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From Gods to God

The ancient Israelites believed things that the writers of the Bible wanted them to forget: myths and legends from a pre-biblical world that the new monotheist order needed to bury, hide, or reinterpret. Ancient Israel was rich in such literary traditions before the Bible reached the final form that we have today. These traditions were not lost but continued, passed down through the ages. Many managed to reach us in post-biblical sources: rabbinic literature, Jewish Hellenistic writings, the writings of the Dead Sea sect, the Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and other ancient translations of the Bible, and even outside the ancient Jewish world in Christian and Islamic texts. The Bible itself sometimes alludes to these traditions, often in surprising contexts. Written in clear and accessible language, this volume presents thirty such traditions. It voyages behind the veil of the written Bible to reconstruct what was told and retold among the ancient Israelites, even if it is "not what the Bible tells us."
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Translator's Note Introduction: When God Fought the Sea DragonsPart 1. The World of Myth 1. Eden's Winged Serpent 2. When Gods Seduced Women 3. Moses or God? Who Split the Sea of Reeds? 4. What Is Manna? 5. The Hero Who Stopped the Sun Part 2. Cult and Sacred Geography 6. The Wandering Gate of Heaven 7. Seeing and Weeping: Managing the Story of a Divine Defeat 8. Where Were Rachel and Jacob Buried? 9. Where in the Wilderness Did Israel Receive the Torah? 10. Some More Reasons for Eating Matzah 11. Was Worshiping the Golden Calf a Sin? 12. Where Was the Law Given? In the Wilderness or in the Land of Israel? 13. When and How Was the City of Dan Sanctified? Part 3. Biblical Heroes and Their Biographies 14. What Did Ham Do to His Father? 15. Out of the Fire: Recovering the Story of Abraham's Origins 16. The Reinterpretation of a Name: Jacob's In Utero Activities 17. Were the Israelites Never in Egypt? A Peculiar Tradition about Ephraim 18. Moses's Most Miraculous Birth 19. Moses's African Romance 20. Moses's Necessary Death 21. Son of God? The Suspicious Story of Samson's Birth 22. A Cinderella Tale: Clues to David's Lost Birth Story 23. Finding the Real Killer of Goliath 24. How a Savior Became a Villain: Jeroboam and the Exodus Part 4. Relations between Men and Women 25. Sister or Not: Sarah's Adventures with Pharaoh 26. The Story of Rebekah and the Servant on the Road from Haran 27. Reuben, Bilhah, and a Silent Jacob 28. Seduction before Murder: The Case of Jael 29. No Innocent Death: David, Abigail, and Nabal 30. Not Just Riddles: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba In Closing Glossary of Extra-Biblical Sources Index

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Presents myths and legends from a pre-biblical world that the new monotheist order needed to bury, hide, or reinterpret

About the Author

Avigdor Shinan is the Yitzhak Becker Professor of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of numerous books in Hebrew on rabbinic literature, Jewish liturgy, and the Aramaic translations of the Bible. Yair Zakovitch is the Emeritus Father Takeji Otsuki Professor of Bible Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a professor of Jewish Peoplehood at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. He is the author of numerous books in Hebrew on biblical literature and ancient interpretation of the Bible. Valerie Zakovitch is a translator and editor of works in Jewish studies and the humanities.


"Shinan and Zakovitch approach 30 specific Bible stories (e.g., Was Goliath really slain by a young boy named David?) as literary archaeologists, sifting through varying accounts in the biblical texts themselves and examining extrabiblical sources for evidence of alternate versions. Their thoughtful and sympathetic exegesis uncovers possible explanations why the biblical authors saw their interpretations of these stories as best suited to instruct a nation. Most important, they introduce the oral and literary traditions of ancient Israel with breathtaking clarity and ease." Christopher McConnell, Booklist, November 15th 2012 "In this remarkable volume, Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitch have channeled their prodigious learning into a narrative about the legacy of the Bible that is not only readable but compelling. Anyone who loves the Bible and the interpretive challenges it has bequeathed generations of readers will enjoy the encounter with these two illustrious commentators." Gary A. Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame

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