Biblical Archaeology Review 34:2, March/April 2008

Another View: James Kugel Reponds—Why isn’t King Solomon Just a “Dirty old man”?

By James Kugel

Biblical Archaeology Review

I was honored that BAR devoted so much attention in the most recent issue to my new book, How to Read the Bible,1 all the more so because the review was written by a distinguished Biblical scholar (and long-time acquaintance of mine), Professor Richard Elliott Friedman. But I confess I found the review somewhat disturbing.

The review starts off nicely enough; in fact, it’s full of compliments that I hardly deserve. (I am certainly not, for example, “the most learned Orthodox scholar of the Bible on earth.”) But when Friedman gets down to discussing the book itself, I’m afraid he distorts what it’s all about and who it’s for. The distortion is already hinted at in the compliment just mentioned. Basically, what Friedman seeks to claim is that this is a book by an Orthodox Jew for Orthodox Jews, one that therefore aims to defend ancient Jewish interpreters as better informed (!) than modern scholars. In fact Mr. Friedman just can’t seem to get over my affiliation with Orthodox Judaism. He mentions Orthodox Judaism (along with “Orthodoxy,” “Jewish Orthodoxy” and “Orthodox Jews”) 25 times in a review of six pages. My book mentions Orthodox Judaism exactly once in 689 pages.

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