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The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis [Hardcover]

By Leon R. Kass (Author)
Our Price $ 29.75  
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Item Number 100370  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   720
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.4" Width: 6.26" Height: 1.93"
Weight:   2.13 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 20, 2003
Publisher   Free Press
ISBN  0743242998  
EAN  9780743242998  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Looks at the wisdom of nature and of man as seen through an interpreation of the book of Genesis.

Publishers Description
Imagine that you could really understand the Bible...that you could read, analyze, and discuss the book of Genesis not as a compositional mystery, a cultural relic, or a linguistic puzzle palace, or even as religious doctrine, but as a philosophical classic, precisely in the same way that a truth-seeking reader would study Plato or Nietzsche. Imagine that you could be led in your study by one of America's preeminent intellectuals and that he would help you to an understanding of the book that is deeper than you'd ever dreamed possible, that he would reveal line by line, verse by verse the incredible riches of this illuminating text -- one of the very few that actually deserve to be called seminal. Imagine that you could get, from Genesis, the beginning of wisdom.

The Beginning of Wisdom is a hugely learned book that, like Genesis itself, falls naturally into two sections. The first shows how the universal history described in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, from creation to the tower of Babel, conveys, in the words of Leon Kass, "a coherent anthropology" -- a general teaching about human nature -- that "rivals anything produced by the great philosophers." Serving also as a mirror for the reader's self-discovery, these stories offer profound insights into the problematic character of human reason, speech, freedom, sexual desire, the love of the beautiful, pride, shame, anger, guilt, and death. Something as seemingly innocuous as the monotonous recounting of the ten generations from Adam to Noah yields a powerful lesson in the way in which humanity encounters its own mortality. In the story of the tower of Babel are deep understandings of the ambiguous power of speech, reason, and the arts; the hazards of unity and aloneness; the meaning of the city and its quest for self-sufficiency; and man's desire for fame, immortality, and apotheosis -- and the disasters these necessarily cause. Against this background of human failure, Part Two of The Beginning of Wisdom explores the struggles to launch a new human way, informed by the special Abrahamic covenant with the divine, that might address the problems and avoid the disasters of humankind's natural propensities. Close, eloquent, and brilliant readings of the lives and educations of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob's sons reveal eternal wisdom about marriage, parenting, brotherhood, education, justice, political and moral leadership, and of course the ultimate question: How to live a good life? Connecting the two "parts" is the book's overarching philosophical and pedagogical structure: how understanding the dangers and accepting the limits of human powers can open the door to a superior way of life, not only for a solitary man of virtue but for an entire community -- a life devoted to righteousness and holiness. This extraordinary book finally shows Genesis as a coherent whole, beginning with the creation of the natural world and ending with the creation of a nation that hearkens to the awe-inspiring summons to godliness.

A unique and ambitious commentary, a remarkably readable literary exegesis and philosophical companion, The Beginning of Wisdom is one of the most important books in decades on perhaps the most important -- and surely the most frequently read -- book of all time.

Buy The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis by Leon R. Kass from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780743242998 & 0743242998

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More About Leon R. Kass

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Leon R. Kass, MD, is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and Hertog Fellow in Social Thought at the American Enterprise Institute. A member of the President's Council on Bioethics, he is the author or coauthor of five books, including, most recently, Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics.

Leon R. Kass currently resides in the state of Illinois.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Seeking Wisdom  May 9, 2008
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.
if leon kass had his way...  Apr 2, 2008
he would've banned in vitro research back in the mid seventies, so the natural course of infertile women and/or couples would be to either adopt or just accept their childless fate. And this guy is a Dr.?? I know this is off the subject of this particular novel, but Mr. Kass is an egomaniacal believer in Creationism, nothing more. Anyone who doesn't see it his way is either misinformed, or immoral. Any MD who would turn his back to a potential source of miracle therapies for MS, spinal-cord injury, ALS, Diabetes, Parkinson's, and the one we're all gonna get- Alheizemers, should have his license to practice medicine revoked!! In a acute situation, Kass would be soo paralyzed in deep reflection that his patient would die right there on the operating table! And now I learn that he is JEWISH!!!!!!! I'm Catholic and disagree with literally everything that comes out of his mouth!
I'm just gettin started-more to come- I'll do anything to hurt this guys book sales, ANYTHING!
Enhancing the sense of our own human dignity and value   Oct 10, 2007
In his instructive introduction to this work Kass surveys some of the ways in which the Bible is now read. He talks about the philological and linguistic critics who search to find historicize the work through noting its variant readings. He speaks of the literary approaches which aim to reveal its stylistic and artistic power. He speaks of the various Post- Modern approaches, and the politically correct ones which seek to indict the Bible for Marxist, feminist, ecological reasons. He speaks of the literal fundamenlist religious readings which force the Bible into straightjacket closed worlds of meaning.
As opposed to this he offers a philosophical and moral approach, one in which the Bible is read, and in this case specifically 'Genesis' for its understanding of the eternal verities of the human situation. As he notes the ancient Greeks came to seek understanding of the world from 'wonder' at things as they are, and as they are not. The ancient Hebrew of the Bible were instead moved by awe and reverence of God and their search for wisdom which could guide them to living righteous lives.
What Kass does in this book is take these foundation- stories of the Biblical tradition, stories of Adam and Eve in the Garden, of Cain and Abel, of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, of Joseph and his brothers and read them not in a simplistic one-dimensional way but rather in a complicated questioning and sophisticated way. The Wisdom to be gotten here from this book is not that which is directly and simply imposed and commanded, but rather which comes out of inquiry and dialogue out of a non- dogmatic search for understanding.
Thus this work invites the reader not to be a rubber- stamp but to be a thinker- along- with it. It is written with great respect for the reader and the wisdom which comes out of respect of the reader's intelligence, rationality and freedom.
Reading the book will do , I believe for most readers, what all of Leon Kass's writing does for me , enhance our sense of our human dignity and value.
Excellent for the Wisdom Seeker  Jul 1, 2007
The Beginning of Wisdom is a wondrous product resulting from many years of teaching and reflection on the book of Genesis by biochemist and ethicist, Leon Kass. This book makes Genesis accessible for those who perhaps depend too greatly on rationalization and struggle with faith. Rather than using theological or literary approaches, Kass extracts meaning from the Bible with a philosophical and wisdom seeking spirit. The resulting work is an enjoyable feast of a multitude of insights about human nature, marriage, families, politics, etc.

`The Beginning of Wisdom' is broken into two parts. The first part is more abstract and metaphorical since it focuses on stories from the Garden of Eden to the Tower of Babel. The tone of the second part, which focuses on Abraham and his descendents, is more explanatory and reads like play-by-play commentary.

When it comes to Biblical exegesis a reader should always be skeptical of one persons interpretation especially if they're unfamiliar with their work. Fortunately I found Kass' conclusions well reasoned, albeit a little verbose. With some editing the book could've been cut down to 500 or even 400 pages but Kass' detailed analysis and conversational tone compels the reader to commit through his 700pg text. Rarely does Kass make wild extrapolations never deviating from what is explicitly stated in the Bible. If he does, he admits as he did when he tried to draw connections between the creation story and Darwinism, but what would you expect from a biochemist?

On a side note, one of the downsides of the growing secularization of society is that many discard the Bible as a sexist relic of ancient superstition. As Kass reinforces with his book, nothing can be further from the truth. Even for the atheist with an open mind, the Bible can serve as tremendously rich source of wisdom that can teach us about who we are as self-conscious creatures struggling to make sense out of our existence.

This book is highly recommended.
Fascinating and well written  Jul 30, 2006
As the author points out, most books on the Bible come from either of two points of view: 1) historical, how did the book come about? or 2) from a particular religious tradition.

The problem with the historical approach is that it tends to debunk the contents and rarely offers much insight into the contents.

The problem with the latter is that, although a religious tradition can enrich our understanding of the text, it can narrow our vision. The text comes to serve the agenda of the particular tradition.

Neither approach treats this extraordinarily rich text with the respect that it deserves. Kass offers a philosophical, deep reading of Genesis that is engrossing and very readable.

This is one of the most interesting books that I have ever read.

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