GOD BEATS MAMMON at HARVARD
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.