Erich Fromm is not only an interesting thinker but a fine writer, and in this book, one of many that he has written and all of which I have read, he outlines what he calls a radical humanist interpretation of the Old Testament and its history and traditions. In this interpretation, the concept of God evolved from that of a jealous, vengeful spirit to that of a constitutional monarch, and ultimately to a nameless God who is bound by the same morals and principles that govern humankind. Fromm is convincing in his arguments, and even for those readers who will remain unconvinced after the reading of the book, all will no doubt take away an appreciation of the depth of his scholarship. All of the three major Western religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, owe their origins to the Old Testament, whether this is acknowledged or not, and all have to this day a powerful influence on the lives of millions of people. And yes, as Fromm states in the book, the world's populations do hold a materialistic philosophy that is coupled with ever-increasing globalization and technology, but the acquisition of material goods and the indulgence of their pleasures coexists with a commitment to spirtual values and religion. This superposition of religious and materialistic philosophy shows no sign of abatement. The radical humanism of Fromm is a philosophy that is delightfully optimistic, and emphasizes the capacity of humans to develop their intellectual powers, to become fully independent, to understand reality as it is, and a renunciation of the initiation of force, the latter of which, Fromm argues, results in intellectual disintegration and emotional dependence.Read more ›
This book shows how the Old Testament contained some key humanistic ideas that did transform our culture. This is the most historical of the books written by Erich Fromm. The commentary made the Old Testament feel both alive and strangely modern for me. The book quotes the Old Testament extensively in a kind of psychological, sociological, and liberal biblical study. This makes the book fairly rare and unique. I would recommend it to anyone who likes reading Erich Fromm and who wants to see a different side of him.
Fromm, a radical humanist (and a nonbeliever in God) still writes in the great Jewish tradition of optimism and of belief in human potential. Fromm had an excellent traditional Jewish upbringing, and although more traditional thinkers will disagree with his conclusions, they are at least well grounded in Old Testament texts.
The book is a bit dated in that one of its intellectual underpinnings is the belief that human beings can perfect themselves through self-understanding, specifically through psychoanalysis. The twenty-first century has not been charitable to that conclusion.
Fromm is a modernist, a humanist and an optimist and interprets Jewish tradition from this perspective. In this book he offers a radically humanist interpretation of the Old Testament: God evolving from an absolute monarch to a constitutional monarch - bound by the same morals and principles that govern humankind. This view is optimistic because it emphasizes our capacity to develop intellectually and become fully independent and free because of our ability to comprehend reality. This interpretation of Judaism could only have developed in the 20th century. It is an interpretation that has great attraction for me and without which I could not have written my own book "The Optimistic Jew: a Positive Vision for the Jewish People in the 21st Century".
Erick Fromm's exploration and explanation of the old testament is very interesting. He supports his thesis which centers around an interpretation that man will reach God when he accepts and acts in a Godly manner. Although many part are a bit antiquated in terms of the progress of humans and their acceptance of others, it is an insightful look behind the concepts that both the modern and conservative Jews still ponder and debate. If you want to understand some of the driving concepts of Judaism then pick up this quick read.