An informative but sometimes-superficial survey of Old Testament stories.



A retired teacher offers an introduction to the major stories and themes of the Old Testament geared toward non-Christians.

As an Old Testament teacher at a tuition-free Jesuit school that had a surprisingly large non-Roman Catholic and Muslim population, debut author Walsh developed lesson plans that “all of the students could identify with regardless of their religious background.” Now retired, he has compiled his lessons into a concise overview of the Bible that targets nonreligious readers interested in better understanding the book. In the author’s view, even among the nonreligious, one must have basic biblical literacy to fully understand Western society. Biblical references, for example, abound in Western literature, art, and music, from Handel’s Messiah to the Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” takes an even more poignant turn when readers understand the story of Moses’ mountaintop experience in Deuteronomy. The bulk of Walsh’s work walks readers through the major stories of the Old Testament in a straightforward, non-dogmatic way while providing brief historical and literary commentary for context. He also highlights important concepts and themes that run throughout the Old Testament that could be easily overlooked by those new to the Bible. For example, his reflections on the story of Cain and Abel introduce novices to the origins of the quote “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the author emphasizes the biblical pattern of God favoring the younger son over the older in his discussion of Abraham. But while much of Walsh’s commentary will be useful to those unfamiliar with the Bible, some of it is trivia that doesn’t advance a deeper understanding of the work, such as an entire page of famous quotations about friendship by Aesop, Ben Franklin, and others. Surprisingly, given Walsh’s Jesuit school background, he does not include the Catholic and Orthodox books removed from the Bible by Protestants. A more thorough discussion of canonization history—and how Christians selectively picked which books to include in the Bible and which to leave out—would have been extremely valuable in this introduction.

An informative but sometimes-superficial survey of Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Summit Crossroads Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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