Reproduction of the Text: Traditional Biblical Exegesis in Light of the Literary Theory of Ludwig Strauss.
Cohen, Mordechai Z.
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About sixty years ago, Nehama Leibowitz (1905-1997) penned what would become one of her most fundamental programmatic essays, “How to Read a Chapter of Tanakh.”1 First delivered as a lecture in memory of her mentor Ludwig Strauss (1892-1953), it drew upon his teachings, which emphasized the subjective, singular (“one time”) dimension of reading a literary text in the spirit of what was known in contemporary theory as the New Criticism. During the second half of the twentieth century, a number of Bible scholars applied the New Criticism to open new interpretive vistas that uncover the subtleties of biblical narrative and poetry.2 At first glance, the literary theory applied by Strauss—formulated for the analysis of secular litera-ture—seems inimical to traditional Bible interpretation, which operates under different assumptions about sacred scripture. Yet Nehama (as Leibowitz was affectionately known) argued that her teacher’s literary outlook illuminates the theoretical conceptions underlying the exegeti-cal work of the great Bible commentators of Jewish tradition.3 (from Introduction)
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