Imatge de l'autor
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Sobre l'autor

James L. Kugel was Starr Professor of Hebrew at Harvard from 1982 to 2003.
Crèdit de la imatge: James Kugel

Obres de James L. Kugel

The Bible as it was (1997) 646 exemplars
On Being a Jew (1990) 78 exemplars

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Highly readable introduction to biblical criticism, the key stories of the Hebrew Bible, and some of the interpretations, both Jewish and Christian, of it. It focuses on the first 5 books (Pentateuch) mostly - the 12 minor prophets get 1 chapter while Genesis-Deutoronomy gets 20, for example. There are a few chapters focusing on a few key issues in understanding - the difference between a physical god who intercedes and an omnipresent one, the documentary hypothesis (different sources identified by different letters and with different traditions were combined to form the Pentateuch), the context of the other religions in the Levant, the origins of biblical criticism and the contrast with classic interpretation. There's also discussions on other key topics woven into the "narrative" - ie lots on the role of prophets in Israelite society, some explanation of the impact of the Exile etc.

He ends with his own personal feelings and opinions on how revealing the origins of the Bible affects religion and his own beliefs (he is an Orthodox Jew), culminating in a defence of those beliefs and of the whole Jewish way of living a religious life - the scripture as the start of an attempt to live life being a servant to God, with the whole process of interpretation simply being an extension of that. He emphasises that the whole discipline started as a way to get closer to God by getting to an "original" Bible without later corruptions but that study just showed there's really no such thing - it's always been a hodgepodge amalgam of various traditions and texts and the religious significance only exists in terms of the later Bible combined with its long history of interpretation and commentary.

Of course, sometimes he presents certain conclusions as basically certainties when they're still a complicated topic in biblical scholarship (his explanation of the Cain and Abel tale stands out - not that it's "wrong" but AFAIK there's no real consensus on where they came from) but the whole narrative is so fascinating and is a great introduction to thinking more deeply about what the Bible is saying, where it comes from, how it was composed, the ideas that lay behind what people were writing. The emphasis on the etiological (stories of how something came to be) nature of the stories in Genesis is really fascinating - the idea that, say, the story of Jacob seeing a ladder to heaven was primarily about creating a non-"heathen" origin story for why Bethel was a major religious site. It's notable how genesis has a lot of "and that's why this place is called this" with a fanciful etymology - the power and importance these stories have always had on people is really fascinating to me.
… (més)
tombomp | Hi ha 11 ressenyes més | Oct 31, 2023 |
smadden2021 | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Jun 5, 2023 |
73. How to Read the Bible : A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel
2007, 777 pages Paperback brick
read Nov 28, 2011 - Nov 17, 2015, read along with the OT
Rating: 4.5 stars

My plan was to use this as advertised, as a guide in how to read the bible. I would read part of the bible and then read the corresponding chapter here. It started out well. He has some nice introductory essays then chapters in order on Genesis 1-3, then on Gen 4, then 6-8, then Gen 11...and so on. But then at some point it started skipping larger and larger sections, with no explanation, and then sections began to be covered out of order, or different non-adjacent books were discussed together, or entire books were barely touched on, or the same book would be split into different, not even adjacent chapters. There is no explanation as to why some things are covered and other things aren't, or as to why the order goes scrambled. Anyway, it's not that kind of a guide in How to Read the Bible.

What this book actually intends is to summarize all the latest biblical scholarship and also to capture the various interpretations of the bible through time. His essays are quite interesting as he covers what the ancient and medieval interpreters thought, then he brings up the ideas of modern scholarship, including many of his own ideas. Some of the best parts of the book are in the end notes - there are 79 pages of them. In many essays he brings up some really interesting problems...and then he stops. No conclusion. The essays just end.

He is very interested in the changing interpretations through time, especially those within the bible itself. Such as how did Song of Songs, a romantic love song, become a biblical book seen as about love of God? It's possible the words never changed as it evolved from one meaning to the other.

For modern scholarship, his guiding lights are Julius Wellhausen who is the originator of the Documentary Hypothesis, Hermann Gunkel, and William F. Albright. In his conclusion he has some very interesting things to say about modern scholarship. It began as a effort to search under the text for an original and now mainly lost meaning. What was found instead is that the bible was written in parts over a long period of time, and has no original meaning or core. But the side effect of all this scholarship was the reducing of the text from a divine to a human creation. There was a entire shift from learning from the bible to learning about it. In the process the loser was the Bible. No longer a sacred emblem, the scholarly insight, while fascinating, remains of interest only to scholars - and everyone else interested in the origins.

What Kugel mentions, but neglects, is the literary criticism of the bible, a different kind of scholarship. In western literature throughout time the bible has kept its divine value. And the text itself has significant literary elements and studying them requires a different but still real reverence. Of course this a different kind of reverence, and not the one the bible once held.

He has few words for fundamentalists and basically says that anyone who has studied the bible and is aware of the biblical scholarship knows better than to see anything within the text other than a complex human creation.

… (més)
6 vota
dchaikin | Hi ha 11 ressenyes més | Dec 10, 2015 |
This book forced reroutes of the synapses of my brain like none ever before. It is an 800 page cinder block that I was happy to carry around with me for precisely that reason. For 34 years I looked at the Bible one way, and from now until my last day, I'll be looking at it another way. NOT recommended for staunch believers in the 8th ikkar. You have been warned.
1 vota
MartinBodek | Hi ha 11 ressenyes més | Jun 11, 2015 |



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