Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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A good deal depends on the translation one uses. Far and away
the most accurate translation from the point of view of modern
scholarship is the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation
project initiated in the early 1960s and now complete and avail­
able in one volume as
The Tanakh.
Of course many other transla­
tions exist. One interesting version that may appeal to some read­
ers is Everett Fox’s translations of Genesis and Exodus —
In the
Now These are the Names
respectively, published by
Schocken Books. These works are an attempt to give the non-
Hebrew reader a sense of the particular nature of biblical lan-
Of course many commentaries on individual works abound.
Some of these, such as the Anchor Bible series, may appear too
academic or technical for the non-specialist. Two commentaries
of a more popular sort — though written by an eminent scholar
— are Nahum Sarna’s
Understanding Genesis
(Schocken, 1970) and
Exploring Exodus
(Schocken, 1986).
A more general work is Robert Alter’s
The Art ofBiblical Narra­
(Basic Books, 1981) which provides lively, beautifully written
essays exploring key biblical stories from a literary point of view.
The essays on “Biblical Narrative” byJoel Rosenberg and Biblical
Law by Edward L. Greenstein in
Back to the Sources: Reading the
Classic Jewish Texts,
edited by Barry W. Holtz (Summit Books,
1984), will help ground the reader in the key issues of these two
types of biblical literature.
In turning to the works of the latter part of the Bible once again
we have a vast literature — prophecy, poetry, practical advice,
reflections on life’s meaning — all of this and more is to be found
in the latter sections of the Bible. Readers can often Find the
seeming repetition of the different prophets confusing, particu­
larly if one can not study the poetry of those texts in the original
Perhaps the best way to follow in reading the prophets is to
choose selected readings using Bright’s
History ofIsrael
(see above)
to help provide background and Heschel (see below) to help dis­
cern the spiritual content. Jonah is a good place to start since here
we see the issue of prophecy from the reluctant prophet’s point of
view! That can be followed by Amos in its entirety and then sec­
tions from Isaiah and Jeremiah.