B. Hawk's Reviews > The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies

The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism by Jon D. Levenson
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Jun 06, 2011

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bookshelves: biblical-studies
Read from June 06 to 07, 2011

In this collection of essays--revisions of articles printed elsewhere--Levenson's main project is to discuss, juxtapose, and critique to modes of biblical study: 1) "Traditional," based on religious "fundamentalism"; and 2) "Historical-critical," based on "modern rationalism." Thus, he raises problems of oppositions, the recasting of traditional interpretations by historical-critical scholarship, and the trap of source criticism in/for itself. In doing so, he claims that scholarship has denied many facets of ongoing traditions (Jewish and Christian), ideological bases of criticism, and normative judgments that need reassessed. Throughout these essays, Levenson also questions the ways in which Jewish and Christian perspectives may be reconciled, and how all facets of biblical criticism may find common ground for ecumenical discussion.

Overall, this book certainly raises questions that need addressed in biblical scholarship, and Levenson rightly calls for more assessment and honesty from critics of all backgrounds (Jewish, Christian, secular, etc.)--and for more ecumenical discussions that encompass a variety of perspectives. Yet at no point does he present positive possibilities for going about changing the problems he levels at critics. Unfortunately, this is the nature of a disjointed project, since this volume is put together from a series of essays that often overlap in content, but do not necessarily talk to each other. A more coherent assemblage of these works, with a clearer introduction and conclusion to frame the overall project, would have given a better sense of the directions that need taken next. In a sense, it seems to me that this book needed to be more of a monograph than a series of collected articles.

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