Helpful addition to the Anchor Bible Reference Library
Defending a participatory view of revelation, similar to that of Heschel and Rosenzweig, Benjamin Sommer lays emphasis on the human side of the covenant and how Israel understood and carried out the perceived will of God. Still, for each author in the Pentateuch, the law's authority was binding and sacrosanct.
Finalist for the 2015 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Scholarship
Finalist for the 2015 National Jewish Book Award--Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award for Scholarship
At once a study of biblical theology and modern Jewish thought, this volume describes a "participatory theory of revelation" as it addresses the ways biblical authors and contemporary theologians alike understand the process of revelation and hence the authority of the law. Benjamin Sommer maintains that the Pentateuchs authors intend not only to convey Gods will but to express Israels interpretation of and response to that divine will. Thus Sommers close readings of biblical texts bolster liberal theologies of modern Judaism, especially those of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Franz Rosenzweig. This bold view of revelation puts a premium on human agency and attests to the grandeur of a God who accomplishes a providential task through the free will of the human subjects under divine authority. Yet, even though the Pentateuchs authors hold diverse views of revelation, all of them regard the binding authority of the law as sacrosanct. Sommers book demonstrates why a law-observant religious Jew can be open to discoveries about the Bible that seem nontraditional or even antireligious.
Benjamin D. Sommer is professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Previously he was the director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Sommer has been a visiting faculty member at the Hebrew University, the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University. He has been a fellow of the Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization at the New York University Law School, the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, the Yad Hanadiv Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He lives in Teaneck, NJ.
In uncovering the multilayered concepts of revelation in the biblical traditions Benjamin Sommer provides us the biblical roots of modern Jewish thought on revelation and its relation to authority and tradition. This is an extraordinary book in biblical criticism and in Jewish thought and above all one of its most illuminating contributions is how these two fields of inquiry enrich one another.
Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Hebrew University and Gruss Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
This is a groundbreaking book . . . one of the most original works in Jewish theology that I have read in years.
-Gary A. Anderson,
Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame
Benjamin Sommer's extraordinary mix of scholarly rigor, historical imagination, lucid writing and honest theological concern brilliantly illuminate every subject he touches, and this most central of subjects, revelation and authority, is no exception. With this volume he offers scholarly and general readers alike refreshingly new ways of looking at some of the oldest and yet most pressing questions, with acuity and grace.
Winner of the 2016 Goldstein-Goren Award for the best book in Jewish Thought.
Finalist in the philosophy and Jewish thought categories for the 2015 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award given by the Association for Jewish Studies.