Harold Bloom considers The Book of J - even mutilated as it is by the Redactor's scissors - to be one of the triumphs of world literature. On a par with the Iliad (Homer), The Divine Comedy (Dante), or Hamlet (and other central plays by Shakespeare). The J-author (or Yahweh-author) wrote much of the text of the Bible from the "Garden of Eden" thru the "Death of Moses." Bloom believes the author of The Book of J to be a woman born into the court of Solomon, and living in the court of his weak successor Rehoboam when the author wrote her lengthy Yahweh-tale, in about 915bce. Bloom considers this great writing to be a secular work of literature, never intended as a religious text. Unlike the intention of later authors who revised (and often butchered) the original J-text: - E-author (the Elohist - 850-800bce), - D-authors (the Deuteronomists - during the violent moment during King Josiah's puritan reforms, 650-600bce), - P-authors (Priestly authors - 550-500bce), and - R-author (the Redactor - after circa-400bce). Bloom believes this highly-literate court lady was not merely familiar with Israelite folk-literature and legend-tales, but she was also well-read in the written literature and attentive to the oral literature from throughout the region (Canaanite, Babylonian, Egyptian). Bloom believes she used and drew upon this literature but turned it - and tuned it - to her own stylistic and thematic purpose. (What Bloom, in his famous theoretical text The Anxiety of Influence, would call a "strong mis-reading" of her source materials. The J-author did not merely ape her source material, but she riffed upon this material in a "strong" way - like a great jazz musician - making the material sing. She profoundly knew she had a very specific, thematically-significant story to tell, far different and far more powerful than any of her sources. Sources largely unknown to us, today.) J had a great story to tell, which she told it, according to Bloom, in a powerfully original writing style. Told with a deeply original sense of 'irony,' which far transcended the archaic writing styles (locally or abroad) characteristic of her era. & & & Much of this great original art was painted over or blue-penciled by later Biblical authors, but much still remains. The Redactor replaced J's original beginning - Yahweh's battle with the Dragon and the Deep (chaos) - replaced it with the P-author's stately ode to the Divine Order ("In the beginning God created ... "). According to Bloom, J would have riffed upon existing legends like the Babylonian epic, Enuma Elis, where storm-god Marduk clashes with Tiamat, goddess of the sea. Or more locally: the Canaanite tale of Baal and his sister/wife Anat beating down Yamm (sea-god emblematic of chaos). Much of the polytheistic and henethistic materials were editing out of the early Torah by later authors/editors. Bloom derives his speculation (above) on how J's Yahweh tale originally began from what little still remains in the Bible: Job, Psalms, Isaah, Kings, Nahum, Proverbs, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk. (Bloom's own translation from the Hebrew. The Book of J, 1990, page 30-31. Check out, too, David Rosenberg's lovely translation of the Torah's J-material from the Hebrew, which begins on page 61 and runs for a lively 111 pages. I highly recommend it.) & & & I have to wonder to what degree most folktales of polytheistic/henetheistic peoples of this era are religious in nature, and to what degree these narratives are merely secular entertainment. Anyone have thoughts on that? We hear about the wars, contained in the records kept by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians ... but little about the peacetime trade-practices. (Which traded objects of culture as well as consumer goods.) Seems to me, the more prosperous and peaceful the times were, in which these tales were written, the increased likelihood that these tales held more to a secular than sacred purpose. Which is my reading of the J-material. I have to agree with Harold Bloom, on that point. Bloom might well claim that the 'religious' intent, which later authors "found" in J's Yahweh-tales, is a 'weak misreading' of what these tales are actually about. (Like trying to turn the content and characters of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream into the source of something to worship. Into a Solstice 'Scripture.') Is all religious lore (from all peoples) just misused secular literature?