There's an interesting interview with Harold Bloom now available from the archives of NPR. He doesn't say anything that hasn't already been said by many others of his ilk. He talks in a general and superficial way about the texts of the Old and New Testament and the ways in which modernist textual criticism has demythologized the stories of Jesus and Yahweh. He paraphrases Nietzsche several times during the course of the interview with a curious use of the phrase "human, all too human", and indeed his reading of the biblical texts appears to have been influenced by some of the same intellectual impulses that motivated Nietzsche. So there's not much in the interview that will be very surprising or informative to anyone interested in a new take on the scriptural texts.
What is fascinating about the interview, however, and what makes it far and away very much worth listening to, is the strange sense of despair and abandonment that runs throughout the interview. At the very beginning of the piece, and then again in the closing moments, we hear a Bloom that we don't often get to hear--a real, live, personal Bloom. Unless he is being ironic (always a possibility with a mind like Bloom's) these parts of the interview reveal a great deal about the rest of the interview. If we take what he says at face value, then it becomes clear that Harold Bloom is not a happy man, and that his unhappiness is due primarily to his inability to believe in--to trust in, in his words--the God of the Old Testament. Forget questions about the historicity of the Gospel accounts of Jesus (in fact he trusts only Mark, when it comes to that): for Bloom the worry is that the God of Moses has never been available in the Covenant with his People. He chastises Israel again and again for abandoning Him, but He has abandoned Israel utterly. This makes him untrustworthy.
Now, it's easy to hear something like that and think to yourself, well here's one more instance of someone falling victim to the so-called Problem of Evil. But it isn't that simple--Bloom's despondency sounds to me as though it goes much deeper than that, though certainly the Problem of Evil is playing a role here. But in some ways the gloom of Bloom sounds much more personal, as though he has done his best to make sense of his religion (he is a nominal Jew) in a spirit of genuine enquiry, and has found it impossible to get out of it what he seems to think somebody, somewhere, is expecting him to get out of it. And he is unhappy about that. I can't tell whether he is angry about it, but he is clearly unhappy, if we are to take his words seriously--he complains at the end of the interview that (I paraphrase him here, but it is virtually a quotation) Yahweh will not "leave him alone", Yahweh comes to him in dreams and wakes him up at night.
For the life of me I cannot make light of that, even though I don't believe for a minute that Yahweh is coming to him in his dreams and waking him up. This is a very sad man, and as much as I find his sort of textual exegesis execrable, I listened to this interview with a profound sense of sadness--sadness for all those like Bloom, who are unhappy about God, the very thing that ought to make a person happy if he understands Him correctly.
And therein lies an irony. Bloom's sort of exegesis is very scholarly, of course, and he approaches the biblical texts the way many scholars would approach any other literary text. For him this is the only way to approach a text--as a scholar. For him, as, I suspect, for many scholars like him, it is simply not possible to approach a written source in any other way. Folks who work professionally on Plato have first hand experience of the tension that can sometimes exist between a text and what the text is "about", because Plato's philosophical writings are almost all (there are one or two exceptions) in the form of literary dialogues, where it is impossible to extricate the philosophical arguments from the philological entanglements. Anyone who wants to work on Plato will have to be able to engage in textual criticism as well as logical analysis. This is not true in quite the same way for an author like Aristotle, for instance, or Aquinas. Aquinas holds, at the very outset of his Summa theologiae, that philosophy cannot give you what revelation can, that is, infallible truths about God--so naturally Bloom will not find any comfort in scholarship alone. But sadly for him that is the only path he knows. He is like the reductive materialist, who cuts himself off from the real truths of nature by adopting, a priori a method and a view of nature that is as incapable of discovering the truth about nature as a blind man is of discovering the difference between blue and red.
Boethius, famously, wrote that philosophy is supposed to be a consolation. But in the testimony of Harold Bloom we see that it cannot be so, at least not always, not with any sort of guarantee. Together with revelation, philosophy can be a comfort, as Aquinas also held in the first Article of the Summa. But human understanding, all on its own, cannot see what is hidden from it. Indeed, as many of Bloom's remarks in the interview show, human understanding is easily mislead by its own proclivities. It is not at all hard to see why Bloom is so sad, nor is it at all hard to feel great compassion for him. One can only hope that he finds some kind of peace eventually.