October 02, 2007

James Kugel, former professor of Hebrew Studies at Harvard and an Orthodox Jew has a new book out, How to Read the Bible, which is getting positive press. From a NY Times piece on the book:

"Most unsettling to religious Jews and Christians may be Kugel's chapters about the origins of God and his chosen people. Kugel says that there is essentially no evidence -- archaeological, historical, cultural -- for the events in the Torah. No sign of an exodus from Egypt; no proof that Israelites ever invaded, much less conquered, Canaan; no indication that Jericho was ever sacked. In fact, quite the contrary: current evidence suggests that the Israelites were probably Canaanites themselves, semi-nomadic highlanders or fleeing city dwellers who gradually separated from their mother culture, established a distinct identity and invented a mythical past."

A first chapter of the book
is also available:

"In going through the Bible, however, this book will focus not only on what the text says but on the larger question of what a modern reader is to make of it, how it is to be read. This will mean examining two quite different ways of understanding the Bible, those of modern biblical scholars and of ancient interpreters."

(via kottke)


Glenn Knight said...

Another book which draws many of the same conclusions mentioned here is The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. (New York: The Free Press, 2001). One of Finkelstein and Silberman's findings is that there were two groups of Canaanite vilages, differentiated by one thing: The presence or absence of pig bones. One supposes that it is possible that the Jews were distinguished from other Canaanites first by they dietary restrictions, and that everything else in Torah is "back history," trying to explain in some rational way how this difference came about.

Glenn Knight said...

Errata: "villages", "their".