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The World of Biblical Literature Paperback – 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK (1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281046549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281046546
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,802,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on July 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are few voices in the arena of biblical studies who command the respect due Robert Alter. After a long career in biblical scholarship, he recently issued a new translation of the Hebrew Bible to wide acclaim. This little book is, in several ways, a precursor to that momentous effort. Viewing the Hebrew Bible as a literary effort, instead of a legal or evangelical one, was gaining wide acceptance when this book was published. "The World" here is the collection of academic views expressed over the previous two decades. Alter reviews the efforts of previous scholars in addressing literary forms present in the bible and what those might indicate about the ancient authors. Essentially an extended bibliographic essay, this book is an excellent starting point for understanding the secular view of the Bible.

Reading any of the multitude of bibles as literature isn't a common approach. Yet, the ongoing success of the Bible must lie in part to its authors' narrative talents. Alter opens his survey with a mild chastisement of critics who have viewed the biblical tales in piecemeal. He voices regret that literary "reductionism" has obscured the larger picture. While he acknowledges the religious import of biblical narratives, he wants more recognition of the literary aspects than these stories have been given. The "Literary Play" in the second chapter's title conveys the tone admirably. As his concluding chapter notes, failure to understand the literary structures and illustrations of biblical stories reflects failure to understand much of Western European literature in general.

In one sense, this book is a challenge to other scholars, both past and future.
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Format: Hardcover
In 'The World of Biblibcal Literature', Robert Alter fills some gaps he felt he left in his Biblical narrative and poetry volumes. As such, the book is more of a collection of related articles rather than a sustained argument. Two of the chapters are essentially extended reviews of other works: one on the JPS Torah Commentary, another on 'The Book of J'. Others give hints on how to read the books of Samuel as literature, on Biblical poetry, on the necessity of the literal in translating the bible (although this makes me wonder why Alter chose to use the non-literal, anachronistic title LORD for YHWH in his translations), as well as general considerations of the range of biblical literary forms, their meanings and uses. Good reading.
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Format: Paperback
Robert Alter is a scholar of Hebrew, in all its historical manifestations, with many unique and insightful things to say on whatever topic he decides to cover. In this collection of essays, The World of Biblical Literature, Alter shows his preoccupation with a "literary" reading of the Bible. He views the bible as a unique literary production; an anthology of sorts without a discernible author or authors, this does not preclude the possibility to use the same tools of literary analysis employed in other areas of literary scholarship. Alter reads the bible as literature while at the same time keeping in mind the documentary hypothesis of the bible, the historical environment of its composition, redaction, and transmission. Alter truly has an encyclopedic grasp of the bible, and these essays are vital to anyone serious for any in depth study this, the most important book in the western tradition.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I believe it is helpful to begin by identifying the audience to which the book is directed. Lest it be a daunting intellectual challenge, this book would be most valuable to a reader who has a background in traditional bible studies and an appreciation of the idioms of literary criticism, particularly of the classics of Western literature.

That said, I found Mr. Alter's analyses of the Hebrew Bible to be unique, enlightening, and stimulating. It challenges the reader to read and reread the bible carefully, and thoroughly to appreciate its literary richness. I especially found helpful the description of type scenes, and the approach to resolving conflicting depictions of the same biblical event. Other observations, such as recurring biblical allusions, were noteworthy but not particularly useful in advancing my understanding of them as a literary technique.

Reading "The World of Biblical Literature" was a challenge and worthwhile.
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