Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Divine Redactor ? Jame's Kugel: How to Read the Bible

Lawrence La Riviere White has posted a review over at The Valve

Here's an exert: White's review is followed by a facinating and high-level discussion. Much here that bears on literary interpretation, authorial intent, of culture and history as redactive forces.

I finished James L. Kugel’s How to Read the Bible! And I’d like to spoil it for you. Alert! Kugel carefully and rather effectively, I think, holds off on his conclusion till near the end, only making his first pass at it at the ¾’s mark, in his discussion of the Song of Songs, and holding off on a complete presentation to the last chapter. What a fitting place for a conclusion! Nonetheless, he managed to keep me in suspense, and I imagine this technique worked well in the lecture version, making for a dramatic last session.

The dramatic tension of the book is announced in its subtitle, A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. Of course the tension of the story is, which is correct, then or now? And in setting up this tension at the beginning of the book, Kugel is careful to identify himself as an Orthodox Jew, creating a sense in the reader that despite his prodigious career in modern Bible scholarship, the book will come out in favor of the ancient interpreters. Which it unsurprisingly does, but in a way that raises some surprising ideas.
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