Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
The Book of J Paperback – November 30, 2004
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
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.
The most controversial conclusion which Bloom advances in this volume is that J is a woman, who lived in the courtly community of King David, and that her stories are not only a retelling of the ancient stories which would have been known commonly, but is also a satire and indictment of courtly life as she finds it.
'J was no theologian, and rather deliberately not a historian.... There is always another side of J: uncanny, tricky, sublime, ironic, a visionary of incommensurates, and so the direct ancestor of Kafka, and of any writer, Jewish or Gentile, condemned to work in Kafka's mode.'
Bloom's assertion that J is a woman consists of several 'telling' ideas, not least of which that the J text seems to have no heroes, only heroines.
'Sarai and Rachel are wholly admirable, and Tamar, in proportion to the narrative space she occupies, is very much the most vivid portrait in J. But Abram, Jacob, and Moses receive a remarkably mixed treatment from J.'
Also, on the basis of sensitivity to subject and social vision, Bloom argues for a female J. Of course, women in positions of authority (as any courtly author or historian would have to be) were very rare in ancient Middle Eastern culture, but not unheard of; of course, literacy rates for women were incredibly low, and there has always been the unspoken assumption that, naturally, the authors of all ancient texts are men.
Whether or not you subscribe to this (and I must confess, I am less than convinced, clever and interesting and thought-provoking as Bloom's essay may be), both on the person of the author of J, as well as many of his other equally unorthodox views, this text still provides much food for thought, and an interesting side text with which to read the accounts in Genesis and Exodus.
Reading Rosenberg's translation is, likewise, an interesting exercise. I would wish for footnote or some key to be able to follow along in the Bible, but Rosenberg's purpose was to let J stand as its own text, on its own merits, and thus, without interruption, he has done that here. A refreshing look at familiar texts, Rosenberg's new translation will give things to think and argue about for some time.
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.
This book provides two things in one handy volume: it provides a reconstruction of the book of J, freshly translated by David Rosenberg, and it also provides an extended commentary by Harold Bloom, who is certainly the best reader alive today, and who is uniquely qualified to serve as a tour guide through the experience of reading J. So to review the book I'd like to review each of these seperately.
First, Rosenberg's translation. To illustrate just how good it is at bringing things out of the text which you ordinarly wouldn't notice, I'd like to quote from his translation of the story of the Tower of Babal: "We can bring ourselves together" they said "like stone on stone, use brick for stone: bake it until hard." For morter they heated bitumen.
Notice how this translation brings out the parallelism between the tower of Babal and human society: The tower is made out mud bricks bound by bitumen, and society is made out of people bound by language. But people are also just made out of mud--recall the creation story where Yahweh breathes the breath of life into mud. Baking the mud into bricks is symbolic of the people making themselves hard, and using bitumen for morter is symbolic of them using language and government to organize themselves. Rosenberg's translation makes available to us many of the puns and wordplay which other English translations unfortunately lose.
Now, to review Bloom's commentary. Scholarly types are fond of dising Bloom for his tendency to be speculative, to use his imagination to illuminate the reading of the text. But what they are forgetting is that J is a bunch of stories, written for us to experience! To use an parable of Rorty's, its like a surgion describing your wife as a bunch of tissues and organs vs. describing your wife as warm and loving, important person in your life. Yes, "warm and loving" arn't medical terms, but that doesn't make them a bad description of your wife.
Also, the very greatest literature, such as J is, will admit of more than one reading, more than one interpretation, more than one point of view. Bloom here does us excellent service by showing us his point of view on the text, telling us how the experience of reading the text impacts him. The author of J didn't write J just to chronicle some historical figures--the author of J wrote J so that we could read it, and by reading it, become changed into new people. _This_ is the aspect of experiiencing J which Bloom's commentary helps along, and this is the aspect which critics of Bloom's commentary are missing the most.