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The book of J (1990)

by David Rosenberg (Translator), Harold Bloom, Harold Bloom (Commentary & introduction), Harold Bloom, David Rosenberg

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,051815,556 (3.65)13
J is the title that scholars ascribe to the nameless writer they believe is responsible for the text, written between 950 and 900 BCE, on which Genesis, Exodus and Numbers is based. In The Book of J, Bloom and Rosenberg draw the J text out of the surrounding material and present it as the seminal classic that it is. In addition to Rosenberg's original translations, Bloom argues in several essays that "J" was not a religious writer but a fierce ironist and a woman living in the court of King Solomon. He also argues that J is a writer on par with Homer, Shakespeare and Tolstoy. Bloom also offers historical context, a discussion of the theory of how the different texts came together to create the Bible, and translation notes. Rosenberg's translations from the Hebrew bring J's stories to life and reveal her towering originality and grasp of humanity.… (more)
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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A quote: "J's art, and not the Hebrew language, invented the most characteristic element in the Hebrew Bible, which is a preference for time over space, hearing over seeing, the word over the visual image." [p. 287] ( )
  raizel | Jul 20, 2021 |
I got hold of a copy of The book of J by Rosenberg and Bloom. I am disappointed and it provoked these thoughts:
- Bloom accepts the Document Hypothesis as plain truth. He writes a little bit about the development of the early part but never argues it. He doesn't even seem to know that there are other scholars who showed that all arguments which Wellhausen put forward did not stand the test on the Hebrew text.
- Bloom accepts Rosenbergs choice of the verses which should belong to J as truth. There were other scholars who included or excluded different verses to J (Gerhard von Rad, Sigmund Mowinckel, Emil Gottlieb Heinrich Kraeling, to name a few, had made out different parts which belonged to J, or E, or P, or M, or R). Bloom argues his case for choosing not on the basis of the Hebrew text but on the basis of the English paraphrase (it is not a translation) by Rosenberg.
- He blunders with his knowledge of Hebrew: In the story about the tower of Babel, he finds three times the word 'unbound' and 'boundary' - but only once the word bt͡sr is in the Hebrew text. Rosenberg paraphrased: 29 (p. 73) ..."we can build a city and tower, ... without a name we're unbound .... " ... "They conceive this between them, and it leads up until no boundary exists..." ... the city there became unbound."
Both words 'unbound' are not in the Hebrew text. A translation would read: Genesis 11,4 ... let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth, v. 6 ... And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them (be impossible = restraint = bound), v. 9 .. from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Robert Alter wrote in Commentary 1990: Such comments as these by Bloom on Rosenberg lead me to the reluctant conclusion that Bloom could not possibly be reading the Bible in the original. He does have enough Hebrew to consult lexicons, not always with great profit, and at one point he provides a translation of his own, which I assume he must have done by looking at existing Englsh versions with some inspection of the Hebrew."
- Bloom accepts the words of J as fiction, not as truth.
He doesn't bring any facts for his assumptions that J should be a woman from Solomon's court writing at that time, using ironic as her instrument of literature. He presupposes so many uncertain hypothesis that the outcome can not be more than another hypothesis based on Bloom's 'insights', not more. Not what J wrote is fiction, but what Bloom thought up is fiction. ( )
  paulstalder | Feb 24, 2017 |
Here’s another of my favorites, published back in 1990. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a must read, for the sheer pleasure of it.

Most scholars now accept that the Torah was written by at least four different authors. The first strand of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers was written by an author that scholars call “J,” who lived in the tenth century BC. This is your chance to read J’s story as it was written, extracted and reassembled from the Bible. Bloom admires J on the level of Homer, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy, and wonders if J wasn’t a woman. J’s story abounds in unforgettable characters and subtle irony, including a God (Yahweh) whose personality is unmatched by any later writers.

In the first half of the book, the text of J is translated brilliantly by Rosenberg, who brings the scripture to life. Then, Bloom takes the reins and provides commentary in the second half. If you have never read any of Bloom’s writings, you’re in for a treat. Wry and fresh, Bloom is one of my favorite authors.

J, as Bloom points out multiple times, is no moralist. Sin is not one of J’s concepts, but contempt is. Irony is. J will stoop to puns and rise to heroism if it helps portray her characters. You’ll forget you’re reading the Bible as you get lost in the storytelling, I promise. I can’t think of enough good adjectives to describe this one. ( )
1 vote DubiousDisciple | May 26, 2011 |
Rosenberg's translation of the Yahwist texts is eminently readable; this is the first time I've read biblical source material and found it to both be a good, compelling read and a cohesive, sensible story. This would net four- or five-stars, but Bloom's analysis is dry, rambling, repetitive. He immediately asserts that his image of "J" (author of the Yahwist texts) is a fiction, but that fiction isn't very well defended. Plus, the essay style isn't wholly effective: after reading the core text in a day, I had to keep referring back to it to figure out what Bloom was talking about. I think this would have worked better as an annotated text. ( )
  PhoebeReading | Nov 24, 2010 |
A worthy attempt to look at part of the early Bible as a literary, as opposed to a religious, work. However, it depends a bit too much on Bloom's evocation of his authority as a critic to assert that it's a work of literary genius, rather than depending on his ability to let us see what he does. Mostly, it uses the standard device that critics use when they trust an author; any apparent infelicities become evidence of irony rather than actual problems. Still, useful as a way to jolt some newness into this text. ( )
  rpuchalsky | Jul 6, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Bloom has decided that J was a woman, first arguing playfully that this assumption is no more and no less a fiction than the assumption that J was a man, and then, more positively, by adducing evidence for her feminine preferences. Thus J'smost striking characters are women; her males are often childish. Even her Yahweh behaves like a headstrong, petulant boy, and is treated with a maternal indulgence tempered by irony. This hypothesis is advanced with the learning and ingenuity,the charm and the cheek, that characterize Bloom at his brilliant best. I can only hope that it will not cause such a stir that the rest of this fascinating book gets inadequate attention.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosenberg, DavidTranslatorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, Haroldmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, HaroldCommentary & introductionmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, Haroldmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosenberg, Davidmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Saba Sardi, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A Moshe Idel
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In Jerusalem, nearly three thousand years ago, na unknown author composed a work that has formed the spiritual consciousness of much of the world ever since.
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J is the title that scholars ascribe to the nameless writer they believe is responsible for the text, written between 950 and 900 BCE, on which Genesis, Exodus and Numbers is based. In The Book of J, Bloom and Rosenberg draw the J text out of the surrounding material and present it as the seminal classic that it is. In addition to Rosenberg's original translations, Bloom argues in several essays that "J" was not a religious writer but a fierce ironist and a woman living in the court of King Solomon. He also argues that J is a writer on par with Homer, Shakespeare and Tolstoy. Bloom also offers historical context, a discussion of the theory of how the different texts came together to create the Bible, and translation notes. Rosenberg's translations from the Hebrew bring J's stories to life and reveal her towering originality and grasp of humanity.

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