The Bible is not a difficult book to begin learning, although its complexity makes it difficult to master. A biblical narrative does not stand on its own; some contemporary literary theorists of the Bible take their lead from the midrash and read the Bible as a whole, reading how parts of the Torah reflect on other parts, and how the Prophets and Writings similarly refer to earlier narratives and laws. From a canonical perspective, reading the book of Exodus is a first step; reading how the prophet Ezekiel retells the story of the exodus is a next step. Reading the scroll of Esther is a first step; rereading the story of Joseph to tease out the similarities is a next step.
Similarly, one can read the Bible in the context of the cognate literatures that grew up in a similar ancient near eastern environment. How is the Noah story similar to or different from the Gilgamesh epic? How are the laws of Exodus similar to and different from Hammurabi’s code?
Or one might read the Bible in light of the ongoing search for a life of sanctification and redemption, as the Rabbis did. How does the Bible relate to Jewish theology or religious practice? One can study the Bible from a variety of different perspectives--literary, historical, anthropological, theological; as the rabbinic sage Ben Bag Bag said, “Turn it, and turn it, for everything is found within it.” By turning our study of the Bible through the many and varied approaches adopted by Jews and non-Jews throughout the generations, we gain a valuable perspective on the Bible itself. By examining the various readings of the Bible, we also gain perspective on the diversity of human cultures that have sought to interpret the Bible.
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