Book Review – Heschel

A two-for-one book review today:

The Prophets: An Introduction (Volume 1) , by Abraham J. Heschel

Maimonides, by Abraham J. Heschel

The first book was one of my wife’s texts from Bible college.  It caught my eye because some time ago I read Heschel’s The Sabbath and found it beautiful.  The Prophets is also beautifully written, full of Heschel’s poetic voice that at times rivals another favorite Jewish author of mine, Chaim Potok.  Heschel made me think about the prophets as human beings, rather than as passive mouthpieces for God.  He made me wonder more about these men and the lives they lived.  He helped them become more human to me.

I disagree with some of his theology, and at times I think he credits too much to the prophets, as though they are somehow part and parcel of God’s message – their own emotions and ideas about things being used and bound up with God’s words.  But overall I appreciate his affectation for the human alongside the divine, something that is profoundly pertinent to Christians as we contemplate the divine made human in Jesus.

The second book I stole from friends I was staying with in St. Louis a few weeks ago.  To be fair (and so I don’t squash any chances of future stays with any of you!), I did let them know I stole it, and offered to return it.  My hunch was that they picked it up somewhere on the cheap and were keeping it in their guest room rather than reading it themselves.  I am glad my hunch was accurate, and they let me keep the book.

I first learned of Maimonides when I returned to complete my undergraduate degree after nearly a decade hiatus.  I was required to take this course on medieval philosophers that was supposed to teach me to write a research project.  I couldn’t take the capstone course for my degree until I took this course, and I couldn’t take them concurrently, so profoundly necessary were the skills this course purported to give me.

Needless to say, the instructor never once taught us anything about how to write a research paper, but I had the opportunity to read a variety of fascinating philosophers, Maimonides being the most interesting to me.

Heschel’s book only deepened my interest in this man and the monumental accomplishments that he achieved theologically and philosophically.  Of course I don’t agree with all of his theology, but I have great respect for his intellectual abilities.  In that college class, we read his Guide for the Perplexed, (or at least we were supposed to – I’m sure I didn’t read all of it!), and I’m tempted to pick up a copy of that.  Even more interesting to me is his theological writing.  There isn’t enough time to read everything I want to!

 

 

 

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