In The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously, Jacques Berlinerblau explores the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, though an explicitly critical and secular perspective, reviewing how it has been interpreted from antiquity to today and how these interpretations impact our current political debates. In separate chapters, he looks at how the Bible continues to be invoked in disputes about Jewish identity, intermarriage, and about homosexuality - offering secular readers background and ideas for joining conversations about scripture. Finally, he suggests ways in which secularists in all countries need to pose such questions about all sacred texts and religious phenomena. Cumulatively, the book is a first attempt to re-invigorate a once-estimable secular, intellectual tradition.
• A book that argues that secular intellectual culture is on the decline and that familiarity with religion is the only viable option for its survival • Was the first book written by a professional biblical scholar to explore the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament through a specifically secular optic • A book that reviews and expands upon scholarly finding about the composition of the Hebrew Bible in clear and readable prose
Introduction: secularists and the not-Godless world; Part I. The Composition of the Hebrew Bible: 1. Who wrote the Bible? (Ancient response); 2. Who wrote the Bible? (Modern response); 3. The secular answer to 'who wrote the Bible?'; Part II. The Interpreters of the Hebrew Bible: 4. Why is there so much biblical interpretation?; 5. Introducing biblical scholars and secular interpretations; Part III. Politics and Scripture: 6. On Jewish intermarriage: the Bible is open to interpretation; 7. Same-sex eroticism and Jerry Falwell; 8. The secular Qur'an?; Conclusion: beyond church and state: new directions for secularism.
'In well-wrought prose and with a frolicsome sense of humor, Berlinerblau poses questions that will disquiet thinking secularists as much as they will those committed to religion. By distinguishing between what traditions say about the origin of the Bible and how they interpret it, he opens door to making the same distinction between what critical biblical scholarship has to say about biblical origins and biblical interpretation. Berlinerblau's book raises questions in a clever, intriguing way that will stimulate serious thought and discussion long after it is put down.' Ziony Zevit, author of The Religions of Ancient Israel
'This book would not lie flat on the desk as I was reading it, but kept jumping up trying to bite my fingers. This was, I don't doubt, a design feature introduced by the publisher in conformity with its contents … Not only is Berlinerblau's book passionate, vivacious, and witty, and his footnotes exceedingly learned, his gut instinct is surely right, that there is something wrong with the discipline of Hebrew Bible studies if the vast majority of its professionals are adherents to its religion. You don't need to be questioning the bona fides of any particular individual scholar to be alarmed at the fact that most people who research on the Hebrew Bible have an investment in it, in its 'truth' in the broadest sense, in its value … He has applied to our discipline the Socratic principle, 'The unexamined life is not worth living," and made it clear to all with ears to hear that the unexamined profession is not worth professing.' David J. A. Clines, University of Sheffield
'The Secular Bible is highly recommended for all levels of students and scholars, not only for those specializing in the Bible or Qur'an but also for those immersed in the questions of theory and methods. It is rare to find a well-researched scholarly book written with such jumpy energy and serious humor.' Journal of the American Academy of Religion
'… crisply argued … a serious, scholarly, and well-argued treatment of issues surrounding the origins, tradition of interpretation, and contemporary (ir)relevance of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.' Conversations in Religion and Theology