Fighting Over the Bible

Jewish Interpretation, Sectarianism and Polemic from Temple to Talmud and Beyond


Fighting over the Bible explores the bitter conflicts between main stream Jews and their internal and external opponents, especially between particular Jewish groups such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Qumranites, Samaritans, Rabbanites and Karaites, as well as with Christians and Muslims regarding their interpretations of Jewish Scripture. The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is an important sacred text for all branches of the Abrahamic faiths, but it has more often divided than unified them. This volume explores and exemplifies the roots of these interpretive conflicts and controversies and traces the rich exegetical and theological approaches that grew out of them. Focusing on the Jewish sources from the late Second Temple period through the high Middle-Ages, it illustrates how the study of the Bible filled the vacuum left by the Temple’s destruction, and became the foundation of Jewish life throughout its long conflicted history.
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Biographical Note

Isaac Kalimi (Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is Gutenberg Research-University-Professor in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies and Ancient Israelite History, and Fellow of the Gutenberg Research College at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Foreign Member of the Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences and Honorary Member of Scandinavian Society for Iranian Studies. He has published numerous books and articles in biblical studies, ancient Israelite history and historiography, Jewish exegesis, and rabbinic literature and thought.

Review Quotes

"This is a rich and engaging volume, one of impressive erudition and sound scholarship. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the history that it seeks to unravel and document. I especially appreciate the attention given to primary sources in their original languages (usually accompanied by English translation) and the balanced and fair-minded handling of controversial issues." - Richard A. Taylor, DTS (Dallas Theological Seminary) Voice, 2017.

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations
Part One
The Hebrew Bible and Its Jewish Interpretive Presuppositions and Polemics
1. The Place of the Bible in Jewish Religion and Culture: Written and Oral Torah
2. Rabbinic Exegesis in Contradiction to the Simple Meaning of Biblical Texts
3. Theologies and Methodologies in Classical Jewish Interpretation: A Study of Midrash Psalms and Its View of God
4. Encounters and Polemics between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Medieval Jewish Exegesis
5. A Bridge or a Barrier? Jews, Christians and the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: The Roots of Jewish-Christian Controversy
Part Two
Interpretation, Sectarianism, and Disputes Case Studies from Late Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism
6. The Binding of Isaac: Biblical Narrative in Late Second Temple and Rabbinic Exegesis and Thought
7. The Day of Atonement in the Late Second Temple Period: Disputes between Sadducees, Pharisees, and Qumranites
8. The Hiding of the Temple Vessels in Jewish and Samaritan Literature
9. The Relations between Jews and Arabs–Syrians in Pre-Islamic Jewish Sources
10. Saadia Gaon and Abraham Ibn Ezra and Their Defense of the Written and Oral Torah
Index of Sources


Biblical scholars and students, scholars in Jewish, Christian and Muslims studies, Jewish-Christion Relations, Jewish-Muslims Relations, Clergy, lay-intellectual people.