a1 Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Not least among the bittersweet gifts of modernity to the Jews is the complication of dealing with the Bible both as sacred scripture and as a document subject to the same canons of inquiry as any other historical, or putatively historical, record. The problem goes far beyond the familiar one posed by narratives that ancient historians find doubtful or quite impossible. For historical critical research into the Tanakh (as into all other scriptures) also uncovers the processes of development of the worldviews within the literature and thus puts a painful question to those who wish to affirm Judaism as a contemporary reality. How can a literature so variegated and contradictory speak with a normative voice today? It is no wonder that so many biblical scholars avoid the normative theological questions altogether and content themselves with historical and philological description (which, of course, presupposes norms of its own). It is also no wonder that so many religious practitioners neglect the historical issues and treat their scriptures as representing a static, uniform, and unvarying worldview—not surprisingly, the worldview of their own, postbiblical affirmation.