Focusing on two dozen core stories in the Pentateuch – from the Creation and Tree of Knowledge through the Exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land – James Kugel shows us how the earliest interpreters of the scriptures radically transformed the Bible and made it into the book that has come down to us today. Even before the Bible had attained its final form, its stories, songs, commandments, and prophecies had begun to be interpreted. A body of traditions about what the words meant quickly developed and took its place at the center of Judaism and Christianity. Kugel explains how and why the writers of this formative age of interpretation – roughly 200 BCE to 150 CE – assumed such a significant role. Mining their writings – including the Dead Sea Scrolls, works of Philo and Josephus and letters of the Apostle Paul, and writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the rabbinic Sages – he quotes for us the seminal passages that uncover this crucial interpretive process.

Twice as long as its predecessor, Traditions of the Bible includes all the material contained in The Bible As It Was plus more than a hundred new interpretive traditions not found there, as well as more detailed explanations of individual motifs and a survey of relevant scholarship for each motif. It will serve as a unique guide and sourcebook for biblical interpretation.