A return to the Bible by the noted Yale professor and literary critic, though the slapdash results lack the depth of most of the volumes he cites.
Reinforcing his reputation as a cultural provocateur, the 75-year-old Bloom (Where Shall Wisdom Be Found, 2004, etc.) issues proclamations like Zeus hurling thunderbolts from an academic Mt. Olympus. He seems more intent on igniting firestorms of controversy than providing thoughtful analysis. Almost sure to incite an argument is his contention that the very notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition is a fallacy, that it would make as much sense to speak of a Christian-Islamic tradition (were it not for the alliance between America and Israel). Identifying himself as a heretical Jew, Bloom will also surely get a rise from the Christian devout with his almost throwaway suggestions that Jesus likely escaped crucifixion and traveled to India, and that the Gospel of Thomas has more credibility than the Synoptic Gospels of the Bible. As provocative as Bloom attempts to be, this book is more often maddening than stimulating or enlightening. The short, sketchy chapters of the first half (the “Jesus” section) read more like notes for a finished and fully realized study. Chatty and first-person discursive rather than cohesively scholarly, Bloom rambles and repeats himself, indulging in digressions before circling back to the most contentious points without deepening or amplifying his arguments. Along the way, the literary critic proclaims that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s Jesus (and that Yahweh combines elements of Hamlet, Lear and Falstaff), compares the Gospel of Mark with Edgar Allan Poe, calls Philip Roth America’s Kafka and elevates Wallace Stevens above all American poets since Whitman and Dickinson. Why? In most cases, because he says so.
Bloom barely provides a gloss on more substantial work, such as the two volumes by Jack Miles (God: A Biography, 1995; Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, 2001), which are often invoked in these pages.