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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real Moses? Who Knows!
Since there is no archeological evidence that Moses ever existed, author Jonathan Kirsch uses the words of the bible,together with modern biblical scholarship to re-create the great prophet who exists between the lines of scripture. Kirsch goes through each chapter of the bible beginning with the book of Exodus and ending with the book of Deuteronomy and shows where...
Published on March 5, 2002 by dougrhon

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't read the ending
Kirsch has provided an excellent resource on Moses. He details the life of Moses from scripture, then highlighting it and detailing it with Rabbinical additions, apocryphal stories, and the latest scholarly research. If he had left it with that, this book would be a must for anyone who cares about any of the top three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, or...
Published on May 31, 1999


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real Moses? Who Knows!, March 5, 2002
This review is from: Moses: A Life (Paperback)
Since there is no archeological evidence that Moses ever existed, author Jonathan Kirsch uses the words of the bible,together with modern biblical scholarship to re-create the great prophet who exists between the lines of scripture. Kirsch goes through each chapter of the bible beginning with the book of Exodus and ending with the book of Deuteronomy and shows where various traditions and counter-traditions might have intersected. He shows the Moses who is portrayed as a great hero by the "Deuteronomist" and the Moses whose role is diminished by the "Priestly source." He discusses virtually every theory including the theory that their were two Moses and the first was murdered! This is surely not the book to read if you are a bible literalist (or an Orthodox Jew) and I certainly don't agree with all his points, being partial to the biblical story myself. But Kirsch is a lively writer and it is an interesting read nonetheless, as is Kirsch's "King David".
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Journey to the Top of the Mountain, March 24, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Moses : A Life (Hardcover)
At this time of year, many of us will dust off our video copy of DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, prop our children in front of the tube, and bask in the glorious figure of Moses a la Hollywood.
But perhaps our time would be better spent getting to know the enigmatic figure presented in the Bible.
Jonathan Kirsch's book MOSES: A LIFE helps us to do just that. In clear prose, Kirsch attempts to knit together a portrait of one of the most influential figures in Western Culture...a figure who may not have even existed.
In so doing, Kirsch draws not only upon the Bible but also on other records related to the man credited with delivering God's Law. These sources include rabbinical literature as well as the writings of philosophers (Philo, Freud). While the result is not without its puzzles, the overall effect is that of understanding. It is perhaps fitting that Yahweh, the enigmatic God of the Hebrews, should pick as his messenger a man as complex and contradictory as himself.
Kirsch does not flinch from recounting these contradictions (nor does he allow sympathy for his subject to cloud the fact that no contemporary record of Moses--outside of the Bible--exists). Further, he is not above explaining some of the darker passages of Holy Writ--including God's attempted murder of the messenger he had just chosen to deliver his people (a truly bizarre and difficult passage). As a result, the popular myths about Moses fall. But what remains is a figure far more interesting.
Kirsch does assume that the reader is somewhat familiar with the J, E, P, D composition of the Pentatuch (a theory now widely accepted and explained very well in Friedman's WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?), and, at times, his examinations of rabbinical special pleading are tedious. But, overall, MOSES: A LIFE is a highly readable and interesting work, with much to offer for non-fundamentalist believers and non-believers alike.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't read the ending, May 31, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Moses : A Life (Hardcover)
Kirsch has provided an excellent resource on Moses. He details the life of Moses from scripture, then highlighting it and detailing it with Rabbinical additions, apocryphal stories, and the latest scholarly research. If he had left it with that, this book would be a must for anyone who cares about any of the top three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. But in his summing-up, Kirsch beats us over the head with his own sanctimonious preaching, criticizing points of view he apparently doesn't understand or want us to. His rambling and occasionally spiteful insights may be applauded by those who think of religions as toilet paper -- all brands are pretty much the same and what matters is not the brand but your choice thereof -- but sincere Jews, Christians, and Moslems who actually believe what they say they believe (which is the modern definition of an extremist) will find these self-righteous musings a slap in the face. As far as the writing, there's too little variety of language, and words like "complied" and "ranted" become monotonous. Otherwise, the book is a good resource for beginning a study of Moses; and one should locate and read his sources more thoroughly than this book itself, which should go on the shelf with dictionaries and concordances, books that are good to have around when you need them but which you don't need to read through.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interfaith Gift Idea, April 23, 2008
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JohnNDFW "jppdfw" (Dallas, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Moses: A Life (Paperback)
As someone who was raised in a multi-faith home (Buddhist mother, Catholic father) and who was always intrigued by Cecil B. DeMille's rendition of Charlton Heston as Moses, as well as Ben Kingsley's and Burt Lancaster's respective title roles, I wanted to find something less Hollywood about my favorite biblical hero in written form. This book was it, and very thought-provoking. I didn't find it offensive, but instead, found it was something along the lines of a written History Channel biography about Moses. This book moved me so much, I gave it to an Islamic co-worker as a gift, because Moses does transcend all faiths and appeals to us all. This is the 2nd book I've purchased from this author. Another good read, Harlot By The Side of the Road is highly-recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can feel the Man, February 8, 1999
This review is from: Moses : A Life (Hardcover)
This is a truly insightful book. Not only does it cover various sources in and around Moses's life, but it does so in an amazingly amicable prose. A definite must for everyone with any sense of theological thought.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moses the man, the myth, and the legend, November 13, 2006
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This review is from: Moses: A Life (Paperback)
Objective and comprehensive. I enjoyed it as much if not more than his other work. Mr. Kirsch does not embellish Moses nor does he demean him. He makes him human. It is a biography compilled from numerous sources, rich in detail and broad in scope. The story of a man with all his human strenghs and weaknesses convinced by God to undertake a task he did not want and did not feel capable of.

This work might be objectionable and unsettling to the faith based, but read with an open mind it rewards the reader with insight and new appreciation. A great tale in every regard that can nurture your spirit
and reinforce your faith if read with an open heart and an open mind.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A title and its contents at odds..., January 26, 2008
By 
nto62 (Corona, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Moses : A Life (Hardcover)
There's a flippancy and glibness to Jonathan Kirsch's Moses that detracts from what one must assume "A Life" would seek to achieve. Kirsch's title implies a biography, but it's the rare biography that denies the historicity of its subject. Citing a bevy of bible scholars, Kirsch presents each view in a manner couched to suit a poorly disguised agenda. Thus, Martin Buber (cited repeatedly) "sniffs", "snaps", and "huffs" when it behooves the author to portray him as foolish, but merely "writes" and matter-of-factly "points out" when his views suit Kirsch's needs.

Though the Pentateuch serves as his main source, Kirsch fairly delights in Talmudic and Midrashic elaborations that push the Torah further toward the fantastic. While this might prove entertaining, it is no different than dismissing Moses because Cecil B. DeMille was over the top. Indeed, given the foundational arguement created by the multiplicity of Torah authors proposed and, therefore, the legitimate contradictions of the text itself, one wonders why Kirsch feels the need to stretch for additional ammunition.

Though I found Kirsch's Torah narrative a decent refresher, the endless parade of revisionist scholars - Sigmund Freud not least among them - whose outlandish theories test the bounds of credulity, (not to mention the wise application of time), ultimately becomes annoying. Indeed, Kirsch's scholars present suppositions to deny the historicity of Moses far more fanciful than anything that might affirm it. The intent here is not to present a life, but to deny one, and the touchy-feely, "embrace the concept" message at its end does nothing to dissuade the reader that Moses: A Fairy Tale was presented despite the "Life" that was proclaimed. 3 stars.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No life to be found in this life, December 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Moses: A Life (Paperback)
There are a number of very good reasons to buy this. But hoping to find a life of Moses is not one of them.
Kirch is very good on the sources who wrote the Bible, and his knowledge of Midrash is astounding.
But he is weakest on the very thing the book advertises - the life of Moses. The story of Moses - unwilling prophet wandering through the desert with a group of thankless former slaves and a God who doesn't know whether to embrace him or kill him - is one of the most moving in all of literature.
Yes, literature. I'm no fundamentalist.
Yet rather than dealing with the text and exploring the relationship between Moses and the Israelites or Moses and God (which for me rivals the relationship between Hamlet and himself), he tears the text apart, searching more often not for who Moses was but for who wrote the Bible.
Much of what he writes is interesting and provocative, though sometimes condescending. But it does not provide a life of Moses.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Agree/Disagree with author but well written, June 6, 2014
This review is from: Moses: A Life (Paperback)
I bought this book a long time ago and finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago. It was a pretty good page turner that I think shed some good light on the subject of early Israelite history, some of that history's main characters, and the Exodus and eventual migration to the Promised Land.

No, it wasn't 100% in step with what the Bible says happened but that doesn't offend me as a Christ follower.

Many of the stories in the Old Testament especially were handed down from person to person legends told around a campfire. I believe there is a significant amount of truth in the stories, but I also believe through the years some layers were added to the stories by tellers and scribes that had an agenda. It's human nature to embellish or take liberties when telling a story and since these stories were likely not written down in their entirety for a long period of time it is likely some things did get added or changed.

That does not challenge my belief system or make me less of a Christian.

How could Moses have written about his own death? Why would God call on Moses to do these things that were so important and then almost kill him for some unknown reason before he even started doing it. How could they wander in an area that was so small for 40 years? These are all great questions and there are many more and asking them does not make me less of a Christian.

Is it just possible that Moses wrote a lot of the framework of the first 5 books of the Bible or even that someone close to him did. Is it possible that someone later wanted to make sure that Hebrews continued to circumcise their children so they added the part in about God trying to kill Moses. Is it also possible that wandering meant just existing in the wilderness because the Hebrews were not yet organized and ready to take on some of the heavy hitters in the Promise Land. Yes, all of that is possible but it doesn't take away from the power of God nor the importance of the story.

Kirsch may not be a believer - I would bet he is not - but I certainly appreciate the scholarship that was put into this book. Weaving some of the extra Biblical writings and stories into the Biblical story that I have read umpteen times really was enjoyable. My reluctance in giving it 5 stars was there were instances when the author did seem to over do it and it got too detailed and too far off track with the introduction of other possible stories from sources outside the Bible. I got lost a few times about what the primary theme in some of the stories actually was. That is understandable because many of these sources were so new but that said, some better editing might have made it easier to follow.

Just to finish...I really think books like this are important. As Christians we don't have to agree but we need to read them and know what is out there. It makes us stronger in our faith. This made me stronger in my faith because it allowed me to look at the story of the Exodus through a more realistic lens. I still believe in the miracles, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna, etc., but I also believe that it wasn't hocus pocus and God used the natural world to fulfill some of these miracles. That is how I reconcile this part of my faith and I'm glad I read the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, August 11, 2013
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This review is from: Moses: A Life (Paperback)
Had read this before, I wanted a second copy, in case someone does not return my
original. Gives a great look at Moses' time.
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Moses: A Life
Moses: A Life by Jonathan Kirsch (Paperback - November 2, 1999)
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