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Jewish Interpretation of the Bible: Ancient and Contemporary
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Jewish Interpretation of the Bible: Ancient and Contemporary


Fortress Press 2012

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Although Jewish tradition gives tremendous importance to the Hebrew Bible, from the beginning Jewish interpretation of those Scriptures has been practiced with remarkable freedom. Karin Hedner Zetterholm introduces the legal, theological, and historical presuppositions that shaped the dominant stream of rabbinic interpretation, including Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrashim, discussing examples of different interpretive methods, and explores the contours of Jewish biblical interpretation evident in the New Testament and the legacy of ancient traditions in the way different Jewish movements read the Bible today. Students of the history of biblical interpretation and of Judaism will find this an important and engaging resource.

With Logos Bible Software the entire volume is fully searchable and easily accessible. Scripture references are linked to your favorite Bible translation and to the original language texts, and important theological concepts are linked to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the wealth of resources in your digital library.

Key Features

  • Provides an introduction to Jewish biblical interpretation
  • Analyzes the origins of rabbinic tradition
  • Examines how Jewish and Christian traditions interpret Scripture differently


  • Continuity and Change in Rabbinic Judaism
  • Tradition in the Making—The Mishnah and the Talmuds
  • Rabbinic Biblical Interpretation—Midrash
  • The Jewish Character of the Early Jesus Movement
  • Continuity and Change in Contemporary Judaism

Praise for the Print Edition

This is a remarkable book, not only because it is thorough, clearly written, and focused, but because it speaks to the heart of what Jews and Christians need to understand about each other's tradition—namely, how each tradition interpreted and applied their common roots in different ways. Zetterholm shows how the Rabbinic tradition of nuanced and open interpretation of the Bible persists in different ways among Judaism's modern movements. I wish that every Jew and Christian would read this book!

Elliot Dorff, professor of Jewish theology, American Jewish University

In this masterful and nuanced survey, Karin Zetterholm argues that Judaism's ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances can be traced to unique concepts and interpretative strategies developed in the period of the Talmudic rabbis—concepts and strategies that afforded a central place to human agency in the articulation of the divine law. Illustrating her arguments with numerous primary sources and drawing on the most recent scholarship, Zetterholm shows how this tradition of transformative scriptural interpretation informed the early Jesus movement and—in a final chapter that vividly reminds us that much is at stake—how it continues to inform contemporary Jewish denominations struggling to balance fidelity to the past with adaptation to the present.

—Christine Hayes, Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University

Zetterholm's book not only serves as an introduction to Jewish biblical interpretation, but to the origins of the rabbinic tradition, the core of Judaism today. Beautifully and clearly written, it is just the book I've been looking for my students.

—Pamela Eisenbaum, associate professor of biblical studies and Christian origins, Iliff School of Theology

Product Details

  • Title: Jewish Interpretation of the Bible: Ancient and Contemporary
  • Author: Karin Hedner Zetterholm
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Pages: 224

About Karin Hedner Zetterholm

Karin Hedner Zetterholm is research fellow at the Swedish Research Council and active at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University. She is the author of numerous articles on Judaism and Jewish biblical interpretation and of Portrait of a Villain: Laban the Aramean in Rabbinic Literature.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition