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Joseph's Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible

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Joseph's Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

It's almost impossible to think of the Bible as anything other than the expression of the religious traditions that view it as Holy Scripture. Yet given that vital parts of it were written as much as a thousand years before the emergence of rabbinic Judaism and the birth of Christianity, there is no obvious reason why this should be true. In his groundbreaking new book, Joseph's Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible, philosopher Jerome Segal offers a fresh and vigorous reexamination of the oldest part of the Bible.

In Joseph's Bones, Segal asks you to imagine that you know nothing about Judaism or Christianity and one day pick up something called "The Hexateuch" (the first six books of the Bible). How would you understand the story it recounts? Who is God? And who are the Israelites? And perhaps most important, what is the relationship between God and humanity?

Segal maintains that if we approach the Bible without preconceptions, we will find something unexpected: a brilliant, sophisticated, and highly cohesive account of the human condition. He argues that the Bible reads like an existential novel about the struggle between God and mankind, and is far more sympathetic to mankind than to God.

Segal frames his analysis by considering the tale of Joseph's bones. In the closing words of Genesis, as Joseph lies dying in Egypt, Joseph has the "sons of Israel" swear that when God returns the Israelites to the Promised Land, they will take his bones with them. Some four hundred years later, as the Book of Joshua closes, the Israelites honor this commitment by returning and burying Joseph's bones in Canaan, as their ancestors had pledged.

Noting that throughout the early parts of the Bible God often seethes with anger at the Israelites, calling them "faithless" and "wicked," Segal uses the story of Joseph's faith in his people and their fidelity to him to illustrate how the Bible does not always share God's perspective on the Israelites or on mankind in general. Segal then provides a systematic reinterpretation of the Bible story and comes to see it as the people's book, written as a way to understand the human condition in a universe governed by a powerful and morally complex deity.

He contends that the Bible does not view morality as dependent on God. Rather, it understands moral truths to be objective aspects of reality that limit even God's freedom of action, though God himself resists such a notion. Segal maintains that in the great saga of mankind's struggle with God, Abraham and Moses emerge as heroes, each seeking to protect mankind from God's unpredictable and often unwarranted wrath. The book's final section explores how this rethinking of the Hexateuch transforms the story of Jesus in the New Testament in ways neither Christians nor Jews have considered.

Both a radically new way of understanding the Biblical texts and a lively examination of it, Joseph's Bones is an anomaly of Biblical interpretation: brilliant, rigorously argued, and thoroughly original. It is at once persuasive scholarship and a captivating read.

Synopsis:

This bold reinterpretation of the Old Testament presents a new understanding of the Bible's message through the story of Joseph.

About the Author

Jerome M. Segal is a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland's Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan and a degree in public affairs from the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Segal, who has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and worked on Capitol Hill and for the Agency for International Development, also teaches Torah to young people. He is the author of Creating the Palestinian State, Negotiating Jerusalem, Agency and Alienation, and Graceful Simplicity.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594489396
Subtitle:
Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible
Author:
Segal, Joseph
Author:
Segal, Jerome
Author:
Segal, Jerome M.
Publisher:
Riverhead Hardcover
Subject:
Bible - Commentaries - Old Testament
Subject:
Spirituality
Subject:
Bible - Criticism Interpretation - Old Testament
Subject:
Biblical teaching
Subject:
Biblical Studies - Old Testament
Subject:
Biblical Criticism & Interpretation - Old Testament
Subject:
Biblical Commentary - Old Testament
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20070315
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.14x6.38x1.06 in. 1.11 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Religion » Christianity » Bibles » Background
Religion » Christianity » Biblical Reference » Criticism

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Product details 320 pages Riverhead Books - English 9781594489396 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This bold reinterpretation of the Old Testament presents a new understanding of the Bible's message through the story of Joseph.
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