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How to Read the Bible


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Master Bible scholar and teacher Marc Brettler argues that today's contemporary readers can only understand the ancient Hebrew Scripture by knowing more about the culture that produced it. And so Brettler unpacks the literary conventions, ideological assumptions, and historical conditions that inform the biblical text and demonstrates how modern critical scholarship and archaeological discoveries shed light on this fascinating and complex literature.

Brettler surveys representative biblical texts from different genres to illustrate how modern scholars have taught us to "read" these texts. Using the "historical-critical method" long popular in academia, he guides us in reading the Bible as it was read in the biblical period, independent of later religious norms and interpretive traditions. Understanding the Bible this way lets us appreciate it as an interesting text that speaks in multiple voices on profound issues.

This book is the first "Jewishly sensitive" introduction to the historical-critical method. Unlike other introductory texts, the Bible that this book speaks about is the Jewish one—with the three-part TaNaKH arrangement, the sequence of books found in modern printed Hebrew editions, and the chapter and verse enumerations used in most modern Jewish versions of the Bible.

In an afterword, the author discusses how the historical-critical method can help contemporary Jews relate to the Bible as a religious text in a more meaningful way.

The Logos Bible Software edition of How to Read the Bible is designed to encourage and stimulate your study of the Hebrew Bible. With Logos, every word is essentially a link. That means clicking on any Scripture reference brings you straight to the Hebrew text or your English translation, and double-clicking on any Hebrew word automatically searches your Hebrew lexicons for a match—instantly providing a wealth of linguistic and textual data. That makes the How to Read the Bible ideal for both English-only study and advanced Hebrew scholarship.

Resource Experts
  • Emphasizes the importance of using the historical-critical method for understand the Hebrew Bible
  • Analyzes the various contexts surrounding specific texts
  • Includes extensive notes, bibliography, and indexes of biblical passages and subjects
  • Reading As a Jew and As a Scholar
  • What Is the Bible, Anyway?
  • The Art of Reading the Bible
  • A Brief History of Israel
  • With Scissors and Paste: The Sources of Genesis
  • Creation vs. Creationism: Genesis 1–3 as Myth
  • The Ancestors as Heroes
  • Biblical Law: Codes and Collections
  • Incense is Offensive to Me: The Cult in Ancient Israel
  • "In the Fortieth Year . . . Moses Addressed the Israelites": Deuteronomy
  • "The Walls Came Tumbling Down": Reading Joshua
  • "May My Lord King David Live Forever": Royal Ideology in Samuel and Judges
  • "For Israel Tore Away from the House of David": Reading Kings
  • Revisionist History: Reading Chronicles
  • Introduction to Prophesy
  • "Let Justice Well Up Like Water": Reading Amos
  • "They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares": Reading (First) Isaiah
  • "I Will Make This House like Shiloh": Reading Jeremiah
  • "I Will Be for Them a Mini-Temple": Reading Ezekiel
  • "Comfort, Oh Comfort My People": The Exile and Beyond
  • "Those That Sleep in the Dust . . . Will Awake": Zechariah, Apocalyptic Literature, and Daniel
  • Prayer of Many Hearts: Reading Psalms
  • "Acquire Wisdom": Reading Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
  • "Being But Dust and Ashes": Reading Job
  • "Drink Deep of Love!": Reading Song of Songs
  • "Why Are You So Kind . . . When I Am a Foreigner?": Reading Ruth vs. Esther
  • "The Creation of the Bible"
Written for the beginning reader as well as the scholar, this is an outstanding introduction to the Hebrew Bible and the history of Israel, and should be widely read.

Publishers Weekly

As a professor of biblical studies, I am frequently sent textbooks . . . and I often consult academic introductions to the field as well. None of them is as clear, sophisticated, and readable as this book. For Jewish and non-Jewish readers. . . . The book's accomplishments remain stellar.

—Benjamin D. Sommer, Professor of Bible, Jewish Theological Seminary

. . . one of the most exciting Judaic studies books I've read in years. . . . Brettler's writing is easy and clear enough for non-scholarly readers. I highly recommend his work.

The Reporter

You probably need this book . . . To help span the gap between lay reader and specialist, Marc Brettler has written an extraordinarily accessible book . . . Brettler is clearly a master.


  • Title: How to Read the Bible
  • Author: Marc Zvi Brettler
  • Publisher: Jewish Publication Society
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Pages: xiv, 384

Marc Zvi Brettler earned a BA, MA, and PhD from Brandeis University and is currently Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies and chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies there. In 2004 he won the National Jewish Book Award for his work on The Jewish Study Bible.


2 ratings

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  1. Scott Degregorio
    This book is outstanding!

  2. Phil Niebergall


Digital list price: $32.99
Save $6.00 (18%)