Becoming Elijah: Prophet of Transformation

Daniel C. Matt. Yale Univ, $26 (248p) ISBN 978-0-300-24270-6
National Jewish Book Award winner Matt (God and the Big Bang) illuminates in this astute entry to Yale’s Jewish Lives series how depictions of the biblical prophet Elijah have evolved over centuries. Matt begins with the contradictions and inconsistencies in Elijah’s portrayals, from a zealot and miracle worker in the Hebrew Bible to the legendary “benevolent savior” in Jewish folklore. “We should refine the question ‘Who is Elijah?’ reframing it: ‘How is Elijah imagined and reimagined?’ ” Matt suggests, turning to the book of Kings, rabbinic literature, the kabbalah, the New Testament, and Jewish rituals to find answers. Rabbinic interpretation in the Talmud departed from biblical descriptions of Elijah by transforming him into the herald of the Messiah, a characterization that, in the New Testament, morphed into conflating him with John the Baptist. In all these renderings, Matt argues, “Elijah fills a need for hope,” a role that lies at the core of his importance. The author’s erudite prose and masterful command of history and faith traditions bring his subject to vibrant life. This is an edifying and accessible chronicle of a towering religious figure. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/16/2021
Release date: 03/01/2022
Genre: Religion
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