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How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture,…
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How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now (original 2007; edition 2007)

by James L. Kugel

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5651130,491 (4.28)60
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 Proverbs.Such findings pose a 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 listener back to 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 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 audiobook about the Bible in decades. Clear, often funny, but deeply serious in its purpose, this is an audiobook for Christians and Jews, believers and secularists alike.… (more)
Member:jerryphillips
Title:How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now
Authors:James L. Kugel
Info:Free Press (2007), Hardcover, 848 pages
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How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel (2007)

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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.

2015 https://www.librarything.com/topic/197329#5368394 ( )
5 vote dchaikin | Dec 10, 2015 |
6
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 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 vote MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
fascinating. Told Jane about it. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book immensely. Tells you what the bible says and provides historical context along with the various ways each story has been interpreted. Allowed me to understand how and why people continue to place such importance on something that archeologists, historians and biblical scholars have shown to be full of inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies. Author is an orthodox Jew, but presents material in a very balanced way even when it challenges his own beliefs. Drags at some points, but for the most part very interesting. ( )
  pjeanne | Oct 7, 2012 |
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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 Proverbs.Such findings pose a 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 listener back to 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 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 audiobook about the Bible in decades. Clear, often funny, but deeply serious in its purpose, this is an audiobook for Christians and Jews, believers and secularists alike.

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