|Plot Summary of A Scholar's Odyssey|
|"This book is, as Cyrus H. Gordon (1908-2001) himself notes
in the introduction, an 'autobiographical sketch'. He only
just completed it as sadly he died in March 2001. At 149
pages, including bibliography and index, I am sure that his
many admirers and ex-students would wish it to be about
five times longer, but Gordon himself would probably have
said that his many publications and other works shall speak
for him. Perhaps the best known of these will be his
popular book 'The Bible and the Ancient Near East'. Over
the decades it went through four editions, each with
substantial revisions, and the last edition was co-written
with one of his students, Gary Rendsburg.
It would be easy to apply the term 'genius' to a man of
Gordon's achievements, especially as the category can be
entertainingly qualified with 'maverick' and 'eccentric',
thus making the stereotype complete. I feel it would be
better to call him what he generously called some of his
academic colleagues - a polymath. He was also a
truth-seeker of exceptional vigour. Original, courageous,
and energetically talented, he set himself few limits and
succeeded in many areas. He published on the Dead Sea
Scrolls; the city of Ugarit and the Ugaritic language; the
city of Ebla and its language; the decipherment of the
earliest translatable West Semitic language 'Linear A'; the
links between the Americas and the Mediterranean before
Columbus; cuneiform texts; and the common background of the
cultures of the bible lands and Greece. Some of these (such
as the Linear A decipherment) were controversial when
published, and considerably upset and challenged the
establishment views. I am sure in decades to come new
evidence will support his theses.
To those familiar with his ancient near East works the
least familiar part of the book is likely to be his account
of his WWII career as a top US army code-breaker. His many
army experiences added much to his experience of life
outside of academe and 'in the raw', as he puts it. The
most controversial chapter is chapter six, entitled 'Tenure
at last!': the crowning of all his effort to beat
anti-Semitism in the system. Much to my pleasure he repeats
here his famous two-fisted demolition of the Documentary
Hypothesis (the JEDP petitio principii) which so infuriated
the Old Testament liberals at the time when it was
published in Christianity Today (Nov. 23, 1959), under the
title 'Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit'. Accusations of
fundamentalism...not bad for a non-believing Jew! This
article is being reprinted to this day, and long may his
other works stay in print.
Michael JR Jose, Resident Scholar
|Review Analysis of A Scholar's Odyssey|
Our unique search engine provides a wealth of detail about books by breaking them down into many different literary elements, all of which are searchable (click here).
Ratings are on a 1-10 scale (Low to High)
Ethnic/Relig. of subject (inside)
Kind of living:
- general poverty story
If this is a culture clash:
- minority culture living in majority area
War/Cloak & Dagger story?
- Spying for secrets
ethnic of society (outside)
Subject of Biography
Biography of famous person?
- American (!)
How sensitive is this person?
- sensitive to others' feelings
Sense of humor
- Strong but gentle sense of humor
- Smarter than most other people
- average physique
How much descriptions of surroundings?
- 5 ()
- New York
- mostly 1st
Accounts of torture and death?
- generic/vague references to death/punishment
Book makes you feel?
Is book humorous?
If humorous, kind of humor
- eccentric personalities
Writer's slant towards subject:
- very favorable
Story of entire life, or part?
- story of nearly entire life
- A few 1-5 B&W
How much dialogue in bio?
- significantly more descript than dialog
How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?
- 76%-100% of book
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Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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