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How the Bible is Written

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A book focusing on the nexus between language and literature in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, with specific attention to how the former is used to create the latter; topics include wordplay, wordplay with proper names, alliteration, repetition with variation, dialect representation, intentionally confused language, marking closure, and more.

Readers typically approach the Bible (and specifically, the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) primarily for its moral teachings, theological insights, historical information, and the like, without giving much or even any consideration to the literary aspects of the text. The result is that while the Bible’s contents are well known, the careful and often sophisticated manner in which those contents have been crafted is usually poorly understood. As a result, readers frequently miss out on a great deal of the richness the Bible has to offer. The goal of How the Bible Is Written is to bring interested readers—scholars and laypeople alike—closer to the original text of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and to provide them with a greater appreciation of its literary artistry and linguistic virtuosity. In short, this book focuses not so much on what the Bible says as how the Bible says it.

Specific topics treated in this book include wordplay, wordplay with proper names, alliteration, repetition with variation, dialect representation, intentionally confused language, marking closure, and more. Readers of this book will gain a profound appreciation for the artistry and genius of the biblical authors and will better appreciate how understanding the way in which the Bible is written contributes to a deeper and fuller understanding of what it says.

Key Features

  • Reveals the manner in which language is used to produce exquisite literature
  • Connects scholars and lay people to the original text
  • Examines the the nexus of language and literature


  • Reading Creation
  • Repetition with Variation: The Animals in the Flood
  • Story (Genesis 6–9)
  • Repetition with Variation: The Plagues Narrative (Exodus 7–10)
  • Repetition with Variation: The Balaam Narrative (Numbers 22–24)
  • An Introduction to Alliteration, and Alliteration in the Book of Genesis
  • Alliteration in the Exodus Narrative
  • Micah 1: The Case for Alliteration
  • Confused Language
  • Repetition with Variation: Prose Narratives
  • Alliteration in Prose Narratives
  • Alliteration in the Legal-Cultic Material
  • Repetition with Variation: Legal and Cultic Texts
  • Marking Closure
  • Marking Closure (Writ Large)
  • Repetition with Variation: Poetic and Prophetic Texts
  • Alliteration in Poetic and Prophetic Texts
  • Wordplay
  • Wordplay on Names
  • The Use of wə-hinne ‘and behold’
  • Shorter before Longer?and Divergences Therefrom
  • When Was All This Written?
  • A Challenge to the Documentary Hypothesis
  • Israelian Hebrew
  • Style-Switching
  • Addressee-Switching
  • Telling and Retelling: Variation within Direct Speech
  • Form Follows Content
  • Some Final Oddities
  • Genesis 29: Putting It All Together

Praise for the Print Edition

Gary Rendsburg is dedicated perhaps more than any other scholar to the idea that the Hebrew Bible manifests a subtle and sophisticated articulation of literary form and as such requires minute attention to stylistic details. His new book does this with close readings of hundreds of biblical texts. The summarizing chapter on Genesis 29, the story of Jacob’s great love for Rachel, is especially admirable in this regard, aptly demonstrating the efficacy of his method.

—Robert Alter, Professor of the Graduate School and Emeritus Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Experienced readers of the Hebrew Bible are aware of the sometimes subtle rhetorical phenomena that suffuse the surface of the literature, in poetry and in prose. Gary Rendsburg, who has studied such phenomena for decades, provides an extensive guide to the student and lay reader who seeks to reach that higher level of reader experience.

—Edward L. Greenstein, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Product Details

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Gary A. Rendsburg is the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University. He is the author of six books, including The Redaction of Genesis and The Bible and the Ancient Near East (co-authored with Cyrus Gordon), and more than 170 articles.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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    Digital list price: $58.99
    Save $20.00 (33%)

    Gathering interest