Page 153 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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The essays on “Biblical Narrative”by Joel 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, re­
flections 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, particularly if one
can not study the poetry of those texts in the original Hebrew.
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.
For poetry one should turn to the Psalms, but the works that are
probably most appealing to the modern consciousness are Job, Ec­
clesiastes (called Koheleth in Hebrew) and Song of Songs. Once
again the JPS translations are the most reliable, but for Job the in­
terpretive translation by Stephen Michell,
Into the Whirlwind
(Doubleday, 1979) may be more satisfying. For Song of Songs the
poetic rendering by Marcia Falk (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1977) is very appealing.
The secondary literature is also vast: for the prophetic literature
see Abraham Joshua Heschel,
The Prophets
(JPS, 1962). For poetry
see the essay by Murray H. Lichtenstein in
Back to the Sources:
Reading the ClassicJewish Texts
, and Robert Alter,
TheArt ofBiblical
Poetry
(Basic, 1985).
For the “Writings”, in particular Job and Ecclesiastes, see Rob­
ert Gordis,
The Book ofGod andMan: A Study ofJob
(University of
Chicago, 1978) and his
Koheleth: TheMan andhis World
(Schocken,
1968). Also Elias Bickerman,
Four Strange Books of the Bible
(Schocken, 1964).
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