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Reading the Lines: A Fresh Look at the Hebrew Bible Hardcover – August, 2002

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Some readers may be drawn to this title by the novelty associated with its authorship: Tamarkin is a first-time author at the age of 67 and not a professional in religious studies. Nevertheless, she is a sincere student of the Hebrew Bible, and her thoughtful essays compare well to any professional work being done in the field now. Her "fresh look" consists of applying common sense, in addition to fashionable methodologies, to the creation stories, the story of Hagar, and other tales and traditions of the Hebrew Bible. Tamarkin's reasoning is consistently intriguing, and she writes with great effectiveness and charm. Highly recommended, especially where scholarly interest in Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is strong.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Bold and cantankerous, fresh and lively . . . [Reis] is not afraid to tip the sacred cows, . . ." -- Publishers Weekly

"For those readers . . . dissatisfied with the deconstructions and reconstructions of the higher criticism, but uneasy with traditional apologetics . . ." -- William W. Hallo, The William M. Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature, Yale University

"Pamela Tamarkin Reis guides the reader through a series of biblical stories, with expert analysis, in elegant yet simple prose." -- Gary A. Rendsburg, Paul and Berthe Hendrix Memorial Professor of Jewish Studies, Cornell University

"This book is a pure delight! Pamela Tamarkin Reis guides the reader through a series of biblical stories, with expert analysis, in elegant yet simple prose, devoid of scholarly jargon, and with personal aplomb. Her lively and original interpretations are exemplars of literary exegesis. And there is a bonus: the prefatory comments to each chapter detail Ms. Reis's approach to the Bible, describe her odyssey through the maze of biblical research, and tell how she arrived at her interpretations--what she was doing when such and such thought occurred to her, what she was reading when, how she went to the library to look up a source, which took her to another source, and so on. These are not the usual thoughts that one encounters in scholarly writing and in literary analysis, but they add immensely to the present work, allowing the reader to trace the genesis and development of an independent idea and to see the mind of the scholar at work."--Gary A. Rendsburg, Paul and Berthe Hendrix Memorial Professor of Jewish Studies, Cornell University

"Some readers may be drawn to this title by the novelty associated with its authorship: Tamarkin is a first-time author at the age of 67 and not a professional in religious studies. Nevertheless, she is a sincere student of the Hebrew Bible, and her thoughtful essays compare well to any professional work being done in the field now. Her 'fresh look' consists of applying common sense, in addition to fashionable methodologies, to the creation stories, the story of Hagar, and other tales and traditions of the Hebrew Bible. Tamarkin's reasoning is consistently intriguing, and she writes with great effectiveness and charm. Highly recommended, especially where scholarly interest in Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is strong."
--Library Journal

"Bold and cantankerous, fresh and lively...[Reis] is not afraid to tip the sacred cows,...arguing...for more literary cohesion in the Hebrew Bible than most scholars have allowed. She also thinks that feminist scholars have overlooked the complexity of the Bible's women characters by ignoring their very interesting flaws....Sharp and witty observations on the Bible."
--Publishers Weekly -- Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Pub (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565636961
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565636965
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,402,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is a book for those who love the literary exegesis of the Hebrew Bible -- if you loved Robert Alter's Art Of Biblical Narrative (as I did), this is largely in the same spirit. Reis' guiding principle is to take the unity and intentionality of the text-as-written at face value, and accordingly to investigate different moments that don't seem to "fit." Her emphatic and persuasive answer to her investigations is that, if you know the language and think common-sensically, these moments make perfect sense. As a result, she's able to do a lot of great work, and she discovers a narrative unity within the text that exegetes past and present have often failed to see. If you know and love these stories, her insights are just terrific. The book gets five stars and earns it, although (in my opinion), the editorial reviews make too much of Reis' age and consequent spunkiness in writing a scholarly book when she has "no credentials," and Reis herself is a little too inclined to tell you about how she gained each insight she has...this aspect forms the introduction to each chapter. Ho hum. Also, she's too inclined to resist the "documentary hypothesis" because it undercuts the notion of artistic unity that informs her approach to analyzing the text. She's not convincing on this, much as she'd like to be. Does the ultimate source of a work have to be a single person for the reader to receive it as a narrative unity and to respond to it accordingly? (I don't think so.) But honestly, don't let that get in your way: this book is terrific, a triumphant validation of what passionate engagement with the literary text can produce. If you enjoy the combination of common sense, a little Hebrew, and a deep love of literature, this is great stuff.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Pamela Reis is not afraid to take the unconventional route when it comes to Biblical interpretation, and, by doing so, she gets closer to the heart of what the text is actually saying than many who are committed to the type of scholarship favored by the majority. Drawing on the example of the classic Japanese movie "Rashomon", she makes a strong case for single authorship of the Pentateuch, especially concerning the creation stories in Genesis. Rather than falling back on multiple authorship to explain apparent discrepancies and changes in viewpoint, Reis believes these stories are the work of a single, brilliant author who is writing the same story from two totally different points of view (God and man).
This book actually reads much like a series of articles from "Bible Review". Rather than being a comprehensive commentary on the Hebrew Bible, the book focuses on various narratives and shows how conventional wisdom has often misread them. Those who have been considered helpless victims (i.e. Tamar and the daughter of Jephthah) are shown to be not quite as innocent as they have seemed. Scriptures that have been puzzling in the past (the "bridegroom of blood" incident between Moses and Zipporah, for example) are given satisfactory explanations. The book is not perfect, in my estimation, because sometimes there are arguments from silence (i.e., the author's opinion that the witch of Endor served Saul raw meat is a bit of a stretch), and other areas where the arguments are likewise unconvincing or tedious, but those parts are in the minority. This is altogether a fascinating book by a respected, although unconventional scholar.
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I can't say enough about how unusual and refreshing this book is! Pamela Tamarkin Reis has moved to the top of my list for people I would want with me on a desert island. In my faith journey I have read hundreds of books. The majority reward me with one or two insights - pieces of the puzzle - and that makes reading them worthwhile. Some have enough "fruit" or "meat" that I add them to my library to revisit or loan to others. This book is in a category of its own. Why? Many Christian books attempt to present the spiritual realm in a way that is acceptable to our human understanding. This book unashamedly affirms the existence of God, His authorship of the Holy Scriptures, and acknowledges the rarely stated truth that human logic and understanding are limited tools at best for growing in the knowledge of God. Spiritual insight is only available through spiritual revelation. The insights revealed in this book only come to those who approach God with humility - believing that He is Who He says He is. Rather than avoid "difficult" passages, or use them as an argument to undermine the credibility of the Bible, this author approaches them with an understanding of the nature and character of God, and allows His Holy Spirit to reveal the truth they contain. Revolutionary!
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I was thrilled with the authors candor, female intuition and knowledge of literary style. Her commentary on these passages have brought so much insight to scriptures that have troubled me for sometime.
Her explanation of the Spoiled Child: A Fresh Look at Jephthah's Daughter gave me an understanding I could grasp. For years I have struggled with teachers telling me that he had to honor his oath and she was willing to be sacrificed. It went totally against my understand of God and how much He hates child sacrifice or any ritual human sacrifice.
I ordered two more copies to bless my son and daughter with as I could not bare to part with my copy, even long enough for them to read it.
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