James Kugel's The Bible As It Was (1997) has been welcomed with universal praise. Here now is the full scholarly edition of this wonderfully rich and illuminating work, expanding the author's findings into an incomparable reference work.
Focusing on two dozen core stories in the Pentateuch--from the Creation and Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land--James Kugel shows us how the earliest interpreters of the scriptures radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Kugel explains how and why the writers of this formative age of interpretation--roughly 200 B.C.E. to 150 C.E.--assumed such a significant role. Mining their writings--including the Dead Sea Scrolls, works of Philo and Josephus and letters of the Apostle Paul, and writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the rabbinic Sages--he quotes for us the seminal passages that uncover this crucial interpretive process.
For this full-scale reference work Kugel has added a substantial treasury of sources and passages for each of the 24 Bible stories. It will serve as a unique guide and sourcebook for biblical interpretation.
Traditions of the Bible is a literary masterpiece. Nuanced presentations of multiple versions allow the reader to enter into the eddying flow of interpretation that, between the third century BC and the first century AD, eventually produced the Jewish Bible. We are there, in the Temple, in heightened conversation. Kugel is there to remind us of particular reasons, often fascinating in themselves (for example, the ambiguities of the Hebrew language) why a given story--say the story of Jacob and Esau--can have so many interpretations. Kugel suggests that the Bible, in all its echoing complexity, is the final result of a great effort of remembrance: a millennial attempt to remember what happened, and why, and what it was like, before IT happened, before that time. Could the Bible be a response to a devastating loss of cultural identity and memory as embodied in the Temple? Is that why this great book overflows with conflicting points of view? -- Tom D'Evelyn * Providence Sunday Journal * This is a very useful reference work. -- L. L. Grabbe * Society for Old Testament Study * [From a review of The Bible As It Was]:
Wonderfully rich and learned...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. -- Richard Bernstein * New York Times * It is the general reader whom Kugel has in view throughout [his book], and his aim, in which he admirably succeeds, is both to provide such a reader with a first-hand acquaintance with some examples of ancient biblical interpretation and also to show how these make sense, once the writers' assumptions and exegetical techniques are grasped ...The Bible As 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 * [A] fascinating study...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 *