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The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible


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Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: Spinoza As Jewish Bible Critic Part I. The Emergence of Modern Jewish Bible Studies in Germany Introduction: Starting with Germany Chapter 2: Mendelssohn's Bible: The Ideal of Jewish Self-Sufficiency Chapter 3: Samson Raphael Hirsch: The Chimera of Self-Explanatory Scripture Chapter 4: Benno Jacob and the Call for a "Jewish" Bible Scholarship Chapter 5: The Martin Buber-Franz Rosenzweig Bible: Culture or Religion? Part II. Zionism and the Creation of a National Bible Introduction: The Bible in Modern Israel Chapter 6: Early Zionism and the Bible: Ahad Haam and His Opponents Chapter 7: The Bible As National Linchpin: David Ben Gurion and His Opponents Chapter 8: Nehama Leibowitz's Bible: Returning Tradition to the Text Part III. The Flowering of Jewish Bible Studies in North America Introduction: America and the Jewish Bible Chapter 9: Finding A Jewish Voice: Nahum Sarna & Robert Alter Chapter 10: Seeking An American Jewish Bible Conclusion: Is There A "Jewish School" of Modern Bible Study? Notes Selective Bibliography Index About the Author

About the Author

Alan T. Levenson is the Schusterman/Josey Professor of Jewish Intellectual and Religious History at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of several books, including Modern Jewish Thinkers: An Introduction, The Story of Joseph: A Journey of Jewish Interpretation, and Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism. Defenses of Jews & Judaism in Germany, 1871-1932.


This book traces how ten Jewish thinkers brought the Bible to the center of Jewish identity over the past four centuries. With a light touch, the author insightfully describes how they and other scholars in Europe, America, and Israel responded to the needs of Western culture and Jewish nationalism. -- Andreas Spahn, Florida Atlantic University, Frederick E. Greenspahn, Florida Atlantic University
This is an original, creative, and thoughtful guide to a topic and an era (or rather, several topics and several eras) that are crucial to understanding today's Judaism-but they are not usually brought together with the insightful and informative methodology that Levenson has managed to construct. He has a fine eye for both detail and context as he spins out a tale that covers over three centuries and takes place in three continents. Agree with him or disagree with him or come down somewhere in the middle, the engaged reader of this book will be greatly illuminated and moved to think about things, both old and new, in meaningful and fruitful ways. -- Leonard Greenspoon, Creighton University
Alan Levenson has restored the Bible to its rightfully central place in modern Jewish thought. He has done so with considerable sensitivity and consistent lucidity. This is a book that scholars and laypeople alike will read with profit. -- David J. Sorkin, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Alan Levenson explains clearly and directly how the meaning of the Bible is socially constructed. He explores how makers of meaning from Spinoza, Jewish Enlightenment thinkers, and modern Jewish thinkers, constructed our ever-changing understanding of the Bible. From his survey of how modern Zionists and Israelis recovered the Bible as a centerpiece of national life, how the challenge of reading the Bible meaningfully has been addressed in an era of doubt, to the celebration of the Bible as an ethnic touchstone in America, he helps explain how the Bible became the connective tissue of Jewish life even as it served as a vehicle for expressing contemporary values. This book is a valuable guide to anyone interested in understanding the Hebrew Bible today. -- David Ariel, President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
With refreshing breadth and accessible prose, Alan T. Levenson illuminates the political, social, and religious tensions that shape modern Jewish approaches to the Bible. This wide-ranging and engaging study blends scholarly acumen with a gifted teacher's knack for clarity. Levenson guides the reader to see what is at stake, for some of the most important figures in modern Jewish intellectual history, in how Jews read their sacred text. -- Mara Benjamin, St. Olaf College
This is a combination of a careful reading of and original thinking about a group of Bible scholars never before examined together. In his learning and his originality -an all-too-rare combination -Alan Levenson is matchless. He is a scholar in command of his sources as well as the extensive literature about these sources, who knows how to speak continually to his readers. -- Marc Lee Raphael, Nathan and Sophia Gumenick Professor of Judaic Studies, College of William and Mary
This is a terrific book that fills a real need in the Jewish Studies and Biblical Studies Academy: an original history of modern Jewish scholarship on the Bible. The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible will be great for course use as well as general reading. Levenson writes in an elegant style: learned yet with a personal touch, strong and clear from an academic perspective, yet reader-friendly in voice. The book is carefully planned and presented: a conscientious piece of work by an experienced scholar who also cares broadly about this project. 'The Jewish Bible' has arrived as a distinct and distinguished topic for study and appreciation. -- Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia
In The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible, Alan Levenson has given us a sweeping and detailed panorama of one of the most significant cultural, intellectual and social endeavors in modern Jewish history. This is not merely a history of Jewish Bible scholarship over the past three centuries, nor of modern Jewish translations of the sacred text, but of how Jews in three major centers of Jewish life - Germany, Israel, and the United States - related to and identified with the Bible and gave it a new place in their lives. Levenson's account is a tour de force of scholarship based upon a wide range of sources in German and Hebrew as well as English. He is willing to take sides in passionate scholarly and cultural debates, while at the same time giving a balanced presentation of all sides. Levenson's felicitous and highly accessible writing style makes the book a pleasure to read for scholar, student, and general reader alike. It is an impressive achievement. -- Norman A. Stillman, Schusterman/Josey Professor of Judaic History, University of Oklahoma
The Jewish Bible-and the distinctly Jewish approach to Bible study-is as popular as ever among scholars and laypeople, believers and secularists alike. Those who had a hand in "making" the modern Jewish Bible-from Ezra the Scribe to Spinoza, Mendelssohn to Buber, Nechama Leibowitz to Nahum Sarna-come to life in this engaging book. Levenson's accessible study of the creative forces of biblical translation and scholarship in Germany, Israel, and in twenty-first century America, explains why the the Bible continues to be the indispensable point of entry into classical Jewish learning. -- Abigail Gillman, Boston University

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