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The Book of J

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  565 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Scholars agree that the first strand in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers was written by an author whom they call J, who lived in the tenth century before Christ.

In The Book of J, accompanying David Rosenberg's startling new translation, America's greatest literary critic, Harold Bloom, asserts that J was a writer of the stature of Homer, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy and puts forth
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 5th 1991 by Vintage (first published January 1988)
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Literary Chutzpah

Biblical scholars have been arguing for two and a half centuries about who wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Several things are agreed upon: it wasn’t Moses. It wasn’t a single individual. And it wasn’t written over a single lifetime. Beyond that things get sticky.

One of the hypothetical writers (four, or more, if one counts editors) recognised by scholars is known as the Yahwist, or J for short. But no one is sure if J’s was the core around which others a
In this book Harold Bloom is as pompous and full of himself as ever, and Shakespeare is mentioned on nearly every page, but he says some fascinating things about the Bible.
B. Hawk
Dec 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
In my estimation, the central premises of The Book of J would have been better off written as a novel than in the form that Bloom presents as scholarly non-fiction. If that were the case, it could have been a compelling, provocative, and fascinating book; yet, as it stands, this book is a subjective, over-wrought, and frustrating speculation on one of the greatest works of Western literature as it might have been.

It is clear that Bloom’s work is meant largely to goad religious traditionalists (e
Max Maxwell
May 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want a better, but secular, understanding of Genesis
Recommended to Max by: Just found it at the library
The short version of this review is, "I liked it a lot."

In order to understand the longer version, you'll need to know a bit about the subject matter. Modern biblical criticism holds that the Torah, otherwise known as the Pentateuch, Chumash, or Five Books of Moses, and constituting the first five books of the Hebrew bible, that is (listed here in their Anglicized forms) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, weren't really composed by Moses, as Jewish tradition would have it. Rat
The worst thing about the book was Harold Bloom. Yes, I know he's a titan in the field of literary criticism. But he's become so big that he doesn't bother with the mundane task of proving his positions with, say, the text. He just asserts endlessly and the reader, knowing who he is, is supposed to bow down and tell him "You're right; you're so right!" in a suitably-awed whisper. Even his effusions about Shakespeare, of whom I am a fan, can't save his analysis of the text. Apparently only J and ...more
Peter Crofts
If you like Stephen Mitchell's gross distortion of Gilgamesh, translation as revision (granted, Mitchell admits as much in the introduction to that work), you might want to give this a try. I picked it up to read a direct translation of Hebrew into English. I'm not sure where current scholarly consensus is about the J writer these days, but as far as I know, there is still agreement about the general idea. Rosenberg takes great liberties in his version. Some of them based on Bloom's literary hun ...more
Oct 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Rosenberg's translation is beautiful and his appendices are interesting. The majority of the book consists of several essays by Bloom in which he lays out his ideas concerning the translation. Some of these are nearly incoherent and his arguments are more often flights of fancy, but other essays are considerably better assembled and quite interesting. I highly recommend reading the translation and am neutral on the rest.
5 Stars for the translated and extracted J Source of the Torah.

2 Stars for Harold Bloom's kooky commentary on it. Harold Bloom, you think you can tell that a woman as opposed to a man wrote this almost 3,000 year old Hebrew text???

You are not just full of tears and fat, Mr. Bloom; you are also full of shit!

Leave the ancient Hebrew analysis to the experts like Richard Elliott Friedman.

Austin Murphy
I don't really get it. The claim is that this translation is somehow "purer" in recognizing the irony of the original text, buy it just reads like a less fancy version of the same tales told in the King James Version. What am I missing?
Bloom shares his interesting ideas about the parts of the Torah/Pentateuch which were written by the Yahwist, whom he calls J. Rosenberg's translations of these parts is amazing; really bringing out the irony that Bloom mentions so often in this book.

Religion doesn't play a part in this project, in fact, Bloom makes the argument that J should be considered blasphemous when taken in conjunction with the orthodox views of God, Yahweh, or whatever one happens to call this character; that is what Y
Lee Harmon
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here’s another of my favorites, published back in 1990. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a must read, for the sheer pleasure of it.

Most scholars now accept that the Torah was written by at least four different authors. The first strand of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers was written by an author that scholars call “J,” who lived in the tenth century BC. This is your chance to read J’s story as it was written, extracted and reassembled from the Bible. Bloom admires J on the level of Homer, Shakespeare
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish the rating system was out of more stars - I think I'd like 12 or so to better subdivide reviewing into various degrees of liked it/loved it/you should read it.

This book is essentially an essay or dissertation on the authour's idea that the "Yawist" (the original authour of the early parts of the Torah/Bible such as genesis) was a woman of court in the era of Rohoboam (David's grandson) and that she was not a religious scholar, but actually one of the first literary greats. It includes a
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not the organized religion type and so I am open to possibilities. This is a very interesting book and the fact that the author and translator are able to pull the work of one author from the text fascinates me. Bravo! The fact that it may have been written by a female of the day made it more interesting for me still because I have wondered since childhood why women were not represented in the books of the Bible. A more enlightened society and possibly computer algorithms may prove the medi ...more
WT Sharpe
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some sections are highly speculative in nature, such as the suggestion that The Yahwist was a woman who lived in the the courts of those who succeeded King Solomon and the suggestion that her work was perhaps meant to be understood as a fictional account rather than be accepted as Holy Writ, but wherever such speculation appears it is clearly labeled as such, making this book is a valuable resource to all serious students of the Bible. It certainly increased my appreciation for the unknown autho ...more
Ruth Shulman
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very enlightening book on J, the enigmatic writer of the most original and imaginative parts of the Hebrew Bible. Bloom is his own speculative self, but his guesses are very entertaining and they seem to make sense. If you think the Bible is stuffy and boring, read this and you'll be in for a surprise.
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A translation of the J Writer's (also known as the Yahwist) text from the first five books of the Old Testament, or as Harold Bloom puts it, the Original Testament. The commentary by Bloom is brilliant and provocative.
Red Shoes
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a love of the art of translation, and to watch as these scholars dissect the language of the most-read and least-understood books, and extrapolate on their origin, was awesome.
Cynthia Machata
May 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting view on history, religion and a disruption to the way 'things are suppose to be' ... such as women in position of authority - imagine that.
Crystal Hunter
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting treatment of scripture. Worth the read.
Steven Peterson
Jun 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My sense in this review is that I am close to "in over my head." Readers differ greatly on their evaluation of this work, including how well the translation is done, historicity of Bloom's speculation, and so on. But I'll "wade in" anyway, realizing that I can't directly assess the accuracy of the translation or the strength of Bloom's knowledge on the matter. Bloom's focus in this work is encapsulated by his statement that (Page 9): "In Jerusalem, nearly three thousand years ago, an unknown aut ...more
geraldo rivera
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: advisorybooks
This is a wonderfully original interpretation of what biblical scholars believe to be the earliest writings from the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible). Bloom has an annoying tendency to use superlatives to describe the author's (J's) genius, rather than just giving his interpretation of J's literature and letting the reader decide whether or not this is the greatest author until Shakespeare. But his analysis, when he gets down to it, is insightful. More importantly, he does what l ...more
I remember buying this book in 1991 or 1992 at the Old Book Barn in Forsyth and feeling like I had theological nitroglycerin in my hands. I had recently been introduced to the Documentary Hypothesis of Biblical origins, and I thought that this "retranslation" of one of the component texts/writers this theory invokes, "J," would be earth-shattering. Excitedly I placed it on mt bookself and there it sat for almost a quarter-century before I picked it up on impulse.

I honestly wish I had left it on
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been a while since I read this, but the lasting impact that this book had upon my understanding of the Bible and the actual purpose of the authors has been lasting and beneficial. I might even go so far as to argue that this book introduced me to deconstruction as a literary tool.

Well written and logical, a marvelous revelation of biblical politics and history, and just a fine book in many ways.

My one reservation is the faddish, and entirely unnecessary assertion by Bloom that J was a wo
Abby Stein
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somehow my view of, and amusement with the Bible does not decrease with such an inquiry, but rather increases ten fold. This free translation of what scholars call the "J" part of the Bible (and is the foundation of Richard Friedman's The Hidden Book in the Bible), is an amazing work of literature. Inspiring, well written, and feminist. Reading the Bible as work of literature, as well as cultural and reflective of history, moves it beyond the notions of the Bible that are considered 'outdated' i ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a manuscript of pivotal importance, and almost no one has heard of it. Yet it changed history forever and led to three of the world's most influential religions. Who was J? Most likely a scribe in the time of Solomon and later David, when David was just coming into his own. This is the earliest version of the Bible. Want to have your faith challenged? Well too bad. This is solid proof that the origins of Christianity were originally very different, and not at all orthodoxized. That came ...more
Jul 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bloom, religion
Mixed feelings. Worth reading because Bloom's contributions are splendid the translation does a fine job of restoring the freshness and strangeness of this most familiar of texts. That said, there are some infelicities in the translation ("The man named his wife Hava: she would have all who live, smooth the way, mother."). Also, while I understand the impulse, I dislike the choice to de-Anglicize names (Babel-Bavel, Eve-Havah, Jubal-Yuval). It pulls the reader up and distracts from the work, whi ...more
James Coon
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is re-creation of what Bloom and the translator believe may have been the original Jawist version of the books of Moses, before being combined with other versions by the Redactor. Reading this the story presentend in this way is a powerful experience, much more so than the version we have in the King James Bible or other translations. Of course, there is no way to know for sure how close this is to the original, but it is well worth the read for the literary merit of the material itself.
Jim Erekson
This is one of the great mind-shifting bible texts. Rosenberg & Bloom's treatment of Wellshausen's source criticism yields a brilliant read. Despite the challenges source criticism makes to assumptions about the origins of scripture, I find this tradition of reading and study inspiring and breathtaking. Although many focus on Bloom's assertion that J was most likely a woman, I prefer to look at his argument that her tellings were intended as children's literature.
J.A. Pak
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Bloom's compelling theory that the best writer of Genesis was a woman. The theories of how the Old Testament was written can get pretty complex but Bloom's theory is simple, entertaining, and, I think, right. There's just too much irony in Genesis—-of course the best parts were written by a woman!
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
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