NPR Interviews Marc Zvi Brettler
NPR recently aired an interview (archived version available) with Marc Zvi Brettler, author of How to Read the Bible and a professor of biblical literature, chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University.
It’s quite interesting to hear his views, however I think he’s frankly unduly critical of not only the text, but of others. For example he talks about being annoyed by people saying “the Bible” says ... since he believes they are picking out a particular point, and ignoring what the rest of the Bible (something he views more as an anthology then a complete unified work) says.
I think that’s unfair, it maybe the case that someone is quite justified in saying that statement as long as they are not simply “reading a bible verse” but instead bringing together their knowledge of the texts and forming a balanced view, or in the case of some things simply stating what is clearly in the text to start off with. Its funny how quick Brettler is to tell us what the Bible is, or is saying --- or that it “says nowhere in the Bible” --- yet is annoyed when others do essentially the same thing. He then sort of contradicts himself toward the end, and basically says no one can say what the Bible says.
I get the feeling he’s playing the ‘feminism’ card far too much to get some traction (however he is further led in questioning by the host.) For example, Brettler talks about viewing the Gen 1 and 2 as separate accounts, seeing major differences in there construction, and a different “order” of Creation (mainly in respect to when man and woman are created.)
He points out Gen 3:16
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”Somehow Brettler seems to have forgotten Gen 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
While I argree they are differant accounts, I don't know that they are differant events so to speak. It's clear that the Gen 1 Creation account as a condensed one, while the Gen 2 account a more detailed. He especially argues they are not the same picture of God due to the differences in “details” so to speak --- of course there simply aren’t many details in the Gen 1 account so his argument really falls flat to me.
Brettler gives his views on Intelligent Design, of which I’m frankly a little confused about his view on ‘Myths’ as being true, but not literally true. He gives an example, but it’s not very strong.
The host was pretty ignorant of concept of ‘the Law’ so Brettler speaks a lot about the Ten Commandments, and gives some interesting thoughts on how to view the commands on coveting (is it a sin to think those thoughts, or to act on them?) Clearly, on Jesus’ view --- many Jews of that day understood the commands to merely be acting, while Jesus states a thought alone can be sinful.
In any case its interesting to get Brettler’s perspective, its worth a listen.