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Bible As It Was

Bible As It Was

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Paperback / softback

£30.95

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674069411
Number of Pages: 696
Published: 01/12/1999
Width: 16.5 cm
Height: 25.4 cm
This is a guide to the Hebrew Bible unlike any other. Leading us chapter by chapter through its most important stories--from the Creation and the Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land--James Kugel shows how a group of anonymous, ancient interpreters radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Was the snake in the Garden of Eden the devil, or the Garden itself "paradise"? Did Abraham discover monotheism, and was his son Isaac a willing martyr? Not until the ancient interpreters set to work. Poring over every little detail in the Bible's stories, prophecies, and laws, they let their own theological and imaginative inclinations radically transform the Bible's very nature. Their sometimes surprising interpretations soon became the generally accepted meaning. These interpretations, and not the mere words of the text, became the Bible in the time of Jesus and Paul or the rabbis of the Talmud. Drawing on such sources as the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish apocrypha, Hellenistic writings, long-lost retellings of Bible stories, and prayers and sermons of the early church and synagogue, Kugel reconstructs the theory and methods of interpretation at the time when the Bible was becoming the bedrock of Judaism and Christianity. Here, for the first time, we can witness all the major transformations of the text and recreate the development of the Bible "As It Was" at the start of the Common era--the Bible as we know it.

James L. Kugel

James L. Kugel is a Professor at Bar-Ilan University.

[A] wonderfully rich and learned volume...[Kugel's] purpose in The Bible As It Was is to describe the way the Bible was understood by various ancient peoples, from the Israelites who returned to Palestine after the Babylonian Captivity to the early Christian redactors of the New Testament. Using a staggering number of sources, Mr. Kugel evokes the manner in which the Bible was understood at the time of these interpreters; he also traces the origins of many of the explanations that have remained standard over the millennia. Mr. Kugel's enormous undertaking is likely to be seen as a milestone in the long critical history of Bible studies, that is, of the approach to the Bible as both a human document and a living one, rather than as the immutable and perfect word of God. -- Richard Bernstein New York Times [A] fascinating study...[Kugel's] main purpose is to provide a detailed look at how the Torah, the first five books, was interpreted in antiquity, most particularly from the third century B.C. through the first century A.D...To cull material from these diverse sources requires no small expertise as a sleuth and a scholar. Kugel is equal to the task...He tackles his chosen subject with erudition and enthusiasm...Compellingly written. -- Phyllis Trible New York Times Book Review It is the general reader whom Kugel has in view throughout, and his aim, in which he admirably succeeds, is both to provide such reader with a first-hand acquaintance with some examples of ancient biblical interpretation and also to show how these make sense, once writers' assumptions and exegetical techniques are grasped...The Bible At It Was is an enjoyable work. It is beautifully produced, clearly set out, so that, in spite of its size, it is easy to use, and is written in a lively, often racy, style; it displays that expository mastery of a complicated subject which is the mark of a distinguished scholar, and it will make the readers to whom it is directed feel at home in an unfamiliar world. -- J. R. Porter Times Literary Supplement [This book] takes something you thought you knew and shows you--doesn't just tell you--that you didn't really know it at all...Kugel, who has the wherewithal to be a world-class academic show-off, instead lets the ancients speak in their own voice, make their own case. His learning is staggering, but his scholarly humility is exemplary. You mustn't skip a sentence in his book, and his has so deftly fashioned it that you don't want to. -- Patrick Henry Harvard Divinity Bulletin In this learned yet readable book, James Kugel explains how the earliest scholars tried to make some sense of difficult passages and how their work has forever influenced the way later generations understood the Bible...His book is a good introduction to Jewish biblical tradition and how ancient scribes and scholars understood the Bible. -- Joseph F. Kelly Cleveland Plain Dealer [The Bible As It Was] engages the reader...without demanding knowledge of any ancient languages, and in a prose so sweetly reasonable that daunting scholarship gets spooned out as the delight of discovery...It offers rich resources for the study of comparative scriptural interpretation...[and] not only reminds us of a deeper and broader tradition of biblical study that the profoundly amnesiac version called the historical-critical, but provides a sense of what that older tradition might still offer...[Kugel] shows how the 'legends' developed, not by random imagination, but by means of careful exegetical deduction. Here is the real intellectual thrill, to see how the 'questions' posed by the notorious gaps, indirections, and obscurities of the Hebrew text led naturally...to the sorts of 'answers' gathered together in this volume. Kugel is a talented teacher, who successfully leads his readers through an imaginative reconstruction of the logic at work at every stage from text to traditions...[This anthology] offers valuable resources for a fuller and more organic engagement with Scripture...[It is] brilliantly presented. -- Luke Timothy Johnson Commonweal The Bible As It Was guides us deftly through a web that turns out to have been far more extensive and ecumenical than most of us would have thought. -- Hillel Halkin Commentary With humor and insight derived from modern scholarship, archaeology, linguistics, and history, Kugel succeeds as did his ancient interpretive forebears in bringing out 'the universal and enduring messages of biblical texts. -- Steven Schnur Reform Judaism A dazzlingly learned and clever study...Kugel's fascinating, eclectic anthology of wisdom is graced by many choice passages from Philo, the 1st-century B.C.E. Jew of Alexandria who excelled in Torah interpretation. -- Stuart Schoffman Jerusalem Report Biblical commentaries from 1,500 years ago? How significant could they be to our modern-day perception of biblical stories? Extremely. The picture painted by James L. Kugel... in his recent book, The Bible As It Was, is that it was those interpreters, often anonymous and today largely unknown, who significantly molded our understanding of the Bible...Kugel offers a large, well-selected collection of these interpretations on 23 of the better-known biblical stories. He presents them in a masterful way that makes them easily accessible and enjoyable to the layman...[and places them in]...proper historical and religious context...The Bible As It Was can be read from cover to cover or it can be used as a resource by someone studying a particular biblical incident. The sources in this book are crucial to understanding our Bible, and Kugel has done a great service by making them accessible to the general public. -- Ari Zivotofsky Cleveland Jewish News The most important biblical study this decade. Library Booknotes An extraordinary, pathbreaking scholarly achievement: an annotated anthology of interpretations of ancient (mostly 100 B.C. 300 A.D.) interpretations of the Torah culled from hundreds of sources...Kugel's great achievement is to demonstrate again and again, with hundreds of fascinating examples, how the integrity of the text was both respected and reinterpreted by authors as varied as those of the apocrypha, the earliest midrashim, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the early Church fathers. His own interpretive comments are consistently clear and engaging...This volume, which will be savored by both Jewish and Christian lovers of Scripture, richly illustrates Kugel's point that what we know as 'the Bible' is really a series of texts filtered through the imaginative perceptions of its ancient exegetes. Kirkus Reviews Kugel has marshaled a great many ancient sources. This important work for intelligent readers should be acquired by all general readership libraries and especially by those intended for theological and sociological research. Library Journal

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