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112 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 THE INTERILLUMINATING BIBLE by Herbert Schneidau Herbert Schneidau teaches English, including the Bible, at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Sacred Discontent: The Bible and Western Tradition (1976). His most recent work is Waking Giants: The Presence of the Past in Modernism (1991). He is at work on a book on the New Testament, The Burial ofMark: Gospels as Fictions. Jewish scholars and readers sometimes express distaste for reading the New Testament, or anything about it. The reasons are obvious: for centuries Jews have been killed, persecuted, or ill-treated because ofwhat appears in that work. Now, in addition to this understandable resentment, another issue has arisen, as a byproduct of the cultural warfare going on in literary studies in general: the New Testament is an everpresent reminder of the appropriation of the Bible by Christians, into a "JudaeoChristian tradition." Appropriation and co-option are powerful terms these days. Anyone remotely connected with universities knows that a struggle is raging over the political aspects of literary studies, especially over the (Biblically derived) question of "the canon"-what works should be included-and how to formulate a tolerant and broadminded multicultural viewpoint on such matters without appropriating and thus denaturing the relevant works of other cultures. Feminist studies, for instance, have recently been bedeviled by rancorous debate about the inclusion ofworks by "women of color" in the canon. The troubling issue is whether such works should be taught, studied, and rriticized by white women (or, afortiori, any men). Though not always made explicit, the premise is that white women, for all their unredressed grievances, are still linked to "the dominant culture" in ways that other women are not. (Some Marxist critics, along with reactionaries, charge that feminism is just a form of careerism for white women.) It is feared, apparently, that the eventual result of such appropriation will be The Interilluminating Bible 113 the drowning out of the unique voices of these vforlcs in a cultural Muzak of bland tolerance: perhaps nonwhite women writers will even be made into mascots of the culture, in the same way thiltmany Native American motifs have been appropriated in sports, the arts, and sometimes business (I know one Apache who is outraged by "Apache Tires" and the like.) Similar emotions about appropriation have been hanging around Biblical studies for some time, but they should emerge with greater clarity and force as the other battles over the politic~ of literature grow more strident and the rhetoric becomes more pointed.;ThatJews in general have no use for the New Testament is part of a larger topic, of which the most visible manifestations circle around such questipns as a proper name for the Tanak: Hebrew Bible? Jewish Bible? Or just Bible-in which case how is it distinguished from what Christians call the;Bible? Everyone agrees that the term "Old Testament" is outmoded, and that it should be reserved for the document that con!tains the same books (but in a different order) and the same words as t~e Tanak, but is read in a different way, as a series of prophecies about the Messiah.1 "Hebrew Bible" is the choice of scholars because it is descriptive, but it has been remarked that the phrase is "as meaningless Ito religious Jews as 'The English Shakespeare,''' and thus latently pa:tronizing and offensive.2 Furthermore, even well-known literary scholars, are capable of using it as an affectation-I remember one correspondenc~in the course of which it became apparent that the writer was using it io mean the two-part, Le., Christian, Bible. Perhaps he thought it sounde~ more politically correct, or more learned. "Jewish Bible," on the other hand, sounds misleadingly proprietary and self-contained, as if it were something that never had anything to do with Christian tradition: such a term smacks of a desire to repeal history. Obviously there is no easy answer here, althol:lgh for reasons of conventionality some compromise will emerge eventually. On the one hand, there are Jews who want to ignore the inevitable co~sion and reserve the term "Bible" for the Tanak, on the grounds that not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 112-126
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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