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The Hebrew Bible

New Insights and Scholarship

Frederick Greenspahn

Publication Year: 2008

In April of 2001, the headline in the Los Angeles Times read, “Doubting the Story of the Exodus.” It covered a sermon that had been delivered by the rabbi of a prominent local congregation over the holiday of Passover. In it, he said, “The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated the story of the exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.” This seeming challenge to the biblical story captivated the local public. Yet as the rabbi himself acknowledged, his sermon contained nothing new. The theories that he described had been common knowledge among biblical scholars for over thirty years, though few people outside of the profession know their relevance.

New understandings concerning the Bible have not filtered down beyond specialists in university settings. There is a need to communicate this research to a wider public of students and educated readers outside of the academy. This volume seeks to meet this need, with accessible and engaging chapters describing how archeology, theology, ancient studies, literary studies, feminist studies, and other disciplines now understand the Bible.

Published by: NYU Press

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

On April 13, 2001, the headline in the Los Angeles Times read, "Doubting the Story of the Exodus." The accompanying article described a sermon that had been delivered by the rabbi of a prominent local congregation over the holiday of Passover. In it the rabbi had said, "The truth is that virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated the story of the...

Part I: The Bible and History

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Israel Without the Bible

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pp. 3-23

The Bible does not exist. That is correct: The Bible does not exist. Permit me to explain what I mean by that statement with the following back-ground material. For most of the twentieth century there was a general consensus among scholars that the Bible is a reliable guide to the history of ancient Israel. The towering figures in the field, people such as W. F. Al-...

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Bible, Archaeology, and the Social Sciences:The Next Generation

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pp. 24-42

Compared to the venerable discipline of biblical interpretation, which has been practiced for thousands of years, biblical archaeology is a relative newborn, only about eighty years old. Yet it offers fresh perspectives on the Bible, producing new information on virtually a daily basis and providing the realia of daily life that are often missing from the biblical text....

Part II: New Approaches to the Bible

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Literary Approaches to Biblical Literature: General Observations and a Case Study of Genesis 34

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pp. 45-75

Literary approaches to the Bible go back to ancient times, although many people have the impression that they are a modern invention. One need only think of early Christian allegorical readings or rabbinic Midrash to realize that the use of literary strategies to interpret the Bible has a very long history. Ancient and medieval exegetes regularly developed their exegesis...

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Feminist Approaches to the Hebrew Bible

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pp. 76-96

When I first began to publish essays on gender and the Hebrew Bible there were but a handful of publications on this subject, mostly in the history of religion.1 Little did I imagine that within two decades the topic would burgeon into a sub-field within biblical studies, complete with conflicting interpretive theories and methods as well as a full gamut of interdisciplinary...

Part III: Ancient Practice

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The Laws of Biblical Israel

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pp. 99-119

The most famous law code associated with the Bible is the Ten Commandments, but the Torah (Pentateuch) contains many more commandments---613 in all, according to Rabbinic tradition. Like the Ten Commandments, most of them regulate relations between humans and God, for ex-ample dietary rules, rules of personal purity, sacrifices and dedications by...

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The Study of Ritual in the Hebrew Bible

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pp. 120-138

The past forty years have seen significant developments in the study of ritual in the Bible. Several factors are responsible for this. First of all, anthropologists, sociologists, scholars of religion, and even philosophers have expanded the methods and perspectives with which we approach the topic.The development of interdisciplinary ritual studies has naturally led biblical...

Part IV: Judaism and the Bible

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By the Letter? /Word for Word? Scripture in the Jewish Tradition

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pp. 141-163

For those interested in reading or consulting the Hebrew Bible, the modern world offers unprecedented opportunities. Modern-language versions are readily available in print or on line, along with editions in the original languages and an array of commentaries on all matters theological and philological.1 At the same time, and paradoxically, this ease of access serves to make...

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From Judaism to Biblical Religion and Back Again

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pp. 164-190

Although a pseudo-historical, rabbinic tradition maintains that Judaism evolved from the biblical religion of ancient Israel and that the rabbis who lived after the destruction of the Second Temple guided this evolution through oral teachings originating at Sinai, critical historians think otherwise. A contemporary understanding of the relationship between the...

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Jewish Biblical Theology

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pp. 191-208

Jews have been engaged in the critical and theological study of the Bible since the days of the writing of the Bible itself. Each of the Bible's literary works is written from a particular theological viewpoint, e.g., the present form of the Torah emphasizes the role of the holy Temple, portrayed as the wilderness tabernacle, at the center of a unified nation of Israel;1 the...

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Epilogue: Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom:Some Reflections on Reading and Studying the Hebrew Bible

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pp. 209-218

The Hebrew Bible is a complex book. Its complexity is manifest in a number of ways, three of which in particular emerge from the discussions in this volume. In the first place, the Hebrew Bible is not a single book, but a collection of many: twenty-four, thirty-six, or thirty-nine, depending on the way one counts. These books, moreover, are of different lengths, gen-...

About the Contributors

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pp. 219-220

Index

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pp. 221-226

Index of Biblical Passages

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pp. 227-232


E-ISBN-13: 9780814733080
E-ISBN-10: 0814733085
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814731871
Print-ISBN-10: 0814731872

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008