Immensely daring work by Neusner, rabbi and author of more than 400 books on Judaism (The Death and Birth of Judaism, 1987, etc.), as he projects himself back to first-century Israel to argue with Jesus. Obviously, such a project is fraught with peril—but Neusner's success is indicated by the long, supportive blurb from Vatican powerhouse Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The author's intention is to pinpoint differences between the Torah of Moses (which is ``perfect and beyond improvement'') and Jesus' teachings as presented in the Gospel of Matthew, in order to deepen the faith of both Christians and Jews. He listens closely to Jesus' sermons, addresses him as ``master,'' and opposes him with deference. Neusner lauds some of Jesus' sayings for reaching to the heart of Jewish law. But other pronouncements seem to him to violate God's will for Israel. He sees Jesus as subverting Jewish dietary law, the Sabbath, the respect due one's mother and father. The argument sharpens with Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees, with whom Neusner feels affinity. In effect, the author contends, Jesus is preaching to a select band of disciples, offering counsel for spiritual perfection while awaiting the kingdom of God, whereas Torah addresses itself to the entire Jewish people, presenting a way of holiness for the here-and-now. On its own terms, Neusner's presentation is sound. The problem—which he acknowledges—is the difficulty of reading Jesus' words apart from the understanding placed on them by Christians—i.e., that these are the teachings of God incarnate. The real issue, says Neusner, is Jesus himself, rather than his message. In an appendix, Neusner expresses his indebtedness to Christians who have been his friends and helped his career. This book, as he hopes, repays the debt—not least by showing that Jewish-Christian dialogue can move beyond bitterness into mature, substantive debate.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-42466-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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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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