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The Hebrew Bible is only part of ancient Israel's writings. Another collection of Jewish works has survived from late- and post-biblical times, a great library that bears witness to the rich spiritual life of Jews in that period. This library consists of the most varied sorts of texts: apocalyptic visions and prophecies, folktales and legends, collections of wise sayings, laws and rules of conduct, commentaries on Scripture, ancient prayers, and much, much more.
While specialists have studied individual texts or subsections of this vast library, Outside the Bible seeks for the first time to bring together all the major components into a single collection, gathering portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the biblical Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha, and the writings of Philo of Alexandria and Josephus.
The editors have brought together these diverse works in order to highlight what has often been neglected; their common Jewish background. For this reason the commentaries that accompany the texts devote special attention to references to Hebrew Scripture and to issues of halakhah (Jewish law), their allusions to motifs and themes known from later Rabbinic writings in Talmud and Midrash, their evocation of recent or distant events in Jewish history, and their references to other texts in this collection.
The work of more than seventy contributing experts in a range of fields, Outside the Bible offers new insights into the development of Judaism and Early Christianity. This three-volume set of translations, introductions, and detailed commentaries is a must for scholars, students, and anyone interested in this great body of ancient Jewish writings.
The collection includes a general introduction and opening essays, new and revised translations, and detailed introductions, commentaries, and notes that place each text in its historical and cultural context. A timeline of the Second Temple Period, two appendixes (Books of the Bible; Second Temple Literature), and a general subject index complete the set.
Rife with incest, adultery, rape, and murder, the biblical story of Jacob and his children must have troubled ancient readers. By any standard, this was a family with problems. Jacob's oldest son Reuben is said to have slept with his father's concubine Bilhah. The next two sons, Simeon and Levi, tricked the men of a nearby city into undergoing circumcision, and then murdered all of them as revenge for the rape of their sister. Judah, the fourth son, had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, jealous of their younger sibling Joseph, the brothers conspired to kill him; they later relented and merely sold him into slavery. These stories presented a particular challenge for ancient biblical interpreters. After all, Jacob's sons were the founders of the nation of Israel and ought to have been models of virtue.
In "The Ladder of Jacob," renowned biblical scholar James Kugel retraces the steps of ancient biblical interpreters as they struggled with such problems. Kugel reveals how they often fixed on a little detail in the Bible's wording to "deduce" something not openly stated in the narrative. They concluded that Simeon and Levi were justified in killing all the men in a town to avenge the rape of their sister, and that Judah, who slept with his daughter-in-law, was the unfortunate victim of alcoholism.
These are among the earliest examples of ancient biblical interpretation (midrash). They are found in retellings of biblical stories that appeared in the closing centuries BCE--in the Book of Jubilees, the Aramaic Levi Document, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and other noncanonical works. Through careful analysis of these retellings, Kugel is able to reconstruct how ancient interpreters worked. "The Ladder of Jacob" is an artful, compelling account of the very beginnings of biblical interpretation.
These stories spoke very differently to their original audience than they do to us, and they reflect a radically distinct understanding of reality and the human mind. Yet over the course of the thousand-year Biblical era, encounters with God changed dramatically. As James L. Kugel argues, this transition allows us to glimpse a massive shift in human experience as the modern, Western idea of the individual is born. In this landmark work, Kugel fuses revelatory close readings of ancient texts with modern scholarship from a range of fields, including neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, and archaeology, to explain the origins of belief, monotheism, worship, divine omniscience, and - crucially - the human sense of self. In the tradition of books such as The Swerve and The Better Angels of Our Nature,The Great Shift tells the story of a revolution in human consciousness and the enchantment of everyday life. This book will make believers and seekers think differently not just about the Bible but about the entire history of the human imagination.
James Kugel's "The Bible As It Was" (1997) has been welcomed with universal praise. Here now is the full scholarly edition of this wonderfully rich and illuminating work, expanding the author's findings into an incomparable reference work.
Focusing on two dozen core stories in the Pentateuch--from the Creation and Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land--James Kugel shows us how the earliest interpreters of the scriptures radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Kugel explains how and why the writers of this formative age of interpretation--roughly 200 B.C.E. to 150 C.E.--assumed such a significant role. Mining their writings--including the Dead Sea Scrolls, works of Philo and Josephus and letters of the Apostle Paul, and writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the rabbinic Sages--he quotes for us the seminal passages that uncover this crucial interpretive process.
For this full-scale reference work Kugel has added a substantial treasury of sources and passages for each of the 24 Bible stories. It will serve as a unique guide and sourcebook for biblical interpretation.
Scholars from different fields have joined forces to reexamine every aspect of the Hebrew Bible. Their research, carried out in universities and seminaries in Europe and America, has revolutionized our understanding of almost every chapter and verse. But have they killed the Bible in the process?
In "How to Read the Bible, " Harvard professor James Kugel leads the reader chapter by chapter through the "quiet revolution" of recent biblical scholarship, showing time and again how radically the interpretations of today's researchers differ from what people have always thought. The story of Adam and Eve, it turns out, was not originally about the "Fall of Man," but about the move from a primitive, hunter-gatherer society to a settled, agricultural one. As for the stories of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob and Esau, these narratives were not, at their origin, about individual people at all but, rather, explanations of some feature of Israelite society as it existed centuries after these figures were said to have lived. Dinah was never raped -- her story was created by an editor to solve a certain problem in Genesis. In the earliest version of the Exodus story, Moses probably did not divide the Red Sea in half; instead, the Egyptians perished in a storm at sea. Whatever the original Ten Commandments might have been, scholars are quite sure they were different from the ones we have today. What's more, the people long supposed to have written various books of the Bible were not, in the current consensus, their real authors: David did not write the Psalms, Solomon did not write Proverbs or Ecclesiastes; indeed, there is scarcely a book in the Bible that is not the product of different, anonymous authors and editors working in different periods.
Such findings pose a serious problem for adherents of traditional, Bible-based faiths. Hiding from the discoveries of modern scholars seems dishonest, but accepting them means undermining much of the Bible's reliability and authority as the word of God. What to do? In his search for a solution, Kugel leads the reader back to a group of ancient biblical interpreters who flourished at the end of the biblical period. Far from naive, these interpreters consciously set out to depart from the original meaning of the Bible's various stories, laws, and prophecies -- and they, Kugel argues, hold the key to solving the dilemma of reading the Bible today.
"How to Read the Bible is, " quite simply, the best, most original book about the Bible in decades. It offers an unflinching, insider's look at the work of today's scholars, together with a sustained consideration of what the Bible was for most of its history -- before the rise of modern scholarship. Readable, clear, often funny but deeply serious in its purpose, this is a book for Christians and Jews, believers and secularists alike. It offers nothing less than a whole new way of thinking about sacred Scripture.
In "The Great Poems of the Bible, " James Kugel, acclaimed Harvard scholar and former poetry editor of "Harpers Magazine, " selects eighteen essential poems from the Hebrew Bible and offers his own original and articulate translations of these core pieces of religious literature. His eloquent renditions are paired with deeply informed discussions about the conditions surrounding each poem, including its history and whatethe best religious scholarship and literary criticism tell us about how the poem should be understood. Kugel explains traditions, clarifies often-misunderstood language, and offers readers wonderfully insightful explanations that are indispensable to understanding the poems and, ultimately, the fundamental teachings of the Old Testament.
This highly accessible book discusses how the early Jewish and Christian communities went about interpreting Scripture.
The Library of Early Christianity is a series of eight outstanding books exploring the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts in which the New Testament developed.
TEN YEARS AGO, Harvard professor James Kugel was diagnosed with an
aggressive, likely fatal, form of cancer. "I was, of course,
disturbed and worried. But the main change in my state of mind was
that the background music had suddenly stopped--the music of daily
life that's constantly going, the music of infinite time and
possibilities. Now suddenly it was gone, replaced by "nothing,
"just silence. There you are, one little person, sitting in the
late summer sun, with only a few things left to do."
This is a guide to the Hebrew Bible unlike any other. Leading us chapter by chapter through its most important stories--from the Creation and the Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land--James Kugel shows how a group of anonymous, ancient interpreters radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Was the snake in the Garden of Eden the devil, or the Garden itself "paradise"? Did Abraham discover monotheism, and was his son Isaac a willing martyr? Not until the ancient interpreters set to work. Poring over every little detail in the Bible's stories, prophecies, and laws, they let their own theological and imaginative inclinations radically transform the Bible's very nature. Their sometimes surprising interpretations soon became the generally accepted meaning. These interpretations, and not the mere words of the text, became the Bible in the time of Jesus and Paul or the rabbis of the Talmud. Drawing on such sources as the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish apocrypha, Hellenistic writings, long-lost retellings of Bible stories, and prayers and sermons of the early church and synagogue, Kugel reconstructs the theory and methods of interpretation at the time when the Bible was becoming the bedrock of Judaism and Christianity. Here, for the first time, we can witness all the major transformations of the text and recreate the development of the Bible "As It Was" at the start of the Common era--the Bible as we know it.
Ten years ago, when Harvard professor James Kugel was diagnosed
with an aggressive, likely fatal, form of cancer, "I was, of
course, disturbed and worried. But the main change in my state of
mind was that . . . the background music had suddenly stopped. . .
. the music of daily life that's constantly going, the music of
infinite time and possibilities. Now suddenly it was gone, replaced
by "nothing, "just silence. There you are, one little person,
sitting in the late-summer sun, with only a few things left to do."
Despite his illness, Kugel was intrigued by this new state of mind;
it seemed to reveal something basic about the religions that he had
been studying for years.
The first part of this book is an extensive verse-by-verse commentary on the Book of Jubilees. Kugel's stated aim is "to understand what the text is saying and why it is saying it," and in particular to explore the numerous bits of biblical interpretation found in Jubilees and their connection to other exegetical writings of the Second Temple period. Subsequent chapters focus on the possibility that Jubilees had more than one author, as well as on the book s specific relationship to four other Second Temple texts: the Genesis Apocryphon, the Aramaic Levi Document, 4Q225 Pseudo-Jubilees, and the writings of Philo of Alexandria.
These essays, by some of today's greatest scholars of Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity, explore a variety of ways in which these two great civilizations interacted. The common focus of these studies is the transition from one culture to the next - how words or concepts or conventions from the one came to be transplanted, and often modified in the process, in the other. Taken together, however, they provide something broader: a large, variegated picture of the cultural interaction that was to prove so crucial for the later history of Judaism and Christianity.
In How to Read the Bible, Harvard professor James Kugel leads the
listener through the "quiet revolution" of recent biblical
scholarship, showing how radically the interpretations of today's
researchers differ from what people have always thought. The story
of Adam and Eve, it turns out, was not originally about the "Fall
of Man," but about the move from a primitive, hunter-gatherer
society to a settled, agricultural one. As for the stories of Cain
and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob and Esau, they were not
about individual people at all but, rather, explanations of
Israelite society as it existed centuries after these figures were
said to have lived. In the earliest version of the Exodus story,
Moses probably did not divide the Red Sea in half; instead, the
Egyptians perished in a storm at sea. Whatever the original Ten
Commandments might have been, scholars are quite sure they were
different from the ones we have today. What's more, the people long
supposed to have written various books of the Bible were not their
real authors: David did not write the Psalms, Solomon did not write
Our notion of God today -- all-powerful, invisible, and omnipresent -- is not the same as the God of the Hebrew Bible. So who is this "God of Old?" And what is His place in the modern spiritual world? James Kugel is renowned for his investigations into the history of the biblical era, a time beginning more than three thousand years ago, when the Bible's earliest parts first took shape. With The God of Old, Kugel goes even deeper, attempting to enter the pages of the Old Testament and see God as the Israelites first encountered him. The God of Old appeared to people unexpectedly; He was not sought out. Often He was not even recognized, at first mistaken for an ordinary human being. The realm of the divine was not as it is today -- a spiritual dimension set off from the material world. The spiritual and the material overlapped, and the realm of the dead was a real domain just beyond the world of the living. Ordinary reality was in constant danger of sliding into something else, something stark but oddly familiar. And God was always standing just behind the curtain of the everyday world. In this groundbreaking study, Kugel suggests that this alternative spirituality is not simply an archaic relic, replaced by a "better" understanding. Kugel's picture of the God of Old has much to tell us about God's very nature, and about the encounter between Him and human beings in today's world. A book to treasure side by side with the Bible, The God of Old is sure to engage scholars and spiritual seekers alike for years to come.
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