God: A BiographyJack Miles (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995) 446 pp., $27.50
Imagine for a moment that the Hebrew Bible was written by Shakespeare, and that God was the supreme character of the play. What would be more natural than to ponder the complex psychology of the play’s protagonist? Recent scholarship on the nature of biblical narrative has made such a literary approach possible. In fact Harold Bloom attempted this in his brilliant and imaginative study, The Book of J (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990). Bloom compared J’s Yahweh to Shakespeare’s King Lear, and even to Sigmund Freud’s portrait of the superego, in an attempt to represent the uncanny authority of this grand biblical character.
Jack Miles, an essayist and editor with a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from Harvard, is uniquely qualified to take Bloom’s attempt one step further. In this fascinating book, Miles writes a literary biography of God from the beginning of the Hebrew Bible to its end, from Genesis to Chronicles. He admits that it would also be possible to write a biography of God including the New Testament as its conclusion, and following the Christian rather than the Jewish order of the Old Testament books, but he uses the traditional Jewish order as his guide.