What is Midrash Torah?
Teaching and Interpretation at Qumran in the Light of Rabbinic Usage

Paul Mandel

It is a commonplace that biblical exegesis plays a major role in the Qumran texts, both explicitly, particularly in the pesharim, and implicitly, through harmonization of contradictory passages, the filling of gaps in the biblical narrative, and the development of legal rules based on biblical law. It has been noted, however, that apart from the pesher technique there is surprisingly little explicitly marked exegesis of scripture, whether in legal or narrative contexts. In seeking evidence of conscious exegetical activity, attention has been drawn to the role of the doresh hatorah, variously translated as "interpreter of the Torah," or "one who studies (or, inquires of) the Torah," mentioned in several central passages in the Manual of Discipline and the Damascus Document. These and other documents also mention the "midrash" of Torah. Both terms take on central importance, of course, in later rabbinic texts. In this paper I re-investigate the meaning of these terms in the Qumran texts (with special emphasis on the recently identified final lines of the Damascus Document), in the light of rabbinic usage of the verb d-r-sh and its related terms. My conclusions address the question of the Qumran community's awareness of the hermeneutical nature of its own activity of biblical study and exegesis, especially as seen in the context of other discussions of biblical exegesis during the second Temple period, specifically in passages of Josephus and Philo.