Stories Of The Old Testament, by Jacob Klein
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
It seems strange to report on that although I got a cd in the mail featuring this book from the author, supposedly, that the e-book provided only covered the first forty or so pages of a book of slightly under 200 pages. When I checked it at home, I found a different set of pages available, but one that did not include any later full chapters either. Be that as it may, although the resulting read is a bit fragmentary, since it only covered the first three chapters of the book, taking up about a fifth of the total contents, covering the stories of Adam & Eve, Noah and his sinful contemporaries, and that of Abraham and Sarah sojourning in the promised land, the chapters provided give an adequate flavor to appreciate whether one would want to read the whole book or not. Therefore, with that warning stated at the outset, let us examine the question as to whether a reader wants to read the book, and what sort of material and approach the reader will find in the contents.
Published by Outskirts Press , this particular book takes aspects of the Bible and seeks to provide the author’s personal commentary on it. The book on one level takes the stories of the Bible as many of its readers would, as factual historical accounts, and the commentary provided is often-lighthearted but sometimes pointed as well. There is a great deal of human reasoning and speculation to be found, but the book does not pretend to be more than a personal commentary, and so there is a great deal less harm than by commentaries that are equally personal and equally speculative but which carry a supposed basis of authority which they cannot bear in truth. An example of the author’s style of commentary may be found on page 3 of the book, which reads as follows: “Another thing to consider is that light was God’s first creation. Without light, how could we know what exists, or what could be in front of us? For instance, what if I told you to stand in the darkest area possible, a place where no light is shining? Now, what if I told you that I was holding a baseball? Would you believe me? Perhaps, but since I am a mere man communicating to you, I could be lying. I might not be honest about the object that I am holding up. In fact, I might not be holding up an object at all (3).” With this sort of approach, the author encourages the reader to think while simultaneously presenting himself as a man, and his thoughts as his own thoughts alone, without seeking to claim any higher authority for his observations and musings.
How is one to evaluable a book like this? For one, the author bears some blame for promising to a reviewer a whole book while only providing less than a quarter of it, even if it appears to be a fairly representative sample. For another, the book itself sends mixed or contradictory signals. While taking the Bible as history, even quoting from sources that do the same, the book contains an ominous note right after its title page that claims that the book is a work of fiction and that the events and characters described are imaginary. Few notes would apply less accurately or fitly to the work of sacred history that is the Bible, and suggest a certain dissonance between the author’s intent in providing honest commentary and the publisher’s attempt to avoid encouraging people to take the Bible as factual. Considering that this publisher is well-known for publishing all kinds of wacky prophecies and accounts of reincarnation without this same sort of black label warning, the publisher’s disingenuousness is pretty extreme here. Nevertheless, it is not clear what blame should fall to the author for the failings of the publisher, for this is a perfectly pleasant if deeply idiosyncratic collection of Bible studies, the sort of conversation one would have with someone over a pot luck dinner, and find worthy of provoking thought and reflection, if not taking as Gospel truth.
 See, for example: