The Book

Bruce Springsteen’s words and music have been part of the American landscape for nearly half a century, and are today cherished by millions worldwide. Indeed, Springsteen has been known to inspire religious devotion among his fans, and his shows with the E Street Band are often compared to a revivalist congregation. However, there has not been a comprehensive scholarly study of the biblical and theological motifs in Springsteen’s lyrics.

Until now.

Reading Springsteen’s songs as one would a poem, The Grace of God and the Grace of Mansheds new light on Springsteen’s work. The book’s first section examines the theological overtones of Springsteen’s early albums, focusing on his critique of traditional religious institutions and the promise of this-worldly salvation through romantic love and the open road. This trajectory in Springsteen’s writing reaches an exhilarating apex in Born to Run, only to be methodically dismantled in the subsequent Darkness on the Edge of Town. The second section of the book examines the ways in which Springsteen reworks three traditional terms in his work after Darkness on the Edge of Town: sin, grace, and the struggle within. Drawing on songs from across Springsteen’s later work, the book demonstrates that Springsteen consistently situates these terms in the lived struggle to overcome the forces that pull us away from our better selves. Sin is the surrender to these forces, and grace the blessings that come from overcoming them; both result from the struggle within. The third and final section, “Springsteen’s Midrash,” examines songs that explicitly interpret biblical passages, including “Into the Fire,” “Adam Raised a Cain,” and the hauntingly beautiful “Jesus Was an Only Son.” 


Reviews

Fans gather at Bruce concerts for the rock and roll — but often, too, for his rousing affirmation of those things that last: faith, hope, love. The author of this brilliant book understands this, and, like Bruce, invites his readers to think — and sing — along. Highly recommended.
— Paul J. Contino, Professor of Great Books, Pepperdine University
Students of Springsteen have long recognized the importance of religious themes in his music, but no one has probed the theological depths of his work as fully and imaginatively as Azzan Yadin-Israel. The Grace of God and Grace of Man is essential reading for fans and scholars alike.
— Louis P. Masur, author of Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision
[A] marvelous explication of Springsteen’s lyrics as they allude to the Bible and discuss religious themes. Yadin-Israel shows how Springsteen’s ideas on religion have evolved over the decades, and he analyzes Springsteen’s lyrics with sensitivity and depth, even as he writes in a user-friendly and approachable way.
— Benjamin D. Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages, the Jewish Theological Seminary

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