Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine

Harold Bloom, Penguin Books, 2005, reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        A literary critic, Bloom examines the character and personality of Jesus and of Yahweh (the deity of the Hebrew bible). An interesting side-view compares the order of books in the Hebrew bible and the Christian bible (Old Testament), and comments on the difference in a canon that ends with Chronicles (history) rather than with Malachi (prophet).

        Bloom is interested in comparing two very different divine names, Jesus Christ and Yahweh (p 92), their narrative characterizations and dramatic juxtaposition (p 93). Documentation for traditional views of Jesus is lacking: ‘there is no history, only biography’ (p 42). The American Jesus has been shaped by romantic wishing; ‘he promises greater dreamlike happiness, compounded of emancipated selfishness, and an inner solitude that names itself as true freedom’ (p 104).

        ‘Gnostic sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas ring more authentically,(p 18) than those in the synoptic gospels. His rejection of the oral tradition requires some sort of reader decisions; on this point he is at odds with Geza Vermes and Bauckham. He dismisses the Trinity as poetry (p 98).

        Bloom develops an analysis of faith that challenges this more conservative reader, but articulates the issues clearly and invites me to ensure that I understand and articulate carefully. ‘Will Yahweh yet make a covenant with us that he both can and will keep?’

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.