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Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2011
I have read many of Spong's books all of which have inspired a renewal in my faith and offered me a vision that appeals to my intellect and rationality. This book is of no exception and is potentially his best. In a methodical and incisive manner Spong moves through the books of the Bible offering insights into their history and context whilst at the same time maintaining his ability to captivate the reader with his eloquent writing style. I recommend it to the reader who is interested in understanding where the latest scholarly research has reached together with the reader who wants to grapple with humanity's struggle to understand who and what God is and where this struggle will lead us.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2012
I love John Spong's books, and this one is a very good introduction to all the books of the Bible, helping us to appreciate them and be inspired by them without being oppressed by the need to believe everything in them. Unfortunately, it lets itself down in places with some silly mistakes that can only come from hasty writing. For example, in his imaginative re-telling of the story of David and Bathsheba (p 73) he says that the reader is not told that Bathsheba was a married woman until after we hear of her pregnancy: this is not so. On page 190 he says that Lamentations comes before Jeremiah, though he has rightly said earlier on the same page that it comes after Jeremiah. He also refers to Jairus (p 279) as 'a Gentile', though the text says he was one of the leaders of the synagogue (or am I missing something?).
I also find rather irritating his anachronistic references to 'Jews'. He refers to Abraham as the founder of the Jewish nation (p 21), and to the kingdom of Israel as 'a Jewish state' that traced its Jewish roots primarily back to Joseph (p 26). This is probably deliberate simplification, but in my opinion it is over-simplification. The 'Jews' were the people of Judah, who claimed descent from Jacob's son Judah. There is no way Judah's great-grandfather or his brothers could be Jews. Even in an introduction to the Bible meant for lay people, to explain the difference between 'Israelites' and 'Jews' is surely not too complicated.
Spong's relating of the form of the Synoptic Gospels to the annual round of synagogue worship is interesting, but not always well explained. I simply could not follow what he was saying about the Sermon on the Mount being a commentary on the Beatitudes in inverse order, in spite of his calling it 'a perfect fit' (p 332).
So thank you, Bishop Spong. Carry on giving us the benefit of your bold theology and fascinating insights, but please take a bit more time to explain yourself, and maybe get yourself a better proof-reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2013
I own and have read 12 books by Bishop J S Spong. That means I think I have an inkling of who he is and what he is about and .. by good fortune I met him in London several years ago. Bishop Spong does not require us to agree with all that he has offered and indeed occasionally makes the point that closed dogma is not the way. From the first of his books that I read - ' Born of a Woman ' I have enjoyed his writings, they have expanded my own thinking and they have in some measure crystallised ideas of my own that I've pondered over.

I frequently commend his books to preachers, not because they claim to be definitive, not because I fully agree with everything he writes but because they offer something of value and insight from a life-time study of the bible. He writes for ordinary people and in everyday language and manages no doubt often to shock people, especially if they are new to the subject, but he never fails to challenge and inspire..

This is the twelfth book I have read by Bishop Spong and for me it's the icing on a cake I've enjoyed eating. In order to expand our understanding we all need to engage with varied perspectives, Bishop Spong often brings a fresh perspective and helps us to do this.
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on 24 February 2014
Just as I was becoming amazed with the information Bishop Spong was providing I started finding things that he had missed and others that deeper study would have revealed more accurate information. Perhaps it was because he followed preconceived ideas about what he was studying that he didn’t look deep enough. I then thought about some of the new “facts” that he presented. How do I know that they are all valid? May some also be errors? He provided no witnesses. (Proofs or references for anyone to check what he wrote for themselves). They were all presented as his unquestionable conclusions.
For example he says that Mark the first Gospel must have been written after 70CE when the temple had been destroyed. However there is a papyrus fragment from a scroll of “Mark” that was recovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls in the collapsed Cave 7 in 1966 which must have been there before the Romans destroyed the Essenes in 68 CE. There is another find of three papyrus fragments from the book of Matthew found in Luxor, Egypt that has been dated to before 62 CE. (This is in Magdalen College Library, Oxford, UK). The second Goat at Yom Kippur was not freed in the wilderness but was thrown down the steep cliffs of Mount Azazel in the wilderness and killed. Mishnah Yoma vi. 6, 8; Ta'an. Jesus was buried on Nissan 14 and rose 3 days later at the end of the weekly Sabbath. On Nissan 17 just as Nissan 18 was dawning (6pm our time). I’m sure he would have been presented with these dates before. The Greek word for the Preparation day for Sabbath was "Friday" because it was always followed by the Saturday.

Bishop Spong himself quoted Thessalonians 5:21 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” ( KJV) But provided a task that would have been a lot easier if he had provided his witnesses.

David R Freeman
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2013
This is Spong at his best. I read him when I was at University and Seminary. Few Theologians manage to get there stuff stocked on the shelves of major bookshops. Spong seems to manage it without loosing any of his power. He is asking the questions that people are asking. He is seldom dull and always a challenge.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2012
Bishop Spong is a man with a mission - to disabuse Christians and, in this case, non-Christians of old-fashioned ideas and replace them with something modern. This leads him in the case of this book to attempt a very ambitious layman-level introduction to the main books of the Bible, and its overall structure. For me the book does not really succeed in its objective; much of the introductory material is informed with a sort of quirkiness which results from Bishop Spong's evangelically unorthodox position. He has a theory, for instance, about the Jewish liturgical structure of the synoptic gospels which is interesting but does not give any notion of the broad field of interpretations that exists. That being said, this is an interesting and in its way admirable attempt to breath fresh air into an old subject.
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on 21 January 2014
Spong goes through the Bible from start to finish, drawing on substantial scholarship to present the scriptures in a new and exciting light in 59 very short and readable chapters. This is a valuable biblical handbook for those who seek to read the scriptures in a non-literal manner and is a thought-provoking 'take' on the biblical narrative to interest readers in general. A breath of theological fresh air.
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on 21 January 2014
As with Bishop Spong's other books they address issues that have been hidden from view behind ecclesiastical doors for far too long and offer the reader a thoughtful and illuminating insight. This, of all his books which I've read, seems to point even more clearly to the need for a 'new theology' which he believes is necessary if 21st century Christians are to be rid of the shackles of the past.
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