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Customer Review

on 5 January 2014
Two self-taught spinsters, twins, immensely rich, hunt down ancient Biblical manuscripts in the deserts of Sinai. When not thus engaged, they live in Cambridge, at first at the  fringes, later at the heart of its (admittedly snooty) academic establishment. Scots, female, informally educated, living in an era when Cambridge didn't give degrees to women (and voted to keep it that way), they nevertheless made probably the second best manuscript find of their era, the best being von Tichsendorf's discovery of the peerless codex siniaticus. 

In doing so they shored up Christian orthodoxy by decreasing the distance between the events of the Bible themselves and the documentary evidence about them. As Janet Soskice points out, finds like this torpedoed previously strong-looking arguments against Christian orthodoxy, for example in Thomas Paine's Defence of Pure Reason.

This is all super and in Janet Soskice the twins have found a robust defender and careful and thorough biographer. It's all good derring-do and you half expect them to bump into Harrison Ford and the Ark of the Covenant at any moment. I was still a little disappointed with the book, however. I felt i never knew the women. Were they dry-humoured or severe? Introverted or extrovert? Playful or fearsome? Apart from the odd very scanty reference near the end of the book to how the twins became more eccentric, there's nada nada about their personaiity  or character. Really good biographers can give us some of this stuff; Prof Soskice's book isn't quite in that top drawer. But it's a hugely worthwhile read and I hope she gets lots of plaudits for championing these two ladies -- who embody a further proof of CS Lewis' saying (I paraphrase): How boringly alike are the world's dictators; how varied and fascinating are the saints. 
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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