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35 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Desperate attempt to make the OT PC!, 2 May 2011
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This review is from: Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense Of The Old Testament God (Paperback)
(Warning - contains one section that some readers may find slightly offensive)

First of all (In the interests of full disclosure!) I'm writing this review as a Christian - someone who would presumably be expected to lap up every word of this book with zealous delight.

However...

I thought the first few chapters were excellent, but as the book got down to the more nitty-gritty specifics, I continually found my credulity being stretched to breaking point. It started when the author started giving 'reasons' why certain foods were kosher and some weren't. As someone who's been studying the Bible and the culture of Bible times for well over 30 years (yeah, I'm really old!) I found myself totally unconvinced.

Sometimes it feels as if the author is trying just TOO hard to make the OT more acceptable to modern sensibilities, and the results feel very laboured - they just don't ring true.

In fact, the book feels like it's based on arguments by the type of academics who desperately strive to make a name for themselves by coming up with some 'new' thesis about a bible text.

While the author claims to be taking us back to the culture of the OT world, all too often he gets caught up in issues which - while they are big deals to 21st century westerners - may not even have crossed the minds of people living in that culture.

For example, in dealing with slavery in the New Testament world, it's going MUCH too far to say that the Christians somehow 'chose' to subtly undermine the institution. I've no doubt that it WAS undermined by the Christian message, but I'm equally certain that it wasn't a deliberate agenda. The truth is, people living in that culture could no more have contemplated life without slavery than WE can imagine life without electricity.

Then, in dealing with Paul's letter to Philemon, Copan brushes aside nearly 2000 years of how Christians have understood that text, suggesting that it refers NOT to an escaped slave, but to an estranged biological brother!!!

NB - The following paragraph contains some sexual material which may be offensive to some readers - but perhaps it's better you encounter it here first, rather than after you've paid money for this book!

Possibly the most glaring instance of 'not ringing true' comes in the chapter where the author cites Jerome Walsh's theory that the punishment for a particular crime mentioned in the OT is NOT what the text plainly says (i.e., that a woman committing the crime should have her hand chopped off), but that it ACTUALLY means that she should be publicly humiliated by having her pubic hair shaved off!!!

The words 'Give Me A Break' are the only way I can respond to that!!! If you're familiar at all with the world of the OT, can you even imagine such a thing in Israel??? The author's argument that the Hebrew word 'kaph' can refer to the genital region as well as the hand is, to put it mildly, not exactly compelling.

I've no doubt this book is well-meaning, and at times it's fascinating reading (in a "YOU MUST BE KIDDING!!" kinda way) but honestly, I can't recommend it at all to anyone who's looking for a deeper understanding of the Bible. In fact, I think some of these crazy theories may actually be roadblocks on the way to that deeper understanding. Even when the book is on the right track about something, it overstates it to the point of caricature.

The bottom line - by the time you get to the end of this book, you'll be left wondering if you can believe or take ANYTHING in the Old Testament at face value.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Aug 2011 04:26:47 BDT
m pps says:
I appreciate your review but one of your statements seems a little off the mark.

"The truth is, people living in that culture could no more have contemplated life without slavery than WE can imagine life without electricity."

Having experienced short times without electricity I can imagine life without it, at least to some extent, hence I deem it as a good thing and would not work to undermine it.

Having the ability to empathise with slaves (to some extent) and deeming it as a bad thing the christians . . .?

Posted on 8 Mar 2012 17:05:51 GMT
"punishment for a particular crime mentioned in the OT is NOT what the text plainly says" This is interesting, as when arguing for a young earth, Christians are keen to emphasise that the text DOES mean exactly what it plainly says.
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