The Pentateuch is one anchor of the Western religious heritage, a rich source of theological and spiritual instruction that can be plumbed again and again. In Treasures Old and New, accomplished biblical scholar Joseph Blenkinsopp engages several interesting topics in dialogue with texts from the Pentateuch.
In keeping with the view that the Pentateuch is far too multiplex to be encapsulated in a single theological system, Blenkinsopp has written Treasures Old and New as a “sketchbook” of theology in the Pentateuch. This fruitful approach allows him to consider themes that easily fall through the cracks of more systematic works of biblical theology. Among the many subjects that Blenkinsopp pursues are the role of memory in the construction of the past, the dependence of Christianity on Judaism, the close connection between sacrifice and community in Old Testament Israel, the proper meaning of human stewardship of the world, and belief (or lack of belief) in a meaningful postmortem existence.
Blenkinsopp also explores well-known texts from less-well-known angles. The Garden of Eden story, for example, gains in resonance when read together with Gilgamesh, and the laws governing diet and cleanliness become clearer in the light of current ecological concerns. Readers will also learn from Blenkinsopp’s novel approach to such important yet enigmatic stories as the Creation, Cain and Abel, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, the Call of Abram, and Sodom and Gomorrah.
Blessed with an extraordinary ability to transmit complex issues in concise and lucid fashion, Blenkinsopp shows that serious engagement with biblical texts, while sometimes demanding, can be intellectually and religiously rewarding.
This erudite, instructive, and engaging collection of essays brings much fresh insight to the biblical text. . . . [It] offers many rewarding and instructive insights.
—Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
Of the great biblical interpreters of our age, no one can emulate Joseph Blenkinsopp’s scholarship. He brings to the biblical text not only a huge range of knowledge and interests but also sharp perception and shrewd judgment. Above all, again and again he gets to the heart of the issue—a critical engagement with the text and with its authors. These essays demonstrate the best of his work, which is original, profound, and always fresh.
—Philip R. Davies, Professor of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield
I strongly recommend this book to all those who remember the biblical stories of their childhood and youth and are interested in taking a fresh journey into humanity’s past with an intrepid, engrossing guide.
—David Noel Freedman