The Chasm That Separates Modern Readers from the World of the Biblical Text

Reading and interpreting the Bible from within the fishbowl of our own cultural assumptions, we fail to understand it on its own terms.

Figures of mythical monsters on a 1299 manuscript of the Hebrew Bible by Joseph Assarfati of Cervera, Spain. DeAgostini/Getty Images.

Figures of mythical monsters on a 1299 manuscript of the Hebrew Bible by Joseph Assarfati of Cervera, Spain. DeAgostini/Getty Images.

Response
Jan. 9 2017
About the author

Joshua Berman is professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University and the author most recently of Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith (Maggid).


In “Is the Torah a Work of Philosophy?,” Jon Levenson reminds us of the wide but often invisible chasm that separates modern readers from the world of the biblical text. Conceptual categories that we take as self-evident and useful in describing and interpreting what we find in the Bible turn out to be fraught with anachronism. Unwittingly, we interpret the Bible from within the fishbowl of our own modern cultural assumptions, and thereby fail to understand Scripture on its own terms.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

More about: Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Religion & Holidays