Saturday, April 05, 2008

Been ages since...

...I did a book review

Here's one that came on my jaunt to Paris last weekend. It's a very well written, well researched book, which gives a massive (and well informed) overview of how the Jewish and Christian Scriptures came to us.

Talking about origins, construction, with historical and sociological insight, alongside a consideration of how Scripture has been viewed and used over the past twenty or more centuries, Karen Armstrong presents a beautifully crafted and accessible insight into exactly what the Bible is, where it comes from and the many different understandings of how it should be used, studied, considered and critiqued which have accompanied its development. Some of a more conservative bent might be concerned by the way she states as matter of fact that, for instance, Genesis has no concern to be a literal work, or that other compilers of scripture freely contradict, re-interpret and re-cycle each others ideas. It does present, though, a pretty dispassionate, though thought provoking argument to make us consider again exactly what the Bible is and how we use it today.

It talks in detail about what Christians call the 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament' - considering exactly how the books that make up the Jewish and Christian 'Canons' got to be where they are. There is a lot of background, but it is never dry and never boring.

A bit too much talking about kaballah for my liking, just because I found the in-depth analysis rather dense in that particular section (its only a few pages in a 225 page book), but overall an enlightening and well worth reading book. I think lots of people who think they know the Bible would benefit from finding out a bit more about where it comes from, and how different strands and traditions within the Christian Church (and the Jewish faith) have viewed the authority and usefulness of the Bible over the centuries.

A five star book (out of five) in my opinion!

4 comments:

Dr.John said...

I'll pass. I had all that stuff in seminary.

quilly said...

O'Ceallaigh might like this. I'll run it by him.

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the amoeba said...

I'm wondering if the person who is delving into these matters for the first time might be better served with something like the Harper-Collins Study Bible. This study Bible has (I infer) the same concerns as Armstrong's book, but provides snapshots from a range of (NB) historically-oriented scholars on each biblical book plus many other aspects of scholarship. However valuable a single viewpoint may be, it is still a single viewpoint. And that worries me somewhat. A person with one watch knows what time it is, if you catch my drift.