A book-length doctoral dissertation focuses on finding hidden meaning in the Old Testament.
This extensive work from debut author Kohav revolves around a fairly straightforward idea: Is there a secret in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible)? This secret (or “Sôd,” as it is referred to in the text) is not something that comes from a lost chapter or has been concealed by a grand conspiracy. The Sôd is, instead, something that has been hidden in plain sight. One merely needs to know how to unearth the correct interpretation. But, as this is an academic work, the path to that assessment is a long, winding, and verbose one. Before any conclusions can be drawn, readers are taken on a tour of such heady topics as “accessibility to esoteric knowledge,” mysticism, and the “meaning of meaning.” As the author’s main considerations come into focus, there is a great emphasis on certain biblical occurrences. Take the book of Joshua. What is meant by the bizarre conquering of Jericho? Are readers of such a fantastical narrative really meant to believe that a city fell to an invading army because of a seemingly magical occurrence? Or is the tale meant to drive at something else entirely? Consider the story of Jacob. What importance does Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, play? The hypothesis steers readers beyond simplistic allegorical ideas into concepts like chakras and what it means to be a “would-be initiate of” God. And that is merely the beginning of the concepts to unpack.
For the nonacademic, this untangling is no easy task. Phrases such as “narrative-conceptual integrity” and “the critical role of falsifiability” make the work, at least in places, a struggle to fully understand. The inclusion of ideas from more approachable thinkers like Umberto Eco and Jacques Derrida provides some elucidation. But, as one might expect from a doctoral dissertation, the layperson is not the intended audience. Nevertheless, the armchair professor can still glean much from these pages. The books of the Bible, for all their familiarity, are still open to close and even novel analysis. All readers can come away with fresh perspectives on episodes and themes that they may have taken for granted. A potent point comes with a comparison of the Odyssey and the story of the Exodus. Whereas the Odyssey follows the type of hero’s journey arc very much in tune with the modern concept of storytelling (the protagonist embarks on a quest and returns changed), the Exodus is different. As the author puts it: “The Odyssey’s symbol of initiation…is a circle; the Exodus’s, an arrow.” Dissecting the implications of such a point requires a great number of words and notes. But for committed readers, they are bountiful in food for thought. Even if every argument cannot be distinctly grasped by the uninitiated, the volume provides a new way of looking at very old stories.
While full of jargon, this work about the Bible offers a wealth of textual pearls.