“The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis”– seeking wisdom


Kass, Leon R. “The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis”, The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Seeking Wisdom

Amos Lassen

I have been told that those seeking wisdom should start that search in the beginning—with the book of Genesis but to do so within its own context. Some claim that the search for knowledge without G-d is why Eve failed in the Garden of Eden. According to Kass the fall of Adam and Eve was not a fall at all but a rise to humanity. I am not sure I agree because to do so might invalidate the many lessons that are to be learned in the first book of the Old Testament.

Kass undertakes many themes in this book and among them are our relationship to G-d, to our families, to our community, to the environment as well as looking at what the basis is of a life well lived. We live in an age that knowledge increases very, very quickly and we have the means for our own self-destruction. What we lack is basic wisdom, a way to know how to go about acquiring wisdom.

For Biblical exegesis this book is at the top and its strength is that the author looked at all translations and is able to point some of the subtle distinctions in language which indeed can alter a text. He gives competing and intelligent interpretations and he manages to unlock the meaning of some of the scriptures but the problematic ones remain just as problematic.

There is a great deal of information here and Kass presents it in a lucid way. He follows the storylines in a chronological and coherent way and he looks at every verse in a way that provides a greater understanding. He searches for a way of looking at the Bible with no agenda and with no bias but to seek wisdom and truth. Kass says that we should read Genesis skeptically and with faith and thoughtful encouragement and let the text speak for itself. It is thoughtful encouragement that takes us to wisdom. If we do this, we see the Bible for what it really is and the characters for who they really are. There are no superheroes and no demi-gods with infallibility but real people who made both bad and good judgments. Kass gives us a wonderful way to read the book of Genesis and reading his book shows us that all of us can attain wisdom.

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