THE FIRST MESSIAH

INVESTIGATING THE SAVIOR BEFORE JESUS

A cogent, fluidly written account of a dynamic pre-Christian messsianic figure in Israel. This book explores a prophetic figure from the first century b.c., a prominent Jerusalem priest named Judah. From Judah’s writings, preserved among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Wise (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, not reviewed) teases out some compelling arguments about social tensions in Jerusalem a century before Christ. Amid the intense conflict among Jewish factions, Judah proclaimed himself a prophet who knew God’s mysteries, a certainty which propelled him to messiah status among his many followers. But Judah died in exile, leaving his millennial prophecies apparently unfulfilled, his followers scattered. His movement did not end there: a few years later, it exploded in growth because a war with Rome was at hand, and many turned to Judah’s prophecies to explain the crises of the age. Judah’s story is intriguing in and of itself, and even more so because it provided a paradigm for that more famous messiah figure who arose in Israel less than a century later. The book is wonderfully written for a scholarly tome, full of imagination and eloquent suspense, with compelling reconstructions of Judah’s life and especially his trial by fellow Jews for heresy and insurrection. Yet Wise’s book is strangely framed by an introduction and conclusion that focus on other “crisis cults,” or extreme millennial movements. Wise commits factual historical errors with some of these groups, claiming that the Millerites, for example, “disappeared almost overnight” after their prophecy failed in 1844. (What of the rise of Ellen Harmon White and the Adventist movement, which claimed thousands of Millerites by reinterpreting their prophecy of Christ’s return?) In short, the meat of the book is much better than the theoretical scaffolding Wise uses to structure it, and this broader investigation does little to enhance his already solid arguments about Judah and his followers.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-069645-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Close Quickview