Jonathan Kirsch, a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Moses: A Life and The Harlot by the Side of the Road, writes and lectures widely on biblical, literary, and legal topics. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, President of PEN Center USA West, and a former correspondent for Newsweek, he lives in Los Angeles.
In this biography/commentary hybrid, Kirsch sheds light on biblical characters and gives readers a refresher course on Israel's monarchic period, from 1025 to 925 BCE. Arguing that the Old Testament may have originated as David's royal biography, Kirsch cites dozens of Bible scholars in his attempt to separate history from myth. The two myths he examines most closely are those cultivated by a "Court Historian" who embellished David's exploits to make him seem more kingly than he was, and those written by the "Deuteronomistic Historian," who revised the ancient texts about David to downplay his bad behavior and emphasize the sovereignty of Yahweh. Kirsch's citation of experts is dutiful but frustrating; only rarely does he mention the schools of thought to which his sources belong, which excludes readers from a crucial dimension of any intellectual debate. Kirsch's agenda is murky as well; it is never entirely clear whether he wishes to find the truth about David and extrapolate didactic messages or simply make a sport of listing the various and contradictory readings of his life. It may be that Kirsch eschews these complicated questions in the service of accessibility, and for that he can be forgiven, since secular books about the Bible are often inaccessible to all but a handful of scholars. This book, on the other hand, welcomes a wide audience to a scandalous, violent and surprisingly familiar ancient Israel, and both educates and entertains. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"[A] SPLENDID BIOGRAPHY . . . An eminently readable account of
perhaps the best-known and most popular of all biblical
-Los Angeles Times "A COMPLETE PORTRAIT . . . One of the more comprehensive attempts to place this staggering figure in history, in literature, in psychology, and in the evolution of Judaism and Christianity."
-The Seattle Times "A STUNNING SYNTHESIS . . . Kirsch has taken the best of both worlds to fashion a story that is the first of its kind: a biography of biblical proportions, anchored in the imaginative sweep of fiction and the tactile surprise of fact."
Author of The Book of David
and co-author of The Book of J
"Anyone who reads [this] entertaining and often enlightening account will come away with a solid understanding of David's life and legacy."
-San Francisco Chronicle
Kirsch (The Harlot by the Side of the Road) adds to his sensational books on biblical personalities with this expos‚ of the life of King David and his God. He fully accepts the historicity of David and the United Kingdom but argues that the record we have is the product of court propagandists followed by other court editors and then "spin doctors" who attempted to sanitize David. This is an old approach followed by many critical scholars; however, the only characteristics that Kirsch adopts from the text for David are thoroughly Machiavellian. He portrays David as a "bloodthirsty fiend of hell" who combined a strong political savvy with a ruthless suppression of all opposition. One must recognize that, even if we do not judge him by modern mores, as Kirsch does, David's life and reign was full of actions that provided abundant opportunities for his famous readiness to repent. Kirsch is a master of the storyteller's art, but his propensity to be disparaging is unsettling if quite skillful. In fact, his tone is much like that a lawyer might use in a summation to a jury (with appropriate facial expressions and tone of voice not available to print). Much more reliable assessments of David can be found in such major series as Abingdon's Interpreter's Bible, Doubleday's Anchor Bible, and Word's Biblical Commentary. Nonetheless, this muckraking account in the modern style will no doubt receive circulation in public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/00.]ÄEugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.