Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

To Whom and for What Should a Bible Commentator Be Responsible?
1990

The following remarks result from long consideration of the question: What should be the nature of a modern scholarly Hebrew Bible commentary aimed at the broad readership of the Bible in Israel?1

The readership I have in view has graduated from a local high school, and hence has gained a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible from the years' long public school Bible curriculum. It respects the Bible as a national treasure and as the foundation document of the people -- a component of its identity. But the bulk of this readership is not committed to religious observances and does not subscribe to traditional doctrines. It is theologically naive, with little idea of the complexity of religious thought or the issues of interpretation of literature in general, and of the Bible in particular. Though defining itself predominantly as secular, it has at least a residual spiritual faculty that seeks activation. This faculty is the potential point of contact between the broad Israeli public and the Bible commentator, since one of its expressions is an interest in the meaning and significance of the Bible for its time and for ours.2 How can the commentator engage such a readership? What can he or she offer it? More pointedly, what should be offered?

For today's orthodox readership, a Hebrew Bible commentary is well under way: the series Da'at Mikra published by Mossad Harav Kook . The volumes of that series bring current philological, archaeological, and historical findings to the attention of the reader as long as they do not challenge traditional positions.3 Their religious sophistication is at a level roughly equivalent to that of medieval theology, and the bounds of their interpretational liberty are in principle those set

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