Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
10
books is a work of pure scholarship though much scholarship went
to their making; yet every layman will remember them with
gratitude. They come from great Jewish hearts and are full to
bursting with great Jewish themes. They are, each in its own way,
interpretations, of one kind or another, of great episodes in the
Jewish tradition; and they are all stimulating in the real sense
that they make the reader want to know, and even to think, more.
What we need today is the stimulating book in this sense, the
book that helps us to make our first plunge.
A subject in which this need is especially urgent is our own
greatest original book, the Bible itself. My own interest was first
aroused by my form-master in the City of London School before
the First World War who, when we were all tired at the end of
term (and sometimes in the middle) of Cicero and Demosthenes,
used to read out in class chapters from the Bible (and, alter-
natively, George Meredith). He afterwards published a small
book,
The Literary Genius of the Old Testament
, which I heartily
commend to you. The author is P. C. Sands; the publisher, the
Oxford University Press. Another most stimulating little book,
published by the Cambridge University Press, is E. G. King’s
Early Religious Poetry of the Hebrews.
I t was this book which first
brought home to many of us the fact that a great deal of the
Hebrew Bible is in recognizable verse form. Your expert will point
out that these books are by amateurs, that they are no more than a
hundred small pages each, and that anyhow they are out of date;
and he will endeavor to persuade you, as I have been persuaded
recently, to spend a vast sum on the 909 octavo pages of a Harvard
professor. My advice to you is, don’t. Avoid professors. They
know too much. And they’re so anxious to put you right on every
detail that they smother any live interest you might have ever had.
We ordinary folk can afford to be wrong. We cannot afford to have
our interest smothered.
And how exciting the Bible has become with all the new discov-
eries. Take the latest book of M. Dupont-Sommer carefully
translated for us from the French by Mr. R. D. Barnett of the
British Museum and produced at a human price by Vallentine,
Mitchell — for 10s. 6d. you get a story which for anyone with a
mite of imagination opens up undreamed of vistas. We’ve all
heard dimly of the Essenes; but here we are told of the contents of a
huge Essene library (or so the author thinks), and together with it,
in other caves which have now been found and investigated, data
and information affecting most subjects connected with Judaism
and Jewish history for a whole hitherto almost unknown epoch
covering, possibly, some hundreds of years. Fancy reading in a