Alonzo's Reviews > The Book of J

The Book of J by Harold Bloom
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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 Yahweh is to J: a character.

Knowing something of the Bible is more than helpful; and actually, I can't imagine anyone who doesn't know the Bible fairly well being interested in this book. Even lit geeks, if a knowledge of the Bible is lacking, may have trouble with most of what Bloom says about the sections which scholars believe were written by J.

Bloom discusses J, E, P, D and R: writers and redactors who had a hand in what we now call the Torah or the Pentateuch. Some religious believers don't like this, because the Bible itself says that Moses is the author. However, scholars have been able to recognize different styles, and certain aspects of an earlier writer which were missed inadvertently by a later one.

I will spare the details, because Bloom does a much better job of expounding them. But, he doesn't go into depth with any writer, except J.

My interest in this book was from a textual comparison point of view; I have been fascinated by the differences, often glaringly contradictory, in many translations of the Bible (as well as other books). This is evidence that translations do indeed usually signify interpretation. Therefore, no translation can be 100% accurate, as even the original is open to interpretation. This can become a thorny mess and has led to many arguments, which thankfully, Bloom doesn't spend too much time on. His interest is mostly literary, so he avoids much of the theological/philosophical arguments concerning the meanings, etc. This also gives him freedom to take off the "rose colored glasses" of religious interpretation, which often blind readers to what is actually written.

If you are at all interested in the history of the text of the Tanakh/Old Testament, specifically the Torah/Pentateuch/Books of Moses; or in textual comparison, interpretation, criticism, etc.; then, I recommend this book. It does lack a scholarly apparatus, as many of Bloom's books do, making it difficult to do further research, etc. from this text. It is, however, a good place to begin, and (as it was meant to be) to be enjoyed by the lay reader/general public.
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Reading Progress

November 9, 2011 – Shelved
August 15, 2012 – Started Reading
August 31, 2012 –
page 195
55.4%
September 14, 2012 –
page 224
63.64%
October 10, 2012 –
page 272
77.27%
October 10, 2012 –
page 272
77.27%
November 6, 2012 –
page 298
84.66%
November 12, 2012 –
page 298
84.66%
November 15, 2012 –
page 304
86.36%
December 6, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: classics
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: criticism
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: gods
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: hermeneutics
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: jewish
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: reading
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: literature
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: mythology
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: non-fiction
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: religion
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: subversive
December 7, 2012 – Shelved as: to-read-again
January 4, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Petra X (new)

Petra X Bible itself says that Moses is the author...

I think it says something like that God dictated the entire thing to Moses while he was up on the mountain and down below everyone was having parties and being thoroughly heathen. But I might be wrong, time has passed since my days of studying Torah and I've indulged in a lot of heathen-ness since then.


Alonzo Petra X wrote: "Bible itself says that Moses is the author...

I think it says something like that God dictated the entire thing to Moses while he was up on the mountain and down below everyone was having parties..."


Several places in the Bible mention Moses as the author, but... one can't always believe what one reads, which is precisely why this kind of study is interesting and, in my humble opinion, necessary.

The orthodox view, both Jewish and Christian, is exactly that Moses wrote the first five books (Torah/Pentateuch). Scholars, however, have found differences in writing styles, etc., which leads then to questions of authenticity.

Of course, it would be easy to just say, "God said it, Moses wrote it, I believe it." But that doesn't satisfy the curious among us.

Also, when earlier copies of a text are found, and they contradict a text that has been used to make "authorized" translations, one has to ask: Who made the changes, and who authorized them, and which one is closer to the original? This is especially important in sacred texts, I would think; personally, I would prefer the most original, which in most cases would be the earlier copy.

This can be a thorny issue, because most Bible believers don't like it when the veracity of Scripture is threatened, or even questioned.... They want to call down fire on some heads.


Alonzo Petra X wrote: "It isn't the Orthodox or Chasidic point of view."

It is the Christian pov. I believe Torah scholars call it the Book of Moses, but that could be old habit. I'm not that familiar with the Orthodox Jewish side of this, mostly interested in the comparison of texts.

Thanks for the enlightenment.


message 4: by Petra X (new)

Petra X I'm an apatheist. I am not a believer and neither do I care. I just landed on your review and found it interesting. I'm not arguing anything.


Alonzo Petra X wrote: "I'm an apatheist. I am not a believer and neither do I care. I just landed on your review and found it interesting. I'm not arguing anything."

I like that: apatheist. I'm not a believer, either; and I didn't mean to sound argumentative. I apologize if I did. I'm glad you found the review interesting, and please comment freely.


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