This was, unfortunately, a very disappointing read. The author’s in this tome, took an interesting topic and completely killed it. What was supposed to be the historical background of the second half of the Old Testament and an overview of Jewish literature, turned into a biased/prejudiced slog through history and a superficial slice of Jewish authors.
Judaism by Charles Foster Kent & Gustav Karpeles, was given to me by my parents for Christmas. They know I like to read about Biblical history as well as expanding the pool of authors I select from. This book seemed to them to kill two birds with one stone. What they didn’t know is that this book is a compilation of two different books. Kent and Karpeles wrote separate books and the publisher of the edition that I have, decided to abridge both books and smack them together into single volume.
Kent’s work is from 1945 and some of his language is very dated. He also writes with a somewhat arrogant tone. He does a good job giving the background to books of the Old Testament such as Esther, Isaiah, and Nehemiah. This interested me because sometimes I think we lose context by not knowing the history of what was happening when these books were written. Knowing the context gives more meaning to what was written, in my opinion. However, every now and then, Kent makes these remarks like, “Of course we know…” or “Obviously it couldn’t be…”. It irks me when authors make those evaluations when there is some doubt that there is 100% certainty.
Karpeles’s section on Jewish literature was more modern, but was sparse when it came to actually discussion works of Jewish literature and authors who wrote them. Instead, it was a long discussion of the Bible and the Talmud, which no one will argue is the foundation of Jewish literature, but there’s much more than that. For example, Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman and Motl The Cantor’s Son is now famous for being the origin of The Fiddler on the Roof, yet it’s not mentioned in this section. If I were Karpeles, I would’ve wanted to give readers a sampling of Jewish authors, rather than spending time on works that are already well known.
This book was a two star. It was slow going and I think it could’ve been written better. I’m pretty sure there’s much better books out there so I do not recommend this book.