James Kugel delivered a 2013 lecture in the Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society series, on the topic of the rewriting or reinterpretation of the Bible in the period ca. 300 BCE to 200 CE. The lecture, “From Text to Interpretation: How the Bible Came to Mean Some of the Strange Things It Means“, is available in audio and video formats.
James Kugel, director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar Ilan University, argues that the Hebrew Bible was, from the beginning, the Interpreted Bible. In the third and second centuries B.C.E. – well before the last books of the Bible were written – groups of interpreters were puzzling over the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Esau, and other ancient figures. Their interpretations were often fanciful, and sometimes wildly inventive, but their grasp of the very idea of the Bible is still with us and continues to influence today’s readers.