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Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era [Hardcover]

By James L. Kugel (Author)
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Item description for Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era by James L. Kugel...

James Kugel's "The Bible As It Was" (1997) has been welcomed with universal praise. Here now is the full scholarly edition of this wonderfully rich and illuminating work, expanding the author's findings into an incomparable reference work.

Focusing on two dozen core stories in the Pentateuch--from the Creation and Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land--James Kugel shows us how the earliest interpreters of the scriptures radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Kugel explains how and why the writers of this formative age of interpretation--roughly 200 B.C.E. to 150 C.E.--assumed such a significant role. Mining their writings--including the Dead Sea Scrolls, works of Philo and Josephus and letters of the Apostle Paul, and writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the rabbinic Sages--he quotes for us the seminal passages that uncover this crucial interpretive process.

For this full-scale reference work Kugel has added a substantial treasury of sources and passages for each of the 24 Bible stories. It will serve as a unique guide and sourcebook for biblical interpretation.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Harvard University Press
Pages   1055
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10.44" Width: 6.8" Height: 2.35"
Weight:   3.95 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 3, 1999
Publisher   Harvard University Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0674791517  
ISBN13  9780674791510  

Availability  0 units.

More About James L. Kugel

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James L. Kugel is the Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University and a regular visiting professor of biblical studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He is the author of a number of books on biblical scholarship, including "How to Read the Bible," for which he won the National Jewish Book Award for best book.
George K. Wilson has narrated over one hundred fiction and nonfiction audiobook titles, from Thomas L. Friedman to Thomas Pynchon, and has won several "AudioFile" Earphones Awards.

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 > Bible & Other Sacred Texts > Bible > Old Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Old Testament
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Topical

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Reviews - What do customers think about Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era?

Bulky assemblage of the Torah's [/Pentateuch's] ancient interpretations  Dec 30, 2007
I bought this book because I previously read Kugel's "How to read the Bible: A guide to Scripture, Then and Now". I liked both of them a lot, although I admit that the latter is easy reading compared to the former.

The Hebrew language seems to have been a rather ambiguous language, given that plenty of phrases admitted more than one interpretation [to some extent, a certain amount of ambiguity is -probably- an unavoidable universal feature of any language but lack of vowels and punctuation signs in Hebrew ancient writing system made the matter worse]. The interpreters of yore examined each and every biblical verse aiming to understand and clarify their meaning, and often came with witty and unexpected interpretations, which Kugel thoroughly collects in this masterful work. Although this work is 950 pages long, however, it deals only with the Torah/Pentateuch; and, pursuant to the author, "a companion volume of, I am afraid, almost equal bulk could be put together from ancient interpretations and elaborations of material found in the rest of the Hebrew Bible". In my opinion, were the author to make such an assemblage, it would be worth reading too.

So I recommend it, my rating being between 5 (content) and 4 (pleasure, sometimes falling to 3, sometimes raising to 5).

Other books on religion I would recommend reading would be the following:

1. - Published on Fall 2007: a) "Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief" by Rodney Stark (apologetic, brilliant and controversial); b) "Secular Age" by Charles Taylor (a fascinating voluminous social and intellectual history); c) also Kugel's "How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now" (extremely scholarly and easy to read, a combination difficult to find).

2. - Although I have not read it, it seems that "The Bible as It Was" is an abridged edition of this book, published sometime ago (in 1998, I think) and is more accessible to the general public.

3. - Other suggestions: a) "The Phenomenon of Religion: A Thematic Approach," by Moojan Momen (astonishingly encyclopedic and readable); b) "Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion" by Brian Hayden (great overview of religion origins and development); c) "Islam. History, present, future" by Hans Küng (impartial and wise, the best and the brightest on Islam); and d and e) [more or less related to the matter] "A Social History of Dying" (a general historical framework on the process of dying) and "Experiences Near Death: Beyond Medicine and Religion" (sociology of Near Death Experiences) by Allan Kellehear.

Additionally, as a complement to Kugel's book (and hoping that it will be of use for those looking for a broad framework to understand the past) I would also recommend reading the following works, whose scope is amazingly global: 1. Agrarian cultures: "Pre-industrial societies" by Patricia Crone; 2. Economy: "The world economy. A millennial perspective" (2001) plus "The world economy: Historical Statistics" (2003) by Angus Maddison (a combined edition of these two volumes has been published this December); 3. Government: "The History of Government" by S.E. Finer; 4. Ideas: "Ideas, a History from Fire to Freud", by Peter Watson; and 5. War: "War in Human Civilization" by Azar Gat.
The literature of Second Temple Judaism in one book...  Jan 8, 2003
Well, not all of the literature, but this book is by far the best encapsulation of all of the literature of the period in one place. Other works, such as those by Charlesworth, present the actual writings but I have not encountered a work that summarizes thematically the various beliefs of the period so concisely.

Kugel's book delves into the Pentateuch primarily, dealing with various themes from these books. But from here come multitudes of other themes shooting off from these main themes, taken us on a journey through the massive amounts of writings of this time.

This volume is a hefty price but if you like footnotes and references and other sorts of bibliographic material, it's a dream come true and worth the investment as you can revisit it at your convenience. This version also contains sections following each particular theme called 'Other Readings' which contains elaborations on the main theme thus broadening the scope (and thus embracing even more of this literature) of understanding.

This information is vital to understanding the emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity out of the milieu of Second Temple Judaism and neither can truly be understood without this valuable information. Such things as fallen angels, resurrection and life after death, the Messiah/Savior/Son of Man and other such themes all underwent great development during this period of turmoil and the unfolding of their development can be found in this literature.

Kugel does not so much as explain in scholarly fashion the details of this development but highlights the ideas and themes and presents the particular verses chronologically by quoting the various writings.

In the index are all of the writings with a brief history of them and their importance in the history of each faith. This book contains The Bible As It Was and then some. In my opinion, as I've become hooked on the incredible diversity of exegesis (and some flights of fancy) from the Pentateuch, the difference in price is worth it (my only complaint would be that, whereas The Bible As It Was can be obtained relatively inexpensively through various outlets, this one still commands top dollar).

All in all, this is a tremendous and vital resource for anyone seeking to really understand the origins of the split between Judaism and Christianity, the historical development of the beliefs of what became Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism and anyone interested in the historical underpinnings of theological ideas that ultimately affect our worldviews.

Worth it?  Aug 20, 2000
This is an expanded addition of Kugel's excellent work "The Bible As It Was." It contains the same introductory material and the discussion of all the "exegetical motifs" from the smaller version plus a lot more. The question for all potential buyers is whether the addtions are worth the price. With "Traditions of the Bible" you will get about 50% more material for about three times the price. The full list of motifs is available in the lenthy table of contents on the this site page. Thus, readers can examine the list to decide if the extra material is what they need and, therefore, worth the price. Beyond the pure fascination of encountering the ways in which ancient interpreters addressed the exegetical difficulties of the Torah, both volumes serve, in the long term, as reference works. Anyone working on specific texts from the Torah will not want to be without all of the resources that Kugel has pulled together in these books. For some, these resources will be ample for the task. For other, they will be a great starting point for further research. If the text you are working on is not in "The Bible As It Was," that can be frustrating. If your intent is to have a reference work in your library to use for years to come while working on a wide variety of passages from the Torah, then "Traditions" may be a good buy on a cost-per-use basis. Certainly, any library will want to purchase the larger volume.

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