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The Literary Guide to the Bible by Robert…
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The Literary Guide to the Bible (1987)

by Robert Alter (Editor), Frank Kermode (Editor)

Other authors: James Stokes Ackerman (Contributor), Gerald L. Bruns (Contributor), David Damrosch (Contributor), John Drury (Contributor), Helen Elsom (Contributor)20 more, J. P. Fokkelman (Contributor), Michael Goulder (Contributor), Moshe Greenberg (Contributor), Jonas C. Greenfield (Contributor), David M. Gunn (Contributor), Gerald Hammond (Contributor), Gabriel Josipovici (Contributor), Frank Kermode (Contributor), Francis Landy (Contributor), Edmund Leach (Contributor), Herbert Marks (Contributor), Bernard McGinn (Contributor), Robert Polzin (Contributor), James McConkey Robinson (Contributor), Joel Rosenberg (Contributor), Jack M. Sasson (Contributor), George Savran (Contributor), Luis Alonso Schokel (Contributor), Shemaryahu Talmon (Contributor), James G. Williams (Contributor)

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Showing 5 of 5
5. The Literary Guide to the Bible edited by Robert Alter & Frank Kermode
published: 1987
format: 672 page Hardcover
acquired: 2012
read: Jan 2012 – Nov 2015, June 2, 2018 - Jan 23, 2019
time reading: ~50 hr ~4.5 min/page
rating: 4

Contributors: J. P. Fokkelman, David Damrosch, James S. Ackerman, Robert Polzin, DavidM. Gunn, Joel Rosenberg, George Savran, Luis Alonso Schökel, Herbert Marks, James G. Williams, Moshe Greenberg, Francis Landy, JackM. Sasson, Shemaryahu Talman, John Drury, James Robinson, Michael Goulder, Gabriel Josipovici, Bernard McGinn, Jonas C. Greenfield, Helen Elsom, Edmond Leach, Gerald L. Bruns, Gerald Hammond

-- Read OT chapters from January 2012 to November 2015
-- Read NT chapters and other essays from June 2018 to January 2019

"The faithful maintain that the whole of the bible is true; for this to be possible, the truth has to be aesthetic rather than literal."

I should have more appreciation of the scholarship contained within these pages, and all I got out of them. Some essays were terrific. But, goodness, this was tough reading.


That was my entry into Litsy and I think it pretty much captures this collection of literary criticism essays, one for each book of the canonical old and new testament, with a wink at the midrash and translations. It does feel like a statement for this kind of perspective on the bible, although it's not a good statement for the entertainment value of literary criticism essays in general. ( )
  dchaikin | Jan 25, 2019 |
VERY scholarly. 678 pp, paperback
  janesveska | Apr 27, 2018 |
I’ve had this book for quite a while, but used it only as an occasional reference. I finally decided to read it all the way through, and I’m glad I did, though it definitely took a while. Perhaps two dozen authors provide coverage of nearly every book of the Bible, plus a collection of general essays thrown in at the end for good measure.

This collection­ isn’t meant as a ministerial aid. It’s a book-by-book journey into the richness of the Bible’s presentation. The Old Testament coverage focuses heavily on the poetic structure and literary qualities of the writing. As a result, books you may consider dry—like Isaiah—become stunning in their literary beauty, while other books that contain fascinating stories and theological depth—like Genesis—can appear ugly and boring by comparison.

While the Old Testament focuses more intently on literary style and presentation, the tone shifts when the topic moves from the Hebrew Old Testament to the Greek New Testament. Here, the emphasis is more on historical-critical exegesis, and what the New Testament writers were trying to tell us about the Christian movement in their own day. While Christian writings do build heavily on an Old Testament foundation, they derive not from the poetic Hebrew but from the ghetto-Greek of the Septuagint. Thus, cadence gives way to content, but the coverage is no less interesting.

I toyed with the idea of doing two book reviews: one for the Hebrew Bible and one for the Christian writings. They are that different. My favorite topics, for four entirely different reasons, were:

Isaiah, by Luis Alsonso Schokel, which is a exquisite collection of poetry by three or more authors.
Jonah, by James S. Ackerman, is exposed as a literary masterpiece.
The Gospel of Mark, by John Drury, is an interesting portrayal of a human Jesus hardly devoid of emotion.
The Pauline Epistles, by Michael Goulder, provides a glimpse into the mind of a fascinating and influential apostle. ( )
2 vote DubiousDisciple | Jul 7, 2013 |
A cure for Biblical illiteracy.
  kijabi1 | Jan 6, 2012 |
I would hope that everyone could read this book before being turned off by trying to make their way alone through the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures. Although expansive enough in its own right to frighten anyone, this collection of essays on the major portions of the the Bible will bring needed focus to an audience of college level readers or above. The chapters on Isaiah by Luis Alonso Schokel, Jonah by James Ackerman, and The Song of Songs by Francis Landy are excellent. The tools of modern literary criticism are applied to the Bible with worthwhile results. Index but with very technical suggestions for further reading. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Aug 16, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alter, RobertEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kermode, FrankEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ackerman, James StokesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bruns, Gerald L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Damrosch, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drury, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Elsom, HelenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fokkelman, J. P.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goulder, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenberg, MosheContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenfield, Jonas C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gunn, David M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hammond, GeraldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Josipovici, GabrielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kermode, FrankContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Landy, FrancisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leach, EdmundContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marks, HerbertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McGinn, BernardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Polzin, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Robinson, James McConkeyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosenberg, JoelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sasson, Jack M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Savran, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schokel, Luis AlonsoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Talmon, ShemaryahuContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, James G.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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The difficulty of getting a bearing on the Old Testament as a collection of literary works is reflected in the fact that we have no comfortable term with which to designate these books.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This literary guide leads the reader toward an understanding and appreciation of a book that has shaped the minds of men and women for two millenia and more. Provides an analysis of the Bible's structures, themes, narrative techniques and poetic forms. 1 line illustration. Rediscover the incomparable literary richness and strength of a book that all of us live with an many of us live by. An international team of renowned scholars, assembled by two leading literary critics, offers a book-by-book guide through the Old and New Testaments as well as general essays on the Bible as a whole, providing an enticing reintroduction to a work that has shaped our language and thought for thousands of years.… (more)

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