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Moses: A Life Paperback – November 2, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
"Moses" is, in that sense, an exhilirating read, an effort to figure out just who Moses might really have been. The book is basically a mystery without a solution: the author notes that there is no archaeological proof of Moses' existence, or of the Exodus from Egypt (note that I chose to read this book during Passover). By looking at the life of Moses, and the story of the Exodus and the wandering of the Israelites through the Sinai Peninsula over a 40-year-period, through the prism of the different strands of Bible authorship, and of the different rabbinic traditions that have sprung up around the life of Moses, Kirsch tells a story that does not move in a straight line, that does not arrive at a single conclusion.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting. Makes me want to read Exodus again! Will definitely recommend it to some friends. I appreciated reading it and know they will also.
Sr. M Sygne
I'm not finished with this book, but it's rather readable. I picked it up because I wanted to know about the "Moses Archetype" if you will, and it's been somewhat helpful... Read morePublished 17 months ago by R. Morell
I wasted my money on this screed by Jonathan Kirsch. He spreads his lack of biblical scholarship thick with arrogance and skepticism. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jim Wood
I read the Kindle version of this work.
I enjoyed this work a great deal. I'm not a Bible scholar or well-versed with biblical history, so I can't judge the breadth of... Read more