Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era

By Kugler, Robert A. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era


Kugler, Robert A., Journal of Biblical Literature


Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era, by James L. Kugel. Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press,1998. Pp. xxii + 1055. N.P.

The present volume, an expanded version of the more popular work The Bible As It Was (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1997), is a welcome exception to the wearisome truth that much scholarly output is characterized by inconsequential aims and overblown execution. James Kugel pursues objectives that reach well beyond the scope of his book, and his execution of the agenda within the extent of the book is enchanting.

Kugel's main objective is to offer a sampling of the exegetical traditions that grew from early interpreters' reading of the Pentateuch so as to give readers a sense of what he calls in the book's subtitle "the Bible as it was at the start of the Common Era" (from the third century scE to the first century CE). By this he means the Hebrew Bible as Jews and Christians experienced it in the days of its gestation and infancy. He insists that those audiences rarely encountered the Bible apart from these interpretations and that the Bible became scripture for them precisely because of the exegetical efforts of early interpreters. Because these interpretive efforts made the Bible what it became, Kugel reasons that their fruits ought to be considered with the Bible. Kugel also wants to reveal the interpretive reasoning behind the exegetical motifs that he explores, and to show that interpretation was "traditional," that is, that exegetical motifs transcended individual interpreters and their works, being passed from one generation to the next. And he wants to show his readers that, in spite of the long history of difficulties between Judaism and Christianity, both were.nurtured from birth by the same scriptures and interpretive traditions.

But Kugel has even loftier goals in mind. In the Afterword he bemoans the loss of interest since the Reformation in "the Bible as it was." He blames this diminished regard for the Bible's interpretive past on the post-Renaissance interest in the Bible's prehistory. This abiding fascination with the Bible's compositional history severs scripture from the interpretive tradition that confirmed its authoritative status and it impoverishes contemporary readers. Consequently Kugel hopes that his efforts will inspire in teachers, scholars, and lay readers renewed appreciation for "the Bible as it was," and that their appreciation would show up in their instruction, publications, and faithful use of the Bible as God's word.

Kugel sets out to achieve his aims through twenty-five chapters that trace exegetical motifs deriving from an equal number of episodes in the Pentateuch. Exegetical motifs emerged from early readers' fourfold conviction that the Bible is cryptic, relevant, harmonious, and correct in all details, and the inspired word of God. Consequently the Bible's mysteries required elucidation, its relevance had to be brought to light, its apparent contradictions and errors had to be proven to be harmonious and correct, and its testimony to God's word demanded explication. Kugel culls witnesses to the exegetical motifs from an astounding number of texts. His chief sources are 1 Enoch, the Septuagint, Jubilees, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Wisdom of Solomon, the writings of Philo and Josephus, the Targums, and the New Testament; but he also consults many lesser known and/or later works such as the Cave of Treasures, Genesis Rabbah, and the writings of such diverse early Christian writers as Ephraem, Justin, and Augustine. Each chapter begins with a summary of a biblical episode, continues by presenting the exegetical motifs that developed from the episode, and concludes with a new summary that takes into account the exegetical motifs' transformation of the biblical episode.

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 ...
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
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
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

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
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

Style
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, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.