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The Bible As It Was (Belknap) [Paperback]

By James L. Kugel (Author)
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Item description for The Bible As It Was (Belknap) by James L. Kugel...

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. 24 halftone illustrations.

Publishers Description

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.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Bible As It Was (Belknap) by James L. Kugel has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 74
  • New York Times - 12/19/1999 page 36

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Pages   696
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10.27" Width: 6.13" Height: 1.52"
Weight:   2.25 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 1999
Publisher   Belknap Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0674069412  
ISBN13  9780674069411  

Availability  1 units.
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More About James L. Kugel

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James Kugel is the Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University and Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Poetry and Prophecy, Early Biblical Interpretation and The Idea of Biblical Poetry, the last available from Johns Hopkins. His The Bible as It Was, an introduction to the Torah's ancient interpreters, was published in 1997.

James L. Kugel currently resides in the state of Massachusetts. James L. Kugel has an academic affiliation as follows - Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.

James L. Kugel has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Library of Early Christianity

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Biographies > Old Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) > Biography

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Bible As It Was (Belknap)?

A definite must have for anyone interested in the Pentateuch  Jan 31, 2006
Dr. Kugel sets out to produce a mixture of ancient and modern interpretations and does a wonderful job at it. While most of the interpretations are ancient coming from interpreters such as Philo, and others, Dr. Kugel helps explain them more smoothly by writing a brief analysis of each interpretation presented. The Bible as it Was, is truly a great way to learn about different interpretations other than the ones you hear in church. It offers a variety of interpretations, so that the reader can make up his own mind. While this book offers interpretations of the text, it might also offer some hard times to the devoted Christian, if they are not willing to accept that there may be other interpretations of these narratives.

This is a definite must have when studying the Old Testament, in particular the Pentateuch, or first five books. It does not go into later books of the OT, however, with the references provided, if the reader wanted to do more research on their own, then the references that Dr. Kugel lists in the back of the book will allow them to do so. If you are serious about learning the Pentateuch then pick this book up.
What did the Bible say before other people's interpretations  Mar 23, 2002
"The Bible as it was" is a wonderful and exhaustive work regarding scriptural interpretation and the first five books of the Bible. Early Jewish tradition was to fill in interpretive information when necessary to resolve items that were ambiguous or unclear. In addition, notes and commentary were often passed along with the texts and over time tended to become a part of the text. As a result, the Bible of today includes a lot of commentary as well as the original texts.
Kugel's purpose is to try to reconstruct the Bible as it was in its original form as closely as possible. While we all know that no copies of the original Bible exist today, the King James version was based on the Textus Receptus which was a Greek translation of the Bible and considered the oldest reliable source at the time. Since then there have been many archaeological finds of manuscripts from earlier points in time and in the original Hebrew language. Many of these passages differ somewhat from current translations. In theory, the older versions should be closer to the original version. Working from the oldest texts he examines some of the differences in the way passages were interpreted and what that could mean. This gets us closer to an original version without all the intervening thoughts and interpretations that earlier writers had added in an attempt to make it more understandable and applicable to the people of their time.
Dr. Kugel thoroughly documents his work complete with quotes, sources and annotations as appropriate.

A fascinating book that sheds new light onto many passages it should be read by anyone attempting a serious and scholarly study of the Bible.

A chapter-by-chapter analysis  Feb 8, 2002
This informtive study of the Hebrew Bible provides a chapter-by-chapter analysis of some of the most important stories of the Bible, describing how these stories were interpreted by various peoples, how its message was understood at the time, and the origins of modern explanations. An outstanding contrast between past and present interpretative methods.
A Sigh of Relief  Nov 7, 2001
As one who has waded through Genesis Rabbah all the way to Deuteronomy, scratching my head, making marginal notes like Rashi, and looking up almost every word, this book came like a 500 BTU central unit, to a cottage deep in the rain forest.

Dr. Kugel has gathered thousands of lines of commentary from unnumbered sources, but all from a 300 year time period, about 200bce to 100ce-- the same time the gospels and epistles were written, the Mishnah was codified and most of the rabbis of the Pirkei Avot were active.

Kugel quotes standard Jewish commentary, but he also quotes from Christian scriptures, treating them (as Christian scholar Rosemary Reuther suggested many years ago) as midrash upon the Jewish texts. He also uses standard histories of the time, such as Josephus' Antiquities, the works of Philo, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

What makes this extensive work such a relief and a delight are the extensive annotations of the author: accurate citations are always given (I checked); end notes are given, describing all sources, and giving dates, or approximate dates. There is a bibliography of modern sources as well. Most importantly, each time a midrash or other commentary is inserted into the text of the Torah, Kugel gives us a most essential bit of information: he tells us what the problem is with that text that the commentator feels needs explaining.

It is not always obvious to a reader 2,000 years later what a certain rabbi's problem was with a text that prompted him to write the several lines of commentary he left us. The work Kugel has done-- his gift to us, is to climb into the minds of these people in a different place, discover what their concerns were, and deduce what parts of the texts would have caught their attention and for what reason. Since none of his interpretations (at least none I have looked-- and I've looked at most of them) seem forced or overly creative, I believe this is the work of a great scholar. I cherish it, and I thank him much.

A must read for serious bible scholars  Jun 30, 2001
Kugel's lucid text is an important adition to biblical scholarship. By pointing out the many ways that the modern reading of the text differs from the reading in the early rabbinic period he is able to document the ways that our apporach to the text as changed. Most interstingly, he shows how christian and muslim readings of the Hebrew Bible has colored Jewish understandings and thus deeply effected Jewish theology.

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