Posts Tagged ‘Religious History’

If it seems as if you haven’t read any book reviews here lately – you haven’t.  And it’s because I’ve hardly done any reading (book reading).
Today I completed “Don’t Know Much About The Bible“, by Kenneth C. Davis (1998©).  I picked this book up last summer with the view of learning more about the basis of my Christian faith.  I got it the same day I bought “This Is My God“, which is a book summarizing / explaining the Jewish faith (see that review here).  The latter book was a “highly recommended” book in my review, and this current one is as well.  I can’t recall if I have ever read two books about religion which were as well written and fair handed in both their treatment of faith and of history.
This book, “Don’t Know Much…”, does contain some attempts at “wit” which might put some folks off, but generally, this is an excellent overview of the Bible as historical and cultural documentation.  By “historical” I mean the author attempts to put the historical errors in the Bible in their “actual” or “reasonable” time frame.  By “cultural” I mean, the author also tries to explain why a given writer of a portion of the Bible may have written what he (they) did.  The author does not attempt to explain the miracles described in the Bible, nor does he attempt to explain them away.  Mostly, he simply ignores them.  When that is not possible, he frequently simply states (or implies) that it (the event) probably just never happened that way.  The author uses a question and answer format to try to answer fundamental questions like when were the various books of the Bible written, by whom, and what were they hoping to explain (pass on to others in the faith).
If you are a Biblical Fundamentalist, this book will challenge your fundamental understanding of the universe and that is probably more than the average fundamentalist can stand.  Save your money and your sanity and don’t buy or read this book.  It is not for you.  If, on the other hand, you are an atheist or agnostic, a person of non-Christian faith, or a Christian of confident faith, you will have no problem with reading this book.  Indeed, you will put it down with a MUCH greater understanding of the Bible as a “loose” history book and an appreciation of man’s on-going efforts to try to understand his place in the universe.  In my own case, this understanding is grounded in religious faith and this book did nothing what-so-ever to shake that faith.
Early last year, I made an effort to try to read the Bible front to back.  I didn’t succeed.  Mostly, because I was spending time thinking about what I was reading and trying to figure out whether it made sense – particularly when compared to what I “thought” I’d been taught and / or believed about my Roman Catholic faith.  Concurrently, I was trying to read Isaac Asimov’s “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible“, but struggled with it as well.  As a juxtaposition, Asimov’s “Guide” was useful, but again, requires time for digestion.  Between the two books, and all the thinking, it was relatively easy to find other interests to pursue for more immediate intellectual gratification.
The bottom line is that having read (and having available for reference) these two books, I now feel in a much better position to go back and pick up where I left off in the Bible and Asimov’s work.
Conclusion, if you want to know all (well, maybe only quite a few) of the contradictions and errors of time, place and personage in the Bible, this is the book for you.  If you have faith and want to understand the historical context of the old and new testaments, this work is equally valuable.  This is not because the Bible is historically and scientifically accurate in and of itself.  It isn’t – nor should we expect it to be.  The “point” of the Bible is to explain God’s relationship with man as we have come to understand this relationship over the last 5,000 years.  That, in itself, is quite a challenge and this book makes a reasonable effort to cover this changing understanding / relationship.  Highly recommended!
And, of course, a number of quotes will find their way onto this site in the future…
On This Day In:
2013 Execution Not Intensity
2012 Charles Carroll Of Carrollton (The Only Catholic Founder)
2011 Life Works
Pay Like Hell
Prosperity Finds Its Way Up

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