Wrestling with God


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

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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



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


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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