Not all of these are mentioned in my posts on reading the Bible straight-through, but they are works I’ve found quite insightful and hold them out for your continued reading.
I should also acknowledge that the sheer volume of commentaries and interpretations of the ancient and seminal texts in the canon is well beyond any human’s ability to pursue in a single lifetime. They can, however, feed into our discussions and growing wisdom. Feel free to mention any in the comments section of this post, perhaps with a mention of why you’ve found them especially valuable.
Bill Moyers’ Genesis: A Living Conversation (edited by Betty Sue Flowers) (Doubleday, New York; 1996). Based on the Public Television Series that featured a panel of distinguished voices to reflect on selected stories in the opening book of the Bible, this transcript includes Jews, Christians of many varieties, Muslims, and others who delve into the startling implications beneath the surface of the text. Inspired by similar living-room conversations reflecting followers of all three “Peoples of the Book,” the animated dialogue demonstrates just how vital these ancient texts remain. You may also find videos from the broadcasts at your public library or online.
The Five Books of Moses: A New Translation with Introductions, Commentary, and Notes by Everett Fox (Schocken, New York; 1995). As a poet, I’m taken with his breathtaking presentation that allows these books, as one observer remarked, to sound as if they weren’t written directly in King James English. I wish we had the rest of the Hebrew Bible in such amazing and invigorating poetry.
Godwrestling, Arthur I. Waskow (Shocken Books, New York; 1978). This was the book that completely altered my way of reading the Bible. Based on a Jewish tradition of questioning and arguing with the text, and even allowing the possibility that God might be wrong in this situation, Waskow encourages an active engagement where faith can be revolutionary. It inspired the way I love to teach these stories with teenagers in our Quaker Meeting, for one thing.
Congregation: Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible (edited by David Rosenberg) (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York; 1987). I found my copy in a bookstore discount bin far more years ago than I care to admit, but I’ve since found it to be an startling companion in my reflections on the pages of the Hebrew Bible. In many ways, each of the authors contributing essays has become like the panelists on the Genesis discussions or the thinking in Godwrestling, companions in this engagement with these stories. Many of them have, in effect, welcomed me into their homes and even their childhoods, while introducing me to a range of rabbinical scholarship. My, how I wish I could invite them over for dinner.
Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceana (edited by Jerome Rothenberg) (Doubleday, New York; 1968). This collection, from back in my hippie years, is one that opened my awareness to the range of spiritual awareness in so-called primitive societies. I feel this awareness is helpful in engaging the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible.
New Jerusalem Bible (Reader’s Edition, Doubleday, New York, 1990). As I explained earlier, this Roman Catholic translation has been praised for its accuracy, free from much of the King James tradition. I’m still open, though, to a more radical translation in line with Everett Fox’s work.
The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble, Robert Bowie Johnson Jr. (Solving Light, Annapolis, Maryland; 2004). I have no idea how this sweep of Greek art and thought sits with more scholarly authorities, but I remain intrigued by Johnson’s interpretation and reconstruction of the friezes on the great temple in Athens. He sees them as validating and challenging the events of Genesis — the Hebrews, for their part, being people of language, while the Greeks were essentially visual. In effect, the two cultures were in conflict and arguing with each other. For me, this adds depth to the chronological progression of thought in the Jewish Scriptures.
The Four Gospels and the Revelation: Newly Translated from the Greek by Richmond Lattimore (Pocket Books, New York; 1979). It’s a fresh take, though I’m wondering what else might lurk beneath the surface.
The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English with Psalm and Provers by Glenn David Bauscher (Lulu, South Wales, Australia; 2013). I obtained my copy as a print-on-demand edition via Amazon. For anyone interested in the nuances of interpreting from ancients script, his notes can be fascinating. For hints at possibilities, look at thearamaicscriptures.com/ or wit-resources.s3.amazonaws.com/Peshittant.pdf.
James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Robert Eisenman (Penguin, New York; 1997). As the Friend who suggested this book to me said, with a twinkle, Eisenman has an ax to grind. I assume this book is taken from his lecture notes — it could be easily cut by a third, if it were more tightly organized — but he does offer an alternative to what’s come down through Paul of Tarsus and his followers for our understanding of the early church.
When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome, Richard E. Rubenstein (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York; 1999). For me, an unsettling account of the too often physical confrontations between the differing camps of Christians in churches leading up to the Nicene Council.
Three Quaker Bible Studies: John, Mark, First Corinthians, Charles Fager (Kimo Press, Falls Church, Virginia; 1979). A lively, brief engagement with three books in the Godwrestling mode. His questions remain lively and useful.