Zwinglius Redivivus

Fighting the good fight and running the race.

Engaging Torah: Modern Perspectives on the Hebrew Bible

You lot may be interested in this new work

In this volume of essays, eminent Jewish scholars from around the world present introductions to the different parts of the Bible for the wider public. The essays encompass a general introduction to the Torah in Jewish life, and include specific essays on each of the Five Books of Moses, as well as on the Haftarot, Neviim, and Ketuvim. The contributions provide an overview of the core content of each book as well as highlight central themes and the reception and relevance of these themes in Jewish life and culture past and present. These essays, informed by and based on the profound academic research of their authors, together provide an invaluable bridge between high-level academic insight and the study of the Bible both in synagogues and in homes.

ISD has sent a review copy.

In this collection of essays (of 117 pages) Panken (who writes the Preface) and Homolka (who authors the Introduction) allow cutting edge scholars to contribute cutting edge scholarship from a strictly Jewish perspective on the Torah and Prophets and Writings and various Jewish texts in addition.  To wit

  • The Torah in Jewish Life from the Nineteenth Century Until Today (Tamara Cohh Eskenazi)
  • Introduction to Genesis (Ziony Zevit)
  • Introduction to Exodus (David Aaron)
  • Introduction to Leviticus (Alan Cooper)
  • Introduction to Numbers (Jacob Wright)
  • Introduction to Deuteronomy (Bernard Levinson)
  • Introduction to the Haftarot (Lawrence Hoffman)
  • Introduction to Nevi’im (Marc Zvi Brettler)
  • Introduction to Ketuvim (Deborah Kahn-Harris)

None of the chapters are very long.  All are quite compact.  All are quite well written.  Eskenazi’s essay is perfect in its presentation of the historical situation of Jewish interpretation of the Bible.  She manages to provide more insight in 11 pages than many scholars manage in a 500 page monograph and her style is simply delightful.  Each of the books of Torah are introduced individually and then the Prophets and the Writings are approached quite broadly.  Overly broadly really, because reading through those chapters one is left with a feeling of ‘being cheated’.  That is, we get such good material we want more!

Each chapter, naturally, could be and has been fully addressed in thousands of volumes but the present work describes its subject with the intention of simply engaging the texts at hand.  That engagement is like a rock skipping along the surface of a lake- just touching the smallest spots and finally sinking out of sight with the great bulk of the lake left undisturbed.

And this is the point at which I think it’s worth saying that Christian exegetes and interpreters should make reading this volume a priority.  We are so used to reading Torah and Prophets and Writings with a pair of Christian glasses on our noses that it is, literally, imperative that we take them off and read these Jewish texts through Jewish lenses.  There is so much to learn by doing so.  Indeed, it’s past time for post Reformation Christians to distance themselves from Luther and his notion that the Old Testament is all about Christ and learn to understand the Hebrew Bible on its own terms, without our eisegesis and christocentric misreadings getting in the way.

This is a book by Jewish scholars, published by a Jewish publisher, that needs to be picked up and read by Christians.  I don’t know that the editors, authors, and publisher had a Christian audience in mind.  I rather, frankly, doubt it.  But this is a book ‘for’ Christians and Christians, again, should read it.

Written by Jim

5 Jul 2018 at 12:55 pm