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God's Last Words: Reading the English Bible from the Reformation to Fundamentalism Hardcover – March 10, 2004


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God's Last Words:  Reading the English Bible from the Reformation to Fundamentalism + The Bible and the People + A History of Reading in the West (Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (March 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101157
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,702,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's commonplace by now to recognize that every reader or group of readers understands the Bible differently. What these readers do hold in common, however, is the notion that Scripture contains the words of God to humankind. Using the reader-response theory of Stanley Fish and Gadamer's hermeneutics (that every interpreter understands a text based on his or her own horizon of expectations regarding that text), Katz provides a sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating overview of the history of the Bible's reception. He traces the evolution in the interpretation of the Bible from Martin Luther and the Reformation to modern American fundamentalism. For example, Luther's community of interpretation read the Bible literally according to Luther's own dictum of sola scriptura—only Scripture was authoritative for faith and practice. By the 19th century, however, the certainty that the Bible formed a unified whole was challenged not only by Darwin's theory of evolution but also by the advent of a biblical criticism that emphasized the numerous sources that lay behind the various books of the Bible. In a brief section on American fundamentalism, Katz observes that this community's reading of the Bible echoes the literalism of Luther's readings. While the book offers a completely different model for thinking about the impact of the Bible on culture, Katz's academic tone and his references in the introduction to a number of philosophers requires a great deal of effort from readers unacquainted with these ideas.
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About the Author

David Katz holds the Abraham Horodisch Chair for the History of Books at Tel-Aviv University.

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By pnotley@hotmail.com on September 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In order to appreciate David Katz's "God's Last Words," it is important to recognize what it isn't. It is not a history of the bible's influence on the English people over the past five centuries. It is not a history of the role the bible played in English politics, English philosophy or even Anglican theology. It is not a history of how people slowly developed a more critical attitude towards the Bible. There are aspects of all three things in this book, but there are also important things missing. For a start, this is not a book that looks at how Milton, Dryden, Bunyan, Blake or many others used biblical material for their art. Nor is it a history of how the English population reacted to the vernacular bible.

Instead Katz starts by discussing the growth of a proper biblical criticism in the Renaissance. For centuries the Bible in the Western World was the Latin Vulgate, translated more than a millenium earlier by Saint Jerome. There were a number of problems with this. For a start, in the many copyings over the past thousands years errors had accumulated, and there was a natural desire to use a more authentic text. Second, and much more importantly, the bible was never actually written in Latin. The Jewish bible is written in Hebrew (with the exception of parts of Daniel and Ezra, which are written in Aramaic) while the New Testament is written entirely in Greek. And so scholars sought to find a proper Greek testament. Erasmus was a leading figure here, though Katz points out that when he didn't have proper Greek documents, he simply translated the Vulgate into Greek. This sort of undermined the whole point of the exercise, but absolute accuracy was not that important a goal.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dan R. Dick on March 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This scholarly work will sadly be overlooked by our "Purpose Driven" church culture. The Bible means many things to many people, but we too often forget that it is an interpreted medium, even by those who believe it arrived straight from God's own mouth. David Katz marvelously illustrates how the reading of the Bible has changed its meaning time after time. What modern Christians hold to be timeless and eternal is little more than the current version of an everchaging, constantly evolving faith. For those open to learn this book will be a revelation, and will deepen the appreciation of, and devotion to, the greatest book ever written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Adams on July 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The author, David Katz, "holds the Abraham Horodisch Chair for the History of Books at Tel Aviv University."

This is not a casual introduction for the novice. The scholarship runs deep and the references in the endnotes are extensive. The book begins with the appearance of being about translations into English of the Christian Bible, and the pursuit of authoritative texts in the original languages. (The preface, with its talk of Jauss and Gadamer and hermeneutics and reader response criticism is a red herring. None of it is explicitly referred to in the book again.) The true focus of the book is on the various Protestant interpretations of the Bible in England and the effect of those interpretations on claims to authoritative original-language texts of the Old and New Testaments, with the second half of the book being more on the growing dismissal of the biblical claims, almost exclusively concerning the early books of the Old Testament, in the ever brightening light of historical, social, and scientific understanding. The book is, as a consequence, uneven.
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By B. Coleman on October 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really didn't like this to much but, to each his own.
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