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Understanding the Hebrew Bible

A Reader’s Guide

By Elliott Rabin

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Written clearly and jargon-free and provides an orientation to the vast compendium of biblical materials by explaining the different kinds of writing found in the Bible, including storytelling, law, history, prophecy, wisdom and poetry. Each section is informed by current biblical scholarship, but presented in a manner accessible to a general audience. Unlike other introductions that focus entirely on biblical history and its historical context, this book surveys the full range of biblical writing. A preface establishes a conceptual model for understanding the Bible, and explores the differences between the traditional Jewish and Christian readings of this Scripture. Readers will discover in this book a concise, useful companion to the Book of Books.

About the Author
Elliott Rabin is the director of education at Makor, a program of the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a specialty in Hebrew literature from Indiana University, and he has taught classes in literature, religion, Jewish culture, and Hebrew language at
universities and community centers in Indiana, Louisville, and New York City. He resides in New York with his wife and daughter.
Praise for Understanding the Hebrew Bible
Based on his belief that people need to discover the meaning of the Bible for themselves, Rabin offers this guide to help them "navigate its passages." Administrator of an adult education center at the 92nd Street Y in New York, he is a specialist in Hebrew literature who has taught in Indiana and Kentucky as well as New York. Rabin uses non-technical language to bring together biblical scholarship, archaeology and literary analysis as the basis for his manual. He concentrates on the Hebrew Bible, differentiating it from the "Old Testament" as used by Christians, pointing out that both the order of the books and their significance are at variance. Asserting that the Bible is primarily a book of questions, the author holds that it is best approached by recognizing that it contains six types of writing: storytelling, law, history, prophecy, wisdom and poetry. A chapter is devoted to each, except for history, which is divided into sections on history in the Bible and the history of the Bible. Rabin cites and analyzes passages from the Bible, but he emphasizes the reader's responsibility for interpretation and dissection. In the end, he points the way but remains true to his objective of placing the ultimate onus on the reader. He succeeds handsomely in providing a handbook that will make it easier to grasp the Bible.
~ Publishers Weekly
The Hebrew Bible is Judaism's corpus of sacred writings, a collection of literary works produced by the Israelite people in ancient times. It is believed that these works were written by divine inspiration, the result of direct revelation and of prophecy in its various forms. The Bible is filled with several types of writing: storytelling, law, history, prophecy, wisdom, and poetry. Rabin posits that the Bible is not a book of doctrine and there are few statements of dogma; he believes, instead, that it is a book that imparts its religious vision mostly through literary art, stories, and poems--that the Bible's stories describe human responses to God's presence: "God speaks to people, challenging them to live a life in His image." This handbook is clearly written for the general reader and takes no particular position about the Bible's religious significance, presenting itself as one of the most enlightening studies to explore the depths and range of this holy book, and giving it contemporary relevance.
~ George Cohen, Booklist

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