The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament stands as an important sacred text for all branches of the Abrahamic faiths, although these maintain fundamentally different attitudes towards it. Nonetheless, far from unifying Jews, Christians and Muslims, the biblical texts divided them, and have regularly been used as weapons to condemn opponents – insiders and outsiders – rather than as tokens of unification and reconciliation.I noted the publication of the book here earlier this year. This essay provides a useful summary of it.
Fighting Over the Bible, explores the roots of those interpretive conflicts, especially as they are reflected in pre-modern Jewish literature. It addresses the place of the Bible in Judaism, and the rich Jewish interpretative and theological methods that grew out of internal and external controversies in the Land of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. It illustrates how the study of the Scriptures filled the vacuum left by the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (70 CE), and became the foundation for Jewish life and existence at all times and places.
The focus, however, is on Jewish texts from the late Second Temple, talmudic and medieval periods, that is from ca. the 2nd century BCE to the 16th century CE. The creative intellectual and spiritual activities of the Jews – including their Scriptures – are explored within the historical, political, social, economic, religious and academic circumstances of the societies among whom they lived.
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