How to Read the Bible

  • by James L. Kugel
  • Narrated by Mel Foster
  • 36 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In How to Read the Bible, Harvard professor James Kugel leads the listener 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",l 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. And whatever the original Ten Commandments might have been, scholars are quite sure they were different from the ones we have today.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 listener back to a group of ancient biblical interpreters who flourished at the end of the biblical period. Far from naïve, 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. Clear, often funny, but deeply serious in its purpose, this is a book for Christians and Jews, believers and secularists alike.

More

See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

bible reading with head and heart

is the bible an important book ?
is it even the word of God ?
is it even significant literature ?

is it full of mistakes ?
does it apply to our modern daily lives ?
does it tell a coherent useful story ?

kugel tries to answer these questions
his style is both erudite and approachable
his university students are a fortunate group

one faction reads "from" the bible
they want to learn and believe and live better lives
for them it is an ancient and true compass

one faction reads "about" the bible
their knowledge is exhaustive and precise
but they deny any possibility of supernatural meaning

it is amazing to me how little these 2 groups overlap
kugel tries to have a foot in both factions
his background makes him more than qualified to try

the bible does matter and it is more than literature
evangelicals should not fear scholarly examination
scholars should not fear transcendent belief

there is stubbornness on both sides
kugel's thoughtful style wears both sides down
he shows how to read the bible with head and heart
Read full review

- Raleigh

The results of modern Biblical Scholarship

Professor emeritus James L. Kugel has brought together A LOT of information about how the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament/ Jewish Tanach) was interpreted through the ages. He argues that modern Biblical scholarship has eroded the traditional ways in which the Bible has been read for centuries.

Book by book he introduces his listeners to how new insights from scholarship has changed the way the Bible is interpreted. He ends of seeking a way to reconscile the synagoge and the church's way of reading the Bible with that of scholars and ends off with a rather depressing conculsion that the two ways of reading is irreconcilable. He argues that the mistake that reformers like Luther made was to "canonize" only the text of the Bible and not the INTERPRETATION that came along with it. THis lead to a lot of problems in reading the Bible. For one, what if it is discovered that the old ways of reading this sacred text(s) was not what it actually meant. Should one try to return to the original author's meaning? What is the original meaning if a text have been adjusted and reworked through the centuries?

Though these questions and the arguments that go with it is important, I found that the tremendous overview Kugel gave of the Hebrew Bible and the state of current scholarship is the strength of the book.

He gives an overview of creation narratives from the Ancient Near East, the Gilgamesh epic and its relation to Genesis, the problem of the 10 plagues not being 10 plagues everywhere, David the dubious king, the way scholar's understand the Lord as changing from a tribal deity to a universal deity which has also influenced the way he was depicted. He touches on Ugaritic, an ancient language close to Hebrew in which we find texts about the gods of Canaan. He discusses the historical probability/ improbability of a Moses. He discusses the text of Jeremia and Isaiah and how it differs from the Septuagint text (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). He speaks about the Song of Songs. Should it be read as ordinary love poetry or the love between God and his people?

In the end the listener is empowered to understand the various issues that the rise of modern biblical scholarship has brought about. He argues that one cannot turn back after knowing what you know.

I think this is an important book worth listening to. Mel Foster did a fair reading of the text,

This book comes recommended to those that are interested in getting an informed overview of scholarly insight into the text of the bible. It is not everybody's cup of tea, especially if you venerate the text of the Bible within a very concervative environment.
Read full review

- Jacobus

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-21-2008
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio