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This report is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Gabriel Josipovici Rabbi Howard Cooper
Gabriel Josipovici 75th

A Year On

I am sometimes asked by so-called ‘secular’ Jews – though I distrust that term because it sets up a false dichotomy between what is religious and what is secular – if I can recommend a book on the Hebrew Bible which might help them approach it, help them to read it, help open out why they should bother to read a body of literature that they may previously have dismissed because it’s been spoilt for them through childhood indoctrination, or adolescent religious doubts, or adult scepticism about what they perceive as the truth claims contained within it. If I think they are serious, I always say that the book they should read, one of the books that most influenced my own way of thinking about and reading the Bible, is Gabriel’s 1988 text The Book of God (Yale) – which has as a subtitle (and this is characteristically modest, and at the same time illustrative of Gabriel’s particular and personal approach to texts): ‘A response to the Bible’.

One of the characteristics of Gabriel’s writings on the Bible is that whatever larger points he wants to make about the nature of the literature contained in it, he will always root his remarks in a specific text, reading it carefully and allowing his encounter with the text as it unfolds – its rhythms, its flow, and its pauses – to inform more general observations. I want to mirror that technique by giving you a brief example. It’s one of my favourite ...


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