Professor James Kugel was one of the most popular teachers at Harvard. When the attendance to his Bible introduction course (often with more than 900 students) finally surpassed another popular course in economics, the Harvard Crimson carried the headline: GOD BEATS MAMMON. Professor Kugel seems to me like an odd appearance at liberal Harvard. He is “an Orthodox Jew who found himself “hooked” on modern biblical studies despite the fact, as he said in a recent lecture in Manhattan, that much about those studies seemed calculated “to destroy the whole fabric of traditional Jewish piety.”He recently published a book entitled How to Read the Bible (it has 800 pages and 971 notes) –which I am planning to buy. The book is reviewed in some depth by Peter Steinfels, and he concludes:“How to Read the Bible” runs through the entire Hebrew Scriptures, matching modern scholarship and ancient interpretation. The journey is fascinating enough to render frustrating the author’s conclusion. Although he admired both approaches, Professor Kugel writes, they are “quite irreconcilable.”
Should we be surprised by this conclusion?
I am definitely NOT surprised. Frankly – I was always wondering why people who do not believe in the Bible dedicate their lives to its study. I am still not clear on this issue.
In any case – it seems to me well worth buying this book. It should be refreshing to read an expert Jewish Orthodox opinion on how to read the Bible.
Here I am in San Diego after a long flight from Korea and a sleepless night working on my paper…Thank God, baby Isaiah (8 months old) was very very good on the way here. It is nice being back in San Diego…the place where I did my undergraduate studies (in the 90’s), and brings back some nice memories…playing volleyball more than studying etc :):) Well – I did study for my Bible courses, and it was quite an experience taking classes with David Noel Freedman and Richard E. Friedman. In fact – I partly owe it to them the fact that I now teach Old Testament. It was those classes that helped me decide to change my major. And now – here I am at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) having a blessed time. It was nice hearing David Wells, Chris Wright etc…and it was even better seeing some old friends. More on this in the future…I do not like the connection here. Of course, it was very nice (and tempting) to buy books at a very discounted price. I am still working on self-control when it comes to buying books…However, the one book that I recommend for anyone interested in missions, is the book of Chris Wright – The Mission of God. Even though it has about 600 pages, it seems very well worth reading (I did not finish it). Time with family (my brother and cousin) is also great. We rarely get to see each other…especially in San Diego, where there is (I believe) the best weather on earth.