Goodreads Review: The Harlot by the Side of the Road

The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the BibleThe Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible by Jonathan Kirsch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title sounds quite provocative, doesn’t it? Harlots!? In the Bible!? Why, yes. Plenty of them, in fact. Most people probably aren’t aware just how much sin, iniquity, vice and general delinquency is in their favorite book of judgement and good news, I’d wager.

Those are the people this book is for. At least, those among that group who have a willingness to listen to some of the weirder and less “Christian” behaviors that some of those Biblical characters got up to. Unfortunately, that may be too small of a target audience.

The prose is well formed, the ideas reasonably well thought out, and there’s plenty of footnotes to chase down if you’re the fact-checking sort. But if you’re like me, someone who is already aware of the devilry going on in the Holiest of Holy Books, you probably won’t find anything new or shocking. There’s unlikely to be any enticing new hooks to hang your hat on if you’re seeking sick thrills in the Bible or want more ammunition to start throwing when people put on their judgy faces.

Now, is that all bad? Probably not. As noted, there is an audience for this information… I was just not that audience, for which I am a little saddened.

The one actual negative that I can levy against the book – or perhaps, more accurately, the author – is that sometimes it goes a little far afield, as though seeking ways to connect favorite pet theories or conspiracies to situations where they really have no bearing; the “I shall sacrifice what first comes to meet me” tale is the worst offender in this respect, somehow taking a screwy story about a soldier who makes a bad vow and thus is expected to sacrifice his only child and turning it into a secret parable about lesbians and goddess worship, but the idea peeks its head around corners in most of the stories, especially as it applies to those two topics. Sometimes it feels as though the author has an axe to grind about the Sacred Feminine and just won’t come right out and say so. But still, entertaining stuff, and sure to send any DaVinci Code theorists over the moon with the possibilities.

All in all, a decent enough read for the would-be Biblical scholar, or the devout person looking for a reason to get mad about another attack on their religion, but overall not something I’d suggest specifically seeking out.

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