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How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now Paperback – October 21, 2008
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The overall premise of this book is that through the course of history, there have been two general methods of reading the Bible, and that these two methods are often in conflict. First, there is the method of the ancient interpreters, which despite its name, was the dominant methods until relatively recently. For these interpreters, Biblical reading was based on four general assumptions: (1) the Bible is cryptic; that is, what it seems to say may be different from it actually means; (2) the Bible is a book of lessons for readers in their own day; it is not merely a historical text; (3) the Bible is perfect and without contradiction; any seeming error can be explained (assumption #1 is helpful with this); (4) the Bible is the divine word of God.
Modern interpretation, which really began in the nineteenth century, does not adhere to the ancient assumptions. In particular, the modern interpreter views the Bible as a text written by men, with all the flaws that are associated with mortals. This interpreter views the Bible in the larger context of the ancient world to determine how it was constructed.
Take, for example, the story of Jacob and Esau. An ancient interpreter would view the stories of this brotherly conflict as leading to the general hostility between Israel and Edom, the two nations that the siblings were the founders of.Read more ›
Yes, this book deals exclusively with Professor Kugel's specialty, the Old Testament, while the Fee / Stuart book deals with both Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
Another huge difference is that Professor Kugel not only advises us on how to read the scriptures today, he outlines how they have been read since they were first gathered together, sometime around the return from the Babylonian exile in 538 BCE. The big surprise to us lay readers is that these scriptures were not taken as the perfect inspiration from God, with every statement literally, or at least figuratively true, given the right amount of interpretation. Professor Kugel does not make this comparison, but I suspect that the attitude toward much of the scriptures was very similar to the Achaeans' (early Greeks) attitude toward Homer's `Iliad' and `Odyssey', as national epic poems. Even without modern archeology, it would not have been difficult to detect anachronisms and downright errors when, for example, a Psalm attributed to King David describes events which happened 500 years after his death.
The attitude of `high reverence' for the scriptures developed shortly after the last book, `Daniel', was added to the canon, the era of the last prophet Ezra, and the Maccabean revolt.Read more ›
After reading this book I much agree with DAVID PLOTZ's review [...], particularly when he states: "Though Kugel surely did not intend this, in its own way, his book proves as devastating to the godly cause as any of the pro-atheism books that have been dominating the best-seller lists in recent months". In my opinion, this is because the author is intellectually honest given that i) although one realizes he does believe in the God of the Bible, however ii) he clearly shows that the ancient interpreters' and the modern scholars' way of understanding the Bible clearly contradict each other; before that iii) he escapes from [in his opinion] non-well argued apologetics to save such a contradiction; and then iv) if I understood him correctly, he tries to square this circle in the last few pages, in the section called "The Very Idea of the Bible" (whether he achieves it or not, or whether his answer may please those who do not follow the Jewish path I let it to each one to decide on his own).
In any event, Kugel's work is a pleasure to read, which is very important for a book 700 pages long plus notes [plus an appendix and bibliography which are available at the author's web site, jameskugle.com].Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Extremely well written introduction to biblical interpretation. Readable, fascinating, and endlessly in depth.Published 1 month ago by Max K.
A useful guide. Modern and easy to read and understand.
SP Kadish MD
As a nonbeliever, I was fascinated by the depth of scholarly research and the unorthodox conclusions. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dave S
I've written dozens of letters to numerous publishers—with copies of each to Amazon—even the publisher of this book Apparently to no avail. Read morePublished 3 months ago by MichaelBuffalo
Great book with a lot of extra insight into the Old Testament. Fast shipping.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
The book itself is wonderful! One of my favorites this semester.
Mine was a bit beat up, but that comes with the territory.
Fast delivery. Used and in new condition. Very satisfied. Thank youPublished 7 months ago by Chaim Levi