Brichto's Bible

By Wolf, Arnold Jacob | Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Brichto's Bible

Wolf, Arnold Jacob, Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought

When I submitted my (not especially learned) rabbinic thesis on Jeremiah's theology, it was accepted with critical reservations by my advisor. At that point and most unexpectedly, the President of the Hebrew Union College, himself a prominent expert in Biblical criticism, intervened and tried, unsuccessfully, to reject the work and to disqualify me from ordination. The reason he specified was that my work was "not scientific." It was, in fact, a halting, preliminary attempt at what was then beginning to be called "the Biblical Theology Movement." I had been deeply impressed by a work of Paul Minear, "Eyes of Faith," in which the New Testament scholar from Yale tried to go beyond then regnant "scientific" source - criticism to discover the themes and projects of Scripture itself.

Behind my immature attempts lay the profound legacy of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, who, long before 1948, the year of my ordination, had created a powerful body of work on the meaning and authority of the Hebrew Bible. They neither accepted wholeheartedly nor rejected on principle the existing methodology. They simply finessed it, attempting to focus rather on key words and ideas rather than on a putative development of the text confidently described by (particularly German) Biblical critics. I was a mere epigone in the attempt to recover Biblical themes and salvage Biblical faith. But even my probe was enough to bring down the wrath of my illustrious teacher, who was one of the last and most dogmatic followers of the school of Wellhausen. My notions of the integrity of Biblical narrative violated the very dogma which supported his extensive work and his claim to know precisely how the Bible came to be. Source analysis and historiography were the methods of study by which the Bible could be understood, the only way it could ever be understood.

The late Herbert Chanan Brichto, Julian Morgenstern's heir in the chair of Bible at H.U.C. in Cincinnati, was expertly trained by Biblical scholars at the University of Pennsylvania, Ephraim Speiser and Moshe Greenberg. He mastered the skills of comparative Semitics and source analysis and wrote persuasively about the Bible from the point of view classically described in Speiser's Anchor Bible Genesis, published in 1964. In a series of essays in the Hebrew Union College Annual, Brichto expanded his understanding to produce impressive studies of Biblical narrative in the spirit of Meir Sternberg's "The Poetics of Biblical Narrative," which appeared in English (after many Hebrew essays had been published in Israeli journals) in 1987.

Brichto both anticipated and elaborated on the new, sometimes so-called "narrative theology" in two superb books, published before and just after his tragic death, Toward a Grammar of Biblical Poetics (afterwards, Poetics) and The Names of God (afterwards, Names). These two seminal books marked a decisive turning point in Brichto's analysis of the Hebrew Bible and, I believe, in describing a methodology for re-discovering uniquely Biblical thinking in our own time. He wrote about his own developing, radical sense of the unity of Scripture:

The interpretive essays that constitute the bulk of this volume (and a companion one to follow) were originally written or sketched in outline as explications du texte, employing the tools and techniques exercised in the enterprise that is normally called literary criticism. Upon presentation of these essays to fellow biblicists, I soon learned that a number of factors made it difficult for these colleagues and friends to accord them a sympathetic address. For one, fine scholars who are essentially philologists may only rarely have recourse to fiction, for recreation; and the recourse to the conventions of the composition of fiction (or the exposition of these conventions, literary criticism) may involve for them a language or mode of discourse foreign and incomprehensible. This factor is intensified in the case of biblicists for whom literary criticism means source analysis, which has become the keystone for methodologies that have become synonymous with "scientific Bible study. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Brichto's Bible


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.