Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 1998 - Bibles - 658 pages
3 Reviews
With biting irreverence for denominational prejudices and the pretensions of academics, Akenson renews our sense of awe before these religious works. He challenges received doctrines, arguing that the ancient Jews were indeed idol worshippers and that Saint Paul did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth or in the virgin birth. With wit, elegance, and clarity Surpassing Wonder makes the ancient Hebrew scriptures, the Christian New Testament, and the Talmuds of the Rabbis accessible to all and shows they can be understood only in relation to each other and against their specific historical settings. Akenson argues that each of the great texts must be considered as the product of a single author and thus as a religious invention ? that is, as a self-consciously formed unity rather than an anthology of disparate works. He also argues that the great inventor of the Hebrew scriptures should be credited with constructing the very concept of narrative history and thus the foundations of Western civilization. Using a rich and imagistic language that combines tractor mechanics, Winnie-the-Pooh, and architecture with analogies from astronomy, evolutionary biology, and economics, Akenson brings about nothing less than a radical reformation of how to think about the sacred texts. He restores their spiritual power through a just appreciation of the achievement of their authors while leaving readers to decide for themselves on the presence of a "guiding hand." Surpassing Wonder is a penetrating study of the historian's craft and a brilliant exposť of how theologians and biblical scholars abuse historical reasoning and evidence in their treatment of the sacred texts. Just as a previous reformation cast out the priestly intercessors, so Akenson casts the scholars out of the temple and lets readers in to see the texts anew. In so doing he reinvests religion with meaning for a contemporary world and shows us how Western civilization was created not by the Greeks of Athens or the patricians of Rome but by the desert worshippers of Yahweh.
  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - stevenschroeder - LibraryThing

Akenson describes Surpassing Wonder as a long love letter to Tanakh, the "New Testament," and the Talmuds. Readers are well advised to approach the book with something of a lover's patient indulgence ... Read full review

Review: Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds

User Review  - Bob White - Goodreads

Biblical scholarship spent much of the 20th century atomizing the text into the smallest bits of usable data. This book is a representative example of the next step in Biblical scholarship, taking all ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction Us and the Semites
3
INVENTING THE COVENANT
17
Apparent Woe and Great Invention
19
Returning with Yahweh to Jerusalem
64
Historys AllEmbracing Arms The Covenant
91
THE LATER SECOND TEMPLE ERA
107
Siloams Teeming Pool I
109
Siloams Teeming Pool II
133
The Hermetic Perfect Mishnah
295
Taming the Mishnah Tractate Aboth the Tosefta Sifra and the Yerushalmi
328
The Bounteous Bavli and the Invention of the Dual Torah
366
Conclusion Surpassing Wonder
399
Notes
415
APPENDICES
511
Glossary
513
Biblical Chronology
518

Siloams Teeming Pool III
171
THE INVENTION OF CHRISTIANITY
209
The ReInvention of the Species
211
From Yeshua of Nazareth to Jesus the Christ
244
THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH FAITH
271
Dont Stare at the Neighbours
273
The Manuscript Base of the Holy Scriptures
526
Modern Biblical Scholarship and the Quest for the Historical Yeshua
538
The Great Rabbinic Corpus Access Dating Translation Methods and Queries
606
General Index
627
Textual Index
649
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

Donald Harman Akenson is Douglas Professor of Canadian and Colonial History, Queen's University, the world's leading scholar on the Irish diaspora, and the author of several major works on the history of Judaism and Christianity.

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