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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $21.95

400 pp.
234 mm x 155 mm


Publication date:
May 2007

Imprint: OUP US

How to Read the Jewish Bible

Marc Zvi Brettler

In his new book, master Bible scholar and teacher Marc Brettler argues that today's contemporary readers can only understand the ancient Hebrew Scripture by knowing more about the culture that produced it. And so Brettler unpacks the literary conventions, ideological assumptions, and historical conditions that inform the biblical text and demonstrates how modern critical scholarship and archaeological discoveries shed light on this fascinating and complex literature.
Brettler surveys representative biblical texts from different genres to illustrate how modern can read these texts. He guides us in reading the Bible as it was read in the biblical period, independent of later religious norms and interpretive traditions. Understanding the Bible this way lets us appreciate it as an interesting text that speaks in multiple voices on profound issues.
Although the emphasis of How to Read the Jewish Bible is on showing contemporary Jews, as well as Christians, how they can relate to the Bible in a more meaningful way, readers at any level of religious faith can benefit greatly from this comprehensive but remarkably clear guide to interpreting the Jewish Bible.


  • "An eye-opening journey through a familiar text, a fresh look at an old story. Written for the beginning reader as well as the scholar, this is an outstanding introduction to the Hebrew Bible and the history of Israel, and should be widely read."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • "One of the most exciting Judaic studies books I've read in years.... Brettler's writing is easy and clear enough for non-scholarly readers. I highly recommend his work."--The Reporter
  • "Brettler is clearly a master, and his book should be the first choice for any non-specialist interested in the field."--Jbooks.com
  • "Brettler examines the historical context--the conventions and ideology--that prevailed at the time the biblical scriptures were written. His approach underscores the literary workings of the text, and ties biblical stories to specific events. With its emphasis on the historical-critical method, How to Read the Bible provides insight into the history of the Jewish Bible as well as that of Israel itself. The book has been hailed for its relevance to scholars and casual students alike."--Terry Gross, Fresh Air, National Public Radio
  • "As a professor of biblical studies, I am frequently sent textbooks...and I often consult academic introductions to the field as well. None of them is as clear, sophisticated, and readable as this book. For Jewish and non-Jewish readers.... The book's accomplishments remain stellar."--Benjamin D. Sommer, Sh'ma/Koret Book Review

Preface to the paperback edition-
Preface-Abbreviations-Reading as a Jew and as a Scholar-
What is the Bible, Anyway?-
The Art of Reading the Bible-
A Brief History of Israel-
With Scissors and Paste: The Source of Genesis-Creation vs. Creationism: Genesis 1-3 as Myth-
The Ancestors as Heroes-Biblical Law: Codes and Collections
Incense is Offensive to Me: The Cult in Ancient Israel-
"In the Fortieth YearMoses Addressed the Israelites": Deuteronomy-
"The Walls Came Tumbling Down": Reading Joshua-
"May My Lord King David Live Forever": Royal Ideology in Samuel and Jude-
"For Israel Tore Away from the House of David": Reading Kings-Revisionist History: Reading Chronicles-
"Let Justice Well Up Like Water": Reading Amos-
"They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares": Reading (First) Isaiah-
"I Will make this House like Shiloh": Reading Jeremiah-
"I Will be for Them A Mini-Temple": Reading Ezekiel-
"Comfort, Oh Comfort My People" The Exile and Beyond-
"Those that Sleep in the DustWill Awake": Zechariah, Apocalyptic Literature, And Daniel-
Prayer of Many Hearts: Reading Psalms-
"Acquire Wisdom"-Reading Proverbs and Ecclesiastes-"Being But Dust and Ashes": Reading Job-
"Drink Deep of Love!"-
Reading Song of Songs-
"Why Are You So KindWhy Am I a Foreigner?" Reading Ruth vs. Esther-
The Creation of the Bible-Afterword: Reading the Bible as a Committed Jew
Sources Cited
Index of Subjects
Index of Biblical Subjects and Other References

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Marc Brettler is Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Literature and chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. His main areas of research are religious metaphors and the Bible, biblical historical texts, and women and the Bible. He is the author of several books and co-editor of The Jewish Study Bible.

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