With wit, elegance, and clarity, Surpassing Wonder illuminates the ancient Hebrew scriptures, the Christian "New Testament", and the Talmuds of the Rabbis by showing who wrote them, under what circumstances, and why they were given the shape they have. These works constitute the very core of our cultural consciousness and in every century have been hidden from us -- first by priests, then by fundamentalists, and now by narrow scholars.
Here, with biting irreverence for prejudice and pretension, Donald Akenson renews our sense of awe before these sacred works by encountering them head-on, by setting them in their historical and political context -- and by daring to speculate that there was one author-editor of the Hebrew scriptures, and one for the Christian New Testament, and that the inventor of the Hebrew scriptures should be credited with constructing the very foundations of Western culture. He simultaneously restores their spiritual power through a just appreciation of the authors' achievement and provides a brilliant expose of how theologians and biblical scholars abuse historical reasoning and evidence in their treatment of the sacred texts.
Using images that range from Winnie-the-Pooh to tractor mechanics, this world-renowned historian creates for us a radical reformation of the sacred texts as he breathes new life into our religions and helps us understand, and revere, the heritage that flows from Jerusalem.
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Fine cloth copy in an equally fine dw. Particularly and surprisingly well-preserved; tight, bright, clean and especially sharp-cornered. ; 658 pages; Description: viii, 658p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Subject: Bible - Criticism, interpretation, etc. - History. Talmud. Genre: Bibliography.Review:
"How can a brilliant, learned, and original work of biblical scholarship also be delightfully funny, generous in spirit, and so gentle in its instruction that we barely know that we've been improved? Surpassing Wonder changes forever how one reads the Bible, and therefore how one reads most of Western culture. Thanks, Mr Akenson, to say the very least." Roger Rosenblatt "One cannot help but be struck by [Akenson's] wide-ranging and often highly original insights, which he transmits with literary vigour, wit, and ambling ease. Here, for instance, is a non-Jewish historian who considers the Babylonian Talmud - so often contemned and even banned - as a shining creation that the world should recognize as the masterpiece it is." Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, Senior Scholar, Holy Blossom Temple "Professor Akenson possesses the special gift of blending scholarly precision with sparkling imagination. He carefully analyses and interprets ancient texts while preserving and often illuminating their significance for thoughtful people at the end of the twentieth century." The Right Reverend Peter R. Mason, Bishop of Ontario "This outstanding book is a love letter to the Bible, written in awe of the Jewish and Christian texts, but sparkling with light and joy - a scholarly light, in which two faiths can listen to each other's histories, and a sense of humour which reflects the Bible itself, and the events jointly caused by God and man." Bishop Stephen Verney "Although I may not agree entirely with Dr Akenson's analysis, this book is an intriguing exploration of the creation of the scriptures and opens new avenues of discussion in Christian Jewish Dialogue. It is a fascinating contribution to the widening debate about the Bible, its origins, and its relevance for the world today. I welcome this contribution to opening our hearts and stimulating our minds." Bill Phipps, Moderator, United Church of Canada "It is a tour de force combining critical, balanced analysis with charming wit, and certainly both, but especially the latter are sorely needed in the fields of both theological and scriptural scholarship which far too often self immolate in a sea of jargon and tedium. As a church historian, I am indeed delighted to see a universally respected colleague produce such a marvelously engaging and refreshing exploration of the basic scriptural underpinnings of the Jewish and Christian traditions. The work demonstrates that for far too long the shame of anti-Semitism has undermined objective analysis of what Jews and Christian members of a common root, and as such both need to be knowledgeable about this shared reality. Further, it shows the power of good history, which is often ignored in schools and departments of theology, to inspire the imagination that in turn promotes unity, hope and especially compassion towards the other. It is such challenging studies as this that are particularly vital for all people as we enter the twenty-first century where, as never before, they are needed if the human species and life on this planet are to survive into the following century." Vince McNally, Associate Professor of Church History and Patristics, Sacred Heart School of Theology.
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