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The Jewish Bible

A JPS Guide

Edited by The Jewish Publication Society

Publication Year: 2008

This new volume in the acclaimed JPS Guides series is an invaluable companion to the Jewish Bible, providing readers with ready access to important facts and Bible basics: # how the Bible became the "Bible"; its origins, content, and organization # distinctions between the Jewish Bible (the Tanakh) and Christian Bibles # a short history of Bible translations, and how they differ # Bible commentaries # storytelling, poetry, law, prophecy, and Wisdom literature # popular methods of Bible study # finding meaning through midrash In addition, there are summaries of all the biblical books; dozens of text boxes; an extensive glossary of Bible terms, places, and people; maps, charts, and tables; and large foldout timelines and family trees--all in color. Contributions are by leading Bible scholars and educators: Marc Zvi Brettler, Joyce Eisenberg, Michael Fishbane, Michael V. Fox, Leonard Greenspoon, Jill Hammer, Stuart Kelman, Adriane Leveen, David Mandel, Lionel Moses, Shalom Paul, Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, Ellen Scolnic, David E. S. Stein, Barry Dov Walfish, and Andrea Weiss.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

This volume began with a simple idea: to create a concise companion to the Bible. But that led to a not-so-simple question: How does one develop a guide that is worthy of accompanying such a complex...

Abbreviations for the Books of the Bible

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pp. ix

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What Is the Bible?

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pp. 1-12

The word “Bible” derives from the Greek biblia, meaning “books.” By its very name, “the Bible” refers to “the collection of books”—that is, the one that is deemed to be authoritative, or canonical. Different communities have different Bibles. For Christians, the Bible...

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How the Bible Became “the Bible”

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pp. 13-18

We know little about the Bible’s origin—how so many books comprising so many diverse ideas became “the Bible.” Clearly, the process happened in stages, over a long time. Nobody woke up one...

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The Origins of the Hebrew Bible Text

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pp. 19-24

Acourt of law relies on witnesses to establish the facts of a case. But for those who seek the “facts” of the original biblical texts, no firsthand witnesses exist. We have only the testimony of various manuscripts, produced hundreds of years after the Bible’s books were...

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The Torah Scroll

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pp. 25-28

In its earliest transmission, the words of the Torah were written on papyrus and animal skins. To maintain this sacred tradition, Jews observe the mitzvah of writing the words of the Torah on specially prepared...

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Public Reading of the Torah

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pp. 29-32

The first public reading that involved “a prototype” of the Torah took place in the mid-5th century B.C.E., when Ezra undertook the initial reading on Rosh Hashanah, followed by a daily reading during the festival of Sukkot. By the time of the Second Temple, the public reading...

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A Short History of Bible Translations

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pp. 33-50

The book of Genesis narrates two stories in which translation plays a role. The first, the well-known tower of Babel episode (Gen. 11), vividly describes the dangers that can occur when all nations and peoples speak the same language. To prevent evil from spreading among...

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The Matter of Gender in the JPS Torah Translation

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pp. 51-56

Harry Orlinsky, the editor-in-chief of the New Jewish Publication Society (NJPS) translation of the Torah (1962), lectured widely on what at that time was a new topic in translation: gender. He would point out that the best-known Bible versions have too often rendered certain Hebrew...

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Storytelling in the Bible

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pp. 57-68

Our brains seem uniquely adapted to making sense of experience through stories. We tell stories and listen to them not just in our daily conversation but on the news, in the movies, and in novels. Even a sacred text such as the Bible seeks to make sense of the world through...

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Biblical Law

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pp. 69-76

A look at a society’s legal system can give us insight into that society’s values and beliefs. Mesopotamia is acknowledged to be the ultimate cradle of law, and law during Bible times was highly indebted to its Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Babylonian,...

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Biblical Poetry

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pp. 77-90

Although prose dominates, poetry permeates every part of the Bible. Indeed, about one third of the Bible is poetry. It can be found in almost every book—sometimes just a single line, but...

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The Books of the Prophets

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pp. 91-96

Prophets, the second part of the Bible, known in Hebrew as Nevi’im, includes 21 books of the canon, when each of the books are counted. This literature thus composes about one half of the entire Bible and covers about 750 years of biblical...

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Wisdom Literature

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pp. 97-106

Wisdom Literature is the broad literary category that offers advice on how to succeed in life, as well as reflections on its meanings and problems. Unlike much of the Bible, which is concerned with those unique events in history in which God is revealed...

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Methods of Bible Study

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pp. 107-120

What we think the Bible is helps determine the way in which we read it. Traditional Jewish commentators believe that the words of the Bible were revealed by God to Moses. Therefore, when there seem to be contradictions or errors, the commentators...

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Commentaries on the Bible

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pp. 121-152

The TANAKH, the Hebrew Bible, is the foundational sacred text of the Jewish religion. Of its three divisions, Torah, Prophets (Nevi’im), and Writings (Kethuvim), the Torah is the most hallowed. Even before its final redaction and especially since, the...

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pp. 153-168

In the book of Genesis, when the twins Jacob and Esau are fighting in her womb, Rebekah goes to ask God for some answers. The verb used for her quest is lidrosh, meaning “to seek, to inquire, to search out.” This same verb becomes the basis for the word “midrash.” Midrash is a unique...

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Summaries of the Books of the Bible

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pp. 169-216

TITLE: “Genesis” is a Greek word signifying “origin” or “beginning.” In Hebrew the book is called “Bereshit” (in the beginning). As the first book of the Bible, it sets the precedent of taking its title from the first significant word in the text itself, bereshit....


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pp. 217-245

Family Tree of the Torah

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pp. 246-247

Weights and Measures in the Bible

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pp. 248-250

Timeline of Biblical Events

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pp. 251-257

Chronology of the Prophets*

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pp. 258

Chronology of the Monarchies

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pp. 259

Familiar Quotations from the Bible

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pp. 260-262

Maps of Biblical Lands

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pp. 263-271

A Short List of Recommended Books and Websites

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pp. 272-276

Bibliography of Works Cited

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pp. 277-279


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pp. 280-282


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pp. 283-291

E-ISBN-13: 9780827610323
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827608511

Publication Year: 2008