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Sinning in the Hebrew Bible: How the Worst Stories Speak for Its Truth
     

Sinning in the Hebrew Bible: How the Worst Stories Speak for Its Truth

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by Alan F. Segal
 

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Stories of rape, murder, adultery, and conquest raise crucial issues in the Hebrew Bible, and their interpretation helps societies form their religious and moral beliefs. From the sacrifice of Isaac to the adultery of David, narratives of sin engender vivid analysis and debate, powering the myths that form the basis of the religious covenant, or the relationship

Overview

Stories of rape, murder, adultery, and conquest raise crucial issues in the Hebrew Bible, and their interpretation helps societies form their religious and moral beliefs. From the sacrifice of Isaac to the adultery of David, narratives of sin engender vivid analysis and debate, powering the myths that form the basis of the religious covenant, or the relationship between a people and their God.

Rereading these stories in their different forms and varying contexts, Alan F. Segal demonstrates the significance of sinning throughout history and today. Drawing on literary and historical theory, as well as research in the social sciences, he explores the motivation for creating sin stories, their prevalence in the Hebrew Bible, and their possible meaning to Israelite readers and listeners. After introducing the basics of his approach and outlining several hermeneutical concepts, Segal conducts seven linked studies of specific narratives, using character and text to clarify problematic terms such as "myth," "typology," and "orality." Following the reappearance and reinterpretation of these narratives in later compositions, he proves their lasting power in the mythology of Israel and the encapsulation of universal, perennially relevant themes. Segal ultimately positions the Hebrew Bible as a foundational moral text and a history book, offering uncommon insights into the dating of biblical events and the intentions of biblical authors.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Subtitle notwithstanding, this book by the late Barnard College professor of religion and Jewish Studies embraces the difficulties of determining the origins and even sense of some of the Bible’s most unpleasant texts. In his own words, “If you think that you are 100 percent right about what the Bible says, then you are not working in the world of scholarship.” Segal (Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World) champions an attitude of disinterest applied to the process of investigation. The result is a book rich in information for intelligent nonspecialists, written in an accessible style that doesn’t scrimp on complicated or challenging matters. There is little new for the world of biblical scholarship, but Segal uses new ways to show general readers how complex is the Bible’s history of development. His comparison of select and related passages, aiming to demonstrate how ancestral narratives proved meaningful to an Israelite audience responsible for yet later biblical texts, results in a lucid treatment of the issues. (July 17)
Ronald Hendel
Alan F. Segal's approach to myth is very illuminating for the 'The Worst, Most Awful Stories of the Bible.' To see how these stories reflect (and attempt to resolve) contradictions—moral, social, and gender—is salutary and fresh. Segal was one of our finest thinkers about the legacy of ancient Judaism for modern thought. This book, his last contribution, is wise and moving.
H-Judaic - Michael Carasik
His book's greatest value lies in forcing contemporary readers to grapple with biblical stories that some would prefer to ignore.
Choice
insightful, lucid observations
Jewish Book Council Online - Barbara Andrews
Professor Segal's writing is easily accessible and can be read as a modern commentary to the Bible providing us with new insights for thought and interpretation.
Biblical Archaeology Review
A gracefully written introduction to the narrative contents of the Hebrew Bible... A clear, engaging, yet slightly offbeat survey of our knowledge of Israelite history and literature since the work of Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth and William Foxwell Albright.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231159272
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
07/03/2012
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Rabbi - Burton L. Visotzky
Segal's posthumous book displays in abundance his life-long reputation as a superb teacher. Using the lens of doublets — parallel stories scattered throughout the biblical narrative — Segal guides the reader through the thickets of biblical history and a century of biblical scholarship. This book is an excellent guide for all students who wish to penetrate beneath the surface of the biblical text to discover the events and narratives that shaped our sacred Scriptures.
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky

Alan Segal's posthumous book displays in abundance his life-long reputation as a superb teacher. Using the lens of doublets -- parallel stories scattered throughout the biblical narrative -- Segal guides the reader through the thickets of biblical history and a century of biblical scholarship. An excellent guide for all students who wish to penetrate beneath the surface of the biblical text to discover the events and narratives that shaped our sacred Scriptures.

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Profesor of Midrash and Interreligious StudiesJewish Theological SeminaryAuthor of Sage Tales (Jewish LIghts, 2011)

Meet the Author

Alan F. Segal (1945–2011) was professor of religion and Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. He taught two of the college's most popular courses: "Life After Death" and "Introduction to the Hebrew Bible." He was the author of a number of books, including Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul of Pharisee, and Rebecca's Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World.

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