No Gods but One

No Gods but One

No Gods but One

No Gods but One

Synopsis

On the face of it, Deuteronomy seems to be a book filled with triumph -- the pronouncement of the commandments, the end of the Israelites' long exile, the coming of the Promised Land.

But Daniel Berrigan here turns a searching eye toward this text and finds its darker side. Moses, the people's leader for forty years, is denied entrance to the land he dreamt about. The people desperately create a golden calf to worship even as God is giving Moses the two tablets. The Promised Land, full of milk and honey, is also full of inhabitants -- gaining entrance means destroying or driving out a number of its people.

Berrigan draws clear parallels between Deuteronomy's time of mingled triumph and broken law and our own moment in history, uncovering the stories within the story of this complex biblical book. With both great grace and incisive candor, he turns Deuteronomy inside out and makes us look at it -- and ourselves -- in a fresh light.

Excerpt

For the sake of the tribe,
Moses set in stone
the tradition of law,
and of the immemorial “choice”
that encircled the people for
centuries, an aura undimmed,
a shekinah of providence,
invincible.

We come to the humane and influential “book of the laws” — better, “book of the second law.” a lost book, we learn. and more — and wonderfully — found.

In view of the fate of the book, as it touched on the behavior of believers, one is tempted to amend the “lost and found.” Perhaps the matter is put more justly by saying, Our book was totally lost, and only partially found. Once found, however, the scroll was a (seeming) godsend for solicitous King Josiah, vowed as he was to reform his people’s behavior.

As to the means of bringing this about, the good king was at sea. What would prod the reform along? the book, the book, that mysterious book! It lay for generations gathering dust in some crevice or corner of the temple.

So the story went. But could there have existed only a single copy? We marvel; our version speaks of only one, the unique, the original.

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