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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.
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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.
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