Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Like virtually every scholarly discipline, biblical scholarship has
become increasingly international in recent decades. For Jewish
Bible scholars in North America, the two-way flow o f exchange
with the community o f scholars in Israel has proved to be espe­
cially significant. It is also surprisingly recent, on its p resen t scale.
Biblical scholarship has become increasingly interdisciplinary, as
well. It benefits in a direct way from the inpu t o f archeologists,
Semitists and Assyriologists, Egyptologists, ancient historians,
and o ther specialists. Ever since the ascendancy o f certain “mas­
ters” o f ancient Near Eastern culture in North America, scholars
like W.F. Albright and E.A. Speiser, the training o f biblical schol­
ars in the Semitic languages and o the r aspects o f ancient Near
Eastern culture has been emphasized, and its importance recog­
nized.
As a rule, Jewish students have responded with enthusiasm to
the comparative approach , and in this respect, are very “Ameri­
can.” When we come to archeology and biblical history, however,
we find only a very few Jewish scholars in North America, o r who
were trained here, tha t specialize in these fields, as contrasted
with the large following these areas have enlisted in the Israeli
academy.
SCIENTIFIC APPROACH
Jewish Bible scholarship, when contrasted with similar Chris­
tian scholarship over the past century and a half, has su ffered
from an exceptionally negative a ttitude toward the scientific
study o f the Hebrew Bible. Ever since the inception o f the move­
ment known as
Wissenschaft des Judentums,
there has been a
marked tendency to exclude most o f the Hebrew Bible, and most
o f the period o f biblical history from the scope o f Jewish studies.
T he re was an aversion to the leading schools o f h igher criticism,
which had been advanced by European Protestant scholars, for
the most part. Even secular Jewish scholars kept the ir distance,
and gravitated to o the r fields, fearing, perhaps, that by applying
the tools o f modern criticism to the Bible, more especially to the
Torah , they would impair the pre-em inent status o f the Bible as a
cornerstone o f Jewish religion.
This attitude has radically changed, and the primary factor o f
change was the rise o f an Hebraic culture in modern Israel, on the