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Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A…

Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of…

by John Shelby Spong

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John Selby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before retiring to an academic career. He has written many popular books. His writing is authoritative and very clear. He tells it like it is..
For those of us brought up in a Christian atmosphere this book is refreshing in that it casts new light upon lots of myths/stories in the Old and the New Testaments - based on research of when, why and by whom the books were written.
The Bible is a mish-mash of writing from a variety of people, writers who often had an agenda and pursued their agenda through their writing.
Thus I learnt that
- the order of the books seems arbitrary and was not at all chronological
- King David is depicted as a key figure in Jewish history, a very successful military man who could play the harp, wrote psalms and was keen to do God's will. However, given that very few people were literate, stories about David and most other characters were hardly accurate and probably written to document the continuity of Jewish history. (I was interested in this because I was fresh from reading "the Secret Chord" by Geraldine Brookes, about the life of David - she borrows very heavily from the Bible)
- I noticed that there are parts of Kings and Chronicles that report exactly the same events.
In the New Testament,
- the writings of Paul precede the Gospels, and Paul doesn't mention many of the details about Jesus life, eg the Virgin birth, the parables, the miracles, the crucifixion or the resurrection. Why? We have very little evidence that they happened at all.
- these details in the Gospels were written more than 40 years after Jesus death and many of the stories of his life appear to have been borrowed from the Old Testament and kept alive within the synagogue all that time, before Christianity had a separate existence.
So I was surprised - again - to read of the lack of evidence for the Christian stories which I and many others were told as children and which are kept alive in the churches today.
The Quakers' emphasis on experience is more valuable to me than reliance on this story. However for me the Bible is an important source of inspiration and reassurance. It has much to say about hope and love, dealing with loss and desolation, speaking directly to God, compassion and community.
This book by Spong is full of interesting perspectives on the books of the Bible. He writes so well and I recommend that you at least dip into it.

Bruce Henry, VRM (Australia)
  VicRML | Jul 20, 2016 |
Spong was the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. A liberal thinker, he believes that right-wing fundamentalists have hijacked the Bible, and Christianity in general. This book, like his others, tries to enlighten the reader about the true history of the Bible and how to read it as it was meant to be read. Anon, 2007.
  DevizesQuakers | Nov 22, 2015 |
  saintmarysaccden | May 14, 2013 |
I’m sure there are hundreds of reviews by now of this book on Amazon and elsewhere, so I won’t repeat what everyone else is saying. I just want to call it to your attention.

If you’re new to Bishop Spong’s books and his liberal Christian bent, then pick this up. Published way back in 1991, it wasn’t Spong’s first book, but it’s where you want to start. In fact, this should be your starting point to understand liberal Christianity in general.

Current Biblical scholarship will shake your faith. There’s no way around it. If you open the door to studying the Bible critically, you’ll never be able to go back. Your faith will either be shattered or transformed … depending upon who shakes it.

Choose Spong. He won’t pull punches, and he’ll probably leave you with more questions than you started with, but it’s a journey that must be taken. Choose Spong, because after Spong finishes dismantling fundamentalism, he is able to rebuild your appreciation for the Bible and your faith in God (more so in his later books than in this one) … even if you never again think of God the same way. ( )
1 vote DubiousDisciple | Nov 30, 2011 |
Admirable effort of a liberal reading of the Bible. However, since I read this book, I became convinced that a 'nice' reading of the Bible (except for some passages in the new Testament) is really difficult, there is just too much nastiness in there. Through discussions with a fundamentalist friend of mine, I am half convinced that you cannot just pick and choose here. Either you take the bad with the good (as my friend does, only he thinks the bad is good), or you just take the Bible for what it is: a book written by a bunch of people who lived a long time ago with their own agenda, prejudices and ancient world-view. So, if you want to cling to your liberal Christian belief, this is the book for you. Otherwise, it's interesting, but ultimately not helpful. ( )
2 vote yapete | Jun 1, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060675187, Paperback)

By popular demand—study guides to two of Bishop John Shelby Spong's bestselling and controversial works, including questions, reflections, and summaries for group and individual use.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:08 -0400)

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