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Traditions of the Bible

Traditions of the Bible

A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era

James L. Kugel

ISBN 9780674791510

Publication date: 01/03/1999

James Kugel's The Bible As It Was (1997) has been welcomed with universal praise. Here now is the full scholarly edition of this wonderfully rich and illuminating work, expanding the author's findings into an incomparable reference work.

Focusing on two dozen core stories in the Pentateuch--from the Creation and Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land--James Kugel shows us how the earliest interpreters of the scriptures radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Kugel explains how and why the writers of this formative age of interpretation--roughly 200 B.C.E. to 150 C.E.--assumed such a significant role. Mining their writings--including the Dead Sea Scrolls, works of Philo and Josephus and letters of the Apostle Paul, and writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the rabbinic Sages--he quotes for us the seminal passages that uncover this crucial interpretive process.

For this full-scale reference work Kugel has added a substantial treasury of sources and passages for each of the 24 Bible stories. It will serve as a unique guide and sourcebook for biblical interpretation.


  • Traditions of the Bible is a literary masterpiece. Nuanced presentations of multiple versions allow the reader to enter into the eddying flow of interpretation that, between the third century BC and the first century AD, eventually produced the Jewish Bible. We are there, in the Temple, in heightened conversation. Kugel is there to remind us of particular reasons, often fascinating in themselves (for example, the ambiguities of the Hebrew language) why a given story--say the story of Jacob and Esau--can have so many interpretations. Kugel suggests that the Bible, in all its echoing complexity, is the final result of a great effort of remembrance: a millennial attempt to remember what happened, and why, and what it was like, before IT happened, before that time. Could the Bible be a response to a devastating loss of cultural identity and memory as embodied in the Temple? Is that why this great book overflows with conflicting points of view?

    —Tom D'Evelyn, Providence Sunday Journal


  • James L. Kugel is a Professor at Bar-Ilan University.

Book Details

  • 1080 pages
  • 6-1/2 x 10 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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