Reading the Torah: Beyond the Fundamentalist and Scientific Approaches (Duquesne University Press) (Paperback)

Catherine Chalier, Translated by Michael B. Smith

ID: 1501881

ISBN: 9780820707068

Format: Print Only

Price: $28.00


Fundamentalist readings of the sacred texts of major world religions are often regarded as an ever-increasing threat to personal and democratic freedoms. Historical and critical readings, alternatively, purport to be objective and teach us to understand these texts by relating them to the past and to their authors' intentions. But while counteracting some of fundamentalism's dangers, does not this scientific refutation of such interpretations omit essential questions? Is it not likely to overlook the spirituality conveyed by the very language in which the text is written? In Reading the Torah, philosopher and Judaic studies scholar Catherine Chalier addresses these very timely issues and explains how a spiritual reading-in this case according to the Jewish tradition - leads to an understanding of aspects of these important texts that are otherwise missed. Jewish tradition, in particular, posits that reading sacred texts can be the work of an entire lifetime, and strives to dig beneath the surface, reexamining the underlying meanings from generation to generation. The language of the texts, subjected to close scrutiny, holds a multitude of meanings that are unfolded over time, through innumerable readers. Furthermore - and especially, Chalier asserts - this proposed way of reading never separates the quest for meaning and truth from the demanding labor on oneself. She describes four levels of reading, from which the literal is not excluded; to read the Torah, then, is at the same time to travel through history with it, alongside other men and women who do not all advance at the same pace or in the same way. As Chalier makes clear, serious study of the Torah - or any other text deemed sacred by a monotheistic tradition - requires both knowledge of the methods used throughout history and the reader's commitment to a relationship with the text, even when confronted by other similarly engaged readers who reach different, but also legitimate, conclusions.