an official review of ‘the evolution of god’ by robert wright

The Evolution of GodThe Evolution of God by Robert Wright

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An ambitious and comprehensive work. He gets a little too caught up at times, as most biblical scholars tend to do, particularly around p. 157 where he claims that the hebrew word for ‘moon’ (yareah) actually refers to a ‘moon god,’ with the sole evidence that a canaanite god was named something similar (yarih). Not like close languages never even slightly overlapped, but whatever. Oh, and the best part…what’s the explanation for this? Why can “yareah” only refer to a moon god, not the moon itself? Because “inanimate hunks of orbiting rock aren’t the kinds of things you generally converse with” (157)! (He kind of reminds me of Glenn Beck; using humor and a ‘lite reading’ tone in order to cover up the fact that he just ran up 4 pages on a theory with no evidence!)

The annoying part is when he uses little “insider clues” like this to formulate entire theses.

I did like the fact that it was an easy and thorough read in which he actually allowed a few opinions other than his to show through…however, I was disappointed that (as usual with this subject) the JEDP/”Josiah re-wrote everything” theory was underlying the entire theory, without it being mentioned outright save for in one footnote (even after having ironically mentioned that Wellhausen’s theory has lost traction in recent years).

I mean, it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, and his biases don’t show through as openly as do some other authors’. Although his motive is noble (showing that violence isn’t necessarily an inherent part of Abrahamic religion), he indulges a little too much in his own whimsies on the basis of his (scant?) hebrew knowledge for my own taste.

I have a friend who once said “An Old Testament scholar isn’t the same as a Torah scholar.” His theories may make perfect sense within his own circles, but remember that scholarshave their own biases and limitations, too. (For instance, while he was talking about asherah being “a part of the israelite pantheon being absorbed into ykvk” I had to wonder whether he knew or cared that asherah is also mentioned in the talmud, circa like 1000 years after the fact, and surely after all the “editing” he claims to have happened.

Everyone’s got their “insider codes,” and biblical scholars aren’t immune to this.


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