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Creating the Old Testament: The Emergence of the Hebrew Bible



Creating the Old Testament: The Emergence of the Hebrew Bible

Stephen Bigger (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-631-16249-0 January 1991 Wiley-Blackwell 388 Pages


The books of the Hebrew Bible were created by anonymous writers during the first millennium before the Common Era (BCE). Their messages and concerns are the central theme of the book. The writings that make up the Hebrew Bible are expressions of their great creativity, their interpretation of life in their own time and their perception of its meaning. It is easy for readers to get lost in the minutiae of biblical criticism, which has concerned itself for so long with historical reconstruction. This book will encourage them to listen carefully to what the biblical writers are saying to allow the message of the Hebrew Bible to emerge once again.

In a sense, too, the intrinsic value of the Hebrew Bible is now re-emerging, after centuries of Christian interpretation, and its importance - as a literature from which three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have developed - is beginning to be understood.

This book is not another history of Israel, nor an introduction to the books of the Hebrew Bible. It is an exploration, an invitation to the reader to set off on an expedition of discovery. It may perplex readers that scholars disagree, often fundamentally, on virtually every issue: Creating the Old Testament raises and discusses issues, so that the reader can observe how hypotheses are formed and how the apparently 'assured results' of scholarship are constantly tested. In following this path, readers are encouraged to develop their skill in evaluating historical data, recognizing textual problems, interpreting symbolic language and understanding the deep concerns of biblical writers. They will investigate different and varied exegetical traditions. They will be stirred to reflect on what the biblical books have to say for life today, whether viewed from a Jewish, Christian, Muslim or secular perspective.

List of Contributors vii

Preface xi

Introduction xiii

Note on Texts and Transliteration xviii

List of Abbreviations xix

Part I Introductory 1

1 The Hebrew World 3

2 The Authority and Use of the Hebrew Bible 23

The History of the Text 23

A Jewish Perspective 31

A Christian Perspective 37

A Muslim Perspective 43

A Humanist Perspective 47

3 Symbol and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible 51

Part II The Torah 81

4 Genesis: History or Story? 83

The Torah: Some Preliminary Remarks 83

Genesis: the Story 86

Genesis: the Evidence 90

5 Moses 117

6 Covenant and Law 135

Part III Nebi'im: the Prophets 149

7 The Former Prophets 151

8 Jerusalem 169

9 Stories of the Prophets 185

10 Prophecy and the Prophets 203

Part IV Kethubim: the Writings 227

11 After the Exile 229

12 The Psalms 251

13 The Wisdom Books 269

14 The Five Megilloth 293

15 The Other Books 319

Glossary 345

References and Bibliography 351

Index 360