Richard Zaleski

Junior Fellow
2018
In scholarship on ancient exegesis, much analysis has been devoted to problematizing concepts of the allegorical, yet not as much work has been done on aspects surrounding the literal. My project seeks to expand inquiries in this area by adding further nuance to our understanding of the so-called literal by analyzing the use of Greco-Roman paraphrase as a means of textual interpretation. Far from simply retelling the exact same story in a slightly different form, paraphrase allows an author to retell a past authoritative text with specific rhetorical goals in mind. In my dissertation, I analyze how Philo of Alexandria, a first century CE Jewish exegete, and Gregory of Nyssa, a fourth century CE Christian exegete, employ the art of paraphrase to retell key events of the biblical account of Moses' life in their respective Lives of Moses. By doing so, I investigate the tensions created between original and paraphrase through the active decisions made by the paraphrast to adapt the original. Because both authors have different concerns, they create very different texts, yet they each employ the same techniques to achieve their purposes. 
 
Because my project investigates the intersection between multiple fields, significant insights may be obtained to better our understanding of a wide array of topics. In particular, much can be gleaned concerning the shared exegetical practices between ancient Judaism and Christianity. In addition, there are even broader, contemporary implications of such a study. On account of this, the Marty Center provides a fitting venue for further conversation and refinement of my research. As a fellow, one has the opportunity to dialogue with peers in many different fields and gain insights from these interactions. The Marty Center also provides a unique opportunity to engage not only with the wider academy but also with the broader public. I am honored to be a Marty Center Junior Fellow for this year, and I hope to benefit greatly from these stimulating conversations in order to complete this project.