Monday, April 06, 2009

Considering Kugel III

Dr. James Kugel responds to Dr. Moshe Bernstein's opinion piece about his speech at YU (link to Dr. Bernstein's, link to Dr. Kugel's). In my opinion, Dr. Kugel's letter is disingenuous because:

  1. He implies that his views are traditional without directly responding to Dr. Bernstein's assertions that he denies Torah from Sinai and is not consistent with even a minority view within the Jewish tradition.

  2. He suggests that Dr. Bernstein believes in hiding from modern scholarship when Dr. Bernstein explicitly advocates studying it, including Dr. Kugel's contributions, but in the appropriate venues and in ways that do not glamorize non-traditional views.
However, I think that Dr. Kugel is correct (and I am sure that Dr. Bernstein agrees) that today, modern scholarship of the Bible is so pervasive in our culture that we cannot hide from it. The question is how to confront it in a format appropriate for laypeople. Even if you were to accept Dr. Kugel's idiosyncratic views -- and do not think that he is within the consensus of academic scholars because he is not -- his book was evidently so vague that many (most?) readers are misunderstanding it.

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