THE HIDDEN SCROLLS

CHRISTIANITY, JUDAISM, AND THE WAR FOR THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

International intrigue, scholarly arrogance, and eccentric personalities populate this examination of what the Dead Sea Scrolls really tell us. Since their discovery by Bedouins in the 1940s, the scrolls have been variously used as a springboard for academic careers, patriotic propaganda for the modern state of Israel, and material for the spinning of ancient conspiracy theories. Silberman (A Prophet from Amongst You, 1993, etc.) presents both a stunning indictment of the small cadre of scholars who controlled access to the scrolls for decades and a marvelous revisionist reconstruction of the ancient community that produced the scrolls. He argues convincingly that the cloistered, middle-class scholars who transcribed the scrolls and exclusively published their contents at a glacial pace until a series of highly publicized recent actions were blind to what the scrolls revealed. Rather than the quietist religious community living in the desert before the first century ce that has been standard fare since the earliest publications of the scrolls, Silberman provides a commanding defense of the oft-maligned theory that the Qumran community lived and wrote as an underground anti-imperial revolutionary group during the same period that produced Christianity. Silberman's careful laying out of evidence should create a reasonable doubt in most readers' minds that the circumstances described in the scrolls make much more sense in a first century ce context than in the earlier period previously accepted. And his presentation of early Christians as a group from the same milieu, but who abandoned militancy and nationalism in favor of a message of love that was tolerable to the Roman colonizers, equally undermines what he sees as an unwarranted implication of the superiority of Christianity over Judaism in scrolls research. (For more on the Dead Sea Scrolls, see Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. TK.) Silberman takes sides, but he comes across as fair and judicious. His depiction of the interplay between ancient history and its manipulation by nations, quacks, and petty academics is terrific.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-13982-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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