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A History of Biblical Interpretation: The Ancient Period [Hardcover]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   536
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.57" Width: 6.49" Height: 1.37"
Weight:   2.17 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 2003
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802842739  
EAN  9780802842732  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The first installment in a major new multivolume work on the history of biblical interpretation, this book provides a detailed discussion of the key figures, texts, and issues crucial to biblical interpretation in the ancient Jewish and Christian communities. Written by internationally renowned experts, this volume explores the history of biblical interpretation in the ancient world from several points of view. Chapters cover the historical period beginning with the very earliest stages of interpretation, when the first oral stories were formed, to the time when the canons of Judaism and Christianity gained general acceptance. Scholarly yet accessible, this volume will become an important reference tool for anyone interested in hermeneutics, ancient Judaism, or the early church.

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More About Alan J. Hauser

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David Clines is Professor of Biblical Studies and Head of Department in the University of Sheffield. Dr. David M. Gunn is A.A. Bradford Professor of Religion at the Texas Christian University.

Alan J. Hauser has published or released items in the following series...
  1. History of Biblical Interpretation Series
  2. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
All things old...  Nov 24, 2003
Part of a planned multi-volume series by Eerdmans, this first volume of 'A History of Biblical Interpretation' covers the ancient period -- variously defined by historians, it basically begins with the formation of the Hebrew scriptures and their translation into Greek into the Septuagint (LXX), proceeds to look the early Rabbinic and Apostolic periods, and proceeds into Christian history with the early Fathers and Apologists, Jerome, the closure of the canon, and the ending of imperial times.

I give great credit to this text as they devote much attention to looking at the Bible prior to the time of Jesus as Jewish texts in Jewish contexts, without superimposing a necessarily Christian framework or interpretation upon the texts. Space is precious, even in a multi-volume work, so decisions had to be made as to what to include and what to exclude (a decision that is always made in authorship, though rarely recognised explicitly as the editors here describe) -- while investigation of sidelines and minor strands in Judeo-Christian biblical interpretation is interesting, the decision was made to concentrate on the major influences and figures that continued to have major impact.

The editors Alan J. Hauser and Duane F. Watson provide an introductory chapter that explores the topics in the subsequent chapters of this volume, providing an initial framework and introduction for the overall strand of development. Over two thousand years of interpretation is a major topic to develop; even five hundred years is a formidible task, particularly when those five hundred years contain the formation of the canon of both the Tanakh and the Christian bible, and the formation of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaisms as established institutions.

Hauser and Watson explore the issues of unity and diversity, pointing out the shifting emphases over time. They then briefly describe major historical events and key topics and personalities crucial to the understanding of ancient biblical interpretation. These range from Midrash and the Dead Sea Scrolls to canonical formation and regional rivalries, such as that between Alexandria and Antioch. Hauser and Watson make the interesting observation that, at the end of the ancient period, as Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity were firmly established on separate paths, there was still a great deal of commonality in methods of interpretation. Upon reflection, this should come as no surprise, given that both grew up essentially in the same cultural and intellectual environments.

Succeeding chapters look at major figures and topics such as Philo of Alexandria; Jerome and the Vulgate; the Dead Sea Scrolls; Rabbinic Midrash; Apostolic Fathers; Augustine; and various other topics. The chapter on the Dead Sea Scrolls represents perhaps a departure from the stated intention of not going into minor and sectarian strands (for example, Samaritan interpretation is not a major topic explored in its own right, even though its direct interpretation influence is arguably stronger than the Dead Sea Scrolls until modern times). The Dead Sea Scrolls do, however, provide a snapshot of a sectarian development at a certain point in time, and the documentary evidence that survives represents some of the oldest and largest collections of biblical texts, exegetical writings, and other community pieces from the ancient world.

Each chapter is developed by a scholar expert in the topic; they do work together as a collection. As an aid to scholarship, there are several indexes: subject, ancient and modern author, biblical and extra-biblical primary sources (indeed, the indexes extend for 70 pages). Each chapter has a bibliography for further reading in each topic. I might argue with some of the bibliographic pieces (for example, there were a few key texts for Augustine that seemed to be missing from the list for that chapter), but in general they are good lists.

Scholarly yet accessible, complete without being unbearably lengthy, this book is a good study of the way in which people have looked at the Bible in the past; together with future volumes, it provides an interesting way in seeing how Biblical interpretative development in Judaism and Christianity has brought these religions to the position of diversity of opinion they occupy today.


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