Chapter

The Interpretation of the Bible

Michael D. Coogan

in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Augmented Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780195288803
Published online April 2009 |
The Interpretation of the Bible

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Since the different books that make up the Bible were written and became authoritative at vari‐ous times, later books refer in various ways to earlier ones. From the beginning of this process, whenever the Bible or any section that eventu‐ally became part of the Bible was read or recited, it was interpreted. This is a natural process; no text can be read purely in the abstract, since we all bring our lives and experiences to the text and often attempt to bring the text closer to our lives. It is thus not surprising that according to Neh 8.8 , when sections of the biblical text were read to the postexilic community in the fifth century, “They read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” Like any book, the Bible required interpretation. Since it was to them an authoritative book, the people needed to hear not only the text itself but also its correct interpretation because, like any literary work, the Bible is at some points ambiguous.

Since the covenant‐making ceremony men‐tioned above occurred in the fall, it was likely that one reading from the Torah would have been Lev 23.33–43 , which outlines the com‐memoration of the fall harvest festival of booths (Sukkot), beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (counting from Nisan, in the spring, not Tishri, in the fall). According to v. 40 , proper commemoration of the festival in‐cludes the following: “On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” This passage is ambiguous on at least two points: What should the worshipers do after they “take” these vari‐ous greens? What is meant by “the fruit of ma‐jestic trees” and “boughs of leafy trees,” which are interspersed with very specific tree names (“palm,” “willow”)?

Chapter.  2520 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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