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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
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This book is serious, author is serious and when you complete reading you have feeling like end of shift in coal mine. Don't get me wrong - what I mean, its the countless materials used for this piece of art. Mr Kugel did great job.
This book is must read for all believers and non-believers. It is eye opening or closing, depending from what angle you are looking at it.
Go on, spent some time and appreciate Mr Kugel work, you wont be disappointed.
I am slowly listening to this book so that I can take it all in. It explains the histourt of the bible and what lanuage it was written in and how it has been changed over time to what we have to day.