The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us

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What the Bible Really Says About Politics, Sex, Creation, Suffering, and More

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The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us

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What the Bible Really Says About Politics, Sex, Creation, Suffering, and More

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Editorial Reviews

John Shelby Spong
“Amy-Jill Levine and Douglas A. Knight have combined to write a book on the Bible that is as academically brilliant as it is marvelously entertaining. By placing our scriptures into their original Jewish context they have opened up startling and profound new insights. This is a terrific book.”
Walter Brueggemann
“A winsome, accessible introduction to the theological thought of the Hebrew Bible. This sort of irenic, thoughtful linkage of criticism and interpretation within a confessing tradition is exactly what we most need in Scripture reading.”
Richard Elliott Friedman
“From its superb introduction to its perfectly worded conclusion, this book does it all. Whether your interest in the Bible is historical or literary, specific texts or broad themes, this book has it—and conveys its relevance for today. ”
Peter J. Paris
“Provides new knowledge on the Bible’s rich diversity of teaching on sexuality, familial and ethnic discord, political corruption, religious infidelity, economic exploitation as well as the nature of God, faith, love, and social justice. It is both enlightening and inspiring.”
William Brosend
“A book we have needed for years - learned and accessible, clearly organized by the topics readers care about, and fully engaged with current discussions of deep and broad significance.”
Dianne Bergant
“If anyone thinks the fruit of biblical scholarship is esoteric and heavy reading, direct that person to this book. In it, Knight and Levine demonstrate both their scholarly proficiency and their expertise as seasoned educators. This book should appeal to a broad audience.”
Carol J. Dempsey
“Knight and Levine have done a marvelous job of taking very sophisticated material and presenting it in an illuminating and thoroughly engaging way that bespeaks of excellent scholarship by two distinguished teachers.”
“More than random facts about the Hebrew Bible . . . more than a historical overview . . . [t]hey are aiming for true understanding of the life, culture, and practices of the ancient Israelites.”
Publishers Weekly
This is a smart book by two seasoned professors of Jewish studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Knight, also a professor of Hebrew Bible, is the author of many books and articles, and Levine (The Misunderstood Jew), also a professor of New Testament, do not follow the tired model of trying to retell the Bible for modern application. Instead, they organize the book to cover background information (history, literary styles and development); themes such as “law and justice”; society, including politics and sexuality; and the roles and writings of biblical prophets and sages. Readers looking for a single interpretation or explanation of individual books may be confused by the authors’ integration of biblical characters, texts, and ancient history into a single section—Ruth’s story, a quote from Micah, and discussion of biblical laws, for example—but this structure addresses such broader questions as the administration of justice in the Bible. Without telling believers how to use their sacred texts, subtitle notwithstanding, the authors help readers think about the Bible in new ways. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Knight (Jewish studies, Vanderbilt Divinity; Law, Power, and Justice in Ancient Israel) and Levine (New Testament & Jewish studies, Vanderbilt Divinity; The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus) here present a topical survey of the Old Testament. In fact, one of the approximately 90 topics the authors cover concerns just what to call this collection of scripture. Other topics include the Exodus, the topography of Southwest Asia (the authors' preferred term for the Middle East), the names of God, the Creation story, and the Diaspora. VERDICT Although often engaging, this relatively short book may have difficulty finding an audience, given its breadth. It spends too little time on any one topic for it to work in an undergraduate introductory course or to appeal to interested lay readers. It provides a taste of various forms of biblical criticism and related disciplines without giving the reader a chance to evaluate these tools. But it presents an entrée into approaching the Old Testament from a critical point of view without necessarily diminishing its text. A highly accessible if overly ambitious survey that is in tune with current scholarship.—James M. Wetherbee, Wingate Univ. Lib., NC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062067739
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/21/2012
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 635,075
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas A. Knight is Drucilla Moore Buffington Professor of Hebrew Bible and professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. Knight is the author of Law, Power, and Justice in Ancient Israel and Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel.

Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University and affiliate faculty at the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge, UK. Levine is the author of The Misunderstood Jew and served as co-editor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament.

Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Science in Nashville, Tennessee; affiliated professor at the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at Cambridge; and a self-described "Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt." She is the author of The Misunderstood Jew and the editor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations xi

Introduction xiii

Part 1

1 The History of Ancient Israel 3

Reconstructing History 5

Historical Synopsis 7

The Ancestors 10

The Exodus 13

Settlement of the Land 17

The Founding of the Monarchy 22

From the Divided Kingdom to the Fall of Jerusalem 25

Exile and Return 32

The Persian and Hellenistic Periods 34

The Historical Time Frame 40

2 The Literary Heritage of Ancient Israel 43

Tanakh or Old Testament or Hebrew Bible? 45

Every Translator, a Traitor 48

Literary Conventions 53

Characterization 58

Different Stories, Different Authors 64

Canonization 73

3 Land and Settlement 75

Israel's Environs 77

Topography 81

Climate and Water Resources 91

Settlement of the Land 94

A Land of Milk and Honey 96

Part 2

4 Law and Justice 101

The Written and the Unwritten 104

Ancient Southwest Asia 108

Rhetorical Forms 111

Administering Justice 115

5 The Divine 133

Four Stumbling Blocks to Talking About the Biblical God 135

The Names of God 139

Religious Competition and Co-optation 147

The Divine Feminine 150

Father God, Children of God, Angels 152

Polytheism, Henotheism, and Monotheism 157

Seeing the Portraits Again 159

6 The Cultus 165

The "Domestic Cult" 166

Tabernacles and Temples 169

Priests 176

Purity 181

Dietary Concerns 186

Sacrifice 188

Child Sacrifice 191

7 Chaos and Creation 195

Creation Today 195

Cosmic Architecture 198

Hands-on Artisanship 207

Disorder and Estrangement 213

From Cain and Abel to Noah and Babel 216

Other Biblical Creations 224

8 Continuation and Completion 231

Abrahams Search for a Home 232

From Slavery to Liberation 239

New Exodus: From Prophecy to Apocalyptic 249

Part 3

9 Self and Other 261

Hebrews 262

Circumcision 264

Endogamy 269

The Tribes of Israel 280

The Samaritans 282

Judeans and Jews 284

From Affiliation to Conversion 285

Resident Aliens and Foreigners 288

Chosen People 292

10 Sexuality 293

Revisiting Eden 296

Sexual Seduction, Response, and Potency 304

Legislating Sexuality 306

Marriage, Divorce, and Adultery 314

Abortion 320

Sexual Abuse 322

Innuendo 323

11 Politics and the Economy 329

The Nation-State 330

The Cities 340

The Empire and the Colony 343

The Household 345

The Clan 350

The Tribe 334

12 Diaspora 361

Initial Scattering and Return 361

The Ten Lost Tribes 365

The Babylonian Diaspora 367

Postexilic Diaspora Communities 375

Esther 376

Daniel 383

Tobit 389

Part 4

13 Critique and Reform 395

Historians as Critics 396

Moses, Flawed but Unassailable 398

As His Father David Did 403

Prophets as Critics 415

Politics 419

Economy 421

Religion 423

14 Wisdom and Theodicy 427

Who Is Wise? 428

Sages and Their Literature 431

Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon 434

Woman Wisdom 436

Job and Theodicy 439

Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) and Realism 452

Conclusion 457

Acknowledgments 459

Bibliography 461

Index 465

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

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    Not Quite Certain How to Review This.

    I am not quite certain what to make of this book. The scholars are top-rate. Both have written scholarly books and popular works. This work covers a lot of material in a clear way thought it seem an odd mixture of introduction and something else. Parts of the work remind me of books I read almost 50 years ago.

    But this is up-to-date. I think one has to read carefully to enjoy it the most. The work is clear but the writes do not talk down to readers. They assume readers literate and critical.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted December 11, 2013

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