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The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us Paperback – August 21, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Amy-Jill Levine and Douglas A. Knight have combined to write a book on the Bible that is as academically brilliant as it is marvelously entertaining. By placing our scriptures into their original Jewish context they have opened up startling and profound new insights. This is a terrific book.” (John Shelby Spong, author of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World)

“More than random facts about the Hebrew Bible . . . more than a historical overview . . . [t]hey are aiming for true understanding of the life, culture, and practices of the ancient Israelites.” (Booklist)

“A winsome, accessible introduction to the theological thought of the Hebrew Bible. This sort of irenic, thoughtful linkage of criticism and interpretation within a confessing tradition is exactly what we most need in Scripture reading.” (Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary)

“From its superb introduction to its perfectly worded conclusion, this book does it all. Whether your interest in the Bible is historical or literary, specific texts or broad themes, this book has it—and conveys its relevance for today. ” (Richard Elliott Friedman, author of Who Wrote the Bible? and The Bible Now)

“Provides new knowledge on the Bible’s rich diversity of teaching on sexuality, familial and ethnic discord, political corruption, religious infidelity, economic exploitation as well as the nature of God, faith, love, and social justice. It is both enlightening and inspiring.” (Peter J. Paris, the Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary)

“A book we have needed for years - learned and accessible, clearly organized by the topics readers care about, and fully engaged with current discussions of deep and broad significance.” (William Brosend, Executive Director, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation)

“If anyone thinks the fruit of biblical scholarship is esoteric and heavy reading, direct that person to this book. In it, Knight and Levine demonstrate both their scholarly proficiency and their expertise as seasoned educators. This book should appeal to a broad audience.” (Dianne Bergant, CSA, Catholic Theological Union)

“Knight and Levine have done a marvelous job of taking very sophisticated material and presenting it in an illuminating and thoroughly engaging way that bespeaks of excellent scholarship by two distinguished teachers.” (Carol J. Dempsey, OP, Ph.D, Professor of Theology, University of Portland, and author of Reading the Bible, Transforming Conflict)

“A highly accessible . . . survey that is in tune with current scholarship.” (Library Journal)

From the Back Cover

What the Bible Really Says About Politics, Sex, Creation, Suffering, and More

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062067737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062067739
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Fascinating reading! Definitely a book that will be on my top-10 list this year. It took me forever to get through it, simply because there is so much information. I might have worn out a highlighter on this one.

You may have read Law, Power, and Justice in Ancient Israel by Knight a year ago. I reviewed Levine's book, The Misunderstood Jew, last year: see [...] These are two very knowledgeable and interesting scholars, who have now collaborated on a new project.

The focus is on the Old Testament (the Jewish scriptures), and the Jewish flavor is evident. Be forewarned: it's a liberal treatment, perhaps unappreciated by conservative Christians. Be aware also that it doesn't provide the meaning of the Bible, as if any one such meaning can be discerned from so diverse a collection of writings and opinionated Bible authors. But if the world of the Bible fascinates you--from its political atmosphere, to its social and cultural aspects, to the battle for authority between the northern and southern kingdoms, to the hope and hopelessness of dispersion and captivity--this book won't disappoint. An incredibly rich history awaits, as you journey into the power struggles between kings and prophets and Deuteronomists, and the religious atmosphere pervading it all. Bible times were certainly not an era of separation between church and state.

In four parts, Knight and Levine discuss the development of the Bible from many different angles, including:

1. Ancient Israel and the settlement of Palestine.

2. Law and Justice in Israel and the Diaspora

3. Respect and understanding of the Divine, including the temple cult.

4. Emerging politics, economy, sexuality, and what it means to be a "chosen people."

5.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding work by renowned Vanderbilt Divinity School professors. We are reading a chapter each week for my Sunday School class, and all are enthusiastically embracing the challenging text and investigating various versions of the Biblical texts cited. Readers have remarked on the down-to-earth conversational tone of the book. After an introduction that explains the writers' perspective -- one a Christian, the other a Jew -- the book sets the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures in the context of history, its literary heritage, and the land of Israel and its Settlement. Then come the thematic chapters, such as Law and Justice, Chaos and Creation, Sexuality, Wisdom and Theodicy. We're in Law and Justice now, and, though I'm a lawyer and a Vanderbilt Divinity School grad, I'm just now learning about the 5 daughters' petition (Num. 27:1-11, 36:1-12,and Josh. 17:3-6) -- just to give one example of the insights offered by this work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A book written by two academics usually has about ten strikes against it, but this wonderful book is a fabulous exception to the rule. One author is Christian, one is Jewish and they really do know everything about the bible, its authors, the times they lived in and their various cultural viewpoints. There were many authors and they had many viewpoints during the 1800 years or so that they struggled to communicate their understanding of God. Drawing on archaeology, history, other ancient middle eastern languages, literary and textual scholarship, and more, Knight and Levine vividly revive those long dead authors and lucidly explain why it is so hard to draw easy parallels from their lives to ours. There is also a well annotated bibliography with selections for deeper study. I've read several dozen works in this field and the best of those are listed in this bibliography, with appreciative comments.
It occurred to me about halfway through the book that all the authors of the bible believed that God loves the smell of roasting meat. That was the main justification of sacrifice in the ancient world. Furthermore, the Jews didn't give up sacrifice willingly. They gave it up because in AD 66 the Romans burned their temple and killed all their priests. If that hadn't happened, would we still be slaughtering rams on hilltops?
A really excellent book.
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Any book written by or cowritten by Amy Jill Levine is enlightening and written in an interesting fashion. She makes cultural heritage very easy to understand and does not make any judgemental statements about one's beliefs. The only thing better is hearing her speak in person.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us The title makes reference to the Tanakh, making it quite clear that it does not include the 'Christian New Testament'. One would not agree with all the conclusions drawn by the authors of this book - for instance,on page 165 where it states, "Obadiah-writing perhaps in the sixth century-speaks of the 'exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah,[who]shall possess Phoenicia as far as Zarepath' (20a). This is one prediction that cannot come true, since Phoenica no longer exists." Would Obadiah be likely to mention a particular territory using 21st Century CE designations? There are points made concerning the Book of Genesis that are equally strange or shall I say weak. There are also a number of other questionable deductions and conclusions in other sections of this work. However, the book is well worth reading and I have gleaned much from it, and indeed quoted much from it. I fully encourage the authors in their approach concerning bringing a Jewish understanding of the Scriptures to us - much needed and long overdue! It is a book for both Christians and Jews, and one that I recommend.
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