Engaging and informative for both Jews and Christians, as well as armchair scholars.

WHOSE BIBLE IS IT?

A HISTORY OF THE SCRIPTURES THROUGH THE AGES

An accessible history of the Bible, enlivened by a commitment to open Jewish-Christian relations.

As Pelikan, a leading historian of Christianity, has done with sacred figures (Jesus Through the Centuries, 1985; Mary Through the Centuries, 1996), so he now treats sacred text. In this short, highly readable volume, he traces the history of the Bible, and of Bible-readers, from antiquity to the present. The chronology is familiar. We read about the translation of the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, and the creation of the New Testament. We travel through the Enlightenment, dipping into Albert Schweitzer’s scholarly approach to Scripture, and Milton and Bach’s poetic and musical renderings of biblical texts. What distinguishes Pelikan’s approach is his raison d’être—revealingly, he writes in the preface that his career has been motivated in part by trying to respond to the Holocaust. His latest effort, then, is as much an essay on Jewish-Christian relations as it is a simple history of an important cultural artifact. He takes great pains to show the similarities between Jewish and Christian ways of reading Scripture, to show that Jews and Christians are worshipping the same God through different canons of sacred text. He suggests, for example, that the Talmud and the New Testament can be considered “alternate” interpretations and responses to the Torah, “so near to each other and yet so far from each other.” In the seventh chapter, “The Peoples of the Book,” readers first encounter Islam. Pelikan argues that the Qur’an is both very similar to and very different from the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Though the Qur’an is not properly Pelikan’s topic, readers may nonetheless wish for more than a tantalizing four pages thereon. The whole would also have benefited from a lengthier treatment of the Bible in America—perhaps a discussion of the myriad niche Bibles available at every bookstore, or of the biblical paraphrases popular for the last 25 years.

Engaging and informative for both Jews and Christians, as well as armchair scholars.

Pub Date: March 7, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03385-5

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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