Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Book review: "Who Wrote the Bible," by Richard Elliott Friedman

Many thanks to my husband, who was assigned this book to read for his Contexts class, for passing it along to me.

If you think that the Documentary Hypothesis regarding the origins of the Bible makes sense, this book is for you. Be sure to get the second edition, as the author, after even more research, changed his mind on a major point.

I had no idea that politics--both governmental and religious--may have played a major role in the writing of the Bible. For example, I had no clue--because all traces have been erased from the Bible--that there may have been Kohanim (Priests) who were the descendants of Moses, rather than his brother Aaron. As the saying goes, history is written by the victors--the Aaronid Priests won, the Mushite Priests lost.

I was absolutely fascinated to see break-downs of confusing texts into their component parts, showing who wrote what, sentence by sentence. Knowing who wrote what, and why, really helped me understand how such texts got to be so confusing. I particularly recommend the author's parsing of the story of Korach, titled "The Rebellion, Numbers 16" (pages 193-196 in my addition).  He did a much better job than I did, and helped clean up this mess.

And I especially appreciated the author's insistence that Biblical scholarship, rather than detracting from the holiness of the text, enhances our understanding and appreciation of it. I also found it fascinating that he's of the opinion that the Bible was the first attempt at writing a history.

I love this book!

Other books that I recommend for your Jewish bookshelf:

"Esau's Blessing," by Ora Horn Prouser 

I can't believe I never posted a book review about Subversive Sequels in the Bible:  How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other, by Judy Klitsner.  I really should do something about that.  And here it is.


Blogger David Staum said...

It's a fascinating and brilliant book. I read it 5 years ago but your post prompted me to plan to read it again.

I do have some reservations about the way he points to individuals (even unnamed ones) as THE author of particular sections. Here's a post I wrote about that in 2014 (complete with a comment from you and my reply :-)

Wed Apr 10, 10:40:00 PM 2019  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the URL. Ah, a blast from the past!

Indeed, he is rather daring in identifying authors so definitively. Perhaps I should take those definitive identifications with a bit of doubt, since they're impossible to prove. But the book as a whole makes sense.

Thu Apr 11, 09:29:00 AM 2019  

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