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The Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings Hardcover – February 16, 2016
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"[A] witty and accessible look at Scripture...Hoffman has produced the best kind of popular scholarship, that will interest both religious and secular readers” - Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“The Bible Doesn’t Say That challenges the reader to think differently about many of the Bible’s core ideas...the author writes in an accessible style that requires only an open mind and willingness to challenge long-held assumptions. A reader comes away understanding that while some of our misconceptions about the Bible are relatively minor, other misconceptions have led to significant misunderstandings, and even conflict, between people of faith.” - JewishBookCouncil.org
Praise for The Bible's Cutting Room Floor
"A wonderful book to confirm the beliefs of the faithful, to strengthen those whose faith begs for more information and to enlighten those who reject the stories of the Bible as mere fiction. " -Kirkus Reviews
"An engrossing gift for amateur bible students." -Booklist
Praise for And God Said
“Deeply welcome as a valuable tool for teaching . . . well-worth acquiring.” ―Jewish Book World
“A sensitive . . . discussion of the structure of languages in general and of Biblical Hebrew in particular.” ―The Jerusalem Post
“A lively tour of the difficulties besetting the Bible's translators, their successes and (more frequent) failures.” ―Jewish Ideas Daily
Praise for In the Beginning
“Hoffman has a flair for explaining how languages work.” ―The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Written in an energetic style with a commitment to exploring the evolution of Hebrew from ancient times to the present in ways that a broad audience can comprehend.” ―Religious Studies Review
About the Author
JOEL M. HOFFMAN, PhD, is the author of In the Beginning, And God Said, and The Bible's Cutting Room Floor. He is the chief translator for the series My People's Prayer Book (winner of the National Jewish Book Award) and for My People's Passover Haggadah. He is an occasional contributor to The Jerusalem Post and The Huffington Post and has held faculty appointments at Brandeis University and at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He lives in Westchester, New York.
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The only thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars (and maybe I should, anyway), is that some of the things "the Bible doesn't say" turn out to be the author offering competing interpretations that aren't necessarily any more or less well-founded than the interpretation being contested. Turns out I usually agreed with the author, but still - just because I interpret a given passage a certain way and have good reasons for it doesn't mean that "the Bible doesn't say" whatever the other interpretations might be.
I felt like the author was on much more solid ground when he could point to specific linguistic and/or historical issues that have landed us where we are, and thankfully, there is plenty of that material. And even the other less "concrete" items are still really useful and thought-provoking reading.
"Rashi has a suggestion for reconciling the seemingly odd Hebrew. The details of why his suggestion solves the problem of the missing “the” are too complex to include here— readers who are interested should start by learning about a Hebrew grammatical form called s’michut— but Rashi’s conclusion is easy to understand. The verse should be understood, he writes, as though it says “In the beginning of God’s creating.” To make this work, Rashi has to change the verb “created” into the noun “creating.” For many, this already undermines his analysis, because, after all, what advantage is there to a better understanding of the first word if it relies on completely changing the second? A more substantial objection to Rashi’s analysis comes in his own explanation of it. For Rashi, the problem is that the purpose of Genesis couldn’t be to explain the order of creation, because the second verse refers to God’s spirit on “the water.” What water, Rashi wants to know? According to the text, it hasn’t been created yet. Therefore, Rashi concludes, the point of the text can’t be to explain the order of things, because, after all, water was created before heaven and earth."
The logic presented to justify changing בָּרָא from a verb to noun can be found in the unstated, but apparent, Jewish predicate that creation was ex nihilo. But, if you take the view that I do of creatio ex materia, then indeed the order of creation is not a mystery. In the Genesis 1:2, there could be God's spirit on the water because God did not make the Earth ex nihilo.
But, let's grant creatio ex nihilo as the right view, for the sake of argument. Per the above quote, on the second day, the water "hasn't been created yet." Whoa! Where does this come from? Clearly, the water was created on the first day. Re-read Genesis 1:6-10! Note that the only thing stated subsequently is about separating the waters above from the waters below. Then, God gathered the waters below. This separation and gathering were done on days two and three. Given that there is no mention of creating the water at the time of separating them, the only inference to be made is that the water was already there - made on the first day. Therefore, God's spirit could indeed hover over the waters.
It begs the question of how much we should defer to Rashi's commentary, given such a poor reading of Genesis? There is no need to change the Bible to fit beliefs. So, yes! Indeed, the bible doesn't say what you said, Rashi. When your first inclination is to change the Bible, rather than simply reading what is in front of you, you've got it wrong. And, so does this book.
Since this book is basically a regurgitation of Rashi's thinking, I recommend buying Rashi's commentary on the Torah: https://www.amazon.com/Sapirstein-Rashi-Commentary-Translated-Deuteronomy/dp/1578193303/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1507777141&sr=8-2&keywords=rashi+commentary
Don't get me wrong. I refer to Jewish commentary often, even though I'm a Christian. I have many of their works included in my logos software. But, get it straight from the horse's mouth - so to speak.
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I assumed that the negative reviews I saw on this book were a result of "This book goes against what I've...Read more