Biothecist Kass—a Jew who returned to his religious moorings later in life—draws on a handful of Jewish commentaries and more than 20 years of teaching the Bible's opening book at the University of Chicago to produce a philosophical reading of Genesis (available for the first time in paperback). With observational powers bordering on spectacular, Kass probes the economically worded narrative and excavates carefully implanted, though seldom detected, structures, parallels, omissions, progressions, recurrences, and other subtleties, which generate meaning and expose the concerns of the narrator.

Although Kass's interpretations often fall within the boundaries of Christian theology, evangelicals will find some objectionable material. Most, for example, will have no truck with his belief that the early chapters of Genesis are ahistorical.

A final caution: Kass's working knowledge of Hebrew, though helpful at times, is also beset with a number of unconventional and poorly supported translations and mistakes. But such criticisms detract little from the overall impact of this extraordinary commentary.

Related Elsewhere:

The Beginning of Wisdom is available from and other book retailers.

The University of Chicago Press has more information on the book, including an excerpt.

Alan Jacobs reviewed The Beginning of Wisdom for First Things.

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October 2006

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