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New book explores Jewish legend and interprets for Christian readers

Whimsy, Scripture and storytelling come together in a new publication about rabbinic wisdom. Joel Allen, assistant professor of religion at Dakota Wesleyan University, recently published “Jewish Biblical Legends: Rabbinic Wisdom for Christian Readers,” through Cascade Books.

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“It describes the way rabbis of old interpreted the Bible often by telling background stories that put the written version into a new light,” Allen said.

Allen earned his Ph.D. at Hebrew Union College — Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, in a program created to train rabbis. He studied Rabbinic biblical interpretation called “Midrash.”

“I was amazed that I, as a seminary graduate, didn’t even know these rabbinic traditions existed,” he said. “The other Christian Ph.D. students and I would often comment to each other how completely unfamiliar we were with this fascinating literature and how much fun it was to read.

“I was also, at that time, serving a small United Methodist Church in Kentucky, where I found myself regularly telling my congregation these stories and legends to their delight. I checked around and found that the last introduction for Christians was written in 1958. I decided way back in about 1998 that when I completed my dissertation, I would write this book. Now I have.”

“Jewish Biblical Legends: Rabbinic Wisdom for Christian Readers” is available in the DWU Campus Bookstore, located in the McGovern Library, at the Readers Den in Mitchell, as well as online at, and in a few weeks at and

Dakota Wesleyan University will also be offering its second travel experience to Israel this spring. Allen led a group through the Holy Land in 2012 and will take another group on a 10-day tour March 6-18, which will include stops at Nazareth, Bethlehem, Capernaum and Jerusalem, as well as every sea connected with the Bible: the Mediterranean, Dead Sea, Galilee and the Red Sea.

For more information, visit to download a brochure, or contact Allen at The cost of the all-inclusive trip is $4,598.

-Source: Dakota Wesleyan University