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The Bible's Many Voices

Michael Carasik

Publication Year: 2014

The most common English translations of the Bible often sound like a single, somewhat archaic voice. In fact, the Bible is made up of many separate books composed by multiple writers in a wide range of styles and perspectives. It is, as Michael Carasik demonstrates, not a remote text reserved for churches and synagogues but rather a human document full of history, poetry, politics, theology, and spirituality.
Using historic, linguistic, anthropological, and theological sources, Carasik helps us distinguish between the Jewish Bible’s voices—the mythic, the historical, the prophetic, the theological, and the legal. By articulating the differences among these voices, he shows us not just their messages and meanings but also what mattered to the authors. In these contrasts we encounter the Bible anew, as a living work whose many voices tell us about the world out of which the Bible grew—and the world that it created.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

It is impossible for me to thank everyone who has contributed indirectly to this book. But I must thank my friends Ben Sommer, who provided a sounding board at an early stage, and Johanna...

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Read Me First

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pp. xi-xvi

The secular calendar in use all over the world today is actually a Christian one, whose count of years begins in the year that Jesus was (theoretically) born, ad 1. (Scholars now think he was born in 4 BC or perhaps a year or two before.) And both of the century identifiers are...

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Whose Bible Is It?

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pp. 1-22

The Bible belongs to everyone, of course. But I want to start this book by telling you about my Bible— one of ’em, at least. Not the one that’s being held together with strips of blue electrical tape; not the four-dollar paperback I acquired as a college student in Florida (no sales...

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1. The Sound of the Biblical Voices

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pp. 23-61

It’s Hebrew, not English. It may sound foolish to emphasize that the Bible says something in Hebrew rather than those English words that we all know. But it’s not just a trivial point. Translations are never able to give you everything that you’d get from the original text. And translations...

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2. Historical Voices

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pp. 62-97

We have all heard the phrase “The Bible says . . . .” After reading the previous chapter, you know that this phrase is not as simple as it sounds; after all, most of the people who tell us what the Bible “says” tell it to us in a language that the Bible didn’t originally “speak,” or in...

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3. Theological Voices

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pp. 98-132

It ought to be no surprise to anyone that there are “theological voices” throughout the Bible. We have already seen, in chapter 1, the argument between Jeremiah and the Judeans who fled to Egypt. Jeremiah claimed that all the disasters that had overtaken Judah were due to...

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4. Legal Voices

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pp. 133-173

The first five books of the Bible are often called by biblical scholars, just as we have done earlier in this book, the “Pentateuch.” This is a reasonably neutral term, being simply made up of Greek words meaning “five books.” But what is it that makes these five books a unit...

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5. Prophetic Voices

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pp. 174-207

We saw in the previous chapter that the written Torah was not generally acknowledged, certainly not as a legal document, until after the exile. The “scroll of Torah” that was discovered in 622 BCE came as a complete surprise to the people who were living in Jerusalem at the..

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6. Women’s Voices

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pp. 208-237

We have discussed many different voices so far, but the prophets were the first of them that could be considered the individual voices of real human beings. Listening carefully to individual voices like these will provide us with a means to hear some voices that are less prominent...

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7. Voices of the Wise

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pp. 238-274

In the last chapter, we encountered a verse from Jeremiah that listed, in a nutshell, the three sources of knowledge as the Bible understood it: “Teaching shall not vanish from the priests, nor counsel from the sages, nor oracles from the prophets” ( Jer. 18:18). We have devoted several...

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8. Foreign Voices

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pp. 275-300

In chapter 4 I suggested that the fact that the Pentateuch was woven together of multiple strands is part of what gives the book its power, and I quoted a proverb from the book of Ecclesiastes in support of my suggestion: “The three- fold cord is not easily broken” (Eccl. 4:12)...

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9. Voices of Song and Legend

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pp. 301-328

We have seen in earlier chapters several examples of how different biblical voices tell the “same” story in a slightly different way: the diverse and sometimes contrasting historical ideologies of Kings and Chronicles, the Sinaitic law collections revealed by Moses to the...

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10. Echoes and Reverberations

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pp. 329-350

As we’ve seen, the biblical voices carried on a lively exchange for a thousand years. So the obvious question arises: Why did this exchange stop? That is, why didn’t the voices continue? Why aren’t there more books in the Bible than we have today? The first answer, of course, is that there are more “books of the...

Jewish and Christian Biblical Order

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pp. 351-352


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pp. 353-365

Further Reading

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pp. 366

E-ISBN-13: 9780827611344
E-ISBN-10: 082761134X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827609358

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2014