The Jewish Bible, The Jewish Publication Society, compilation of essays on the Jewish perspective on the Jewish Bible.
The starting point is to disconnect from Christian designations of the scripture as “the Old Testament” “The Jewish Scripture” or such. Although terms like the “Bible” and “scripture” are used, these do not capture the Jewish spirit about the writings.
The historically and politically correct term is the Tanakh or Tanach. This is an acronym for the Anglicized Hebrew words for Torah, Prophets, and Writings.
Several chapter headings in the book are: What is the Bible? How the Bible became the “Bible”, The Torah Scroll, Public Reading of the Torah, History of Bible translations, Gender in the modern JPS Translation, Storytelling in the Bible, Biblical Law, Biblical Poetry, Books of the Prophets, Wisdom Literature, Commentaries on the Bible, Midrash, and Summaries of the Books of the Bible.
There are supplemental maps, tables, chronologies of the prophets and kings, family tree of the Torah, and a list of popular quotations from the Bible.
The book is 280 pages plus the index. Each of the chapters necessarily gives just a glimpse into Jewish thought on these various subjects. From the standpoint of the JPS publishing house, they have compiled a representative survey of thought and lists of commentaries, notable authorities on the Hebrew scripture, and other aids to research, such as a list of helpful websites.
In the area of scripture analysis, the traditional approaches have been 1) peshat (the plain sense, which is sometimes elusive even for the experts of the Hebrew language), remez (allegorical or symbolic, where things in scripture stand for something else), denash (inquiring or interpretive, sometimes very creatively beyond the literal, often filling in the gaps inscripture), and sod (the mystical, looking for hidden meaning in words and even letters of words).For example, at one level, we might have some insight into the account of Cain and Abel this way. “Cain” means to possess, so Cain offered the first fruits of what he possessed and produced. But, Abel tended animals, which symbolizes a concern for other people; perhaps it was the spirit in his heart which made his offering more acceptable to God. At another level,
Cain and Abel represent the opposing urges in every person. One force which is good, and another that is ultimately evil.
Another example, “the ten commandments” does not appear anywhere in scripture. Instead, the word Decalogue (“ten words”) is a better description. One commentator has noted that men have ten commandments, but women have only nine, because of the commandment not to covet the neighbor’s wife is not balanced with the command to not covet the neighbor’s husband. Nevertheless, the Decalogue has special importance because they are the only words given by God directly to the Israelites,
not through an intermediate.
JPS is encouraged in the centuries-long work of providing accurate translations which are not Christian or Christian-ized. Bible stories are meant to make us think. Ritual is misbegotten when it is not based on convenantal morality. The Bible is open and inexhaustible. There are difficulties reading and interpreting scripture, because Hebrew did not have vowels,punctuation, footnotes, appendices, capitalization, indentation, etc. The Masoretes were Jews dedicated to the preservation of scripture, and their text is the oldest that survives for Jewish and Christian Bibles. It contains the missing vowels, pronunciation, spacing,
etc. to preserve the oral tradition of the Torah.
This is a sampling of the interesting introduction to the Jewish
perspective of the Word of God.