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199 of 213 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging but worthwhile read
Harold Bloom is almost overly frank about his personal predispositions throughout this book. He lets us know--repeatedly--that his religious leanings are toward a sort of gnostic, non-Covenental Judaism. And he admits that his ambition--through most of his 70-odd years--has been to read both the Jewish Bible (Tanakh) and the Christian Bible not only well, but also for...
Published on October 21, 2005 by Daniel J. Klotz

42 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Headline News: Flea Bites Elephant!
In the introduction to "Jesus and Yahweh," Harold Bloom makes a big point of casting aside the "quest for the historical Jesus" for the arbitrary reason that little or nothing can be known about the man - a highly debatable proposition. Still, this assumption might seem more credible if anything that followed revealed more than a superficial understanding of New Testament...
Published on December 14, 2005 by Stefan Cover

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199 of 213 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging but worthwhile read, October 21, 2005
Daniel J. Klotz (Lancaster, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
Harold Bloom is almost overly frank about his personal predispositions throughout this book. He lets us know--repeatedly--that his religious leanings are toward a sort of gnostic, non-Covenental Judaism. And he admits that his ambition--through most of his 70-odd years--has been to read both the Jewish Bible (Tanakh) and the Christian Bible not only well, but also for himself. This book is the product of what can only ever be an unfinished project, since the greatness of the Jewish and Christian scriptures keep them always before us.

Bloom's favorite characters in all of literature, in descending order, are Yahweh (of the Tanakh/Old Testament), Jesus (of the New/Belated Testament), and Hamlet. There is no shortage of reverence and amazement for Jesus and Yahweh in this book.

The subject matter of this book necessarily precludes any attempt to artificially break it down into neat categories and packages. In other words, attempting to formally outline this book would be a harrowing experience. Bloom's writing wanders and trips and backtracks. But Bloom never lets key themes slip through the cracks: it's the first book I've ever read where I genuinely appreciate how repetitive it sometimes becomes. By returning to an underdeveloped theme several times in various contexts, we come to understand the rather nuanced and complex conclusions Bloom is trying to explain.

Some critics have labeled this book self-defeating, but only because they misread it. These critics claim that Bloom asserts that everyone winds up seeing only themselves when they look at the person of Jesus Christ. That's not at all what Bloom says. The book's approach is as a character study of 3 fascinating characters: the historical Yeshua (Jesus, in Greek) of Nazareth; the divinity his followers either realized him to be or made him into, Jesus the Christ; and the God of the Hebrew scriptures, Yahweh. Bloom points out what should be painfully obvious to anyone who has read much in the subject: the so-called Quest for the Historic Jesus is a doomed enterprise. All extant texts about Yeshua of Nazareth are heavily proselytizing documents, intended to win people over to their set of beliefs rather than to create an accurate historical record. Because there is so little to work with in trying to uncover the "historical Jesus," most of the work consists of deciding which words, sentences, or authors to trust. It's a highly subjective process, and one in which the searcher is bound to reveal more to us about himself than about Yeshua of Nazareth. Because the enterprise is so flawed and suspect, Bloom hardly spends any time at all on the historical Yeshua; instead, he moves quickly on to the characters we find in the literary bodies of the Jewish and Christian Bibles.

Bloom has not set out to write a polemic, and I don't think he has written one. He longs to discover what has happened to the ancient Yahweh of the Tanakh he reveres so deeply (and whom Jesus--for Bloom the greatest of Jewish geniuses--also deeply revered). Compared to this longing, he doesn't really seem to care much at all about getting us to agree with his conclusions.

That said, the core conclusion of Bloom's book is that the Christian New Testament constitutes the greatest misreading in the history of literature. "Greatest" because its various authors are genuinely brilliant in how they bend the Hebrew scriptures to align with their new Christ the Messiah, and a "misreading" in that it considers itself to be the fulfillment of the "Old Testament" even though it frequently gets the Tanakh just plain wrong. Bloom is inclined to refer to it as the "Belated Testament" when he points out how the New Testament's turning of Yahweh into the tame, vague God the Father is a disappointing neutering of the most complex and enigmatic character in all of Western (indeed world) literature.

Because this is not a direct attack on Christianity and because of its high degree of complexity, Christian readers will not be able to quickly duck and run into the shelter of the typical gang of apologists--Josh McDowell, Ravi Zaccharias, etc. Instead--and here is the true value and genius of this book--"Jesus and Yahweh" will send you diving for your Bible--perhaps in different translations than you're accustomed to--to read it anew, in a deeper, broader, and more astute way.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chatting with a Scholar, February 12, 2006
This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
Bloom's latest book (he's written more than 20 over a period of 40+ years) is a casual discussion of Jesus, Christ, and Yahweh. When I say "casual", don't get me wrong. This is not a coffee table book or a book for beginners. It is an incredible discussion by a top scholar of the interrelationships between 3 critical figures, but as a discussion it is more casual than it is scholarly (e.g., there are no footnotes, no index, no bibliography, etc). I would recommend this book to people with some background information about (at least 2 of) the 3 principles, yet a beginner also will find it enlightening.

I am especially drawn to this book because Bloom agrees with me on some unpopular ideas about Jesus (e.g., he was in his 40s when he died, the Gospel of John reflects anxiety about the failure of the 2nd coming to come, the synoptic gospels are "conversionary inspiration", Josephus had his own agenda and isn't the neutral historian many people consider him to be, etc.). Of course, many of Bloom's ideas are not so non-traditional (e.g., Mark's gospel is the closest to the "real Jesus", biographers of Jesus read themselves into his life, etc).

The book has no real organization, and he drifts back and forth between various themes. In most books this would be a negative, but in Bloom's hands the transitions are seamless and beneficial. Another positive aspect of this book is Bloom's breadth of scholarship. He is at home discussing Freud, Shakespeare, Whitman, Plato, Spinoza, Goethe, etc. He wanders from gnosticism to judaism to christianity to marxism.

Here are some quotes...

"I distrusted throughout this book every account available to us of the historical Jesus, and I have been unable to locate much of an identity between the Jew from Nazareth and the theological God Jesus Christ." (p. 238)

"Freud's identification with Moses helps make Moses and Monotheism into one of the strongest of his more fantastic writings..." (p. 4)

"He came not to abolish but to fulfill the Law, however fiercely St. Paul, Martin Luther, and many since have labored to misapprehend the subtlest of all teachers, whose ironies transcend even those of Plato's Socrates." (p. 130)

Enough said. This book belongs in any serious scholar's library.
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110 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloom lets us overhear him talking to himself....., October 22, 2005
This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
The fundimental challenge to reading this book is that in order to get it, you first have to read a lot of other books. Really, it is probably only barely humanly possible to read as many books as it would take.

I'm sure that many Bloom fans will pick up this book and wonder where he's gone! I can sympathize--Confessions of a reviewer; I've only read enough other books to catch glimpses, as it were out of the corner of my eye, of what Bloom is talking about here.

OK, lets get out of the way the inevitable comparison of this book to Bloom's earlier "Book of J". One of the things which makes "Book of J" so much more accessible is that in includes not just Bloom's commentary, but also a new translation of J itself, in one handy package This makes it easy to bounce back and forth between Bloom and J, and so its much easier to understand and absorb Bloom's abrupt insights. But a similar didacticism would be impossible for this book--the only way to do it would be to just put it on a shelf in the Library of Congress.

But this book really shouldn't be compared to "Book of J". A much better comparison would be to the Gospel of Mark, which it bears resemblance in its literary technique and its "insider" outlook.

First literary technique: Other reviewers have commented that Bloom seems to be randomly bouncing around among topics. But recall, the Gospel of Mark is famous for just the same thing! In the course of a few sentences, Jesus is baptised by John, driven into the wilderness, comes back, and starts proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Why this rapid cutting between scenes? Why these big gaps between sentences? Is Mark out of his mind? No--Mark realized that the best way come to grips with Jesus is to -leave- the gaps--because the reader will be forced to bridge those gaps to make any sense of the story. Its the _active_ mental act of bridging the gaps which Mark knows is necessary to really "get" who Jesus is. These gaps create such an imperative to be filled that both the authors of Luke and Mathew wrote books to fill them! And the fact that they both filled the gaps differently from each other creates another gap for us to bridge.

Bloom is doing similar things in this book. Many times, he'll string two sentences together, and to my unread mind, they have no connection with each other. Sometimes I can bridge the gap, sometimes I can't. But when I can--wow. I wonder what it would be like to be able to bridge all the gaps in this book.

This book also resembles Mark by its "insider" outlook. Recall how the Gospel of Mark begins--it doesn't start out by saying "Jesus was a guy who lived in palestine.." or by any description of who Jesus was--Mark's audience already knew who Jesus was, and apparently knew many other mysteries which Mark doesn't tell us about. We're supposed to be insiders by the time we read Mark. Similarly for Bloom's book--he just baldly assumes many things which we're already supposed to know. Bloom creates gaps which only the congnoscendi can bridge. If I live long enough, I'll review this book again--perhaps by the time I'm 74 I have read enough....

This is a book which Bloom didn't write for us--its a book he wrote for himself. We can only be grateful that he's letting us overhear him talking to himself.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force, December 31, 2005
Roger Green (Brighton, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
Having just read this book, and being a long-time fan of Harold Bloom, I was curious what the reviews would be like. I see that they divide into three categories: those who haven't got a clue, those whose ox is being gored, and those like me who love it. To be fair, anyone who hasn't read Bloom before may fall into the first category through no fault of their own. But I had to laugh at the negative review by the guy who can't spell and doesn't value Shakespeare, probably an unsurprising combination. Then there are those who think Bloom writes badly and those (like me) who thinks he writes magnificently, and those who admit that he is a consummate biblical scholar and those (like the Booklist reviewer) who think he doesn't understand the Trinity, the Incarnation or the Atonement. Perhaps someone's ox is being gored there.

Come on, no-one understands the Trinity! The most intelligent possible positive comment is that the Trinity is, and is supposed to be, a mystery. As Bloom (citing Pelikan) points out, the Eastern Church had the sense to leave it there. It is the Western Church, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, that sank into a hopeless swamp trying to analyse and rationalize it. Or mostly ignore it these days, at least in America. As Bloom remarks, it's either a friend in Jesus (Jesus-as-God) or possession by the Holy Spirit, and little attention is paid to the Father (who isn't very Yahweh-like anyway and has just about faded from the scene). Unless you're a religious muslim or jew.

This is a wonderful book. Of course, as one reviewer said, it is Bloom thinking out loud and letting us listen. I think that's wonderful, myself, and too bad for those who don't - for whatever reason. Those who are intrigued by this book in spite of a sense of missing a lot, and who haven't read Bloom's earlier books, I urge them to do so. One I especially like which is useful for understanding some of Bloom's comments here is "The American Religion" (1992). I think it's out of print but it should be in libraries and it does come up used and also remaindered.
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42 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Headline News: Flea Bites Elephant!, December 14, 2005
Stefan Cover (Cambridge, Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
In the introduction to "Jesus and Yahweh," Harold Bloom makes a big point of casting aside the "quest for the historical Jesus" for the arbitrary reason that little or nothing can be known about the man - a highly debatable proposition. Still, this assumption might seem more credible if anything that followed revealed more than a superficial understanding of New Testament history, or of scholarly studies of the Tanakh for that matter. The author's denial of history serves a programmatic purpose, however. If history has nothing reliable to say about Jesus or Yahweh, then one may treat the literature that tells us about them in the same "anything goes" manner as literary critics treat the purely fictional creations of Shakespeare, Melville, Milton, and Cervantes.

The problem for Dr. Bloom is that the trick doesn't work in this instance. A deep understanding of history is vital to his enterprise. The New Testament and the Tanakh were written by people whose cultures, languages, and world views were profoundly different from our own. Whatever we make of their narratives at present, these authors were writing about what they believed to be real events and real beings. If we ignore what historical analysis can tell us about them and the worlds they lived in, we forfeit our insight and flatten the intellectual landscape, destroying all that time and distance have done to separate our world from theirs. We then judge ancient writers almost entirely by our modern beliefs and assumptions - and lose contact with them in the process.

Because of this, Dr. Bloom's analyses of the gospels of Mark, John, and the letters of Paul are not even "bird-bath deep," to borrow a phrase from H.L. Mencken, and are filled with errors. Most of the insights in them are not new and they are deeply distorted by personal reactions that the author is proud to wear on his sleeve. His ruminations about Yahweh suffer from the same approach and are even more idiosyncratic. After dismissing the rabbis of the Midrash and the Talmud for "softening" the wild Yahweh of the Torah's "J" writer, he treats us to a strange excursus on selected Kabbalistic speculations about the nature of God, parts of which will seem incoherent to most readers, as they did to me. While not without its own enduring value, the gnosticism of the Kabbalah tells us no more about the Yahweh of the "J' writer than the baroque cosmological schemes of the Hellenized Christian gnostics tell us about the real Jesus who lived in the Galilee and died in Jerusalem. Dr. Bloom makes frequent use of the term "misreading" in several contexts throughout the book, but the great misreading here is his own, caused by his failure to paddle out beyond the shallow water in comprehending his primary sources. The author's true home, of course, is in the self-absorbed world of modern literary criticism. He is at his most comfy quoting somebody's analysis of somebody's analysis of somebody's analysis and seems to have trouble seeing a primary text apart from the layers and layers of scholarly commentary that often obscure as much as they reveal. This is where a stiff sentence on a chain-gang run by insightful historians would do him a lot of good.

That being said, there is something of value here. Despite the horror it must induce in many of his sophisticated intellectual colleagues, part of Harold Bloom still wants to go where the angels fear to tread. I found the book infuriating in many ways but it compelled me read on and to ask myself why I had such a vivid reaction. It may do the same for you and if so, it is no small accomplishment. If Dr. Bloom can produce such responses in even a handful of his readers, then it appears he has learned something important from Mr. Jesus and Mr. Yahweh after all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mainly for Bloom Fans, April 25, 2008
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I really only recommend for those who have found Bloom's previous work rewarding. The book is his rumination on the "characters" of Jesus and Yahweh from a literary, cultural and religious perspective. The main reason for my caveat is that this book seemed sloppily tossed off in stream of consciousness mode. This made it a somewhat exasperating read for me even though I find Bloom to be an insightful thinker.

For those that don't know, Bloom is a prominent literary critic with a fairly unique perspective. His initial renown was for his Anxiety of Influence, which outlined his approach to criticism. I particularly enjoyed his take on The Western Canon in a subsequent book. He has expanded his attention to wider cultural and religious criticism in other books, and indeed it rings true that he would have long been ruminating on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism as the ultimate example of the "Anxiety" (fyi, Bloom is writing from a culturally but not particularly religious Jewish point of view). I was interested to find from this book that Bloom finds the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark in particular to be a compellingly "uncanny" character to rival the Yahweh of the "J" thread of what Christians call the "Old Testament".
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bloom of Resentment, January 4, 2006
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
As Bloom might say, I've been brooding over this review.

If you are a Sunday-school teacher looking for inspiration here, you will likely be disappointed.

If you are an admirer of Bloom and his thinking and theories, you will be right at home.

Let me start by saying that 'Divine' is full of some of Bloom's densest and least repetitive writing, as well as his most thrilling speculation and provocative scholarship.

Even if you are a reader familiar with Bloom's books, you would do well to read his 'Book of J' and 'The American Religion' before picking up 'Divine'.

I feel compelled to mention that in this book Bloom seems to associate Christianity and Karl Marx ('fantastic builder of error') and implicitly blames this odd amalgam for our current academic landscape, notoriously dubbed by Bloom 'The School of Resentment'. However, unlike all his books since around 1985, 'Divine' contains no explicit polemic against academic Leftists. The Bush administration now bears the responsibility for the sorry state of reading as well as for all the cultural ills of the West. Perhaps this three-headed monster has always been lurking in Bloom's ideas, or perhaps it is his new caprice.

As an erstwhile Christian, I can anticipate certain readers' responses (and I feel certain Bloom can too) whose ox may be only a little gored, which would likely be enough for most.

For, however spectacular his flights of fancy or how sound his scholarship, Bloom is clearly kinder to the text(s) of his Jewish roots than he is to Jesus or to Christianity. (For anyone who is familiar with Bloom's Anxiety of Influence theory, what is implicit in 'Divine' is the notion that Christianity is a dangerous 'weak misprision' or weak misreading of Tanakh, which is the reason Bloom places Jesus' section first in the book. It is not done to give Yeshua pride of place-- as it might appear to some-- but because Bloom himself is troping according to his own theory. The ordering of 'Divine' is a reversal of Old Testament/New Testament: the weak derivation, Jesus, placed first, is fulfilled by the stronger source, Yahweh, who is placed last).

Although I find Bloom's intellectual understanding of the Christian psyche penetrating and accurate, it is clearly temperamentally impossible for him to engage Christianity and it's mysteries imaginatively with any real (as he might say) zest, since his fear and distaste are palpable even as his anatomies are dazzling, and even as I am left with a sense of his personal struggle. And although he may intellectually accept the notion that polytheism may not be inferior to monotheism, Bloom's spirit, as regards Jesus at least, balks at becoming too Greek.

All that said, I'll say it again, bluntly: everything in the New Testament, as Bloom implies, may indeed be aesthetic bilge; 'a suicidal Yahweh' may be 'inconceivable' to a Jewish mind (the book's refrain); the apostle Paul may be an 'unlovable' and 'delusional agitator'; the Christ people claim to see and know personally may only be perceived through one's daemon; all Jews complicit with Christianity's program at its inception (and thereafter) may be 'quislings' who want to placate Roman authority. But surely J and the Court Historian and all associated with them and the Captive Testament are not infallible? Surely not all the ignorance and ugliness in the world, aesthetic and otherwise, is and has been committed only by those undesirables who stole Torah, however much 'bad news' a 'mercurial' Yahweh may be?

And when Bloom says that Jesus was the 'greatest Jewish genius of all time', I don't believe he really believes what he is saying a jot, even as he chooses his words carefully enough for his evasions to succeed with most. And, even if, as it appears, he is finessing the word 'genius' to really mean 'charismatic', much in the mode of Hamlet, a charismatic whom Bloom doesn't mind calling dangerous. I also don't buy the notion that the voice of Mark's Jesus doesn't sound like Yahweh, when indeed it often does, but with a difference. And it's this difference that Bloom refuses to engage. But perhaps, after all, I should oblige him. Or, to use a rhetorical question as he might, one unanswerable in the negative: How could I do otherwise?

Like the first half on Jesus, the last half of the book, the section on Yahweh, is magnificent. I find it to be some of Bloom's deepest, knottiest and most difficult writing ever. Rhetorical questions like: 'What would Shakespeare ask Yahweh: What do you want for yourself?' simply ignite the page.

I love Bloom and his books (and I have read just about all of them, and have even written a thesis with them) but I don't like seeing Bloom as a stereotype--even a shade of one-- of fear and resentment; or reading a text that often whispers that I am an anti-Semite, or one that compels me to think (or write) like one, no matter what Bloom's subject matter, and no matter what he is saying out loud to me, be it about Jesus or not.

But I digress. Really.

Thankfully another year has passed, and my row of Bloom's books now has yet another marvelous addition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into a Jewish soul., April 14, 2010
E. Rodin MD (Sandy, UT United States) - See all my reviews
This is an honest book which shows the problems the Jewish religion presents to some of its members. Since the style is at times convoluted and intends to convey erudition with satire it may turn some readers off. One should resist this temptation because Professor Bloom does have a message. He directs his literary criticism to the Old as well as the New Testament and finds both of them wanting. For obvious reasons he dislikes the Christian term Old Testament and prefers Tanakh, while he calls the NT "The Belated Testament." He also feels that the Christian Church has deliberately altered not only the number of books of the Jewish Bible which are included in the OT but also their sequence. Yet, when one looks at the Septuagint, the first Jewish Bible in Greek translation by Jewish scholars, which was in all probability used by the Church fathers, one finds the same books in the same order as in the Christian OT. There are some other factual mistakes such as, for instance, the statement that the night at Gethsemane was reported only by Mark, although all three synoptic gospels contain the story.
Since I had just published The Jesus Conundrum and had not been aware of Bloom's book it was of obvious interest to look for similarities and differences in our outlook. We agreed that the various gospel writers present widely differing pictures of Jesus, that hardly anything is known about the "historical" Jesus, that Mark seems to be as close as we can come to the human Jesus of Nazareth, that the Church Fathers have used the OT for their specific purposes which misrepresent (he calls it "misreading") the original intent and that Yahweh has hardly anything in common with the God of the Christian religion.
Yet, there are also major disagreements. For instance Bloom found the gospel of Mark "extraordinarily cryptic," and "the enigma of enigmas," while I saw it as a way to understand why Jesus did what he is reported to have done. I also cannot share his "bafflement when I try to absorb Buddhism or Hinduism, both of which evade me," but these are, of course, personal preferences and have no influence on the world at large. On the other hand Bloom's attitude towards the Deity is important because Jews, especially secular ones, are an influential segment of our society. This is why Bloom's book should be read by Christians because it shows the fundamental difference between the two belief systems.
I have discussed the situation more fully on my website and in other publications but the essence is: Yahweh has failed his chosen people. He has not honored the contract with the Hebrews which he had announced at Sinai and, therefore cannot be trusted. He has now either "deserted" his people or is in "self exile." Bloom leaves the choice open. But the message is clear: Bloom sees the Covenant simply as a unilateral promise, rather than regarding it as a contract with mutual obligations. If this were an idiosyncratic view one could write it off as such but when combined with what one can read from other Jewish writers e.g. the book by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine's "Judaism beyond God. A Radical New Way to be Jewish [published in 1985]," one realizes that this type of "Jewish secular humanism" is relatively wide-spread.
Unlike most Christian secularists, however, who believe that science and reason are incompatible with a creator god but have otherwise no particular animosity against him, Jewish secular humanists tend to be enraged over Yahweh's conduct. The Holocaust was simply the latest and worst event demonstrating: Yahweh's incompetence, amorality, malice or simply non-existence.
Yet some Jews like Bloom can't quite let go of Yahweh. He haunts them even in their sleep and as Bloom said the current book as well as his main one The Anxiety of Influence resulted from nightmares. Thus, we find individuals who are deeply conflicted in their souls. This conflict turns into anger and the anger is then directed towards a variety of "others," and may camouflage itself as "chutzpah."
The back page of the book promises us, "A brilliant and provocative character study of Jesus and Yahweh that will challenge the way we understand our cultural heritage." Yet, what we find in the book is an insight into Jewish thinking, which in this case seems to be dominated by fear. Nevertheless, since Bloom is an influential current author and he represents the thinking of a considerable segment of the Jewish community his book should be read by Christians, especially Evangelicals, whose views about today's Judaism do not correspond to reality. While individual Jews are able to live in peace with their Christian neighbors, the Jewish religion will always have to remain in opposition to the Christian because the fundamental premises are profoundly different.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting trip indeed....., February 4, 2006
J. A Magill (Sacramento, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Hardcover)
Bloom's fans, who stand as legions and to a man of his towering genius are surely well deserved, may think it a back handed compliment to describe this work as a post-modern analysis of literature and religion. Despite Bloom's much published impatience with all things wearing that totem, no other description can stand up to this strange often serpentine work. As a literary scholar, Harold Bloom stands at the first rank, in the United States it may even be a pinnacle where he stands alone, but Jesus and Yahweh: the Names Divine clearly comes as more than a comparison of Christian and Jewish sacred literature. Bloom's goal comes at once as more ambitious and more personal than a mere textual analysis as the author engages in often seemingly contradictory tasks, such as at once denigrating in fierce terms the very idea of discovering the historic Jesus (or Yoshua) of Nazareth, while at the same time making every effort to `liberate' Yoshua ben Joseph from the prison of the text which he has laid trapped in for almost 2,000 years. If one wonders why this might be a personal task for one of the world's best known Jewish intellectuals, Bloom's other goal in this work is to at last find peace with the God of the Hebrew Bible at whom he has raged if not for his entire life, than certainly since the world found itself in the shadow of Auschwitz.

Those hoping to find simple answers or even consistent ones in this work will put the book down disappointed. In venturing far from the field of literature and religious textual analysis deep into the subject of theology, Bloom leaves a confusing and often contradictory trail. Thus readers may scratch their heads as to why Bloom clearly finds the `truest' Jesus contained in the Gospel of Mark and the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. While he does not explain directly, the answer seems to be that the Jesus there presented, with the pillars of his doubt and humanity well intact, speaks to the author more than the more beatific savior of Luke and Mathew or the seemingly fully divine Christ of John. If such a basis seems less than academic, it surely offers a flavor of much of the style of this work. However, that this erudite work will prove controversial and occasionally maddening seems beside the point. Depending on the readers interest one can find much in this book worth exploring.

On one level Bloom wrestles with his own difficulties with God's complex character in the Hebrew Bible. Rejecting much of the Talmudic exegesis and commentary, perhaps often too out of hand, he finds great trouble dealing with the divinity in terms he can both understand and embrace. God's complexity in the Bible has vexed Jews going at least back to Moses, and all the more so to the modern reader. Yet being a Jew Bloom cannot abandon God, even as he accepts as a truism that God has abandoned his people. Careful readers will note, interestingly, that without stating the fact and perhaps not even conscious of it, Bloom's difficulty with the God of the Hebrew Bible arises in no small part due to the conflating of Him with the representation of the divine in the Christian Scripture.

Interestingly, much of Bloom's clear affection for Jesus arises out of his understanding of Jesus as being not only Jewish, but a Jew who wrestles with many of the issues that Bloom finds so overwhelming. For the author, Jesus stands not simply as a Jew, surely one of the only truly historical things knowable if one accepts that he actually lived, but even more so as a Jew who wrestles with faith and with building a relationship with the divine. That Bloom seems unfamiliar or uninterested with the many Jewish texts that engage in the same effort seems unfortunate, as his thoughts on these would surely prove interesting.

Those looking to find annoyance will surely find it in this work, as they will likewise find concepts that, depending on ones familiarity with the subject will either come as thought provoking or simply repetitious. Thus, Bloom's assertion that the United States stands as a religion worshiping Jesus (the `son' to Christians) as opposed to God (again the `father') may come either as provocative or a subject much analyzed by many scholars at length. So to his digressions into modern politics, declining political ethics, and the fall of community consciousness may raise hackles for many. Surely all will agree that his failure to provide footnotes or even a bibliography seems so gross an oversight that all can share in a collective groan over the failure. Yet those who take ideological issue with the text may find solace in that almost everyone may find something in this text that will provoke displeasure - for Christian's Bloom's rejection of Jesus' divinity and rejection of the Pauline enterprise, for atheists his acceptance of Jesus and God as real based on sheer belief, and for Jews his presentation of the Talmud in a manner that resembles nothing so much as a caricature of mere legalism. Perhaps when almost everyone finds offense, one must when themselves offended look with a brief pause.

Readers will find much here to ponder over and many thoughts well worth considering. From almost any angle, this stands as an interesting and serious work and we can all surely find something contained within that should give us much to think over. I took with a certain bemusement Bloom's clear thoughts of himself as an iconoclast when, in attempting to find an intimate relationship and deal with raw anger at God, he is engaged in the most Jewish of enterprises and one with a pedigree going at least back to Job.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bloom's Enigma, December 3, 2007
Elderbear (Loma Linda, Aztlan) - See all my reviews
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What an interesting, puzzling book! Even with two years of biblical languages and two years of biblical studies, with auditing classes on the history and philosophy of religion, on philosophy, and on Plato, I still ended up not tracking the author all the way through.

That's unusual for me. I feel as if I got anywhere for 35 to 80 percent of what the author alludes to, with many parenthetical excursions, depending on which part of the book I was reading. And he alludes far more than he states. This book is one of the few where I consistently had to go back and reread sentences ... due to Bloom's frequent use of tangential parenthetical phrases.

This is part journal, part meta-literature, and part puzzle. Anybody who has read The Book of J will feel both at home and alienated from this tour de force. Bloom assumes the readers' familiarity with themes in his previous works, with Biblical scholarship, with historical criticism, with Shakespeare, Plato, Nietzsche, Kafka, and Freud.

And he mostly pulls it off - this book is at least as impactful as Carl Jung's Answer to Job.

Bloom missed one theme that naturally follows from the themes he does explore - that of the vulnerability of YHWH. While he doesn't mind looking at YHWH's "capricious" behavior, he doesn't look beyond to the clear vulnerability of YHWH found in the J-source.

Nevertheless, this was an incredible and thought provoking book, a masterpiece of theological, philosophical, literary, and personal intrigue, which never truly resolves and leaves the reader puzzling through the enigmas with which Bloom has heroically wrestled.
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Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine
Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine by Harold Bloom (Hardcover - October 6, 2005)
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