In my review of How to Read the Bible, I did not suggest that Kugel is too ‘biased,’ as some commenters have suggested on a blog devoted to the subject have suggested nor did I, as Gil Student, in apparent agreement with my argument, suggest that Kugel is ‘subjective.’ I did express in a comment of my own a sense of disappointment in understandings of interpretation that rely upon the subject-object distinction. It is a nineteenth century philosophical distinction - wielded in various contexts, usually now as a form of polemic (which predictably happened following Gil’s Student's comments) - which has nothing to do with traditions of Jewish interpretation, nor conceptions of interpretation that go back to
Have no doubt about it: the heroes of How to Read the Bible are the modern biblical scholars who supposedly ‘read the Bible scientifically’ and ‘without any presuppositions’ and conclude that the Torah is just a scramble of different human traditions and interpretive accretions. It is true, as Kugel writes, that I did not address him on some of his areas of scholarly expertise – in which I admittedly have limited expertise. But I do address him on methodological assumptions about hermeneutics – theories of interpretation – to which he offers no response. How to Read the Bible as the title announces is not only about the Bible, but about interpretation. My review took issue with Kugel’s methodological assumptions about interpretation (and assumptions about objectivity which come from it) – which, as I wrote, arose in the nineteenth century and have since been discredited by scholars working in a large variety of disciplines (and not by post-modernists with which he blithely groups me). The assumption that ancient interpreters ‘play fast and loose’ with the ‘face value’ of the Bible, and that modern scholars tell us like it really was, leads to Kugel’s clear advocacy of the conclusions of the latter, and the ‘great secret’ which they reveal. For, as Kugel writes, they understood Scripture to be on ‘the level of any ordinary human composition – in fact arguing that it was in some cases even worse: sloppy, inconsistent, sometimes cynical, and more than occasionally deceitful.’ This conclusion is based upon flawed methodological assumptions, and it is to these flaws that my review attempts to draw attention.