A Scholar's Odyssey Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Scholar's Odyssey

This book is, as Cyrus H. Gordon (1908-2001) himself notes
in the introduction, an 'autobiographical sketch'. He only
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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.

The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose

Chapter Analysis of A Scholar's Odyssey

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   teacher/professor    -   scientist/inventor Ethnic/Relig. of subject (inside)    -   Jew Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Kind of living:    -   general poverty story If this is a culture clash:    -   minority culture living in majority area Ethnic/regional/gender    -   Yes War/Cloak & Dagger story?    -   Spying for secrets War/Spying    -   Yes

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   scholar Ethnicity    -   Jew Nationality    -   American


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   5 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Greece Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Arabia    -   Israel City?    -   Yes City:    -   New York    -   dangerous Century:    -   1930's-1950's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   encouraged    -   like laughing Pictures/Illustrations?    -   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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