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Description - The Bible as it Was by James L. Kugel

This is a guide to the Hebrew Bible. Leading the reader 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 detail in the Bible's stories, prophecies, and laws, they let their own theological and imaginative inclinations 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, longlost 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 the reader is shown all the major transformations of the text and the development of the Bible is recreated as it was at the start of the Common era, the Bible as we know it.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674069411
ISBN-10: 0674069412
Format: Paperback
(254mm x 165mm x 39mm)
Pages: 696
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Nov-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - The Bible as it Was by James L. Kugel

Book Reviews - The Bible as it Was by James L. Kugel

US Kirkus Review » An extraordinary, pathbreaking scholarly achievement: an annotated anthology of interpretations of ancient (mostly 100 B.C.-300 A.D.) interpretations of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) culled from hundreds of sources. "Interpretation" here often refers to the homiletical expansion of a biblical narrative - known in the Jewish tradition as midrash - particularly to fill in narrative gaps and vague allusions, or to resolve morally problematic passages. Kugel, a professor of Hebrew literature and the Bible at Harvard and Israel's Bar-Ilan University, notes in a penetrating opening essay that his focus is on "exegetical motifs." He notes basic principles that underlie ancient biblical interpretation, including a view of the Scriptures as "omnisignificant," that is, containing meaning in even the smallest details. Jewish and Christian exegetes also expanded the prosaic to lend greater resonance to seemingly minor matters. For example, Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai interpreted Deuteronomy 27:17, "Cursed be he who displaces his neighbor's boundary-mark," and Proverbs 22:28, "Do not displace that boundary mark of old set by your father," by adding, "If you see a custom of your forefathers observed, do not reject it." Thus, a law whose literal focus was on property was homiletically expanded to emphasize the "boundary" of religious tradition. 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)


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Author Biography - James L. Kugel

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

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