An assiduous interest in the plain sense of Scripture and similar interpretations of particular biblical passages were shared by Jews and Christians in northern France in the mid-twelfth century. For instance, as Hugh of Saint Victor (d. 1141) was shedding light on the sensus literalis of Scripture, Rashbam (Samuel ben Meir, ca. 1085–1174) engaged in his parallel endeavor to reveal its “plain meaning” or peshat.Footnote 1 And Hugh's pupil Andrew of Saint Victor (d. 1175), in his Old Testament commentaries, attributed his knowledge of particular rabbinic interpretations to discussions with contemporary Jews.Footnote 2 Yet points of convergence between Jewish and Christian exegesis in northern France can be observed even before the commentaries of the Victorines and Rashi's disciples. The purpose of this study is to examine the midrashic interpretations transmitted at the beginning of the twelfth century in the Glossa Ordinaria and in Rashi's biblical commentaries. The affinities between these corpora are of interest because they both emerged in northern France at a similar timeFootnote 3 and because they attained unrivaled popularity among medieval Christian and Jewish exegetical works.Footnote 4 Similarities between the two have been highlighted in the studies of Herman Hailperin and Devorah Schoenfeld,Footnote 5 but the extent and significance of the overlap await a full examination. In order to consider how midrash circulated among twelfth-century Jews and Christians in France, therefore, we will first introduce the Gloss and Rashi's Commentary and then analyze an exposition they hold in common, namely, the account of Abraham in the fiery furnace.
The Glossa Ordinaria had its origins at the beginning of the twelfth century in the teaching of masters Anselm (d. 1117) and Ralph (d. ca. 1133) at the cathedral school of Laon, and of their pupil or colleague Gilbert of Auxerre (d. 1134).Footnote 6 It presents the text of the Vulgate together with interlinear and marginal glosses excerpted from the writings of patristic and Carolingian exegetes — Augustine, Jerome, Isidore of Seville, Rabanus Maurus, and many others. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, it was often simply called Glossa, “the Gloss,” further qualification being unnecessary for a standard teaching text and reference work.Footnote 7 It reached the height of its popularity by the mid-thirteenth century,Footnote 8 and later commentators interpreted and elaborated what they received as the Glossa Ordinaria, the canonical “Ordinary Gloss” on the Old and New Testaments.Footnote 9 An estimated 2000 manuscripts of parts of the Gloss are extant, and it has appropriately been described by Lesley Smith as the “ubiquitous text of the central Middle Ages.”Footnote 10
Among Jewish exegetical works, it was the Commentary of Rashi, Solomon ben Isaac, that attained such starry heights. Composed in Troyes around the end of the eleventh century,Footnote 11 it covers the entire Hebrew Bible with the possible exceptions of Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles.Footnote 12 The importance of the commentary was such that, in the thirteenth century, Moses of Coucy ruled that the talmudic obligation to study the weekly Torah reading twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic could be fulfilled instead by studying the Hebrew with Rashi. This endowed his interpretations with a unique prestige; no other commentary was a permitted alternative to the Targum.Footnote 13 Rashi's commentary was also of great importance to Christian scholars of the Old Testament, including Herbert of Bosham and Nicholas of Lyra, for whom it was a primary source of rabbinic interpretations.Footnote 14 The extensive dissemination and study of his work is borne out by the many surviving manuscripts, over 700 whole or partial codices,Footnote 15 and by the composition of numerous supercommentaries to guide readers.Footnote 16 While Christians called Rashi's commentaries Glossa Hebraica, “the Hebrew Gloss,”Footnote 17 Jews endowed him with the honorific sobriquet Parshandata, “the Interpreter.”Footnote 18 Both refer to Rashi as if there were no Jewish commentator or commentary besides.Footnote 19
Past studies of the relationship between Rashi's commentaries and contemporary Christian exegesis have focused particularly on whether Rashi responds to Christian doctrine and Christological interpretations. While Elazar Touitou interpreted Rashi's comments on Genesis 1–6 as polemical responses to the doctrines of original sin and the divinity of the Holy Spirit, Shaye Cohen found anti-Christian comments not in the Torah commentary but in expositions of Psalms that preclude messianic and Christological interpretations.Footnote 20 Studies of Jewish exegesis in the works of Christian commentators of northern France have focused on the scholars who, from the mid-twelfth century, resorted to Jews and Jewish books to further their understanding of the “literal” or “historical” sense of the Old Testament. Beryl Smalley highlighted the pioneering studies of the canons regular of the Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris and presented the commentaries of Master Andrew as a crowning achievement of twelfth-century biblical scholarship.Footnote 21 Gilbert Dahan, Frans van Liere, and Rainer Berndt have since highlighted the importance of Andrew's exegesis in increasing the repertoire of Jewish interpretations that circulated among Christian commentators.Footnote 22 The recent studies of Deborah Goodman and Eva de Visscher have drawn attention to the enterprising scholarship of Herbert of Bosham who, in the late twelfth century, learned Hebrew and consulted Jewish teachers in order to read the Hebrew Psalter and Rashi's commentary.Footnote 23 As Judith Olszowy-Schlanger has shown, later Christian scholars’ study of Hebrew texts was facilitated by the preparation of bilingual Hebrew-Latin texts in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, including copies of the Hebrew Bible and Rashi's commentary with interlinear Latin translations.Footnote 24
A study of the interpretations that the Glossa Hebraica and early parts of the Glossa Ordinaria hold in common sheds light on the exegetical insights that Jews and Christians of northern France already shared on the eve of the pioneering scholarship of the Victorines. It is not necessary to posit direct encounters between compilers of the Gloss and Jewish exegetes to explain these similarities.Footnote 25 As will be shown below, they are late-antique Jewish interpretations that had long circulated among Jews and Christians. An example is the exposition of Abraham's departure from his homeland in Genesis 11:31–12:8. Here Abraham receives the divine mandate, “Go from your land and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you” (12:1) and sets out for Canaan. The narrative poses several exegetical problems. In chapter 11, Abraham and his family are located in “ʾur kasdim.” The meaning of this obscure term, usually translated “Ur of the Chaldeans,” is difficult to deduce from the Bible alone where it occurs only four times. Genesis 12 reports that Abraham departed not from Ur, but from Charan, thereby adding to the confusion.Footnote 26 Different accounts of Abraham's age at the time pose a chronological problem — he was evidently 135 in Genesis 11 (see verses 26 and 32) but a mere 75 in Genesis 12:4. These difficulties confronted medieval Jewish and Christian readers alike, and the same solution was available to both — the story of Abraham in the fiery furnace.Footnote 27
The Furnace in the Glossa Hebraica
The term ʾur kasdim occurs three times in the Genesis narratives of Abraham's migration. Genesis 11:28 records that “Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in ʾur kasdim,” and Terah and his family afterwards left ʾur kasdim for Canaan (11:31). Genesis 15:7 relates God's subsequent address to Abraham, “I am the Lord who brought you out of ʾur kasdim.” Whatever the meaning of the term, it was evidently the place of Haran's death, of Abraham's liberation, and the starting point of his family's migration.
As the Hebrew word ʾur can mean “flame” or “fire,” Targum Neofiti renders ʾur kasdim as “the furnace of fire of the Chaldeans.”Footnote 28 That the Chaldeans possessed such a facility is well known from the third chapter of Daniel where their king Nebuchadnezzar sentenced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to a fiery death. According to Targum Pseudo-JonathanFootnote 29 and Midrash Genesis Rabba, Abraham and Haran met the same fate. The latter source (38:13) relates that Abraham perceived the futility of the Chaldeans’ idolatry, a devotion practiced even by his own family,Footnote 30 and so destroyed his father's idol workshop. For this, Terah handed Abraham over to wicked King Nimrod who committed him to the flames. Although Abraham miraculously escaped, his idolatrous brother Haran died in the furnace. Abraham's altercation with Nimrod is related as follows:
[Nimrod] said to [Abraham], “Let us worship the fire!” Abraham replied, “We should worship the water which extinguishes the fire.” [Nimrod] said, “Then let us worship the water!” [Abraham] replied, “We should worship the clouds which bear the water.” [Nimrod] said, “Then let us worship the clouds!” [Abraham] replied, “We should worship the wind which disperses the clouds.” [Nimrod] said, “Then let us worship the wind!” [Abraham] replied, “We should worship the human being who withstands the wind.” [Nimrod] said, “You are just playing with words. We will only bow down to the fire [“la-ʾur”]. I'm going to cast you into it. Let your God to whom you bow down come and save you from it.”
Haran was standing there undecided. He said, “What are the options? If Abraham wins, I'll say that I'm on Abraham's side. [But] if Nimrod wins, I'll say that I'm on Nimrod's side.” When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, [they] said to [Haran], “Whose side are you on?” He replied, “Abraham's.” They took him and cast him into the fire. His guts were scorched and when he came out, he died before his father, as it is written: “And Haran died before his father Terah (Genesis 11:28).”Footnote 31
This midrash expounds Genesis 11:28 by interpreting the term ʾur kasdim and explaining in what sense Haran died “before” (ʿal penei) his father. It treats the former as a reference to the Chaldeans’ furnace. The verse therefore indicates the place and manner of Haran's death. Due to his half-hearted opposition to Nimrod, he died in the furnace before his father's very eyes. Abraham was miraculously saved, thus explaining the later reference to his divine deliverance from ʾur kasdim in Genesis 15:7.
The story of Abraham's escape was transmitted and reformulated in many later rabbinic and medieval works, including the Babylonian Talmud,Footnote 32 Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer,Footnote 33 Midrash Psalms,Footnote 34 and the Midrash on the Ten Commandments.Footnote 35 The narrative was well known in medieval Ashkenaz, where it was incorporated into the eleventh-century piyyut (liturgical poem) ʾAsher mi Yaʿaseh ke-Maʿasekha, recited on Rosh ha-Shanah: “They cast [Abraham] into the furnace of fiery coals / But the King of Glory stretched out his right hand and mercifully saved him.”Footnote 36 An elaborate form of the narrative was transmitted in the Sefer Maʿasim in the first half of the twelfth century,Footnote 37 which juxtaposes Abraham's ordeal with the story of the Maccabean martyrs and presents it as a “sanctification of God's name” (“kiddush ha-shem”).Footnote 38
In Rashi's commentary on Genesis, the narrative appears as an explanation of Genesis 11:28. Like Genesis Rabba, Rashi focuses on the meaning of “before” (ʿal penei) and ʾur kasdim. His interpretation reads:
“[Haran died] before [“ʿal penei”] his father Terah.” [This means] during his father's lifetime. But a midrash aggadah relates that [Haran] died by means of his father Terah. This is because Terah complained about his son Abram to Nimrod as he had destroyed his idols, [so Nimrod] cast [Abram] into the furnace. Haran sat and thought to himself, “If Abram wins, I'm on his side. But if Nimrod wins, I'm on his.” When Abraham was saved, they said to Haran, “Whose side are you on?” He said, “I'm on Abraham's side.” They cast [Haran] into the furnace and he was burned up. This is the meaning of ʾur kasdim. But Menaḥem [ben Saruk] explained that ʾur means “valley.”Footnote 39 This is the case in [Isaiah 24:14 (15)], “Glorify God in the valleys [“ba-ʾurim”].” A similar instance is [Isaiah 11:8], “den [“meʾurat”] of the serpent.” Any hole or deep crevice may be referred to by the term ʾur.Footnote 40
In his famous comment on Genesis 3:8, Rashi stated, “There are many aggadic midrashim and our rabbis have already arranged them in their place in Genesis Rabba and other midrashim. But I am only concerned with the plain sense of Scripture [“peshuto shel mikra”] and with such aggadot as explain the words of Scripture in a fitting manner.”Footnote 41 In the present comment, Rashi appeals both to the plain sense of the verse and to the midrashic exposition. Sarah Kamin characterized such explanations as “dual-interpretations,” noting that the two approaches respond to the same underlying questions.Footnote 42 In this case, Rashi expounds the plain and midrashic meanings of the same terms in Genesis 11:28, “before” (“ʿal penei”) and ʾur kasdim, thus furnishing two ways to understand them.
Rashi first asserts that the term ʿal penei means that Haran predeceased his father. The subsequent midrashic interpretation may be from Genesis Rabba 38:13 (the passage cited above); if so, Rashi has paraphrased and translated the comment from Aramaic into Hebrew. He selects details from the narrative and reformulates them in such a way as to blame Terah for his sons’ punishment: because he informed Nimrod of Abraham's iconoclasm, Haran was forced to take sides to save his own skin, a wager that cost him his life. The meaning of the midrash is thereby transformed. While Genesis Rabba explained that Haran died “in front of” his father, Rashi's midrashic interpretation suggests that he died “because of” him.
Rashi then turns to the meaning of ʾur kasdim. In the light of the midrash, it means “the furnace of the Chaldeans.” But he affixes the definition in the dictionary of Menaḥem ben Saruk, the Maḥberet, to show that ʾur means “valley,” “hole,” or “crevice.”Footnote 43 Understood in this way, ʾur kasdim is the name of a low-lying place rather than a furnace.
Rashi does not state explicitly which of the two explanations of ʿal penei and ʾur kasdim is correct or whether both are contained within Scripture. Kamin argued that, in such cases, the plain and midrashic meanings are coexistent; the former is stated explicitly to ensure that it is not abrogated by the midrash.Footnote 44 Rashi's exposition of ʾur kasdim elsewhere in his commentary appears to confirm that he understands it both ways. He treats it as a place name in his comment on Genesis 24:7, where the “land of Abraham's kindred” is glossed as ʾur kasdim.Footnote 45 Nevertheless, at Genesis 14:10, he cites the narrative of Abraham's escape from the Chaldeans’ furnace.Footnote 46 In the present comment, therefore, ʾur kasdim is a place name with a midrashic meaning.
The Furnace in the Glossa Ordinaria
The narrative of Abraham in the furnace was also relayed by Rashi's Christian contemporaries in northern France to explain Genesis 11:28. It appears several times in the Glossa Ordinaria on Genesis, whose compilation has been attributed to Gilbert of Auxerre in the first quarter of the twelfth century.Footnote 47 Most of the glosses on Genesis 11:31–12:8 are excerpts from patristic commentaries. Augustine's Questions on the Heptateuch, Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis, and Isidore's Questions on the Old Testament predominate. Almost all of their comments on this passage are in the Gloss, albeit skillfully condensed.Footnote 48
The Glossa Ordinaria accords the narrative of Abraham's migration a Christological meaning that is apparent in the interpretation of Genesis 12:1, “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your land and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.’” This verse has three marginal and eight interlinear glosses.Footnote 49 A long marginal comment excerpted from Augustine's Questions addresses the chronological discrepancy regarding Abraham's age (discussed further below). The interlinear gloss abbreviates Augustine's insights yet further: the two words vivente patre indicate that Abraham received the divine mandate while his father was still alive and that the narrative is therefore not chronological. Further interlinear glosses designate “the Lord” as pater, “Abram” as christum, “kindred” as iudaica, “land” as gentium, and “show” as per apostolos noticiam tui dando. The verse therefore means that, at the desire of the Father, Christ leaves his Jewish kindred to undertake his mission among the gentile nations, a ministry accomplished through the apostles’ preaching. This closely resembles Isidore's interpretation of the verse and would be difficult to understand were this latter not given in full in the margin.Footnote 50 But, as Michael Signer has shown, by placing interpretations directly above the words of the Vulgate, the interlinear gloss presents the Gospel “at the same moment as the words of the Old Testament.”Footnote 51 When the reader encounters the story of Abraham's migration, the account of the origins of the Church in the ministry of Christ and the apostles opens up before her eyes. A further interpretation of the same verse is overlaid. “Land” refers to the “earthly man” [“terreno homine”], “kindred” to the familiar “vices” [“vitiorum”], and “father's house” to the house “of the devil” [“diaboli”]. The verse therefore has a moral meaning, exhorting the reader to flee the world, the flesh, and the devil and to follow the path of God's commandments.Footnote 52
Three of the references in the Gloss to the narrative of Abraham in the furnace are attributed to Jerome. At Genesis 11:28, the marginal gloss reads as follows:
“In Ur Chaldæorum.” Jerome: In Hebrew this is “in ur cesim,” that is, “in the fire of the Chaldeans.” The Hebrews hand on the tale [“fabulantur Hebraei”] that Abraham was cast into the fire because he refused to worship the fire that the Chaldeans venerate. He was set free by divine assistance and fled the fire of idolatry. Thereafter it is said to Abraham: “I am the one who led you out of ur chaldæorum, the fire of the Chaldeans.”Footnote 53
The next episode of the narrative is in an interlinear gloss above the name Haran, who was “consumed by the fire, as the Hebrews say, which he did not want to worship.”Footnote 54
Both glosses have their origin in Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis, a commentary that overflows with interpretations drawn from Jewish sources. Jerome derived some from the Greek translations of the Bible, from Josephus, and from earlier Christian commentators including Origen. He attributes others to a Jew who instructed him or whose interpretations he heard.Footnote 55 Several such explanations are also found in midrashic literature, the Targumim, and the Talmudim.Footnote 56 Jerome's account of Abraham's ordeal is a case in point. His comment on Genesis 11:28 reads in full:
“And Haran died before his father in the land in which he was born, in the territory of the Chaldeans.” Instead of what we read as “in the territory of the Chaldeans,” the Hebrew has “in ur Chesdim” which means “in the fire of the Chaldeans.” Now in response to this verse, the Hebrews hand on a tale [“fabulam”] of this nature, that Abraham was cast into the fire because he refused to worship the fire that the Chaldeans venerate. He was set free by divine assistance and fled the fire of idolatry. (In [verse 31], it is written [in the Septuagint] that Terah and his offspring left “the territory of the Chaldeans”Footnote 57 instead of, as the Hebrew has it, “the fire of the Chaldeans.”) This [tale is handed on] because it is stated in this verse that Haran died in the sight of his father Terah in the land of his birth in the fire of the Chaldeans. This is evidently because he refused to worship fire and was consumed by fire. Thereafter God said to Abraham, “I am the one who led you out of the fire of the Chaldeans.”Footnote 58
Jerome's works were important sources of Hebrew and Jewish interpretations for the compilers of the Glossa Ordinaria. For instance, his Book of Interpretation of Hebrew Names furnished a convenient supply of interlinear glosses for Hebrew proper nouns.Footnote 59 In the case of Genesis 11:28, the Gloss provides a précis of the Hebrew story related by Jerome. While he went on to detail the Septuagint's rendering of ʾur kasdim as a place name, the Gloss simply records his definition of the Hebrew and the explanation. Jerome concludes by recording the fate of Haran, which appears separately as an interlinear gloss that may be read above Haran's name in the biblical text.
Although Jerome and the Gloss here present the narrative as a Hebrew tale [“fabula”], they later rely on the account to explain the chronological discrepancy about Abraham's age. In his comment on Genesis 12:4, Jerome notes that Terah was seventy when Abraham was born (Genesis 11:26). How then could he die at 205 (11:32) when Abraham was only 75 (12:4)? Jerome finds the answer in the narrative of the furnace. The Gloss relays his comment as follows:
Therefore the tradition of the Hebrews is true [“vera est igitur hebræorum traditio”], that Terah and his sons went out from the fire of the Chaldeans, and that Abram, who was encompassed by the Babylonian fire because he refused to worship it, was set free by divine assistance. [Abram's] age is counted from that time on, namely from the time he acknowledged the Lord and rejected the idols of the Chaldeans.Footnote 60
According to this comment, Abraham's ordeal was a “baptism by fire” from which he emerged reborn. So when Scripture gives his age as seventy-five, it means seventy-five years after he escaped from the furnace. Jerome calculated that Abraham must have been sixty years older than that, and thus the chronological problem may be resolved. In his mind, this confirms the reliability of the furnace account. Rather than a fable, the narrative is now called a “Hebrew tradition,” and Jerome pronounces that it is “true,” an accurate insight into the Hebraica veritas. Footnote 61
Because of Jerome's ringing endorsement, Augustine listed the narrative among several solutions to the problem of Abraham's age in his Questions on the Heptateuch, and he returned to it in The City of God.Footnote 62 The version in the Questions was certainly known to the compiler of the Gloss on Genesis, who retained it in his summary of Augustine's comment.Footnote 63 Later commentators also relayed the narrative as Jerome told it. It is found in Bede's (ca. 673–735) Commentary on the Beginning of Genesis,Footnote 64 Alcuin of York's (ca. 735–804) Quaestiones in Genesim, Rabanus Maurus's (776/784–856) Commentarium in Genesim, Footnote 65 and Remigius of Auxerre's (ca. 841–908) Expositio super Genesim.Footnote 66 When the Gloss on Genesis was compiled, therefore, the account of the Chaldeans’ furnace had already circulated widely among Christian interpreters of this book.
Twelfth-century Christian readers who consulted the Glossa Ordinaria on Genesis 11 and 12 would have learned a similar story about Abraham as contemporary Jewish students of Rashi's commentary. Both sources relate that, before the patriarch left his homeland, he was cast into the Chaldean furnace. The reasons given are similar. For Rashi, it was a punishment decreed by Nimrod because Abraham had destroyed his father's idols. In the Gloss, it was because Abraham refused to participate in the Chaldean cult. Both relate that Abraham was set free; the means is not stated by Rashi, but it was a miraculous divine deliverance in the Gloss. According to both expositions, Abraham's brother Haran was less fortunate, being consumed by the fire from which Abraham had escaped. In Rashi, this was because he reluctantly followed Abraham's example only to save his own life. The Gloss does not distinguish between the motivations of the brothers; both rejected Chaldean worship, and no reason is given for Abraham's survival and Haran's death.
Readers of the Gloss and Rashi would know full well that this narrative was not related among the biblical accounts of Abraham's departure for Canaan. As transmitted in the Gloss, it is an extrabiblical Hebrew tale or tradition transmitted by Jerome and Augustine.Footnote 67 Because it explains the discrepancy between the ages of Abraham and Terah, it may be considered reliable. For Jewish readers of Rashi, the story is a midrash aggadah, familiar from rabbinic and medieval sources, which explains how Haran died “before” or “because of” his father and interprets the expression ʾur kasdim.
This narrative is among numerous explanations of Genesis that were transmitted both by Rashi and the Gloss. These include interpretations regarding the generation of Enosh (Genesis 4:26), Abraham's migration from Egypt (13:1–4), the identification of Melchizedek with Shem (14:18), the idolatry of Ishmael (21:9), the healing of Jacob's thigh at Salem (33:18), Potiphar's lust for Joseph (37:35), and many others.Footnote 68 The same interpretations emerge in contemporary Jewish and Christian commentaries because of a shared heritage of late-antique Bible interpretation: because Jerome knew some midrash, Christians can cite Jerome and Jews can cite midrash, and both may arrive at the same conclusion. Jews and Christians living at the same time and place therefore shared particular interpretations of the Bible without necessarily having learned them from one another.
As is clear from the transmission of the furnace narrative throughout late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, this was not a new phenomenon in the twelfth century. Jews and Christians had long used a similar account to expound Genesis 11 and 12. But the simultaneous appearance of this narrative in the Gloss and in Rashi is nevertheless important because of the prestige that became attached to these particular sources. Because Rashi's commentary was so widely disseminated, every Jew who read the standard commentary on the weekly Torah readings and every Christian who turned to the primary source of rabbinic exegesis learned of Abraham's ordeal. And because the Glossa Ordinaria became a standard guide to the interpretation of the Bible, every Christian who read its comments on Genesis 11 and 12 read the same interpretation as Jews or Christians who studied the Glossa Hebraica.
Although Jerome is a prominent source of midrash in the Gloss, he is not the only one. Commentaries of other Church fathers, including Augustine, were also conduits of Jewish exegesis. In Genesis, a small number of glosses from Remigius of Auxerre's commentary supply further Jewish interpretations.Footnote 69 In Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, Rabanus Maurus and his Jewish sources fill this role.Footnote 70 Because each book of the Gloss draws on a different constellation of patristic and Carolingian commentators, each one must be examined in its own right to see which exegetes supplied the glossators with a knowledge of Jewish interpretations and how these relate to the exegesis of contemporary Jews.
In the mid-twelfth century, the rabbinic interpretations shared by Jews and Christians of northern France increased as exegetes, including Andrew of Saint Victor, learned from contemporary Jews.Footnote 71 This is illustrated by Andrew's comments on the verses examined above. His interpretation of Genesis 11:28 includes details about Abraham's ordeal that would have been familiar to anyone who had read the Gloss on Genesis. Haran died because he was “thrown into the fire which he did not want to worship (as the Hebrews relate).”Footnote 72 But when he turns to the question of the relative ages of Abraham and Terah in Genesis 12:4, he tells his readers something new:
The Hebrews say [“dicunt … Hebraei”] that Abraham's years are only counted from the time when, refusing to worship fire, he was thrown into the fire by the Chaldeans and was rescued by the Lord and carried, with angelic help, to another place, where he abounded in many delights.Footnote 73
The first part of the comment relates Jerome's insight into Abraham's age. But, to the best of my knowledge, the motif of Abraham's angelic transportation to an Edenic paradise is not found in extant Christian or Jewish texts that would have been available to Andrew.Footnote 74 Elsewhere in his commentary on Genesis, he claims to relate information that he learned from a Jewish informant.Footnote 75 In the apparent absence of other possibilities, I suggest that the comment on Genesis 12:4 is another case in point.Footnote 76 Andrew has incorporated a Jewish insight into the story of Abraham in the furnace alongside information known from Jerome, and the whole unit is designated as a Hebrew saying.
If Andrew did discuss the narrative of Abraham in the furnace with a contemporary Jew, the foregoing examination shows that it would not have been a simple transfer of information from one party to the other. This narrative was among a corpus of late-antique interpretations transmitted independently by Jewish and Christian exegetes and acknowledged by the latter to be Jewish interpretations. If Andrew asked Jewish informants about Ur of the Chaldeans or Abraham's age, they would have told him an account that he already knew. Just one new detail, the manner of Abraham's escape, betrays that he had a source of information not available to earlier Christian exegetes. Because the Glossa Ordinaria and the Glossa Hebraica transmit a similar narrative, and because they were so widely read, Andrew and contemporary Jewish exegetes already interpreted the same verses of Genesis in a similar way.