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The Divine Symphony

the Bible's many voices

Authored by Israel Knohl

Publication Year: 2003

In this fascinating book, Knohl shares his understanding of how the Torah was edited into its final form. He bridges the gap between ancient Israel (c.1400-586 B.C.E.) and Second Temple times (c.536 B.C.E.-70 C.E.) by showing the continuity between these eras and the gradual evolution of the biblical worldview, which formed the foundation of later rabbinic Judaism. The book focuses on the editing of the Torah, interpreting the textual evidence, most notably contradictions and redundancies, to show that the idea of a pluralistic understanding of Revelation can be traced back to the editing of the Torah itself. Knohl's interpretation of biblical composition challenges a popular trend in contemporary biblical scholarship: the idea that ancient Israel never existed as a historical reality, but was invented and "retrojected" back in time by later Israelite priests as part of their national myth.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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pp. vii-viii

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Dedication and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO THE MEMORY OF TWO GREAT SOULS. The first is my beloved wife, Rivka, who died on the first day of the month of Nisan 5763 (April 3, 2003), after three years of heroic struggle with cancer. Rivka studied philosophy and computer science at Bar Ilan University, educational psychology at Rutgers University, and classics and cognitive ...

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pp. xi-xv

THESE VERSES ARE TAKEN FROM “LEKHA DODI” (COME, MY Beloved), the song with which Jews welcome the Sabbath. They refer to the different versions given in the Torah regarding the commandment of the Sabbath. According to the version of the Ten Commandments given in ...

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Chapter One - The Editing of the Torah

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pp. 1-8

DIFFERENT SPIRITUAL CURRENTS AND DIFFERENT LITERARY works developed within Israel in the period between the founding of the Temple of Solomon and the return from the Babylonian exile. These various voices were isolated for a long time and kept separate from each other. For example, the Priestly teachings were closely guarded ...

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Chapter Two - The Uniqueness of the Priestly Torah

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pp. 9-35

THE PRIESTLY FAITH IS UNIQUE WITHIN THE BIBLE. ONLY IN the Priestly Torah do we find a systematic avoidance of the attribution of any physical dimensions to God and of almost any action of God, save the act of commanding. The Priestly thinkers attained an astounding level of abstraction and sublimity. That such a conception develops at ...

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Chapter Three - Knowing Good and Evil: God and Humanity in J’s Story of Beginnings

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pp. 37-49

WHILE THE PRIESTLY TORAH, OFTEN ABBREVIATED SIMPLY as P, argues that the name “YHWH” was not known before the revelation to Moses, the J source uses the name “YHWH” in the period before Moses. It seems that the main argument between the two sources is whether there is a possibility of full divine revelation before ...

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Chapter Four - Good, Evil, and Holiness in Isaiah and the Holiness School

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pp. 51-69

GENESIS DEPICTS A MAJOR CHANGE IN THE RELATIONSHIP of humanity to God’s other creatures. According to the Priestly source, God’s original plan was for a peaceful, vegetarian world with no violence: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food” ...

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Chapter Five - Israel’s Debate over God’s Sanctuary

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pp. 71-85

THE CENTER OF HOLINESS IN ANCIENT ISRAEL WAS THE sanctuary, but there were different forms and locations of sanctuaries. In this chapter we deal with the different models of the sanctuary that are to be found in the Torah, starting with the Priestly sanctuary: the Tabernacle. ...

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Chapter Six - Israel’s Debate over King and Messiah

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pp. 87-99

THE THEOLOGY THAT A SOCIETY CREATES IS ALWAYS A reflection of how that society envisions itself. As a monarchical society, it was natural for Israel to imagine God as king. This chapter will be concerned with that premise, and also with its opposite: to what extent can a ...

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Chapter Seven - New Conceptions of Evil and Suffering during the Period of Exile and Return

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pp. 101-122

IN THE LAST TWO CHAPTERS, WE DISCUSSED THE MAIN INSTITUTIONS of ancient Israel: sanctuary, priesthood, and kingship. But all these institutions ceased to exist at the beginning of the sixth century B.C.E. At that time, the Babylonians destroyed the kingdom of Judea, razed the Temple in ...

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Chapter Eight - The Emergence of the Sects in Ancient Judaism

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pp. 123-143

IN CHAPTER 1 WE EXAMINED THE SAYING OF SHIMON THE Righteous that appears in The Sayings of the Fathers: “The world stands on three things: the Torah, the Temple services, and acts of loving-kindness.”1 I emphasized the priority of the study of Torah over the Temple sacrifices, and noted this as a sign of the revolutionary change that had ...

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pp. 145-146

WE ENDED THE LAST CHAPTER WITH THE DISPUTE between the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel. Concerning this controversy, it is said in the Talmud1 that “both these and those are the words of the living God.” We must recognize that various, and even contradictory, views can all be the true words of the living God. ...


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pp. 147-148

Appendix A: Dating the Sources of the Torah

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pp. 149-155

Appendix B: Biblical Passages and Their Source Derivations

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pp. 157-158


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pp. 159-192

Index of Biblical Passages and Other References

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pp. 193-196

Subject Index

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pp. 197-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780827610187
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827607613

Publication Year: 2003