In Great Poems of the Bible James Kugel, acclaimed Harvard scholar and former poetry editor of Harper's Magazine selects eighteen essential poems from the Hebrew Bible and offers his own original and articulate translations of these core piece of religious literature. His eloquent renditions are paired with deeply informed discussions about the conditions surrounding each poem, including its history and what the best religious scholarship and literary criticism tell us about how each poem should be understood. Kugel explains traditions, clarifies often misunderstood language, and offers readers wonderfully insightful explanations that are indispensable to understanding the poems and, ultimately, the fundamental teachings of the Old Testament.
From the Psalms to the Prophets, from job to Ecclesiastes, much of the Bible is written in poetry. The poems of the Bible include some of its best known and most beloved passages: "The Lord is my shepherd," "Let justice roll down like waters," "By the rivers of Babylon," "Remember your Creator," "Arise, shine, for thy light is come!" These poems live in the hearts of those who are familiar with the Bible and offer rich rewards to anyone who is approaching the world's greatest book for the first time.
In The Great Poems of the Bible, Harvard scholar James Kugel presents original translations of the most beautiful and important poems of the Scripture. Taken together, these poems represent the very essence of the Hebrew Bible. Reading them one after another is like taking a guided tour through Scripture, meeting firsthand some of its most important teachings and opening the way to an understanding of the Bible as a whole.
Each poem is accompanied by an eloquent and accessible explanation of the poem's language, and a reflection on its meaning. These learned, compact essays introduce readers to the broader spiritual world of ancient Israel. What did people in biblical times believe about God? Where is a person's soul located and what does it do? Is there an afterlife? How does one come to "know" God? Why wasn't Eve meant to be Adam's "helpmate" (Kugel shows how this was just a translator's slip-up), and what does the Bible have to say about the role of women?
Kugel's sparkling translations of the poems, together with the fascinating insights that accompany them, distill the very best that the Bible and modern scholarship have to offer. Kugel brings new life to some of history's greatest poems, and offers a new look at a Bible we thought we already knew. Here, in one volume, is a "Bible's bible" that belongs in every home.
James L. Kugel is Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University, and a regular visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He is the author of a number of books of biblical scholarship, including How to Read the Bible (2007), for which he won the National Jewish Book Award for best book, The Great Poems of the Bible (1999), and The Bible As It Was (1997). In 2001, Kugel was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Prize in Religion. He lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"Mr. Kugel's commentaries... are marvelous -- fresh, original, deeply thought, deeply felt. They are the responses to the Bible of a scholar who, far more than just a scholar, is above all a reader and knows that, even more than knowledge, taste, and discrimination, the most important thing to bring to a text is oneself: not a part of oneself, but the whole, entirely focused and entirely open, ready to give and take all. To be more able to read in this way is a rare gift, and Mr. Kugel, who can also write, has it." -- The Forward
"This fascinating book includes familiar texts like Psalms 23 and 137, and Ecclesiastes 12, as well as some that are less well known to modern readers. Throughout, James Kugel's linguistic and historical learning, modern literary sensibility, love of poetry in all languages, and special commitment to biblical interpretation frame this exciting examination of the power and energetic meaning of the great writing of the Hebrew Bible." -- John Hollander, coeditor of The Best American Poetry 1998 and winner of the Bollingen Prize in Poetry
"Kugel has produced both beautiful translations of beloved passages from the Hebrew Bible and inspired essays on 'the spiritual reality' those passages evoke." -- Commentary