Biblical Archaeology Review 37:4, July/August 2011

ReViews: The Reality of God

In the Valley of the Shadow: On the Foundations of Religious Belief

By James Kugel (New York: Free Press, 2011), 256 pp., $26

James Kugel is not your average, garden-variety scholar. He taught at Yale until Isidore Twersky made a special trip to Israel to recruit him for Harvard. There, rumor has it, his classes—even on such chaste topics as medieval rabbinic exegesis—were so oversubscribed that he had to conduct weekly sessions for his numerous teaching assistants just to keep them up to speed. Not surprisingly, his numerous book-length publications specialize in presenting unconventional ideas. He first made his mark with The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History,1 which revolutionized the study of Hebrew poetics. In The Bible as It Was,2 he acquainted readers with the entire rich Jewish literature of Late Antiquity. In The Ladder of Jacob,3 he gave us “ancient interpretations of the Biblical story of Jacob and his children.”

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