Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

Certain People of the Book, by Maurice Samuel

- Abstract

Biblical elucidation is as old as the text of the Bible itself, not only because of the greatness of the Book, but also because of its abundance of contradictions, gnomic utterances, ellipses due to conscious art, and omissions due to unsophisticated narration. Unfortunately much of this elucidation is mere obfuscation—vain repetition and pedantry. But these are peccadillos compared with the crimes of most Biblical popularization, which coats the narrative with a gummy mixture of piety and cozi-ness.

Yet Maurice Samuel, scholar, critic, novelist, and translator, sets out, in Certain People of the Book, both to elucidate and to popularize, seemingly unaware of the horrendous difficulties of either undertaking, and does both with ease and modesty. One of the most engaging aspects of his book is its assumption, innocent or elegantly feigned, that almost any attentive reader of the Scriptures could come up with much the same sort of thing. This polite absurdity aside, however, Mr. Samuel keeps a balance between humor and reverence, humanity and mysticism, speculation and faith, exegesis and simplicity. He avoids both sentimentality and religiosity.

About the Author