The Bible of the Synagogue:
The Continuing Revelation
THIRTY-NINE books of ancient Hebrew literature-though Jewish tradition counts them as only twenty- four-have found their permanent place within the covers of a single volume. We call it the Bible, that is to say, the Book par excellence. Yet the modem Jew who reads this book, be it in the original Hebrew or in translation, has a choice not of one but of three different books.
There is first the Bible of modern scholarship. Here the “once-and-for-all.time” revelation at Mount Sinai, which is how the Law accounts for its own existence, is assumed to be a myth, a pious fraud, an attempt of later legislators to tie together the civil and cultic legislation which developed gradually through the centuries. What was once read as the “Law of Moses” turns out, on closer scholarly inspection, to be a mosaic of various codes and narrative traditions, having their provenance in many different times and places of Israel’s history. The mixture of comfort and admonition, of reproof and promise, which so many prophetic books contain, is also sorted out into precise components. The occasion for each utterance is found in the religious and political history of the people. And modern scholars feel confident that they are able to say exactly who was a “prophet of doom” and who was not. If, then, the promise of a glorious future is found in the writings of a Prophet who is known to have been prophesying doom, it can easily be labeled a “later gloss.” The same goes, of course, for any reference to the cult which might indicate a positive attitude toward institutional religion on the part of the Prophet. Since modern scholarship is convinced that the Prophets, or at any rate the pre-Exilic ones, were the enemies of the priesthood, such references must obviously have been inserted into the text by a later “priestly” editor or glossator.
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