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The Book of J Paperback – November 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802141919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802141910
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This controversial, bestselling collaboration is a translation of and critical look at text within Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy written by an ostensibly female author known only as "J." (Nov.)no PW
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Modern biblical critics have called the author of the oldest texts in the Hebrew Bible J, standing for Jahweh. Bloom and translator Rosenberg, authors of many works of literary criticism and of Jewish and biblical studies, have collaborated on a clear but controversial translation and analysis of parts of the Pentateuch using the term Jahweh. Bloom claims that the author of J was a woman, living in or at the time of the Solomonic court, 950-900 B.C.E., who wrote these selections not as a religious or historical treatise but as a literary work that Bloom compares to Shakespeare. While Rosenberg's translation is both modern and moving, he has made significant changes in the meanings of the Hebrew text. The proofs offered for these theories are no substitute for hard evidence. Nevertheless, The Book of J deserves consideration as a literary work.
- Maurice Tuchman, Hebrew Coll. Lib., Brookline, Mass.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Very interesting so far.
Puma with Wings
Harold Bloom offers us a compelling conjecture in this book, whose primary merit is to give us a fresh view of a great text.
David Egan
It's just impossible for me to really identify with.
Norm Zurawski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Harold Bloom's 'The Book of J' caused quite a stir when it first was published. The book contains both introductory essays on authorship, a discussion of the theory of different texts being used to make up the books of the Bible (the Documentary Hypothesis), some historical context, and translation notes.
The bulk of the book consists of David Rosenberg's new translation of the J text, that text having been separated and isolated from the other source texts of the Torah (first five books of the Bible).
The concluding section contains essays by Bloom on different characters and themes in the text, as well as some modern theoretical analysis of the text, isolated as it is in this volume from the greater mass of material in the Bible.
There is a brief appendix by Rosenberg with notes specifically geared toward translation issues and difficulties, as well as source materials.
First, for a little background: since the 1800's, much of Biblical textual scholarship and analysis has subscribed to the theory that most books were not first written as integrated wholes, but rather, consist of a library of amalgamated texts, largely put together by a person who goes by the title Redactor, or R, for short. This was (in terms of Hebrew Bible timelines) a relatively late occurrence. Prior to this, there were various sources, including the J (J for Jehovah, or Yahweh, which is what God is called in these texts), but also E (Elohist, which is what God is called in these texts), P (Priestly, which largely comprises Leviticus), and D (Deuteronomist). The separation of these strands is controversial, and will probably never cease to be. But with literary and linguistic analysis, certain traits can be discerned of each of the particular strands.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Randall Helzerman on May 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you have a King James version of the Bible, the next time you read Genesis, pay attention to how God is referred to. Sometimes He's called "God" and sometimes He's called "The Lord". The reason for this is that the original Hebrew text uses two different names for God, and the translators were careful to preserve this. When the Hebrew text uses "Elohim" it is translated as "GOD". When the Hebrew text uses "Yahweh", it is translated as "The Lord".

If you carefully read Genesis, you'll notice that when Genesis refers to God as "Yahweh", he seems to be very different than when he is refered to as "Elohim". For example, Elohim is invisible--he never appears to anybody nor can he be seen by anybody--but Yahweh talks face-to-face with people all the time: with Abram, to Jacob, and to Moses and the 40 elders. Elohim seems remote and regimented, whereas Yahweh comes across as mischevious and irrascible. This has prompted some to propose the so-called "Documentary Hypothesis" which posits that Genesis was formed by editing together two or more different books, each book using a different word for God and each book presenting a different picture of who God was and what He was all about.

The book of J is the hypothasized book which used 'Yahweh" as the name of God. Scholars try to reconstruct this book by bringing together all of the passages in the first 5 books of the Bible which refer to God as "Yahweh". The result is startling: the same stories you've heard all your life (The tower of Babal, Joseph going to Egypt, Abram bargaining with God over Sodom and Gomorrah), when read together like this, take on a whole different level of meaning.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Bay Gibbons VINE VOICE on January 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
Harold Bloom has never been shy of making bold assertions, and in his The Book of J we have the boldest - that is that the central core of the Pentateuch is the work of single writer - the J Writer - living during the Davidic or Solomonic dynasty. He speculates that the J Writer is probably of noble birth, of unparalleled education and literary talent and is probably a woman. In a later work (I think in his "The Western Canon"), he further speculates the J Writer to be Bathsheba, the fateful love of David's life. The implications, of course, are that the Books of Moses are of late origin and essentially a work of the imagination arising from the Shadowland of History.
This work must be taken for what it is - a patchwork translation of the Torah by a fine poet with an historical introduction written by a renowned literary critic and Shakespearean authority. I personally am a great admirer of the work of Professor Bloom, but here, I think, he strays into ground where he is (by his own admission) at best an amateur.
Some additional random thoughts:
1. There is considerable weight of authority on the side of Professor Bloom as to the stepwise redaction of the Tanakh by writers and editors in late Old Testament times, though scant authority for his imaginative view of the personal characteristics of the J Writer herself. However, the entire field of Biblical scholarship and criticism is so volatile and fluid at present, that any "authority" on the subject represents only one scholars private opinion at any given time.
2. The current popular view is that the Bible is essentially a profound literary creation assembled by the hands of some late master from early "primitive" narratives.
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