Friday, March 18, 2016

Paradise Pi - A Slice Of Heaven

Most Bible believers recognize that the Scriptures are deeper than the words on the surface, that is, the text has layers of meaning. Christian commentaries however seldom dig past the surface meaning of the words written. Not that they're wrong (well, sometimes they are), but that they usually don't dig deeper into the text. The Jews teach that every passage has four levels, from simple to hint to insight to secret. These are the descriptions of the four levels from Wikipedia Pardes  [1]
  • Peshat (פְּשָׁט) — "surface" ("straight") or the literal (direct) meaning.
  • Remez (רֶמֶז) — "hints" or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
  • Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: "inquire" ("seek") — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
  • Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in 'sore') — "secret" ("mystery") or the esoteric/mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
Take the first letter of each Hebrew word, and you get the unpronounceable acronym PRDS, add a couple vowels and make it Pardes. In English, we could add some different vowels and make it PaRaDiSe. Pardes in Hebrew means garden or orchard, and paradise is etymologically related to it - Wikipedia Pardes [1].  "The journey into Pardes also represents our journey into deeper levels of intimacy with God our Father. It represents our journey into the relationship we once had in the Garden of Eden, hence the word Pardes ~ Paradise." - yesheva4me  [2]. In the words of Woodstock "And we got to get ourselves back to the garden." - CSNY Lyrics [3]. But remember, WE can't get ourselves to the garden - DIY Salvation [4]. Note that Pardes is not just about Bible knowledge, it is about restoring the relationship with God our Father. As we study the Bible deeper, we draw closer to God, He draws closer to us (James 4:8), we build our relationship with Him. Pardes tells us how to draw closer to Him.

The Bible also says "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." - Ps 12:6. Does this mean there are seven levels? And if that weren't enough, Jewish commentaries say "the Torah has seventy faces" Shivim Panim  [5], meaning seventy levels of interpretation. I can hardly get my head around four levels of meaning, much less seven or seventy.


The Mirror Image of Pi is Pie...

Let's look closer at these four levels of meaning - P'shat, Remez, D'rash, and Sod; or Simple, Hint, Insight, Mystery.

P'shat (Simple) is where we all begin. Take the words of scripture at face value. There are certainly figurative passages, for example when God said to Israel "I bore you on eagles' wings" (Ex 19:4), keep in mind they walked. But mostly the text says what it says. One rule of Pardes is that a deeper level cannot contradict the plain meaning of a passage. For example, when Jesus said ""Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." - Mt 5:18. You can't twist the word fulfill to mean that He did abolish the Law and the Prophets. "Fulfill" cannot contradict "not abolish".

P'shat implies to me that the text will be understood in any language, the Simple meaning will come through in a translation (531 languages so far - Wikipedia Bible Translations [6]). Not everyone has to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar.  It is my opinion that P'shat understanding is sufficient for salvation. However, understanding the text at face value is harder than it first appears, people disagree all the time over the Simple meaning of Biblical passages. According to David Barrett [7], Christianity has split into 33,000 denominations. I suspect most of the splits are over authority, not doctrine. The caution to all of us is to make sure you understand the Simple first.

Remez (hint or allegory). While the text has a Simple meaning, it alludes to something deeper. For example, Paul writes "For it is written in the Law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.' God is not concerned about oxen, is He?" - 1 Co 9:9. Paul is saying plainly the text alludes to something more than oxen.

Events, places, things, and people are often "types" fulfilled later in history or prophecy. Here is another example by Paul, writing about Sarah and Hagar, "This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar." - Gal 4:24. He comes out and says the two women are allegories of two covenants. Take that as a hint to look for other parallels between  Hagar typifying the Old Covenant and Sarah typifying the New Covenant. He continues the analogy by stating that Hagar is Mount Sinai and also the present Jerusalem, but Sarah is the new Jerusalem.

Parables are Remez. How many times did Jesus say "the kingdom of heaven is like ..."? One goal was to impart a truth (actually the point was to hide the truth Mt 13:10-11), another was to get the hearers to think. It is said that Jesus spoke to the crowds in Remez (Parable), but spoke to the Pharisees in P'shat (Simple). He spoke the D'rash (Search) only to His disciples, and the Sod (Mystery) only to James, Peter, and John - yesheva4me [2].

D'rash means to dig or to search. Pardes levels can overlap - just like Remez hints at a deeper meaning, something in a verse causes one to dig deeper. According to Wikipedia Midrash [8] "Presence of apparently superfluous words or letters, chronology of events, parallel narratives or other textual anomalies are often a springboard for interpretation of segments of Biblical text." yesheva4me [2] describes D'rash as "peering into the very core and nature of the individual words of the Bible by going back into the original languages, and other texts for the purpose of discovering and understanding intent and ideas." Yet others describe D'rash as a teaching or even a sermon, emphasizing the moral lessons revealed - yashanet [4].

Let me list several examples that might be Remez or D'rash. Perhaps it depends on how deep you dig.
  • Gen 22:3 "So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey." Abraham is about to take his son Isaac to sacrifice him. Why does the Bible record a detail like "he saddled his donkey"? 
  • John 21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn." After Jesus' resurrection, the disciples went fishing unsuccessfully till He came along telling them to throw the net on the right side of the boat. Why does it mention they caught 153 fish?
  • Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness". This verse is a challenge for monotheists who believe God is one being. Who was He talking to then? It can't be the angels, because we are not made in their image.
Sod refers to a hidden or mystical meaning of the text, something not even hinted at by the Simple meaning of the words. Often Sod is associated with Gematria, using the numerical value of letters and words to "hyperlink" words and verses together. The most familiar example is the number or the Beast (666) in Rev 13:18.  Some say Gematria falls between D'rash and Sod. Gematria can be interesting, but also taken too far. Remember, Pardes cannot contradict the Simple meaning of the text. 

Some also teach that Sod is the Zohar of the Kabbalah, the secret of the mystical tradition - Shivim Panim  [5]. I think this leads one away from the intent of Pardes, which is to draw closer to God Himself. I don't believe that one has to seek mysticism to know God, who gives wisdom freely to all who ask - James 1:5.

yesheva4me  [2] argues that the four levels of Pardes correspond to breadth, and length, and depth, and height as desribed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians. Have you ever wondered why there are four dimensions mentioned here? But notice Paul concludes by saying the love of Christ passes knowledge.

Ephesians 3
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

So What's That Got To Do With π?

One last example of Pardes, in keeping with Pi Day 2016. Consider the following verse.
"And he made a molten sea [tank], ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and its height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did circle it round about". [Holy Scriptures, p. 412]

The observant reader will note that this implies π = 3. Every school child knows that's not (quite) right. Various mathematicians and historians have assumed the ancient Hebrews thought exactly that based on this verse - Belaga [9]. We have a hint (Remez) to dig deeper (D'rash). Possible explanations.
  • Priests aren't expected to know math. Except they did the calendar calculations.
  • The value of π wasn't known then. Except the Egyptians knew it before this.
  • The laver described was an ellipse. Nope, it says it was circular.
  • The value of π isn't the point of the story. True, but ...
  • Dig deeper.
Diving into the original Hebrew, we see the word line is translated from qaveh, but the margin says qav. The margin is what is read aloud, the text is what is written. Additionally, this verse is repeated word for word in 2 Chr 4:2, except that line is translated from qav not qaveh. Diving even deeper (Sod), the gematria value of qaveh is 111, value of qav is 106. The written value divided by the read aloud value becomes a correction factor for π = 3. The understanding of this correction factor is attributed to Rabbi Max Munk, 1962 - Belaga [9] (who gives much more detail than I give here). It is unclear whether Munk rediscovered it or whether it was passed on to him.

π = 3 x 111/106 = 3.1415094...

Remarkable isn't it? On a 10 cubit circle, the error in circumference (about 47 feet) from true π is about a half inch or ten millimeters.

Of course, it might be coincidence.



No comments:

Post a Comment