Jewish Biblical Scholarship

Contemporary biblical scholarship is mostly non-confessional. In other words, critical scholars are open to insights from all qualified contributors, irrespective of their personal religious affiliation (or lack thereof). The major critical tools will include material written by Anglicans, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Protestants—as well as atheists and agnostics.

Finding scholarship that is distinctively Jewish (or with any other religious character) is not as easy as one might expect. In most cases the personal religious identity of the author is not identified, but it may sometimes be inferred from their name and/or their academic affiliation. These are not entirely reliable indicators, as a Jewish scholar (for example) may be employed to teach at a Protestant seminary, while many biblical scholars work in secular universities.

As an aside—and as something we will discuss at another time—let’s note the unresolved issue of how people with a particular religious identity (say, Anglican) might engage with scholarship that is from another religious perspective. This ecumenical and interfaith diversity is actually one of the great gifts of biblical scholarship since WW2, but it becomes more problematic when we are looking for a confessional or theological reading of the Old Testament. For example, is there a distinctive Anglican way of reading the Bible, and should our final interpretation of the Bible be controlled by our confessional location?

Another factor that complicates this matter is that Jewish scholars writing as and for Jews, tend to work directly with the Hebrew text and to publish their work in Modern Hebrew. That makes it inaccessible for most of us.

With all that in mind, here are some suggestions for finding contemporary Jewish scholarship that offers critical engagement with the biblical texts and addresses a wider audience than their own Jewish religious community.

For a Jewish perspective on the Old Testament (excluding the OT Apocrypha or Deuterocanonicals), as well as helpful essays on Jewish approaches to biblical studies see:

  • Berlin, A., Brettler, M.Z., & Fishbane, M. (Eds). (2005). The Jewish Study Bible. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Note those three names – Adele BerlinMarc Zvi Brettler, and Michael Fishbane – and look for other works by them.

Another significant one-volume Jewish commentary to keep in mind is the revised edition of W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary (1981):

This  volume by women scholars from the Reformed Judaism tradition is also a valuable resource:

Google search for “Jewish biblical scholars” includes the following wikipedia page among its results (more names to look for when seeking Jewish scholarship):

The major explicitly Jewish Bible commentary series is the JPS Commentary:

 

The Feminst Companion to the Bible, co-edited by Athalya Brenner, has a number of contributions by Jewish scholars. There is now a second series for this project, but both the first and second series are with consulting.

A glance down the list of volumes in the Anchor Bible and the Hermeneia commentary series reveals numerous Jewish scholars:

  • Adele Berlin
  • Mordechai Cogan
  • Michael V. Fox
  • Jonathan A. Goldstein
  • Moshe Greenberg
  • Baruch A. Levine
  • Carol L. Meyers
  • Eric M. Meyers
  • Jacob Milgrom
  • George W. E. Nickelsburg
  • Shalom M. Paul
  • William H. C. Propp
  • Jack M. Sasson
  • E. A. Speiser
  • Michael E. Stone
  • Marvin A. Sweeney
  • Hayim Tadmor
  • Moshe Weinfeld

This article has tended to focus on Jewish scholarship that examines the biblical and post-biblical Jewish texts, but there are also Jewish scholars who focus on NT studies, including:

  • Rami Arav
  • David Flusser
  • Paula Fredriksen
  • Richard Freund
  • Samuel T. Lachs
  • Amy-Jill Levine
  • S. Safrai
  • Alan F. Segal
  • M. Stern
  • Emmanuel Tov
  • Geza Vermes

The following resource is a good place to begin when seeking to access Jewish scholarship on the New Testament:

Finally, it is worth mentioning that there are online biblical studies resources that offer a Jewish perspective, although these tend to offer traditional rabbinic materials, including the work of Medieval scholars such as Rashi (1040 – 1105 CE):

[This information was initially created for students in my class, “Introduction to OT Studies”, at St Francis Theological College, but may be of wider interest. It will be updated from time to time as I become aware of further works by Jewish biblical scholars. Your suggestions of additional names to add to this page are very welcome!]

About gregoryjenks

Academic Dean at St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.
This entry was posted in Bible and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jewish Biblical Scholarship

  1. Sue Emeleus says:

    Dear greg. I tried to order Annotated Jewsih NT with Amy Jill levine as one of the editors. The Oxford bookshop doesn’t seem to know Australia exists and wouldn’t process it until i out in which state of US I lived in. I have given up and will try to get it from somewhere sle. Thanks fofr this email. Excellent. Blessings, Sue Emeleus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s