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What Watching Seinfeld Taught Me About Reading the Bible

by Dr. Eitan Bar
4 minutes read

I admit, I have watched each Seinfeld episode a million times already; it’s something weird some of us Jews like to do. I guess it helps calm down our cynical view of the world. But as I continue to watch it repeatedly, I slowly start to notice motifs and themes I’ve never seen before, like the very specific way Elaine pushes people when she is excited or how the fictional character of Art Vandelay slowly develops behind the scenes. The beauty and artistry of novels penned by geniuses lie in enriching the narrative with intricate clues and developing themes and motifs. This meticulous layering of themes, points of connection, and symbols, where each detail builds upon previous ones to create a rich tapestry, is something I also find in the Hebrew Bible, a text I’ve poured over with equal fervor as I spent 20 years trying to study it from as many different perspectives as I could within the Jewish-Christian frame. This includes the concept of inner-textuality, which is the (first noticed by Jewish rabbis) jaw-dropping realization that texts within a body of work refer to and illuminate each other. This was a way for the Biblical authors to communicate with one another, and it’s helping us today to understand the narrative better. It also brings much depth and continuity, making each reading or viewing an ever-evolving experience.

Genesis 29:12
Genesis 29:12

The Beauty of Repetition in Seinfeld

Take Seinfeld, for instance. At first glance, it’s a show about nothing—a sitcom capturing the trivialities of everyday life. But watch it enough times, and you start noticing the genius behind its seemingly mundane events. The recurring jokes, character quirks, and subtle callbacks create a layered narrative that rewards the attentive viewer. George’s perpetual struggle with his career, Jerry’s various romantic entanglements, and Kramer’s eccentric antics—all these elements seem isolated initially but gradually reveal an intricate web of interconnections.

For example, George Costanza’s character arc is a series of failures and absurd situations, but upon deeper inspection, it’s a commentary on self-sabotage and societal expectations. Kramer’s jumpy entrances into Jerry’s apartment, always with the same chaotic energy, symbolize daily life’s small yet unexpected disruptions. These recurring elements are not just for comedic effect; they build a world that feels coherent and rich with internal references.

Discovering Inner-Textuality in the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible operates similarly but on a much grander and more profound scale. It is a text brimming with inner-textuality (Intratextuality included), where books, chapters, and verses constantly echo and reference each other, creating a tapestry of interconnected meanings. In doing so, “the Biblical narrator strives to inspire the reader to notice the mirrored associations between stories, especially those separated by significant periods of time.”, as explain1 Bible Prof. Yair Zakovitch.

This is not merely a result of its long composition history but a deliberate literary technique to guide the reader’s understanding. It also helps in giving a more spiritual context to the biblical stories.

Dr. Jordan Peterson on the Bible


Imagery: The Garden of Eden and the Temple

A compelling example of inner-textuality through imagery is the parallel between the Garden of Eden and the Temple. At first glance, the Garden of Eden in Genesis and the descriptions of the Temple in later books may seem unrelated. However, a deeper reading reveals profound connections.

The Garden of Eden is depicted as a divine sanctuary where God dwells with humanity, a place of perfect communion and harmony. Similarly, the Temple is described as the dwelling place of God among His people, a sacred space where heaven meets earth. Both the Garden and the Temple are adorned with lush, garden-like imagery: the Temple is filled with carvings of trees, flowers, and fruits, echoing the paradise of Eden.

Moreover, the entrance to the Garden of Eden is guarded by cherubim after Adam and Eve’s expulsion (Genesis 3:24). These same cherubim reappear in the design of the Temple, where they are prominently featured in the Holy of Holies, guarding the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-22). This parallel suggests that the Temple represents a return to Eden, a restoration of the lost intimate fellowship with God.

Textual: David and Joseph

Inner-textuality can also appear through unique Hebrew idioms; for instance, only Joseph and David are described as “יפֵה מַרְאֶה”, meaning “good looking” or “handsome“:

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance

Gen. 39:6

And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.

1 Sam. 17:42

In fact, the text intentionally presents numerous textual parallels between David and Joseph for our consideration to help us understand the Bible’s narrative and guide our anticipation.

Out of Egypt

Another example of inner-textuality is the Exodus story, a foundational narrative in the Hebrew Bible that reverberates through the prophetic books. The prophets frequently invoke the Exodus to remind the Israelites of God’s past deliverance and to call them back to covenant faithfulness. For instance, in Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son,” not only recalls the historical Exodus but also foreshadows future acts of redemption. This verse is later quoted in the New Testament in Matthew 2:15, ‘This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”’ where it is applied to Jesus as the seed of promise and Israel’s ultimate Redeemer. This inner-textual reference reinforces the Messiahship of Jesus (to a Jewish reader especially) and various motives like that of redemption.


Inner-textuality in the Hebrew Bible, much like the recurring themes in some of our favorite TV shows, creates a rich and interconnected narrative that invites readers to delve deeper with each reading. It is a testament to the literary genius and divine inspiration behind these texts, encouraging us to engage with them repeatedly to uncover their full richness. Whether through the comedic brilliance of a sitcom or the profound wisdom of sacred scripture, the beauty of inner-textuality lies in its ability to guide the narrative, give context, and reveal new insights and connections, making each encounter with the sacred text a fresh and enlightening experience.

If you enjoyed this short article, you’d LOVE my book: “Read Like a Jew: 8 Rules of Basic Bible Interpretation for the Christian.”

  1. Zakovitch Yair, Through the Looking Glass – Reflection Stories in the Bible. Tel Aviv, Hakibbutz Hameuhad. Paraphrased from Hebrew. (Free translation) ↩︎

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist