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Book Reviews 141 universalist, missionary strategy in Judaism. It stands. on its own, and its sufficiency does not depend on establishing that Jews were actively proselytizing. However one views the issue of Judaism and missionary activity, this is a good book. The Epistle ofBamabas is an important early Christian text. Hvalvik has provided an interpretation ofthe Epistle that no one who is interested in Barnabas or the history of early Christianity can afford to ignore. Benjamin G. Wright Department of Religion Studies Lehigh University Noah's Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought, by Norman Cohn. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. 154 pp. $30.00. The story ofNoah is surely the biblical account best known to the average person in the western world. It has been examined by numerous books over the last few decades, the majority ofwhich have been inexpensive paperback editions. Some of them apparently have sold well over one million volumes. They often are dedicated to the claim not only that there was a historical flood ofworld-wide proportions but also that remnants of the ark have survived to this day and have been recovered from near the top ofa spectacular mountain on the Turkish-Russian border. The current volume is one ofthe few exceptions to that focus and format. It is hardbound , on quality paper, and contains a number ofcolor reproductions of famous works ofart. The purpose, well stated in the Foreword, is "... to consider, fIrstly, how the story originated and how it acquired its peculiar resonance; and then to examine what later thinkers have made ofit." That is, as western beliefs and values have changed, one wants to see how they are mirrored in the ever-changing interpretations ofthis famous story. Chapter titles are: 1. Mesopotamian Origins; 2. The Genesis Story; 3. Hidden Meanings; 4. Filling Gaps; 4. A Ruined Earth; 6. Providential Comets; 7. Problematic Fossils; 8. Shifting Time-Scales; 9. Harmonizers; 10. Fundamentalists; and 11. Hidden Meanings Again. The volume concludes with an appendix, footnotes, and an index. The origin of the flood story is placed in ancient Mesopotamia, the result of a catastrophic flood that ravaged the city of Shurrupak (Tell Fara) around 2800 B.C.E. Mention is properly made ofnumerous other ancient local floods, and of more recent deluges that have created hundreds of miles of lakes. Various accounts (Ziusudra, Atrahasis Epic, Gilgamesh Epic, Greek and Latin versions, etc.) are briefly presented in a very readable form. The biblical account is then reviewed, with some comparison and contrast with the mesopotamian materials. Focus is properly placed upon the so-called "priestly account" 142 SHOFAR Winter 1999 Vol. 17, No.2 as the one which has given the story its fmal shape and meaning, and a plausible attempt is made to understand the message of the story in the context of Israe1's/Judah's experience ofexile in the sixth century B.C.E. There are minor things about which one might quibble in this section (e.g., that henotheism/monotheism fIrst emerged in biblical thought during this period), but these do not detract from the overall presentation and thesis. The section on "hidden meanings" is an interesting collection.ofinterpretations that were teased out ofthe text in the history of the Church by such typological techniques as allegory (without, however, doubting the historicity ofthe account). Saint Augustine, for example, proposes that the ark is a symbol ofthe Church whereby humankind may be saved from the ravages of sin. This is followed by a chapter of illustrations of the rabbinic technique of "fIlling gaps" through Haggadic expansions in the story: details of the boat's architecture, availability of food, life inside the ark, etc. Initial attempts to reconcile the biblical account of the flood with emerging scientifIc ideas and with reason meant, in practice, "that Christian beliefs were modifIed to harmonize with the fmdings ofscience" (p. 47). This approach characterized the late seventeenth century (Chapters 5-7). The mid-seventeenth century brought renewed attention to geological and paleontological evidence which seemed to suggest a much older earth than a literal biblical chronology (e.g., that of Archbishop James Ussher) would allow. Thus arose a tension between the Bible and emerging sciences...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 141-143
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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