Harold Bloom Explains Why the New Testament Is an Aesthetic Disappointment

Books, Literature, Writers

The Paris Review has made their famous cache of author reviews–spanning seven decades–available online. Here’s Harold Bloom griping about the New Testament in a 1991 interview

INTERVIEWER: You’ve written that the Christian Bible is, on the whole, a disappointment.

BLOOM: The aesthetic achievement is so much less than that of the Old—or original—Testament. The New Testament is a very curious work from a literary point of view. So much of it is written by writers who are thinking in Aramaic and writing in demotic Greek. And that curious blend of Aramatic syntax with a Greek vocabulary is a very dubious medium. It’s particularly egregious in the Revelation of St. John the Divine, the Apocalypse, which is a very bad and hysterical and nasty piece of writing. Even the most powerful parts of the New Testament from a literary point of view—certain epistles of Paul and the Gospel of John—are not works that can sustain a close aesthetic comparison with the stronger parts of the Hebrew Bible. It is striking how the Apocalypse of John has had an influence out of all proportion to its aesthetic, or for that matter, I would think, its spiritual value. It is not only an hysterical piece of work, but a work lacking love or compassion. In fact, it is the archetypal text of resentment, and it is the proper foundation for every school of resentment ever since.

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2 thoughts on “Harold Bloom Explains Why the New Testament Is an Aesthetic Disappointment

  1. The author of the New Testament was Berenice a great granddaughter of Herod the Great. The massacre of the Innocents included her own relatives. She was born in AD28 the only year mentioned in the New Testament, see Luke chapter 3. Her motive was to put an end to animal sacrifice at the Jewish Passover. She obtained most of her facts but emphatically not the dates from her distant cousin Josephus.

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  2. Harold Bloom’s interest in the Acts of the Apostles may be aroused if he cross-references the assorted facts with the works of Josephus. If he does this he will find that the Acts is mostly written backwards with the Last Supper (AD71) first and Paul’s shipwreck last. This has a very important bearing on the decision of Berenice and Agrippa to send Paul to see Nero. At first sight Paul never seems to meet Nero until it is recognised that Gallio is Nero who sends Paul back to Judaea with the Roman army under Vespasian who seems to be Barnabas. Paul’s task is to reassure the Jewish communities along the route of the Roman army. Like the rest of the narrative, Paul’s itinerary may also be backwards. This interpretation should pack the churches.

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