What It Means to Read the Bible as Nothing More than Great Literature

Like all of the other methods that have been devised for approaching the Bible, the literary method has its inevitable limitations.

A detail from Tsadi Pe, a tapestry designed by the Israeli artist Mordecai Ardon and now used for the cover of one of the volumes of Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible. 

A detail from Tsadi Pe, a tapestry designed by the Israeli artist Mordecai Ardon and now used for the cover of one of the volumes of Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible. 

Response
Feb. 11 2019
About the author

Jon D. Levenson is the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University and the author, most recently of The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Princeton, 2015) and Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton, 2012).


In his enlightening essay on Robert Alter’s new translation of the Hebrew Bible, Hillel Halkin identifies Alter as “a leading advocate of the view, rarely voiced before the mid-20th century, that the Bible needs to be read as great literature and not just for its religious or historical content.” As he goes on immediately to note, Alter has now also “sought to bring this perspective to bear on [the Bible’s] translation.”

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