Jewish Concepts of Scripture

A Comparative Introduction

347 pages

October, 2012

ISBN: 9780814760024



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Benjamin D. Sommer is Professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Previously, he was the Director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University. He has served as a visiting faculty member at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and the Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and as a Fellow at the Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization at the New York University Law School.

All books by Benjamin D. Sommer

What do Jews think scripture is? How do the People of the Book conceive of the Book of Books? In what ways is it authoritative? Who has the right to interpret it? Is it divinely or humanly written? And have Jews always thought about the Bible in the same way?
In seventeen cohesive and rigorously researched essays, this volume traces the way some of the most important Jewish thinkers throughout history have addressed these questions from the rabbinic era through the medieval Islamic world to modern Jewish scholarship. They address why different Jewish thinkers, writers, and communities have turned to the Bible—and what they expect to get from it. Ultimately, argues editor Benjamin D. Sommer, in understanding the ways Jews construct scripture, we begin to understand the ways Jews construct themselves.


  • "Jewish Concepts of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction is a lucid, engaging, and creative project that promises to expand the ways in which we view the complex relationship between Judaism and its scriptures. This volume includes essays by experts in their field—from antiquity to the present—who, using their scholarly expertise, write essays that exhibit passion for the material refracted through a critical lens. Each essay deftly combines a general thesis supported by many examples and creative readings of scriptural texts. Jewish Concepts of Scripture will dispel many false notions of the role the Hebrew Bible plays in the development of Judaism. It will introduce the reader to the textured way in which Jews throughout history embrace, subvert, sanctify, read and (mis) read, the formative canon of their tradition."

    —Shaul Magid, Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Professor of Jewish Studies, Indiana University Bloomington

  • "For anyone seeking to learn or teach about the role of the Bible in Jewish cultural and intellectual history, this book is the academic equivalent of a god-send. It presents cutting-edged research and is very specific in its insights, and yet it is also very clear, accessible, and comprehensive. A great contribution."

    —Steven Weitzman, Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion, Stanford University

  • "The predominance of the historical-critical method has made Biblical studies a field in which religious affiliation is rarely engaged. This volume is a much needed corrective. . . . There really is no book like it—highly recommended!"

    —Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame

  • "Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty."


  • "[T]he volume provides a broad chronological range and covers several of the major Jewish figures and movements.  The contributors represent an excellent cadre of professors of Jewish Studies.  Together, these essays provide a helpful way to examine the history of Judaism by allowing the reader to follow a single topic as it undergoes change and constant refinement.  I would recommend it to a wide audience: Jewish and Christian theologians and biblical scholars, historians of Judaism, and professors of the history of Judaism."

    —Tyler Mayfield, Religious Studies Review