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How to Read the Bible Hardcover – October 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society; Third Edition edition (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082760775X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827607750
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. How does a person read the Bible, which is a product of another time and culture, and have it make sense? Brettler, who chairs the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis, begins with the complicated web of doctrine, history and myth that is the Hebrew Bible and untangles it until a clear and beautifully drawn picture emerges. His mode of interpretation is the "historical-critical" method—reading the text in its historical setting, employing critical methodology to explicate and, when possible, harmonize "the multiple ancient perceptions of God, preserved in our composite Bible." After explaining his approach, Brettler takes readers through the historical periods of the Bible, placing the stories in their proper context. He explains, for example, the importance of the Jewish exile in Babylon to the people's view of the prophetic calling. He also discusses the poetic books, their formation and content, and the messages of the prophets. The result is an eye-opening journey through a familiar text, a fresh look at an old story. Written for the beginning reader as well as the scholar, this is an outstanding introduction to the Hebrew Bible and the history of Israel, and should be widely read. (Dec.)
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Review

“Written for the beginning reader as well as the scholar, this is an outstanding introduction to the Hebrew Bible and the history of Israel, and should be widely read.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
(Publishers Weekly)

“As a professor of biblical studies, I am frequently sent textbooks . . . and I often consult academic introductions to the field as well. None of them is as clear, sophisticated, and readable as this book. For Jewish and non-Jewish readers. . . . The book's accomplishments remain stellar.”—Benjamin D. Sommer; Sh’ma/Koret Book Review
(Benjamin D. Sommer Sh'ma/Koret Book Review)

“You probably need this book. . . . To help span the gap between lay reader and specialist, Marc Brettler has written an extraordinarily accessible book. . . . Brettler is clearly a master.”—JBooks.com
(JBooks.com)

“One of the most exciting Judaic studies books I've read in years. . . . Brettler’s writing is easy and clear enough for non-scholarly readers. I highly recommend his work.”—The Reporter
(The Reporter)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Ah, well, the truth hurts, as they say.
Gregory Lewis
That said, this is a very good read through the familiar material and I appreciate Brettler's care for his readers.
L. E. Schwenk
This book is an excellent companion reader for the Old Testament.
F. Glass

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Beesusie VINE VOICE on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like another reviewer, I was introduced to this book from the National Public Radio program Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The interview with Mark Zvi Brettler was totally enlightening and fascinating.

Now I am taking an excellent Christian course of classes on the Bible, much of it on the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). In my classes there is such a wealth of information well taught that sometimes I do not feel that I have either internalized the essence of the topic and useful information on the history of the writing and compilation of the Bible itself. In fact that is not the point of the class. I use Brettler's book to pull myself away and look at the information a slightly different way.

I have been greatly enlightened by reading Professor Brettler's book as it covers much ESSENTIAL information I think a person needs to read the Bible (Old Testament). For example, I did not know that there were several different versions of the "ten commandments" (the Decalogue), and even different Christian denominations used different versions.

Well, this is a wonderful book and whether you end up agreeing with everything Brettler has concluded is irrelevant to whether reading it is a great learning experience. I also think it is helpful for Christians to read a book by a Jewish Bible scholar, although many of his sources come from Christian scholars as well a Jewish ones.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jerome A. Hoffman on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Professor Brettler brings together his considerable knowledge of archeology, religion, Semitic languages to demonstrate to the reader that the traditional and generally literal way of reading the Bible simply does not comport with what was written or intended by the author(s). He illustrates this point repeatedly by pointing up apparent inconsistencies e.g., the reports of the slaying of Goliath by two different figures, one the well known David and the other, a relatively unknown Israelite, the fact that the Torah as such(the first five books) was not known to

the Prophet Amos, although he refernces traditions that comport with some of the ones in the Torah, but not the book of Deutronomy as evidenced by Amos' approval of certain mourning practices forbidden in that Book. He also emphasizes his opinion that the Canonical version we now have was most assuredly not the original, in part due to absence of an obligation on the part of the redactor(s) or even the oral transmitter(s) to the text, particularly where there were other objectives to be accomplished. A draw-back of the book is Professor Brettler's decision not to have footnotes in proximity to the cited provisions. However, on the whole, the book is filled with data and textual quotations that can be easily verified by the reader with ready access to translations of the Bible.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. Bono on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have a sense that a literal approach to the Bible might not be a fruitful way toward understanding, then this book clears the way by clarifying some good reasons for that feeling. Mr. Brettler has a knowledgeable and respecful attitude towards both the old and new testament. He demonstrates not only its historic context, but the literary traditions of the various writers who have created the anthology we call the Bible. His scholarly approach calmly explicates the metaphorical and poetic mind set that was never intended to be scientifically, nor even purely historically accurate....but which nevertheless presents us with a kind of overarching wisdom, which yet trancends the measurable. It offers the hope of a more balanced and integrated concept of self knowledge than we have today. It was a satisfying read, and a wonderful conterpoint to all the tulmut which was taking place here in York County, Pennsylvania...in a little rural town some readers might recall.....Dover, Pennsylvania.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this an enjoyable and thoughtful book. I would label much of it "educated speculation" but the emphasis on historical setting, the events that were contemporaneous to the Biblical authors, the historicity, the entomology, the fact that we can only guess at the literal meaning of certain colloquialisms used in the sacred texts, all that was priceless. One is not required to agree with Marc Z. Brettler's conclusions to read this book. Whether it serves to educate, enlighten, convince, or merely stimulate a good sound argument, this is a book worthy of the time it requires to read. Brettler may or may not be wrong but he cannot be accused of ignorance when it comes to his subject matter. Too often books about the Bible lean too far toward timidity in the author's reverence for the subject matter, or else the writer is an iconoclast intend on dismantling and disproving the Bible itself, and it was good to have the balance between those polarities that the more objective Brettler found. After reading this I was glad I took the occasion to consider western civilization's most revered texts from this purely scholarly perspective.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Brettler's presentation of all of the familiar Bible stories (and a few, maybe, not so familiar) as understood through the "Historical-Critical Method" of Bible study hits that magic "sweet spot" between scholarly writing and "a good read." Particularly for those familiar with the Hebrew Bible (aka the New Testament,) the flow of his narrative manages to interleave discussion of archeological findings and ancient texts with the Bible stories themselves, as seen from the historical perspective.

The fact that this book is a pleasure to read almost conceals the fact that it is also crammed with information, both historical and interpretive, reflecting Dr. Brettler's depth of learning. One can hardly turn a page without revealing some new tidbit of insight, many of which trigger a new understanding of some aspect of a Bible story or of a larger view of the Bible's context and meaning.

This is a book I'll return to again and again
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