The Jewish Bible

A Material History

David Stern

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  • Published: September 2017
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies; History
  • Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 83 color illus., 7 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

In The Jewish Bible: A Material History, David Stern explores the Jewish Bible as a material object-the Bibles that Jews have actually held in their hands-from its beginnings in the Ancient Near Eastern world through to the Middle Ages to the present moment.

Drawing on the most recent scholarship on the history of the book, Stern shows how the Bible has been not only a medium for transmitting its text-the word of God-but a physical object with a meaning of its own. That meaning has changed, as the material shape of the Bible has changed, from scroll to codex, and from manuscript to printed book. By tracing the material form of the Torah, Stern demonstrates how the process of these transformations echo the cultural, political, intellectual, religious, and geographic changes of the Jewish community. With tremendous historical range and breadth, this book offers a fresh approach to understanding the Bible's place and significance in Jewish culture.
David Stern is Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature at Harvard University. He is the author and editor of thirteen books, including Parables in Midrash, Rabbinic Fantasies, The Washington Haggadah, and The Monk's Haggadah.

"A significant contribution. The most complete description we have of the material history of the Bible in Jewish contexts."
-Adam Shear, author of The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167-1900

"The whole notion of studying the history of the Bible as a material artifact is an innovation."
-Raymond Scheindlin, author of A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood

"Stern's pioneering narrative of the material forms of the biblical text opens a new panorama in the history of the 'book of books.' Tracing its multiple platforms, including scroll, codex, manuscript, print, Hebrew and in translation, Stern argues that meaning and context are inseparable elements for the reception of the Bible over time."
-Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University


"A carefully plotted, awe-awakening journey through the evolution and adaptation of the Jewish Bible within a variety of cultures and settings. . . . Enrapturing. . . . Bibliophiles will find much here that fascinates. . . . The Jewish Bible is a fascinating look at a work whose materiality is shown to be inseparable from its meaning."
-Michelle Anne Schlingler, Foreword Reviews

"Brilliant and fascinating. . . . In The Jewish Bible, Stern masterfully synthesizes this scholarship, offering a chronological history of Jewish sacred books from Qumran to the JPS Tanakh."
-Adam Kirsch, Jewish Review of Books