The Bible As It Was

The Bible As It Was

4.3 3
by James L. Kugel

ISBN-10: 0674069412

ISBN-13: 9780674069411

Pub. Date: 11/28/1999

Publisher: Harvard

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

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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.

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Table of Contents


The World of Ancient Biblical Interpreters

The Creation of the World

Wisdom Came First
The "Beginning" Did It
A Special Light
The Angels Were Also Created
God and Someone Else
Completed on Friday

Adam and Eve

Death in a Day
The Punishment Was Mortality
Sinfulness is Hereditary
The Serpent Was Satan
Blame It on the Woman
An Extra Proviso
The Earthly Paradise
The Garden in Heaven

Cain and Abel

Son of the Devil
Cain's Sisters
Professions Decided
Defective Sacrifices
The Problem Was the Sacrificer
The Good and the Bad
Killed with a Stone
God Knew Where Abel Was
Cain's Sevenfold Punishment
Cain's Repentance

Noah and the Flood

Cain Was the Worst
The Immortal Enoch
The Heavenly Scribe * Enoch the Sage
Enoch the Penitent
A Bad Match
The Wicked Giants
One Hundred and Twenty until Punishment
Noah Warned of the Flood
Noah the Righteous
Only in His Generation
The Animals Also Sinned
The Purifying Flood

The Tower of Babel

They Tried to Storm Heaven
A War against God
Nimrod Built It
The Builders Were Giants
The Tower Lies in Ruins

Abraham Journeys from Chaldea

Abraham the Monotheist
Terah, Priest of Idolatry
Abraham the Astronomer
Tipped Off by the Stars
Abraham Rescued from Chaldea
Abraham Saved from Fire
Abraham Was Upset
Abraham's Dream


A Generous Host
Righteous King and Priest
Divinely Appointed High Priest
The Heavenly Melchizedek
The Christian "Order of Melchizedek"
An Uncircumcised Priest?
Melchizedek in Samaria
Melchizedek Was Shem
Services No Longer Needed

The Trials of Abraham

Abraham the Tested
Abraham Saw a Dire Future
Challenged by Angels
God Made It Known
Isaac Was a Willing Victim
Together in Mind
Offering Foreshadowed Crucifixion

Lot and Lot's Wife

Lot the Righteous
Lot the Wicked
Sodomites' Sexual Sins
The Proud and the Stingy
Abraham's Hospitality
Lot Learned from Abraham
Lot's Wife Sinned
A Visible Reminder
Lot's Daughters Meant Well

Jacob and Esau

Jacob Was Not Just "Simple"
Jacob the Scholar
Esau the Wicked
Good and Evil in Utero
Esau the Warrior
Esau Means Rome
Esau the Deceiver
Esau Didn't Care
Jacob Told the Truth
God Wanted Jacob to be Blessed
The Ladder Was a Message
Angels Wanted to See Him

Jacob and the Angel

Jacob Knew Right Away
Deluded in the Dark
Additional Trickery Required
Weak, Bleary Eyes
"Nice Eyes, But..."
God Multiplied Jacob's Flocks
Rachel Was Not a Crook
Jacob Struggled with an Angel
Mighty with God's Help
Israel Means Seeing God


Uncontrolled Anger
Shechem Deserved Death
Foreigners Are Different
Intermarriage Is Forbidden
A Wise Answer
The Whole City Was Guilty
City with a Criminal Past
God Said No
God Ordered Their Destruction
Dinah Married Job

Joseph's Ups and Downs

It's a Wise Child
Eating from the Flocks
Resembled Jacob in All Things
Deeds of Youthful Foolishness
For the Price of Shoes
Joseph's Great Virtue
A Very Handsome Man
Girls Climbing the Walls
Cast Down Their Jewelry
Joseph Was Not Tempted
Remembered Jacob's Teachings
Saw Jacob's Face
A Collective Accusation
Pharaoh's Servants Applauded
Joseph Had Been Disdained

Jacob's Sons in Egypt

A Good Reason for Concealing
Joseph Tested His Brothers
Joseph Disdained Revenge
Reuben Lost His Inheritance
Bilhah Bathing
Bilhah Was Asleep
Jacob Foretold the Future
Kingship Will Not Depart Forever
Another King Will Come
Until a New King Comes
A Ruler of the World
Why Did Joseph Put It Off?

Growing Up in Pharaoh's Court

A Plan to Finish Them Off
Why Only the Boys?
A Future Savior
Jannes and Jambres
Balaam, Job, and Jethro
Death by Water
Schooled in Every Wisdom
Moses' Speech Defect
Jealous of Moses
Zipporah the Ethopian
Miraculously Burning Bush
The Medium Was the Message
"I Am the One Who Is..."
"I Am the Eternal..."
An Angel in the Hotel
Circumcision Delayed Is Circumcision Denied
A Prenuptial Agreement

The Exodus from Egypt

A Godlike Man
No Mere Magician's Trick
Pharaoh Didn't Realize
Divine Punishment of the Egyptians
Deservedly Punished by Water
A Dark Dungeon for Egypt
Metaphorical Darkness
Justifiable Death for the Firstborn
Egyptians Gave Willingly
Fair Wages at Last
The Symbolic Passover Laws
The (Paschal) Lamb of Christianity

The Red Sea

Pillar of Luminous Cloud
Protective Covering
An Angel in the Cloud
Final Payment
Get Back Our Goods!
Rebellion at the Sea
More than One Miracle
A Grassy Plain
Miraculous Timing
If Looks Could Kill
Light and Dark Together
Ups and Downs of the Egyptians
Red Sea as Baptism
How Did They Know the Words?
Seeing God at the Sea
Infants Sang Too
Miriam's Separate Song
A New Song

Into the Wilderness

Water, Water...
A Symbolic Tree
The Water Was Divine Wisdom
The Food of the Angels
Heavenly Grain
Adapted to Any Taste
Spiritual Sustenance
The Traveling Rock
Miriam's Well
Amalek Destroyed at the End-Time
The Symbolic Hands of Moses
The Christian Battle with Amalek
Jethro the Polytheist
Jethro the Good

At Mt. Sinai

Heaven on Earth
Celestial Sinai
Heavenly Moses
God Spoke All Ten
God Spoke Only Two
The Ten Were All
The Decalogue Epitomizes
Five and Five
Which Ten Commandments?
No Talk of Weekday Matters
Guard the Sabbath Borders
Do Not Go Out Too Far
Do Not Take Vain Oaths
No False Oaths
Honor Your Heavenly and Earthly Fathers
A Mishap to the Baby
A Mishap to the Mother
Money for an Eye
Traditions of the Elders
Moses Was Given More than the Torah
Oral Teachings from Moses
A Hidden Torah
Moses' Secret Book
A Book before Moses
Children of the Chosen
Singled Out from the Start
Other Nations Knew Anyway
Other Nations at Fault
Remember This Blood

The Golden Calf

A Celestial Sanctuary
Copied from Heaven
A Likeness of the Universe
Aaron Tried to Stop Them
Aaron Feared for His Life
Hur Murdered by the Rabble
The Letters Flew Off
Tables Became Too Heavy
Divine Traits of Character
Steadfast Love for Thousands of Generations
No Pardon for the Wicked
Thousands of Sins Forgiven
Moses' Face Beamed Light
Moses Grew Horns

Worship in the Wilderness

An Error in Priestly Procedure
A Holy Death
Coats Not Burned
Control of Appetites
Ruminating with One's Mind
Gentle Birds for Gentle People
Day of Repentance
The Day of Partial Atonement
Hatred Means Hypocrisy
Reproach Prevents Hatred
Reproach Gently to Prevent Sin
Reproach before Charging
Love As You Would Be Loved
Love Only Your Neighbor
The Whole Torah

Trouble along the Way

Quails Weren't for Grousing
A Wife Related to Prophecy
Trusted Servant Par Excellence
Whose Bad Idea?
Solemnly Warned
Tassels Set Off Revolt
Moses Accused of Favoritism
Moses Was Polite
Korah's Symbolic Death
A Truly Dangerous Figure
Aaron's Symbolic Staff

The Bronze Serpent, Balaam, and Phinehas

Looking Didn't Cure
Serpent Was Like Moses' Hands
Balaam the Wicked
God Knew Who They Were
A Prophet for Hire
Balaam Foresaw the Messiah
A Ruler of the World
The Star Is the Messiah
The Star Will Precede the Scepter
Balaam Counseled Seduction
A Leader among Priests
Phinehas the Immortal
Phinehas Is Elijah

The Life of Torah

The Great Teaching
These Words Twice a Day
A Particular Prophet
Do Not Displace Old Practices
Necessary Paperwork
No Divorce—Except for Indecency
Any Old Reason Is Valid
Don't Muzzle Me
Small Commandments as Important as Big
Torah Refines (Like Fire)
The Gift of the Torah
Not in Heaven Anymore
A Choice for Each Person
A Choice of Two Paths
Nice Road at First
The Path to the Afterlife
Consider Heaven and Earth
Heaven and Earth Were Already Witnesses
Moses Did Not Want to Die
Moses Disputed with an Angel
Moses' Last Vision
Buried by God (or the Angels)
Buried under a Cloud
Not Buried at All
The Supreme Philosopher



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