subtle types of word games and puns that are embedded in the text (cf. Gen. 1:31; 2:23; 6:8). Sometimes this may take the form of Gematria (numerology) Temurah (anagrams) and Notarikon (acrostics). Continue reading “The Meaning of PaRDeS: The Four Levels of Scriptural Interpretation”