A lively, invaluable, and evaluative Bible reference work, for both believers and nonbelievers.

Facts, Fiction, and the Bible


A debut book offers a comprehensive historical analysis of the events of the Old Testament.

In this long work, Sulman’s goal is to subject the Old Testament to a claim-by-claim, virtually line-by-line verification test, to determine which if any of the assertions of the Hebrew Bible are historically accurate. He sifts through these contentions in careful, direct, and fast-paced chapters that are grounded in considerable scholarship and yet immediately accessible to the nonspecialist, all of it guided by an appealingly straightforward spirit of inquiry. “To find out when the Exodus took place looks so simple,” Sulman writes in a typical passage, “just take an incident in Egypt’s history that is also described in the Bible, and then use this as an anchor point.” This may seem like an impossible task for the Old Testament’s far more fanciful stories, but Sulman tackles them all, from Noah’s Flood to David and Goliath to the Tower of Babel to the career of Moses to the Mystery of the Lost Ark (“Nobody has found it yet, and nobody ever will,” the author writes, concluding that King Josiah destroyed the venerated object). All of this is rendered in clear, calm prose that only occasionally descends to snark. (“They killed about three thousand people that day,” readers are told about Moses ordering his people to slaughter their neighbors. “Apparently, that was not enough punishment, because the LORD now struck the people with a plague.”) The prose sometimes shows signs of haste uncorrected by a patient editor (“the worship of the golden calf worship is portrayed as an act by which the people broke the covenant,” for example), but the scrupulous revisionist passion at the heart of the extremely impressive volume more than compensates for such easily ignored (and readily fixed) little gaffes. That ardor extends to reminding readers that the original Hebrew religion was exuberantly polytheistic for most of its history, and that female and male prostitution occurred in the Temple of Jerusalem. Throughout the engrossing book, Sulman is respectful but not reverential, blunt yet not insulting, and, in the end, tremendously informative.

A lively, invaluable, and evaluative Bible reference work, for both believers and nonbelievers.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-0113-8

Page Count: 670

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2017

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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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