Impressions of “Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast,” by Rabbi Stuart Federow

Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast the inverse of The Crucified Rabbi. Instead of being an explanation of the Gospels as fundamentally Jewish documents, A Comparison asserts that the Gospels are fundamentally pagan documents that co-opted Jewish words. Rabbi Federow presents Christianity as foreign to Judaism as any replacement theologian does.

Roughly, there are five classes of arguments in Judaism and Christianity.

First, arguments against heretical or non-Catholic Christianity
Second, arguments against literary Judaism
Second, arguments that mirror Christian apologetic
Fourth, arguments that Christian writers have failed to address
Five, arguments that may persuasively argue against Christianity from a Jewish perspective

In the interest of space, I will provide one example of each of the arguments

Against the Heretics

Rabbi Federow criticizes Nestorianism, the idea there are two Christs (the part of Jesus that is man, and the part that is God), and only one of these died on the cross.

Although this should be obvious, Jesus was a human being, and not a lamb. Christians may believe that Jesus was also God: however for their to have been a death on the cross, it had to be Jesus-the-human that died and not Jesus-the-God who died, since the One True God cannot die.

All existing Christians agree! The Nestorians were declared as heretical, and the last known Nestorian Church was a pagoda in China!

A Nestorian artifact of the support objected to in the book

Against Judaism

Christ’s prophesy that he would lay in the ground for “three days and three nights” is criticized, as this appears to contradict the Biblical account. As Federow reckons:

However, if one simply remembers the story of Jesus as portrayed in the Christians’ New Testament and the way in which it is celebrated all over the world, Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday (called Good Friday) and was resurrected on a Sunday (called Easter Sunday)

Friday – the first day
Friday Night – the first night
Saturday – the second day
Saturdy night – the second night
Sunday morning – Jesus was resurrected

But if on sunday, as some point during the day, he was supposedly resurrected, where is the third night?

Yet the Book of Esther, recognized by all Christiand and Jews as scriptural, counts days in the same manner:

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him…

Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter.

And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

So Esther answered, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”

Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

Esther 4:15-5:5

Contemporary American English speakers note that phrases such as “next weekend” are ambiguous in their tongue. We shoudl not be surprised that other languages have ambiguities too.

Esther swoons, upon hearing she cannot count

With the Christians

In the context of a longer argument against the Messiahship of Jesus, Federow brings up the following analogy: what if one calls in an electrician, but the repairmen is a plumber instead?

As soon as the “electircian” left, all of Jack’s neighbors came over to his house. They said to Jack, “Wasn’t Bill a great electrician?”

Jack responded, “He wasn’t an electrician. Electricians do not fix the plumbing.”

That is strikingly close to C.S. Lewis’s analogy in Mere Christianity that Christ is like a carpenter that the believer hires for some specific work (to repair the cabinets say, or a marriage) and then is surprised that the work performed can be quite different (it appears a mansion is being built — completely beyond spec!)

“I just wanted the plumbing repaired, this seems a bit much…”

Beyond the Christians

The Hebrew Bible distinguishes three kind of blood sacrifices: the Sin Offering, the Trespass Offering, and the Peace Offering. Alred Edersheim has an excellent description of them. They were sacrificed in a particular order

  • the Sin Offering (such as a castrated steer or a female lamb), for the forgiveness of intentional sins
  • the Trespass Offering (sometimes a male lamb), for the forgiveness of unintentional sins
  • the Peace Offering (sometimes a male lamb, calf, or bull) , the jofyl sacrificial meal

The gem of the book was the following line:

Christians believe that Jesus, who was male, was their sin sacrifice of a lamb. However, we cannot find a passage in the Torah where God demands a male lamb to be sacrificed for sins.

If one wanted to offer a lamb for a sin sacrifice, it have to be female.

“Leviticus 4:32: And if we brings a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.”

Jesus was not a female, much less a female lamb. So Jesus could not be a sin offering.”

I had not encountered this before. There are sacrifices of male lambs in the Bible outside of the three-fold sacrifice, including how Abraham describes Isaac:

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb of a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.”
Genesis 22:8

And the sacrificial male lamb is used in the Passover offering too

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it
Exodus 12:5-8

Additionally, the specific phrase Lamb of God appears only twice in the Bible

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!
John 1:29-36

Something is missing from how Christians understand these events. Rabbi Federow should be blessed for pointing out this gap in our understanding.

As the Bible says:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
Zechariah 8:23

I am grateful for Rabbi Federow’s work, as God is with him, and he is showing us some things that were too hard for us gentiles to find on our own.

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb who Takes Away the Sins of the World

Before the Christians

By far the most convincing of Federow’s arguments is the obvious one: much of the Messiah’s work is unfinished. The Jews were given a specific description of what the Son of David would accomplish, so that they could recognize him.

The real Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see, perceive, and prove. It is for this task that the real Messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term messiah — one who is annointed. These changes that one will be able to see and perceive in the real world include the following: … There is peace between all nations… All weapons of war are destroyed… There is an end to all forms of idolatry… Famines cease to exist… Death ceases to exist [etc].”

Christians would respond these things will be accomplished by the Messiah but not just yet. Rabbi Federow responds then perhaps Jews should just wait to be sure they don’t follow a false Messiah.

It’s hard to argue against that.

An interesting analogy arises to the Parable of the Sleeping Guards

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
Matthew 24:32-37

If the guards were hired after the time the man went away, the new guards would know him only through the written and verbal descriptions of those who had seen him, or knew what he would look like. If the traveling man came back with a deep tan, or unexpectedly dirty or fine clothes, or missing a limb or with a new wife, these would be surprising. The travelling man could not be too cross at his servants who were trying to prevent a trickster from hoodwinking them. Rabbinical cautiousness of the crucified Rabbi is thus seen, by Christians, as faithfulness to the Messiah who came for them.

Zealous guards at the wedding feast

I read Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast in the Kindle edition.

Impressions of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

The authors of Shattered: Inside Hilltary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign have made the rounds of Cable TV, talking about their access to the Clinton campaign and the mistakes made in it. Almost all of the salacious material was included in these appearances, so if that’s your interest, I’ll simply embed one of those videos

Having watched those videos exactly for the salacious content before beginning, I really can’t describe any of those revelations as a pay-off of reading the book. But I think three large themes are clear in the text, and have been largely ignored by television coverage. They are the organizational nature of the campaign, the conscious rejection of the Clinton coalition as a population to speak to, and the utility of “data” as a shibboleth.

First the cost of internal office-politics in the Clinton Campaign may have been as severe as all the external resistance Hillary Clinton faced. The lack of alignment in incentives seem to have been particularly egregious in the case of Robby Mook, though its unclear if this is because Mook was particularly independent or (more likely) these stories were the most available to the authors. Mook engaged in behavior that is perfectly rational in any corporate office — serving as a gate-keeper to the resources under his charge. His gate-keeping role denied others access to non-rival resources that could have been used by others on the campaign to help their candidate. (Why important stakeholders did not have their interests aligned is not discussed in the book.)

Second, the most shocking part of the book was a revelation that something I took to be accidental was instead intentional: Clinton attempts to run a campaign not to her strengths (which she attempted in ’08), but to Obama’s (who, admittedly, actually won in ’08). One of the endearing images I have of that cycle was Clinton throwing back whiskey shots. The message was clear: whether you like Clinton or not, she is tough and unafraid. In a dangerous world those are admirable qualities in a leader. Those may be the qualities that won the White House for Donald Trump.

Instead of projecting a tough image and winning those left behind by globalization, Clinton tried to complete Obama’s transformation of the Democratic Party into a globalist party. Obama’s coalition included highly paid professionals, feminists, those seeking race-conscious preferences from the federal government. But unlike Obama, Clinton was neither charismatic nor black. She failed, but her failure was part of a conscious strategy.

The only shocking part relates to data. It’s unclear exactly what is meant, but polling was replaced by another technique cheaper because polling was expensive. Total Survey Error was simply ignored. Domain experts were sidelined, and anonymous sources told the authors they were made to feel like “dinosaurs” if they questioned analytics. It seems clear the authors themselves don’t understand the details of these debates (whether anyone in the room did is uncertain!), but I have a creeping feeling that too many were dazzled by the geeky magic of pop-analysts like Nate Silver, to their ruin.

I read Shattered in the Kindle edition.

Impressions of “The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity,” by Taylor Marshall

2,000 years ago a Jew from Galilean regularly visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He celebrated Hanukkah and Passover there. At home he would preach in a synagogue. His followers called him “rabbi.” He was executed on the authority of the Roman governor. After his death a convert to his cause spoke, saying “I am a pharisee.”

The man of course was Jesus. But the implications of this, that the one who Christians call the Son of God was himself Jewish, is often elided. It does not imply only that Jews are the elder broths in faith of the Christians. It means that to understand the words of Jesus as they would have been understood by those he spoke to, a Jewish interpretation of those words is needed. This is what Taylor Marshall gives to us in his short work, The Crucified Rabbi.

Marshall was formerly protestant minister (well, an Episcopal priest, which may be close enough). His extensive Biblical knowledge, and his late introduction to Catholicism, allows him to make connections that others would not see. (For what it’s worth, a Reform minister who read my reactions to Covenant and Creation and The Book of Kings made a mirror comment about me — I knew little enough about Reform thought to be surprising.) At his best, He defends both the Papacy and the Blessed Virgin in terms I’ve never encountered anywhere, and which have stayed with me. His discussion of baptism is interesting, though tends to a Protestant understanding of the sacraments. And when it comes to the matter of the Old Testament, Marhall is a dispensationalist, and attempts to bring this disreputable protestant theory into the Catholic mainstream.

The Royal Household

The most fascinating section is Marshall’s discussion of two offices of the Kingdom of Israel: the Royal Steward and the Queen Mother. A description of the first argument can be found in a post by Caritas et Veritas. The Royal Steward was Father to Jerusalem, and acted in the Name of the King when the King was physically not present among the people or otherwise indisposed. The Royal Steward was even capable of negotiating on behalf of the king

Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshake from Lachish, with a great army against Jerusalem, to King Hezekiah. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they had come up, they went and stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, which was on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. And when they had called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came out to them. Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust?
2 Kings 18:17-19

The Royal Stewardship itself became an Office of Prophecy, as Isaiah foresaw the Messiah would re-establish that office as well. The Royal Steward will be clothed in the robes of the Messiah himself:

‘Then it shall be in that day,
That I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah;

I will clothe him with your robe
And strengthen him with your belt;
I will commit your responsibility into his hand.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
And to the house of Judah.

The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open
.

I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place,
And he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house.
Isaiah 22:20-23

The Crucified Rabbi of the tittle appears to explicitly reference this:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:17-19

The implications are not necessarily obvious to non-Catholics: what is the Office of the Royal Steward, and what relevance would it have in Christianity are less discovered than the Bishop of Rome. But the answer may, perhaps by the same

A similar argument can of course made be for the Queen Mother, a position given both by biology and ceremony, both from thrones

Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established…

Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand. Then she said, “I desire one small petition of you; do not refuse me.”

And the king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”
1 Kings 2:19-20

and the cross

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”…

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
John 19:4-5,26-27

Old and New Baptism

Marshall seeks Old Testament fore-runners of baptism, but I disagree with his conclusions here. Indeed, the fore-runner to the sacrament of baptism is found in the New Testament… the baptism of John!

According to the Catholic Church, the baptism of John the Baptist was not the sacrament of baptism, but a Jewish tevilah preparing the Jewish people for the advent of the Messiah. John the Baptist did not administer the Christian sacrament of baptism because he did not baptize in the Trinitarian name. Moreover, the Apostles received those who had received “only the baptism of John” (c.f. Acts 19:1-4). Saint Augustine wrote, “Those who were baptized with John’s baptism needed to be baptized with the baptism of the Lord.”

The two oldest versions of the Old Testament we have are the Masoretic Hebrew edition, and the Septuagint Greek edition. While Jewish now use the Masoretic text, and Christians historically preferred the Greek, both are incomplete: the Greek text seems to have been translated from an earlier edition than the Hebrew. Marshall’s focus on the Hebrew seems to have been intended for use in dialog between Catholics and Rabbinical Jews. Thus, some discussion of baptism that would be illuminating have been left out.

For instance, in all his discussions of the Hebrew roots of baptism, he does not include this passage, with the evocative term used in the Greek translation:

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped [baptizein] seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
2 Kings 5:9-14

Christ explicitly references this, in the context of a wondrous baptism being given to a gentile but not the Jews:

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrat
Luke 4:27-28

Instead, Marshall introduces concepts from rabbinical thought but with no obvious analogue in the New Testament, such as the Great Flood turning the world into a giant Jewish washing pool.

Dispensationalism

Easily the weakest theme of the book is Marshall’s attempt to shoehorn “Dispensationalism” into Catholicism. Dispensationalism is an anti-Judaic (and, on suspects, anti-Catholic) doctrine that the Bible is the record of God repeatedly changing his mind and revoking previous promises. At an extreme, Dispensationlists encourage us to ignore the words of Jesus, as they were a last-attempt to speak to the fallen Jewish people, and a new dispensation began with the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. As with the equally dubious covenant theology, the trick becomes identifying a unit of analysis (dispensation or covenant) within a text, even though neither has historic validity, and then using it to erase everything except the most recent dispensation or covenant.

Marshall does not hide this. The current dispensation began on Pentecost. Everything before this event is a dead letter if not ratified after it:

While the Old Covenant was consummated and perfectly fulfilled at the death and resurrection of Christ, the New Law of the gospel was not promulgated until Pentecost. It was on Pentecost that the New Testament and the need for baptism became absolutely binding and necessary. Pre-Pentecostal Judaism in expectation of the Messiah was the true religion instituted by God through Abraham. Post-Pentecostal Judaism is a dead letter — a religion unknown to the pges of Sciripture.

In summary, Jewish ethnicity in itself does not save. The Old Covenant is no longer salvific.

A Protestant summary of Dispensationalism which makes this more explicit is below. Note that shared focus on revoked dispensations, and that one of the dispensations revoked are the teachings of Christ:

Two problems here. The first is if the Pentecost began a new “dispensation,” and it is for that reason the old dispensations are no longer in effect, this new “church age” would include the sacrament of communion (which for protestant dispensationlists, is indeed the case), as these words were stated before Pentecost:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Luke 22:19

As were the words of the first Maundy Thursday:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34

The second problem concerns Marhsall’s use of the phrase “no longer.” The Apostle Paul wrote that the Law always lead to death, in a way similar to Christian baptism:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Galatians 2:19-21

This is important: The Old Covenant was never salvific. That is why Christ died for us. Even the great patriarchs descended into the most pleasant parts of Hell. As Marshall writes:

Traditional Catholic teaching holds that Christ descended to “Abraham’s bosom” or Limbus Patrum — the pleasant abode of the netherworld where the Old Testament faithful waited for the coming of the Messiah. They could not yet ascend to the heavens, because Christ had not yet died on the cross.

From a legal perspective, Marshall’s dispensationalism can be rejected by looking at the history of the blood sacrifice. Elsewhere, Marshall writes “The Temple was the only place of sacrifice in the Old Covenant” — a period (or dispensation) presumably beginning shortly after the death of the first King of Israel, David, and ending on the occasion of the death of the last. Numerous blood rituals though are held outside the grounds of the Temple in Jerusalem:

Including gentile sacrifices, such as those by Job:

And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did.
Job 1:5

Including Jewish sacrifices, such as those by Moses:

And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”
Exodus 24:8

And the perfect sacrifice, the only one that could ever lead to eternal life and the resurrection of the dead

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[c] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Matthew 26:27-28

Catholicism teaches God does not revoke His promises. The Old Covenant is still in effect. But it was given to the Jews at Sinai. Some things were given to our older brothers but not to us.

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.
Pope Francis I, Evangelli Gaudium

I disagree with Marshall’s theory of revoked covenants as strongly as I thank him for introducing me to knowledge of the Royal Household. But both ideas are indicative of Marshall as a syncretic teacher, who has taken his protestant method of Biblical Analysis and tried to apply it in a Catholic frame.  This is too his credit.  Taylor Marshall writes an exhaustive blog on theological issues, if you’d like to have more familiarity with his methods and ideas.

I strongly recommend The Crucified Rabbi by Taylor Marshall. In Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote that reading of the Old Testament without understanding Judaism may do more harm than good, and The Crucified Rabbi is a good cure for this. It is a better explanation of the Old Testament than than Covenant and Creation, and more accessible to a lay reader than The Assembly of the Gods.

I read The Crucified Rabbi in the Kindle Edition.

Impressions of “Super Mario: How Nintento Conquered America,” by Jeff Ryan

Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America is a dull and non-insightful book you should avoid. Read another one instead. Or an article online. Skip it.

Jeff Ryan is the author of Super Marior: How Nintento Conqueered America, a book that was both superficial and dull. And Blake Harris was the author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation. But they are both writers with an interest in games. Both Ryan and Blake have active lefty twitter accounts. Both wrote histories of the console market that I grew up adoring.

But the books are very different. Console Wars is structured around a human history, and the author has either conducted extensive interviews or has fabricated an astonishing amount of material. Before reading Console Wars, “Sega” and “Nintendo” were just brands and machines: I grew to appreciate them as collections of people, with dreams and fears, armies that fought for my amusement. On his twitter feed earlier this year Blake Harris posted this, “There’s No Such Thing as Nintendo,” and this I think sums up the genius of Console Wars: using the messaging of pop brands to understand the human excitement, ambition, and struggle in the hidden real world.

Super Mario is almost the reverse. Very little in Ryan’s book exceeded what you can find in Wikipedia. While Blake’s Console Wars deconstructed Sonic the Hedgehog, taking the reader into the corporate politics of all who wanted to control it, Ryan reminds us it’s ridiculous for Mario to appear in a Sonic game! Console Wars included the perspective of industry titans who soured on the industry, and those who were booted out. Super Mario reminds us that Shigeru Miyamoto rode a bicycle to work!

Even though Console Wars primary follows Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinski, Nintendo is discussed in more depth in Blake’s book than Ryan’s! Indeed, a free postscript that Blake wrote for the Huffington Post arguably contains more about Nintendo’s inner workings than the whole of Ryan’s book.

Ryan’s work is also thematically inconsistent. Super Mario was published in 2012, just as gaming was entering its current culture war. It’s obvious the last few chapters of the book were written in that milleu, because only at the end of the book are the sort of faux-sociological explorations of sexism introduced. Console Wars, on the other hand, has a unity of tone and a real-life beginning which book-ends the real-life end. There’s an irony here: Ryan applauds what he imagines to be Nintendo’s efforts at avoiding the “Comic-Con” crowd: Harris wrote this a panel of the Nintendo and Sega leadership at Comic-Con.

As another blogger mentioend in a review:

There are bits of sarcasm and bite to his voice which are all-too common among the smug pop-culture journalist crowd, and there were times when it got to be a little much. Skip the parentheticals, and you’ll manage to dodge most of that (I seem to have picked a little something up from this book after all. Sorry, Jeff).

Give Super Mario a pass. Read Console Wars by Blake Harris instead.