Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



see Bible Introductions

The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation, Torah, Nevi'Im, Kethuvim edited by Adele Berlin (Oxford University Press) This innovative volume offers readers of the Hebrew Bible a resource that is specifically tailored to meet their needs. The JSB presents the center of gravity of the Scriptures where Jews experience it--in Torah. It offers readers the fruits of various schools of Jewish traditions of biblical exegesis (rabbinic, medieval, mystical, etc.) and provides them with a wealth of ancillary materials that aid in bringing the ancient text to life. The nearly forty contributors to the work represent the cream of Jewish biblical scholarship from the world over. The JSB uses The Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation, whose name is an acronym formed from the Hebrew initials of the three sections into which the Hebrew Bible is traditionally divided (Torah, Instruction; Nevi'im, Prophets; and Kethubim, Writings). A committee of esteemed biblical scholars and rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism movements produced this modern translation, which dates from 1985. Unlike other English translations based upon such ancient versions as the Septuagint and Vulgate, which emend the Hebrew text, TANAKH is faithful to the original text. Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, professors, students, rabbis: indeed, anyone interested in acquiring a fuller understanding of the riches of the Hebrew Bible will profit from reading The Jewish Study Bible.  

Like its successful predecessor The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal which has an inclusive ecumenical approach to its annotations, The Jewish Study Bible has adapted some of the excellent auxiliary materials in The New Oxford Annotated Bible for use in this one. The layout of The Jewish Study Bible with coloum notes next to text easier to follow that notes at bottom of the page.The introductory essays to the three canonical groups, Torah, Nevi'im, and Kethuvim are expanded versions of the essays written for the Annotated: "The Pentateuch" (Marc Z. Brettler), "The Historical Books" (Marc Z. Brettler), "The Poetical and Wisdom Books" (Marc Z. Brettler), and "The Prophetic Books" (Carol A. Newsom). The essay on "The Canonization of the Bible" is adapted from the essay "The Canons of the Bible" (Marc Z. Brettler and Pheme Perkins). The essay on "Textual Criticism of the Bible" is adapted from "Textual Criticism" by Michael D. Coogan and Pheme

Perkins. The essay on "The Modern Study of the Bible" is adapted from "The Interpretation of the Bible: From the Nineteenth to the Mid-twentieth Centuries" (Michael D. Coogan) and "Contemporary Methods in Biblical Study" (Carol A. Newsom). The essay on "The Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible" is partly based on "The Ancient Near East" (Michael D. Coogan), "The Persian and Hellenistic Periods" (Carol A. Newsom), and "The Geography of the Bible" (Michael D. Coogan).

The New Oxford Annotated NRSV Bible with the Apocryphal: Indexed, Third Edition edited by Michael D. Coogan (Oxford University Press)  For nearly four decades The Oxford Annotated Bible has served generations of readers and students as a study Bible. That extraordinary longevity alone is eloquent testimony to its success. This new edition retains the format and features that have proven so attractive. At the same time, the field of biblical studies has not been static, and this edition is a thoroughgoing revision of the previous ones. In particular, the editors have recruited contributors from a wide diversity of backgrounds and of scholarly approaches to the biblical traditions. In order to present this diversity more fully, the space devoted to introductions to the biblical books, to the annotations, and to the study materials at the end of the book has been increased by over 30 percent.

The editors recognize that no single interpretation or approach is sufficient for informed reading of these ancient texts, and have aimed at inclusivity of interpretive strategies. On a great number of issues there is a consensus among scholars, and the contributors have been encouraged to present such consensus when it exists. Where it has broken down, and has not yet re-formed, alternatives are mentioned. Moreover, in order to respect the canonical status of various parts of the Bible for different communities, and to avoid privileging any book or part of the Bible, the editors have kept both introductions and annotations roughly proportionate to the length of the books, while recognizing that some parts require more elaboration than others.

The editorial process was collaborative. Each contribution was read in its entirety by at least three of the editors, and revised with a view toward consistency of tone, coherence of approach, and completeness of coverage. They have also wanted to allow the contributors' own voices to be heard, and they have avoided imposing a superficial uniformity of style and approach. Throughout, the editors have kept the needs of the general audience firmly in mind during the editorial stages, and their aim has been a congruity of experience as a reader turns from book to book and from section to section of the finished volume.

The biblical text stands apart from any editorial contributions, in both placement and format. This will enable anyone who wishes to do so to read the text. unprejudiced by editorial judgments.

The footnotes that are part of the New Revised Standard Version (indicated by an italic superscript letter after the word or phrase in question) are printed at the bottom of the right-hand column of the biblical text on each page where they occur. In these notes, divergent textual readings and alternate translations are printed in italics. The phrase "Other ancient authorities read" means that the reading (i.e., the wording) of the passage is different in various manuscripts and early versions, and the word "Or" signifies that the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin text permits an alternate rendering besides the one given in the text.

Discussion of larger units in the Bible is provided by essays introducing each of them: "The Pentateuch," "The Historical Books," "The Poetical and Wisdom Books," "The Prophetic Books," "The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books," "The Gospels," and "Letters/Epistles in the New Testament."

Each book is preceded by its own introduction, which sketches the book's structure, main themes, literary history, and historical context, as well as broad lines of interpretation. As mentioned above, these introductions are in most cases considerably longer than in previous editions; they therefore present a clear overview and guide to reading.

The Jewish Study Bible: More than twenty-five centuries have passed since an anonymous Jewish poet wrote an elaborate and lengthy prayer that included this exclamation: O how I love your teaching!/ It is my study all day long (Ps. 119.97).

These two themes-the love for Torah (teaching) and dedication to the study of it-have characterized Jewish reading and interpretation of the Bible ever since. The love is the impetus for the study; the study is the expression of the love. Indeed the intensity with which Jews have examined this text through the centuries testifies both to their love of it-a love combined with awe and deep reverence-and to their intellectual curiosity about it. That tradition of impassioned intellectual engagement continues to the present day.

The tradition of biblical interpretation has been a constant conversation, at times an argument, among its participants; at no period has the text been interpreted in a monolithic fashion. If anything marks Jewish biblical interpretation it is the diversity of approaches employed and the multiplicity of meanings produced. This is expressed in the famous rabbinic saying: "There are seventy faces to the Torah" (Num. Rab. 13.15 and parallels), meaning that biblical texts are open to seventy different interpretations, with seventy symbolizing a large and complete number. Thus, there is no official Jewish interpretation of the Bible. In keeping with this attitude, the interpreters who contributed to this volume have followed a variety of methods of interpretation, and the editors have not attempted to harmonize the contributions, so an array of perspectives is manifest. In addition, we do not claim any privileged status for this volume; we can only hope that it will find its place among the myriad Jewish interpretations that have preceded and will follow. We hope that Jewish readers will use this book as a resource to better understand the multiple interpretive streams that have informed, and continue to inform, their tradition. We also hope that The Jewish Study Bible will serve as a compelling introduction for students of the Bible from other backgrounds and traditions, who are curious about contemporary academic Jewish biblical interpretation.

Jews have been engaged in reading and interpreting the Bible, or Tanakh, since its inception. Even before the biblical canon was complete, some of its early writings were becoming authoritative, and were cited, alluded to, and reworked in later writings, which themselves would become part of the Bible. Jewish biblical interpretation continued in various forms in early translations into Greek and Aramaic, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in rabbinic literature, and in medieval and modern commentaries; it continues in the present. We therefore have kept in mind two overarching goals in the commissioning and editing of the study materials in this volume. The first goal is to convey the best of modern academic scholarship on the Bible, that is, scholarship that reflects the way the Bible is approached in the university. This desire comes from a strong conviction that this approach does not undermine Judaism, as leading figures of previous generations had argued, but can add significant depth to Jewish belief and values. The second goal is to reflect, in as broad a fashion as possible, the range of Jewish engagement with the Bible over the past two and a half millennia. The breadth of this engagement, as well as its depth, should not be underestimated. In fact, as a group, the contributors reflect divergent Jewish commitments and beliefs, which infuse their commentaries. They employ state-of-the-art scholarship and a wide range of modern approaches; at the same time, they are sensitive to Jewish readings of the Bible, to classical Jewish interpretation, and to the place of the Bible in Jewish life. In this respect they are actually quite "traditional," in that Jewish interpreters have a long history of drawing on ideas and methods from the non-Jewish world in which they lived and incorporating them into Jewish writings.

Although there is no single notion of Jewish biblical interpretation, our contributors share some commonalities:

  • They view the Tanakh as complete in itself, not as a part of a larger Bible or a prelude to the New Testament. For all of them, the Tanakh is "the Bible," and for this reason The Jewish Study Bible uses the terms "Tanakh" and "the Bible" interchangeably.

  • We avoid the term "Hebrew Bible," a redundancy in the Jewish view. Jews have no Bible but the "Hebrew Bible." (Some Christians use "Hebrew Bible," a sensitive substitute for "Old Testament," to distinguish it from the Greek Bible, or New Testament.)

  • They take seriously the traditional Hebrew (Masoretic) text of the Bible.

  • They take cognizance of and draw upon traditional Jewish interpretation, thereby placing themselves in the larger context of Jewish exegesis.

  • They point out where biblical passages have influenced Jewish practice.

  • They call attention to biblical passages that are especially meaningful in the life of the Jewish community.

Just as there is no one Jewish interpretation, there is no authorized Jewish translation of the Bible into English. In fact, translation has always been less important in Jewish communal life than in Christian communities, because public liturgical readings from the Bible have always been in Hebrew, a language understood until recent centuries by many within the community. For Jews, the official Bible is the Hebrew Masoretic Text; it has never been replaced by an official translation (like the Vulgate, for instance, which is the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church). Nevertheless, because many Jews since postbiblical times did not understand biblical Hebrew, translations into vernacular languages were made. For contemporary English-speaking Jews, the best and most widely read Jewish translation is the most recent one commissioned and published by the Jewish Publication Society, begun in 1955 and completed in 1982, with revisions to the earlier books incorporated in the 1985 edition, and with a revised and corrected second edition in 1999. That second edition of the translation (NJPS Tanakh) serves as the basis for this volume.

There is no single way to read through the Bible-this is reflected in the variety of orders found for the biblical books in manuscripts and rabbinic texts. In fact, some may prefer first to read background material about the Bible, and only then to read the text. For this reason, we have taken an expansive approach in offering numerous essays that explore many aspects of the Bible and its interpretation. Some of these are of the type found in other study Bibles, exploring issues such as canon, the history of the biblical period, and modern methods of studying the Bible. Others reflect the specific interests of The Jewish Study Bible, including essays on the history of the Jewish interpretation of the Bible, Jewish Bible translation, midrash, and the Bible in the Jewish philosophical, mystical, and liturgical traditions. Each essay is self-standing, and there is often overlap between them. As a whole, however, they convey the important place of the Bible within Judaism, and many of the varieties of uses that this text has found throughout the ages. The editors hope that, along with the annotations, these essays will introduce a wide audience to the world of Jewish tradition as it relates to the Bible.

For each book of the Bible, the contributors have provided an introduction that sets it in its context-its original setting, so far as that can be determined; the wider corpus of which it is a part; its genre; and its place within Judaism-and provides an overview of the issues involved in reading it. Like many traditional rabbinic texts, the main text, here the NJPS translation, is surrounded by commentary, or more precisely annotations, often quite extensive, that comment on specific points in the text but also bring the reader back to the larger issues raised in the introduction and elsewhere. These annotations frequently refer to other portions of the biblical text, and further insight can be gained by checking these references and reading those texts and their associated annotations.

Besides the essays described above, the volume has further information. A timeline lists rulers in the land of Israel and the surrounding empires during the biblical period. A chart of weights and measures gives modern approximations to the quantities specified at various points in the text (these are usually explained in the annotations as well). A table of chapter/verse numbering differences between the Hebrew text and standard, non-Jewish English translations, will be of help to those who come to this volume from a different translation tradition. A list of biblical readings provides the citations of texts for use in the synagogue. A glossary, explaining technical terms in biblical studies, various literary terms, and numerous words specific to the Jewish interpretive tradition, provides further information for the technical vocabulary that was sometimes unavoidable. An index to the entirety of the study materials-book introductions, annotations, and essays-keyed by page number, facilitates pursuing particular topics through the full range of the study materials. Finally, a set of full-color maps and a map index present geographical background for the events detailed in the text, the annotations, and the historical essays.

Studies in Biblical Interpretation by Nahum M. Sarna, Jeffrey Tigay (JPS Scholars of Distinction Series: Jewish Publication Society) Nahum Sarna, one of the most regarded and well-known names in biblical academia, is the next featured scholar in the acclaimed JPS Scholars of Distinction series. Studies in Biblical Interpretation is a collection of nearly thirty essays by Prof. Sarna on Torah, the Psalms, Prophets and Writings, and Biblical History. No student of scholar of Bible studies will want to miss this work, the compilation of a lifetime, complere with a subject index, bibliography of Prof. Sarna's writings, and a foreword by Jeffrey Tigay.

Nahum Sarna is one of the most distinguished Jewish Biblical scholars in the second half of the 20th century.  His work has been a creative exploration of the languages, literatures, histories, religions, cultures, and archeology of the Ancient Near East combined or with a creative research into the Jewish exegetical tradition.  For Sarna  the study of the Bible is a spiritual exercise and moral training as well as an intellectual discipline. In these essays Sarna display a strong predilection for comparing Ancient Near Eastern works such as Ugaritic  poetry to the knotty linguistic issues in the Book of  Job.  Generally, Sarna recognizes the Bible as a revolutionary document that breaks with the common themes of Ancient Near Eastern literature.  The Hebrew Bible is first of all a major innovation in moral and spiritual themes that has had a profound influenced upon history.  Sarna is best known for his exemplar commentary on Genesis. In the essays in this volume Sarna demonstrates exegesis and Jewish hermeneutics of Biblical texts with characteristic conciseness and rigor of thought.  Anyone interested in the timeless wisdom of Bible will find many insightful nuggets in the studies collected here.  Highly recommended.

Introduction to the Hebrew Bible CD-Rom edition, by John J. Collins (Augsburg Fortress Publishers) Excerpt: This book is written out of the experience of teaching introductory courses on the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible at several different institutions over thirty years. The students in these courses have included Catholic seminarians (at Mundelein Seminary and the University of Notre Dame), undergraduates (at DePaul, Notre Dame, and the University of Chicago), Master of Divinity students of all denominations (at Chicago and Yale), and Master of Arts students who, like the undergraduates, might have a religious commitment, or might not. They have been predominantly Christian, but have also included good numbers of Jews and Unitarians (especially at Chicago). Most of these students came to the courses with some knowledge of the Bible, but some were unencumbered by any previous knowledge of the subject. This introductory textbook is written to meet the needs of any or all such students. It presupposes a certain level of literacy, and some previous acquaintance with the Bible would definitely be helpful. It is intended, however, as a book for those who are beginning serious study rather than for experts. It is meant to be ecumenical, in the sense that it does not seek to impose any particular theological perspective, but to provide information and raise questions that should be relevant to any student, regardless of faith commitment. The information is largely drawn from the history, archaeology, and literature of the ancient Near East. The questions are primarily ethical, and reflect the fact that people of different faith commitments continue to read these texts as scripture in the modern world.

The introduction is historical-critical in the sense that it emphasizes that the biblical text is the product of a particular time and place and is rooted in the culture of the ancient Near East. Since much of the Old Testament tells an ostensibly historical story, questions of historical accuracy must be addressed. In part, this is a matter of correlating the biblical account with evidence derived from archaeology and other historical sources. But it also leads to a discussion of the genre of the biblical text. The history-like appearance of biblical narrative should not be confused with historiography in the modern sense. Our best guide to the genre of biblical narrative is the corpus of literature from the ancient Near East that has been recovered over the last two hundred years.

This introduction, however, is not only historical in orientation. The primary importance of the Old Testament as scripture lies in its ethical implications. In some cases biblical material is ethically inspiringthe story of liberation from slavery in Egypt, the Ten Commandments, the preaching of the prophets on social justice. In other cases, however, it is repellent to modern sensibilities. The command to slaughter the Canaanites is the showcase example, but there are numerous issues relating to slaves, women, homosexuality, and the death penalty that are, at the very least, controversial in a modern context. In any of these cases, whether congenial to modern sensibilities or not, this introduction tries to use the biblical text as a springboard for raising issues of enduring importance. The text is not a source of answers on these issues, but rather a source of questions. Most students initially see the text through a filter of traditional interpretations. It is important to appreciate how these traditional interpretations arose, but also to ask how far they are grounded in the biblical text and whether other interpretations are possible.

Since this book is intended for students, I have tried to avoid entanglement in scholarly controversies. For this reason, there are no footnotes. Instead, each chapter is followed by suggestions for further reading. These suggestions point the student especially to commentaries and reference works that they can use as resources. Inevitably, the bibliographies are highly selective, and consist primarily of books that I have found useful. Many other items could be listed with equal validity, but I hope that these suggestions will provide students with a reliable place to start. Since they are intended primarily for English-speaking students, they are limited to items that are available in English.

This Christian evangelical guide to Bible verses offers a useful devotional approach to scripture reading. However anyone who has a sophisticated and non-evangelical attitude toward scripture may find this guide perverse. We find Logos represents the best in serious evangelical scholarship and hypertext resources.

What the Bible Says About...
Starts With (Example: "love" finds Love, Lovefeasts, Lovers.)
Exact (Example: "love" finds Love.)

Headline 3

insert content here

WT Main | About WT | Review Links | Contact | Review Sources | Search

Copyright © 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Headline 3

insert content here