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Biblical Text and Texture: A Literary Reading of Selected Texts [Paperback]

By Michael Fishbane (Author)
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Item description for Biblical Text and Texture: A Literary Reading of Selected Texts by Michael Fishbane...

The bible remains one of the major literary achievements of human history, comprizing over 60 documents, with as many contributors, and composed over many centuries. In this book, Michael Fishbane approaches the Hebrew Bible from a literary point of view. He demonstrates how, just as orators use particular techniques such as repetition and pause to convey their message in the way they requie, so too the Hebrew Bible authors used a range of literary devices to communicate a religious message applicable to particular historical moments, each with their own political, moral and theological contexts.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oneworld Publications
Pages   154
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.45" Width: 5.57" Height: 0.42"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 1998
Publisher   Oneworld Publications
ISBN  1851681515  
ISBN13  9781851681518  

Availability  0 units.

More About Michael Fishbane

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Michael Fishbane is the Nathan Cummings Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot (2002); the National Jewish Book Award winning Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel; and The Kiss of God: Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism. Fishbane received a lifetime achievement award for scholarship from the National Foundation of Jewish Culture and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences."

Michael Fishbane currently resides in Chicago, in the state of Illinois. Michael Fishbane has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Chicago Brandeis University University of Chicago Divini.

Michael Fishbane has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature
  2. JPS Bible Commentary
  3. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
  4. Religious Traditions of the World

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Topical

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Reviews - What do customers think about Biblical Text and Texture: A Literary Reading of Selected Texts?

memory and hope  Mar 15, 2006
Because it stands in the shadow of Fishbane's monumental BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL, this little book is not so well known twenty-five years after its publication. That's a pity, for it exhibits the art of Fishbane's literarily sensitive readings of key biblical texts to a readership that will not labor through the massive methodological and typological argument of the larger work. If BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION is a four-movement symphony for full orchestra and a price tag to match, TEXT AND TEXTURE is a savory lunchtime string trio in the sun, offered gratis to passersby.

A short introduction claims that Scripture is the `rescued speech' of divine-human encounter, an artifact of that meeting that requires an interpreter to bring it to life. Fishbane steps in to fill that role in three sections, interpreting in order `Narratives and Narrative Cycles', `Speeches and Prayers', and `Motifs and Other Text-Transformations'.

Torah texts from Genesis and Exodus monopolize the section on narrative. In `Genesis 1:1-2:4a/The Creation' (pp. 3-16), Fishbane offers a winsome reading of the first biblical creation account, read not only for its own texture but also against the phenomenon of multiple creation myths that was typical in the Ancient Near East and remains so today. Readers familiar with literary approaches to the Bible will find little content that is new here, but will delight in the balance and accessibility of Fishbane's reading. On the other hand, readers who come to this text from Sabbath School, Sunday School, or creationist controversy will appreciate - perhaps for the first time - the cogency of a reading like Fishbane's, which seeks out the author's artistry and does not shrink from its theological burden. In this way, one of the Bible's most pregnant texts finds in Fishbane a capable midwife.

Though Jewish readers will not be surprised, Christians who follow Fishbane's reading of the primeval history (`Genesis 2:4b-11:32/The Primeval Cycle', pp. 17-39) may find striking his suggestion that the text portrays the serpent as a potentiality within human experience rather than as the supernatural adversary figure developed by Christian reflection upon this passage. This detail, typical of Fishbane's reading of the Bible's first man as `everyman', exemplifies the interpretation the reader should expect as Fishbane moves from the `psychological' insight of Genesis ch. three to the outworking of the knowledge of evil in the sociality of ch. four. Fishbane is particularly attentive to human energy and restraint, the former serving both to construct and dismantle civilization.

The author's treatment of the Jacob cycle (`Genesis 25:19-35:22/The Jacob Cycle' discovers an intricate chiastic structure to the composite work, not unlike the symmetry in their literature that has been posited by Homeric scholars. Diverse genres have been artfully and coherently woven into a work in which `this narrative perspective-the ambilaterial givenness and hiddenness of divine grace-gives to the Jacob cycle its most fulsome power.'

Fishbane's brief treatment of the Exodus tradition (`Exodus 1-4/The Prologue to the Exodus Cycle', pp. 63-76) closes out his section on narrative cycles. Taking pains to credit the editorial work that wove separate traditions into a coherent whole, the author notices how the patriarchal narratives anticipate (though in compositional terms, depend upon) motifs and vocabulary given to us in the Exodus Cycle. As well, Moses' experience of reluctant calling typifies that later calling of at least three classical prophets.

`Deuteronomy 6:20-25/Teaching and Transmission' (ch. 5, pp. 79-83) introduces the book's somewhat shorter section entitled `Speeches and Prayers'. Fishbane observes that community continuity depends upon the sons' identification with and commitment to the experience and covenant of their fathers. Deuteronomy does not take this intergenerational dynamic for granted.

`Psalm 19/Creation, Torah, and Hope' (ch. 6, pp. 84-90) is a tersely elegant comment upon a three-part prayer, in which creation is praised, Torah is received, and hope is given in the very articulation of the anxious prayer's words. Fishbane's attention to nuance and double entendre is particularly helpful when he writes about prayer, prayers, and pray-ers.

Fishbane approaches one of Jeremiah's anguished prayers as 'a heightened expression of Jeremiah's inner history as a prophet of God, (without feeling) constrained to locate its precise setting in life ('Jeremiah 20:7-12/Loneliness and Anguish (ch. 7, pp. 91-102)'. The 'language of direct encounter ('You!') frames the prayer, 'bracketing and counterpointing the references to God as "Him" and "He," and the citations of the enemies plot against "him' (Jeremiah)'. This observation leads to a subtle exposure of the intratextual references that crisscross this text and others in the book with poignant results for a prophet who finds himself set upon and outwitted by the God who chose him for a spokesman.

'Psalm 122/Space in Suspension: The Pilgrimage' (ch. 8, pp. 103-107) gently observes the transformation of the 'I' to a strengthened 'I-in-community' that occurs in the course of this endearing 'psalm of ascent'.

In my judgment, Fishbane's finest work is found in 'Motifs' and 'Other Text-Transformations', a section of the book that is headlined by 'The "Eden" Motif/The Landscape of Spatial Renewal' (ch. 9, pp. 111-120). Utilizing prose reminiscent of the best midrashic and literary treatments of Scripture (in our time, think Levenson and Brueggemann), the author shows how Edenic imagery flows from humankind's most basic longings for harmony and divine blessing, then flourishes anew in exilic times to express both the tragedy of Israel's loss and the potency of its longing to begin again.

In his last chapter (`The "Exodus" Motif/The Paradigm of Historical Renewal', pp. 121-140), Fishbane shows how the Edenic spatial imagery is complemented by the temporal-historical paradigm of exodus and typologically correspondent new exoduses. `Reflective historiography' discovers in liberation from Egypt and conquest of the land a motif that is almost infinitely capable of reuse in the generation of hope. In this way, Israel's consciousness is `layered' in a manner that fits `new events to the archetypal armature of its formative experiences ... History serves here a prism of hope; the future will reclaim a stained past.'

An epilogue allows Fishbane and his reader to savor the eminently theological disclosure that sustains the exercise, the craft, and the art of Jewish biblical interpretation.
Poetic Interpretation & License  Jun 20, 2002
The student of literary invention will enjoy this "mini" interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. The author invokes a sense of "texture" from the text which is all for the good. Certainly many scholars of the text sense the hand of many authors and editors brushing a canvas, as it were, with poetic flights and imaginative constructions. The author almost surpasses the original editors with his efforts.

For example, early on the author tells us a portion of the text " a product of language in its creative vitality." Reference is later made to "...cosmogonic combat imagery..." which "...discloses a profound inner-biblical dialectic between the mythicization of history and historicization of myth." The author's creative vitality is piled upon that of the underlying text for all to see.

But what does it all mean? How do we really get at the "...deepest levels of literary and religious coherence..." in the text? Is the text really "...religious teaching, recording moments of meeting between God and man...?" Are there really such levels and coherence? Have this author's relections in fact "rescued speech" of the "meeting"?

As the original textual autographs are lost to history, the reader will wish to bear in mind that the author's broad and specific philological analysis and interpretation of literary types and cycles may add layers of texture without fully addressing problems of meaning and authenticity. One cannot be assured of the quality of any work, including this, when or if the author boasts the translations are his.

What we have is one more interpretation of the text most of which "come and go." As celebration and exposition of the traditional text with its "...self referential world of meaning..." people of faith will see the author's affirmations. This review cannot better conclude than with a quote from the author:

"For to the extent that biblical historical descriptions are rhetorically transposed by the infusion of paradigmatic mythic structures,the result of which is the very transvaluation of the events so described, it is equally significant that the biblical reuse of cosmogonic combat imagery does not simply serve to describe primordial events, but primarily underpins those whose locus is historical existence."

psb 6-20-2002


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