A comprehensive, intensely readable analysis of the broader significances of a well-known biblical tale.

Wrestling with God


An exhaustive exegesis of the Book of Jonah.

Arnold’s debut work of biblical analysis (first published in French in 2004 as Jonas. Bras de fer avec un Dieu de grâce) takes its subject from one of the shortest books of the Old Testament, which is only 48 verses long. As Arnold points out, it takes only 10 minutes to read it, yet it’s also one of the Bible’s best-known tales. It tells of the prophet Jonah who flees when God calls him to testify to the wicked Ninevites. He boards a ship heading in the opposite direction, but a storm overtakes the vessel. The terrified crew wake Jonah and ask him to pray to God, but he instead advises them to simply throw him overboard to calm the storm. They do—but Jonah doesn’t drown; instead, a great beast of the sea swallows him and carries him for three days before spitting him back up on land. Jonah then preaches to the Ninevites and they repent. For thousands of years, this story has pleased casual readers and baffled scholars intent on unearthing its deeper meaning. Arnold breaks his own study into two sections. First, he provides readers with a long, detailed introduction to the Jonah story and its critical reaction over the centuries, and then he offers a “commentary” section in which he reads Christian and Jewish significance into the book. This commentary will only be as effective as its readers’ beliefs allow; for example, a section on the actual historicity of the tale of Jonah will be particularly unconvincing to nonbelievers, who will likely see it as an obvious fable. However, the author’s prolonged introduction to those 48 verses is a brilliant, thrilling work of textual scholarship that stresses not only Jonah’s similarities to other major Old Testament figures, such as Elijah, but also teases out the character’s “messianic typology” as he’s taken out of the world for three days and returns with a redemptive message. While examining the moment that God commands Jonah to prophesy to a foreign people, Arnold writes, “Jonah’s mission is unique in the Bible.” That one-of-a-kind story gets a first-rate critical appreciation in these pages.

A comprehensive, intensely readable analysis of the broader significances of a well-known biblical tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502764140

Page Count: 162

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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