Approaches to Teaching the Hebrew Bible as Literature in Translation.

Author:York, Anthony D.
 
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In 1984, the Modern Language Association distributed a questionnaire to Bible instructors in North American academic institutions soliciting information on the teaching of the Hebrew Bible as literature in translation. The replies covered such matters as the specific translations being used, additional materials, particular "approaches" employed, and other "relevant pedagogical details." This volume is a result of that exercise. It is a description of the various ways in which the Hebrew Bible in translation is taught in institutions of higher learning, not a prescription for teaching that literature. It indicates what is being done in the name of the Hebrew Bible; it does not recommend, except in a general way, what should be done.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, "materials," consists of five bibliographical essays compiled largely from the questionnaire with a fair amount of commentary and personal asides by Barry N. Olshen, one of the editors. One does not have always to agree with Olshen's recommendations to realize that these are first-rate check-lists, covering such diverse material as "translations, versions, references, background, criticism, and aids to teaching." The one problem of this bibliography is that of "the Bible as literature" as a whole: the spectrum is just too broad. Some of the bibliography, for example, seems better designed for the beginning student of biblical literature than for professors. Does someone who is professionally employed to teach biblical literature on the university level need to be told of the Anchor Bible or the International Critical Commentary (p. 16)?

The answer, of course, is that professors of biblical literature do not need such bibliographies, but professors of English (or comparative literature or literary criticism) who teach courses in biblical literature very likely do. This is not condescending: I am one who has profired greatly from the works of "literary" people like Robert Alter, Frank Kermode (primarily in the New Testament), John Gabel, Charles Wheeler, and R. W. French, to cite only a few who have applied their considerable talents and insights to biblical literature. Yet many teach biblical literature whose primary qualification for doing so seems to be a mere interest in the subject. Happily, such amateurs are decidedly in the minority among the nineteen respondents whose "approaches" make up the second part of this volume. Yet, one of the essays, "The...

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