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on July 4, 2002
Looking at the Bible with an open mind can be so refreshing and Kirsch uses a brutal honesty that reveals the Bible for what it is: a book of mythology, mixed with a little history and morality, that is very flawed. Anyone who wishes to claim that the Bible is the perfect word of God probably hasn't read it very carefully or is in serious denial. Kirsch has done excellent research for this book and certainly qualifies as an authority on the subject.
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on January 3, 1998
A true Bible scholar embraces the dark side as well as the good, and Kirsch dishes up the murkier details of the evil deeds people have done to one another throughout the ages. While fundamentalists often object to hearing anything less than squeaky clean coming from the Good Book, the Bible stories themselves are cautionary tales. The Bible is like an instruction manual for life, and all good manuals contain sections on troubleshooting. The Harlot By the Side of the Road has a few flaws, such as the author tends to hammer the same ideas over and over, but it is still an interesting read. I was particularly interested in the differences between the King James version and the New American Bible, and how we have lost the poetry in the new translations. It's as if we are "dumbing down" the Bible to make it more accesible, and at the same time glossing over some of the juicier tales. I feel that Kirsch's book should be placed on the shelf along side other Bible study books such as the History of God, and of course, the Holy Bible.
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on January 25, 2003
Respectful yet challenging, "The Harlot by the Side of the Road" is a riviting read and a crash-course in the history of the Hebrew Bible. Kirsh tackles head-on the Bible stories most scholars sweep under the rug, and instead, singles them out for spotlight attention. He examines how and why such incongruous, even irreligious seeming stories could be part of the Bible by analyzing what message they were meant to convey, and in what cultural context they would have originally been understood. Fascinating stuff! I've given copies to a number of friends, some religious, some not, and all have agreed it's not only enlightening, but a page-turner as well!
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on July 5, 1997
"Harlot by the Side of the Road" is a scholarly yet page-turning analysis of several problematical stories within the Hebrew Tanahk. He tackles the themes of sex, violence, courage and cowardice in the X-rated portions of The Bible with courage and insight.
Well-written and well-researched, "Harlot..." is as informative as it is thought-provoking. He is boldest at the core of the book. His courage seems to falter at the begining and end, when Kirsch seems invested in adding a positive spin to horrific acts of gang rape, genocide, incest, and more. When Kirsch takes us to the edge of the abyss and then pulls back, he seems to be conflicted over his loyalties as a man, a feminist, a Jew, a historian. Nonetheless, Kirsch writes with style and insight. "Harlot...is well worth reading
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on November 12, 2013
This book looks at the sex, seduction, and rape in the Old Testament. These are not the stories that you read in your Children's Bible, nor are they usually taught in Sunday school. Most people are even unaware that these stories are actually in the bible. I am an Atheist, but this book can be a big eye opener to the religious.
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on November 28, 2005
I often suggest this book to friends who know little about the Bible beyond the stories that were in their Children's Bible growing up (Noah, Esther, etc). In response to reviews that criticize Kirsch for being too liberal, I suggest balancing this out with more conservative texts (of which there are plenty). However, this text brings your attention to stories that are often forgotten. After reading this book, you may want to pick up the Bible all over again (particularly the OT) and reread with a bit more attention to the details. This book does a wonderful job reminding you that it's not only what the Bible says, but what it doesn't say that adds dramatically to the stories.
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on December 29, 1998
Kirsch is a wonderful writer and a talented scholar, two elements that make this a breezy read about a weighty topic. Skeptics and believers alike can take away important lessons from this book. First, the Hebrew Bible is filled with bodice-ripping, blood-and-thunder stories, the likes of which even Hollywood seldom delivers. Second, the Hebrew tribal god was no choir boy. This might blast your faith in the "loving God" preached from many pulpits, but in a lot of ways, it's a richer mythology than the sacharine, milquetoast version of deity. Through seven shocking tales of rape, incest, and murder in the Hebrew Bible, Kirchner explores such topics as oral traditions, biblical criticism, history and culture, feminism, and spirtuality. Although written from a Jewish perspective, Kirsch is mindful of Islamic and, especially, Christian readers who also consider the Hebrew Bible as scripture. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to reading Kirsch's newer book on Moses.
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on August 17, 2015
I was somewhat disappointed by this book. I would have liked to have seen more background and context for these stories, but the book seemed to consist chiefly of re-telling of the forbidden stories of the Bible with invented details added. For instance, the episode of coitus interruptus between Onan and his widowed sister-in-law Tamar from Genesis 38 was considerably embellished, including an epithet hurled at Onan by Tamar when she realized he had denied her his seed. Similar expansive treatment was given to the curious story of Exodus 4:24-26 in which Yahweh meets Moses by night as Moses is traveling from Sinai to Egypt. Story-telling is not bad...far from it...but I would have liked to have seen more biblical scholarship and less creative development. However, now that I've registered this caveat...reading this book is worth the time and effort, if for no other reason than to let the average reader know that there is far, far more to their Good Book than the 23rd Psalm and the Sermon on the Mount! (One must wonder how "Good" could be applied to a book that contains stories like that of the Levite's concubine, the near-destruction of the tribe of Benjamin, the killing of the residents of Jabesh-Gilead [except unmarried women] and the kidnap and rape of the daughters of Shiloh [Judges 19-21]). Kirsch does a service by opening the eyes of his readers that the Bible is a much wilder and more savage read than traditional piety could ever admit.
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on May 20, 1999
This book did a wonderful job of adding to my understanding of what is actually being said in the bible. His technique is to tell an expanded version of each story alongside a traditional translation then comment on the passages. The comments will talk about what in the language justifies his version, how the story has been interpreted at various times and what meaning can be taken from the story. The commentary is the most interesting part since it expands on nuances and background information that I can not get from the straight text. I wish that he had talked about more than the sensationalist stories.
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on July 22, 2002
I like this book. i like it because it challenges much of my assumptions of the bible and i like it because the author offers fresh, refreshing and interesting new ways of reading the bible. for me, the value of this book lies in the author's insistence that the God of judaism, christianity and islam is ultimately a mysterious, ambiguous God who cannot be boxed in by any ideology, predujices, or religious bigotry. as a church attender, it is quite embarassing sometimes to be sitting in a pulpit listening to preachers who really do not know what they are talking about and are only good at shouting down at us and using the bible and God to justify their paltry views. this book helped to break certain of my own fears and prejudice. it is a very bold book indeed.
the only problem i have with it is that the author sometimes lapses to a rather impertinent way of writing in which he assumes that those who read his book have never or have only marginally read the bible. i think there are some people who read the bible completely and vigorously, but who are not satisfied with the sort of biblical criticism will be drawn to this book, so such assumptions should not be made (and especially not in a rather presumptive manner).
still, for some of its technical flaws, the book is very rich in its exegetical contributions.
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