Friday, June 22, 2012

How to Read the Bible by James Kugel

If you're looking to read a thought-provoking account of the Bible from an expert in the field (i.e. former Harvard professor) with  a very fine appreciation of ancient Hebrew and all its subtle nuances,  and if you don't mind having your complacent set of assumptions challenged somewhat, this might be the book for you. If you already know how to read the Bible just fine thank you - without any knowledge of ancient Hebrew or ancient Greek (for that matter) or familiarity with basic hermeneutics or reliance upon the vast field of biblical scholarship that has grown up over the past 200 years or consultation on the subject from people with first-rate minds, and you feel like just "going solo" as it were, relying on personal intuition or inspiration or external authority or sacred adamantine tradition,  then please let me know what your secret is... [I mean, what would you say in reply to what this author has to say? Is it possible to simply avoid what these scholars have said?] Alternatively, if you're feeling lost, disoriented, confused, spiritually empty, restless, aimless, longing for insight, guidance and direction,  willing to make your pilgrimage for even one drop of divine revelation, this might not be the book for you - because this book deals with how different generations of people going back to ancient times- understood the stories and edicts and prophecies of the scriptures - oftentimes at odds with we might wish as the "moral interpretation" of text.  It shows us the history of interpretation gradually altering content.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,

I decided to pick up the Bible (Gospel of Mark) and read it as if it were not a consternation and a challenge to faith, but rather that I might find answers there to my questions. It made a difference. Would you call that illegitimate? Because someone suggested it to me in a certain context, and I began with a certain openness I could not achieve before. A certain kind of openness to faith. To God? Perhaps like Stephen Deadalus ( I hear dead - Lazarus in Joyce's choice of names as well as the Greek myth) we who struggle reason that if you begin in faith you cannot reasonably assent to faith?

Anyway what was Kugel getting at after all? Proper meditation methodology as we venture 'solo' (where the spirit moves us) while staying grounded in something permanent (the church's interpretation, or a branch of study)? Or more of an 'I'm smarter than you Christian yahoos'? I need your expertise since I haven't read him.