The Hebrew Bible: New Insights and Scholarship

By Frederick E. Greenspahn | Go to book overview
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Epilogue

Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom
Some Reflections on Reading and
Studying the Hebrew Bible

Peter Machinist

The Hebrew Bible is a complex book. Its complexity is manifest in a number of ways, three of which in particular emerge from the discussions in this volume. In the first place, the Hebrew Bible is not a single book, but a collection of many: twenty-four, thirty-six, or thirty-nine, depending on the way one counts. These books, moreover, are of different lengths, genres, and content, and in two primary languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, with echoes of a number of others. This plurality is captured in the very label “Bible,” derived as it is from the ancient Greek term for the collection, ta biblia, which means “the scrolls” and eventually was understood as “the books.”

Second, the Hebrew Bible deals with or provokes reflection on a wide range of matters. Those described in the present volume include: the aesthetics of biblical narrative, as exemplified by the story of the encounter between the nascent Israelites and the people of Shechem in Genesis 34; gender, especially the place of women in and through the Hebrew Bible as read in a feminist way; how the Hebrew Bible came to be the Hebrew Bible, namely, the process of canonization and the emergence of sacred authority for a written text; ancient Israelite history and the role of the Hebrew Bible as a, or even the, principal source for that history; the material culture of ancient Israel and how this may be studied through the Bible and archaeological data; a Jewish theological approach to the Hebrew Bible; the nature of biblical law and its setting in the framework of law in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean world; the meaning of

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