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Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

by John Shelby Spong

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Could this be Spong’s best yet? Perhaps not, his books are all so powerful, but it’s definitely my new favorite. I’ve actually been looking for precisely this sort of book, so I was really excited to find it—authored by one of my favorite writers, no less!

Spong goes book-by-book in pretty much chronological order through the Bible, explaining scholars’ best guesses at each book’s origin (place, time, authorship) and the historical atmosphere out of which they were written. The idea for this collection sprang from a series of lectures Spong was invited to give, beginning in the summer of 2006, about how various Biblical books came to be written and regarded as scripture. Much of the information here was known to me already, but there was a host of new insights as well. I’ve got yellow highlighter marks all over the book! Here are some of the more interesting discussions you’ll find:

[1] The formation of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. You’ll learn more about the Documentary Hypothesis, and how scholars believe these five books came together, from the four primary sources. Not the most complete explanation, but surely the easiest to understand I’ve ever read.

[2] The “prophetic principle” (you’ll find out you had no idea what a “prophet” is) and the historic background behind the three “books” of Isaiah. Scholars are coming to the conclusion that Isaiah had not just two authors, but at least three.

[3] The “protest” literature within the Bible, and what stimulated its writing.

[4] The “national mythmakers” who preserved Israel’s history.

[5] The evolution of the Apostle Paul’s beliefs, and how he grew over time from a fiery, apocalyptic preacher into a mellow, thoughtful philosopher.

Of course, you’ll read about the Gospel story, the pastoral influence, the Johannine corpus, it’s all there and it’s all very readable. Highly recommended! ( )
1 vote DubiousDisciple | Dec 14, 2011 |
"This book is well paced, the arguments are easy to follow, and Spong accomplishes exactly what he set out to do. A compelling and thought-provoking read, especially for fans of Spong's work."
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Crystal Goldman (Nov 1, 2011)
 
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In the southern culture in which I was raised a special reverence was accorded to the book we called the "Holy Bible."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062011286, Hardcover)

For two hundred years, scholars have been analyzing one of the most important books ever written—the Bible—and overturning much of what we once thought we knew. Everyday Christians, however, are not privy to this deeper conversation. It is for these people that renowned bishop and author John Shelby Spong presents Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, a book designed to take readers into the contemporary academic debate about the Bible.

A definitive voice for progressive Christianity, Spong frees readers from a literal view of the Bible. He opens the possibility that some of the characters in the New Testament are imaginary composites or even literary creations—such as Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus; Judas Iscariot; Nicodemus; the Samaritan woman by the well; and Lazarus who was raised from the dead. He presents the Bible as an ever-changing and always growing story. He demonstrates that it is possible to be both a deeply committed Christian and an informed twenty-first-century citizen.

In this thorough, substantive guide, Spong explores the origin and essential meaning of each of the individual books in the Bible, examining the background, the context, the level of authenticity and even the trustworthiness of the messages found there. He explains why these particular books, written between two and three thousand years ago, came to be regarded as authoritative and preserved as sacred; he traces the pathway that biblical religion has traveled as it evolved through the centuries, and he shows how people have misused many of these texts in the service of their prejudices.

Reaching far beyond the familiar Sunday-school stories that have provided the content of most people’s biblical knowledge, Spong’s journey into the heart of the Bible is his attempt to call his readers into their own journeys into the mystery of God. “One does not,” he asserts, “have to twist one’s brain into a first-century pretzel in order to take the Bible seriously in this increasingly non-religious world.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:40 -0400)

Explores the origin and meaning of each book of the Bible, arguing that the text should not be regarded as authoritative and instead should be open to interpretation to accommodate the ever-changing modern world.

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