“The Book of Exodus: A Biography”. by Joel S. Baden— The Life of a Biblical Book

Baden, Joel S. “The Book of Exodus: A Biography”,  (Lives of Great Religious Books), Princeton University Press, 2019.

The Life of a Biblical Book

Amos Lassen

Princeton University Press has a series of books entitled “Lives of the Great Religious Books”. “The Book of Exodus” by Joel Baden is the 19th book in the series and there are another 10 yet to be published. The series has published, to name a few, already the biographies of the Book of Revelation, The I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Talmud which was my introduction to the series. It is important to note that what is important here

Exodus is the second book of the Hebrew Bible, but it probably ranks first in lasting cultural importance. Not only is it powerful and inspirational, it brings us the classic Biblical themes of  oppression and redemption, of human enslavement and divine salvation and the way that these are  brought to us is dramatic. Joel Baden traces how its famous account of the Israelites’ journey to the promised land has been adopted and adapted for millennia and often in unexpected ways. There is also the controversy that perhaps the exodus never really happened.

Baden draws a distinction between the Exodus story and the book itself, which is one of the most multifaceted in the Bible. It contains poems, law codes, rituals, and architectural plans. He shows how the book of Exodus  brings into unison many oral and written traditions from the ancient Middle East, and how the exodus, itself, came to be ritualized in the Passover Seder and the Eucharist. Baden highlights the remarkable resilience and flexibility of the book and sheds light on how the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai divided Jewish and Christian thinkers on the importance of Exodus during the Reformation and the American Revolution and on its uses in debates for and against slavery. Baden also traces how the defining narrative of ancient Israel helped to define Mormon social identity, the American civil rights movement, and liberation theology.

Even though the Exodus is three thousand years old, the Exodus―as history, as narrative, as metaphor, as model―continues to be vitally important for us today. This is the essential biography of a spiritual masterpiece.

We go beyond the familiar Exodus story to engage a diverse range of interpretations by individuals and communities. It will be a great resource for all who want a deeper understanding of Exodus and how it has been interpreted over the ages.

A note: These does not seem to be correct grammatical rules about capitalization of the Book of Exodus and the word, bible. I usually go with what sounds best to me and sometimes I do a few capitals and a few lower case first letters. I have always felt that literature about God should be capitalized but that is me. I have the same problem with a comma as the first item in a list of other items. I was taught never to use a comma with the first but I have since learned that there is no firm ruling.

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