“The Rest is Commentary”

I was wondering a few days ago about the origin of the phrase, “the rest is commentary”. This phrase, when used in modern common English, generally means, “Everything else is trivial” or at least not as important. But since the question had come into my mind during a Biblical study, I wondered whether it had any particularly religious or spiritual connotations.

In searching the Web, I discovered this very insightful piece on The Jewish Daily, “Forward.” The writer, whose pseudonym is Philologos, says that the modern usage of the term is both divorced from its original context and opposite to the original meaning.

The piece is deserving of your brief (2-3 minutes) time to read it in its entirety. But in a nutshell, he makes two basic points.

First, the original comment about the rest being commentary is connected syntactically to the immediately following admonition to “go study.” In other words, “The rest is commentary” isn’t the final word on the subject.

Second, as the author of that piece puts it:

There is no “go study” here, even though Jesus surely knew what Hillel had said. For Jesus — and for Christianity — “the rest is commentary” really does mean that the rest is unimportant. Commentary — the Mishnah, the Talmud, rabbinical exegesis — is for the nitpicking Jew. Loving one’s neighbor is for the spiritual Christian.

This is a very interesting — if a bit testy — commentary on the commentary.

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