Pardes (פרדס, i.e. Paradise) is the acrostic comprising the four exegetical rules, סוד, דרוש, רמז, פשט, by which the rabbins explained the Scriptures.
Immediately after the close of the canon the study of the Old Testament became an object of scientific treatment among the Jews. A number of God-fearing teachers arose, who, by their instruction, encouragement, and solemn admonitions, rooted and built up the people in their scriptural faith. As the Bible formed the central point around which their legends, sermons, lectures. discussions, investigations, etc., clustered, a homiletico-exegetical literature was in the course of time developed, called Midrash (q.v.), מדרש (from דרש, "to study, expound" — a term which the A.V. renders by "Story," 2Ch 13:22; 2Ch 24:27), which became as mysterious in its gigantic dimensions as it is in its origin. Starting from the principle that Scripture contains all sciences, as well as the requirements of man for time and eternity, an answer to every question, and that every repetition, figure, parallelism, synonym, word, letter, nay, the very shape and ornaments of the letter or titles, must have some recondite meaning, "just as every fibre of a fly's wing or an ant's foot had its peculiar significance," the text was explained in a fourfold manner: viz. 1. פּשִׁט; 2. רֶמֶז; 3. דּרוּשׁ; 4. סוֹד. The one called פּשִׁט, simple, primary, literal, aimed at the simple understanding of words and things, in accordance with the primary exegetical law of the Talmud, that no verse of the Scripture ever practically traveled beyond its literal meaning, אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו (Jebanmoth, 24a), though it might be explained, homiletically and otherwise, in innumerable new ways. The second, רֶמֶז, means "hint," i.e. the discovery of the indications contained in certain seemingly superfluous letters and signs in Scripture. These were taken to refer to laws not distinctly mentioned, but either existing traditionally or newly- promulgated. This method, when more generally applied, begot a kind of memoria technica, a stenography akin to the "Notarikon" of the Romans. Points and notes were added to the margins of scriptural MSS., and the foundation of the Massorah, or diplomatic preservation of the text, was thus laid. The third, דּרוּשׁ, was homiletic application of prophetical and historical dicta to the actual condition of things. It was a peculiar kind of sermon, with all the aids of dialectics and poetry, of parable, gnome, proverb, legend, and, the rest, exactly as we find it in the New Testament. The fourth, סוֹד, secret, mystery, was a science into which but few were. initiated. It was theosophy, metaphysics, angelology, a host of wild and glowing visions of things beyond earth. Faint echoes of this science survive in NeoPlatonism, in Gnosticism, in the Cabala, in Hermes Trismegistus. It was also called "the Creation" and" the Chariot," in allusion to Ezekiel's vision. Yet here again the power of the vague and mysterious was so strong that the word Pardes or Paradise gradually indicated this last branch, "the secret science only." Comp. Keil, Introd. to the Old Testament (Edinb. 1870), 2:381 sq.; Havernick, Introd. (ibid. 1852), p. 362; Ginsburg, Coheleth (Lond. 1861.), p. 30; Deutsch, Lit. Remains (New York, 1874), p. 14; Wahner, Antiq, Ebrceorum Gott. 1743), 1:353 sq.; Steinschneider, Jewish Lit. (Lond. 1857), p. 142; Hirschfeld, Halachische Exegese (Berlin, 1840), p. 114 sq.; Schtirer, Lehrbuch der neutestam. Zeitgeschichte, p. 448; Dopke, Hermeneutik der neutestamentlischen Schriftsteller, p. 135 sq.; Zunz, Gottesdienstliche Vortrage (Berlin, 1832), p. 59; Schwab, Traite des Berakoth ou premiere partie du Talmud (Paris 1871), p. 9 sq. (B.P.)