We think of the Hebrew Bible as the Book--and yet it was
produced by a largely nonliterate culture in which writing,
editing, copying, interpretation, and public reading were the work
of a professional elite. The scribes of ancient Israel are indeed
the main figures behind the Hebrew Bible, and in this book Karel
van der Toorn tells their story for the first time. His book
considers the Bible in very specific historical terms, as the
output of the scribal workshop of the Second Temple active in the
period 500-200 BCE. Drawing comparisons with the scribal practices
of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, van der Toorn clearly details the
methods, the assumptions, and the material means of production that
gave rise to biblical texts; then he brings his observations to
bear on two important texts, Deuteronomy and Jeremiah.
Traditionally seen as the copycats of antiquity, the scribes
emerge here as the literate elite who held the key to the
production as well as the transmission of texts. Van der Toorn's
account of scribal culture opens a new perspective on the origins
of the Hebrew Bible, revealing how the individual books of the
Bible and the authors associated with them were products of the
social and intellectual world of the scribes. By taking us inside
that world, this book yields a new and arresting appreciation of
the Hebrew Scriptures.
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