How to Read the Bible

How to Read the Bible

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 082760775X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Master Bible scholar and teacher Marc Brettler argues that today’s contemporary readers can only understand the ancient Hebrew Scripture by knowing more about the culture that produced it. And so Brettler unpacks the literary conventions, ideological assumptions, and historical conditions that inform the biblical text and demonstrates how modern critical scholarship and archaeological discoveries shed light on this fascinating and complex literature.

Brettler surveys representative biblical texts from different genres to illustrate how modern scholars have taught us to “read” these texts. Using the “historical-critical method” long popular in academia, he guides us in reading the Bible as it was read in the biblical period, independent of later religious norms and interpretive traditions. Understanding the Bible this way lets us appreciate it as an interesting text that speaks in multiple voices on profound issues.

This book is the first “Jewishly sensitive” introduction to the historical-critical method. Unlike other introductory texts, the Bible that this book speaks about is the Jewish one—with the three-part TANAKH arrangement, the sequence of books found in modern printed Hebrew editions, and the chapter and verse enumerations used in most modern Jewish versions of the Bible. In an afterword, the author discusses how the historical-critical method can help contemporary Jews relate to the Bible as a religious text in a more meaningful way.














only l e a r n e d t h r o u g h experience w i t h i n a particular social g r o u p . For the final example, imagine that Marta w a t c h e s as I read the Sunday Boston Globe. She clearly observes that the n e w s p a p e r is c o m p r i s e d of various sections w i t h different layouts, b u t doesn't k n o w the significance of these differences. Specifically, she doesn't k n o w that Doonesbury, p r i n t e d o n the first page of the comics, m u s t be read differently t h a n the

study. T h r o u g h s u c h a d d i t i o n s the biblical text was n o t allowed to atrophy, b u t was kept alive. Origins I have explained w h y a D e u t e r o n o m i s t i c editor c h a n g e d an earlier text. But w h y did those various early stories a b o u t the c o n q u e s t arise in the first place? Critical scholarship recognizes m a n y of t h e m as a type k n o w n as "etiology," a w o r d deriving f r o m the Greek verb aitia, "to cause." An etiology explains s o m e t h i n

t i v e l y — a l t h o u g h in context those w o r d s ' plain sense is n o t their literal m e a n i n g . In 1 Samuel 24, David addresses Saul, "Please, avi ( , 2 4 : 1 2 )".. . (‫)אב‬. True to its translation a p p r o a c h , the JPS t ders avi contextually as the honorific "sir," while a d d i n g a footnote: "Lit. '[my] father.'" In this way, the translators allow that the w o r d i n g has a d o u b l e m e a n ing—namely, it f u r t h e r serves to suggest k i n s h i p b e t w e e

come from Gibeah in Benjamin, w h e r e — s o Judges tells u s — t h e people behave in a h o r r e n d o u s manner. The concubine husband's act (mustering the troops by c h o p p i n g u p her b o d y a n d sending its pieces to all the tribes) will surely come to m i n d w h e n we read of Saul's later act: "He took a yoke of oxen and cut them into pieces, which he sent by messengers throughout the territory of Israel, with the warning, 'Thus shall be d o n e to the cattle of anyone w h o does

(25) S o l o m o n u s e d to until his offer b u r n t offerings a n d sacrifices of palace, a n d the H o u s e of the LORD, a n d well-being three times a year o n the the walls a r o u n d Jerusalem. (2) T h e altar that he h a d built for the LORD, people, however, c o n t i n u e d to offer a n d he u s e d to offer incense o n the sacrifices at the o p e n shrines, because o n e that was before the LORD. A n d he u p to that time n o h o u s e h a d b e e n kept the H o u s e

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