Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tanakh - Torah, Nevi'im, Kethuvim

What is a practical way of gaining a greater command of that great body of sacred literature known variously as the Hebrew Scripture, Old Testament, Tanakh, etc.? Note: "Tanakh" is commonly used in Jewish circles when referring to Scripture, representing in shorthand the three-fold division of the bible into Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi'im), and the Writings (Kethuvim).

Here are five suggestions for your consideration:
  1. Get a good sense of ancient Israelite history. Consequently, make sure you have a solid history to refer to such as John Bright's A History of Israel.
  2. Study with Jewish scholars. Check you local library or consider purchasing The Jewish Study Bible, edited by Marc Zvi Brettler and Adele Berlin, with comments, book introductions, and essays by the best of modern Jewish academic scholarship.
  3. Have one solid Introduction available. Here are two to consider: Walter Brueggemann's An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination and The Chalice Introduction to the Old Testament. Also worth considering is Jon D. Levenson's Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible.
  4. Resource one substantial theology such as Walther Eichrodt's 2 volume classic, The Theology of the Old Testament.
  5. Get some help with how to read this ancient literature. Two volumes, again from a Jewish perspective, are James Kugel's How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now and Marc Zvi Brettler's How to Read the Bible.


Bill G said...

Maybe it's because you've got us into books with the last few posts, but let me suggest a few volumes that have been helpful to me. The major difference with your list is that for the most part these books present the thinking to me so I don't have to study so hard to grasp the points. (Probably not what a rabbi would want to hear from a student.)

Robert N. Levine, There Is No Messiah - and You're It: The Stunning Transformation of Judaism's Most Provocative Idea.

David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus.

Neil Gillman, The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians.

Limited to just Torah, I've used Norman J. Cohen, The Way into Torah. and the Richard Friedman Commentary on the Torah.

With the exception of the Friedman commentary I realize these aren't the broad subtantial books you encourage us to use. But they are interesting, particularly the Levine and Klinghoffer books.

revJohn said...

Bill, thanks for these additions. I have not read any but Friedman's Commentary on the Torah. Now I can add a few more to the wish list.