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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is another dictionary on religion, 27 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: The Message and the Book: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions (Hardcover)
I must confess that when I browsed through this book in a shop before buying it elsewhere I got the impression that it was a compilation of sacred texts from the main religions. It isn't. The title is not very helpful. In effect what it is is a dictionary about the sacred texts of many of the main religions. The information is set out in paragraph form which is deceptive. It describes the contents of texts such as how many chapters or verses they have, who wrote them or when they were possibly written and so forth. It translates the meanings of titles. The obvious question is who is it intended for?

The first three chapters are devoted to Judaism, Christianity and Islam where the writer shows a decided Anglican bias and is not at all neutral. Thus references to Roman Catholicism are couched in a distant not to say disdainful manner: Roman Catholics claim this or claim that, as if really they cannot be believed. The Pope is only the Bishop of Rome. Islam gets undermined by some historical analysis to show that its claims to veracity cannot be accepted. The same technique could easily have been directed at Judaism and Christianity. He treats the Christian claims to the one true God with naive and uncritical enthusiasm. So the Gospels are literally eyewitness accounts. Whatever happened to two hundred years of biblical scholarship? After the first three chapters he moves on to the religions of more oriental cultures where we get a bald and pedantic recital of facts about the texts. At the end of each section there is a convoluted bibliographical system where the reader is provided with a series of numbers and must go to the back of the book where these numbers are listed; then the reader is required to cross reference the numbers in the list to find the specific book being referred to.

I come back to my earlier point: who is this book marketed for? Had it a clearer format and a title that said something like: Dictionary of Sacred Texts (with bibliography appended), the reader would have a clearer idea of what they were buying. There is too much technical and pedantic information for someone doing a GCSE Religious Studies course or that endangered species, the general reader; but there is too little and too superficial information for a serious inquirer. It is first and foremost a reference book despite appearances to the contrary. But I can't envisage what person is going to refer to it; unless it is someone browsing up for a difficult pub quiz. That is why I have given it only two stars.
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Location: Bucks England

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