Our Virtual Bookshelf displays books written and edited by former IIAS fellows that were initiated or completed during their stay at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, and which acknowledge the IIAS in print. The books are the natural outcome of our visiting Research Group members’ stay at the IIAS – reading, studying, interacting with colleagues – and we are pleased to present them to you.

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Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition (Yale University Press, 2015)

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At once a study of biblical theology and modern Jewish thought, this volume encourages contemporary religious readers to understand scripture as the ancient Near Eastern anthology it is and hence as one early form of religious tradition. It describes a “participatory theory of revelation” as it analyzes how biblical authors and modern theologians alike understand the process of revelation and hence the authority of Jewish law. It argues that the Pentateuch’s authors intend not only to convey God’s will but to express Israel’s interpretation of and response to that divine will. Sommer’s close readings of biblical texts bolster liberal theologies of modern Judaism, especially those of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Franz Rosenzweig. This bold view of revelation puts a premium on human agency and bears witness to the grandeur of a God who accomplishes a providential task through the free will of the human subjects under divine authority. Yet, despite their diverse views of revelation, all the Pentateuch’s authors regard the binding authority of the law as sacrosanct. Sommer’s book demonstrates why a law-observant religious Jew can be open to discoveries about the Bible that seem nontraditional or even antireligious. It shows that both modern and classical Jewish interpretations of revelation at Sinai develop a debate that takes place within the Pentateuch itself. Thus varied older points of view reassert themselves in newly productive or surprisingly extreme ways in postbiblical literature. The book reveals an overarching unity that connects biblical and postbiblical Judaisms in spite of -- indeed, because of -- the Torah’s lack of internal consistency.

See also: Humanities, 2021
Last updated on 07/15/2021