While some traditionalists maintain that the bible is the absolute and literal word of god, the question of the bible's authenticity is something that liberal believers and non-believers alike have been struggling with for generations.
At the heart of How to Read The Bible, however, author Richard Holloway stresses that gaining insight and wisdom from the Bible should not be dependent on whether or not one believes that it is the ultimate word of god. In fact, he maintains that the stories in the Bible contain intrinsic value and wisdom. Holloway asserts that this wisdom, whether based on historical facts or not, can be of great use to both non-believers and believers alike.
In his introduction, Holloway writes that "the trouble with all thinking about God is that it is an unavoidable human process, and one of the things we know about ourselves is that we inescapably project something of ourselves onto whatever we think about... that is why it is wise of those who believe in a real God to recognize that he can only come to them filtered through the lens of their own fallible humanity." In this light, Holloway suggests that our quest to know and understand god "reveals inside information about the nature of humanity."
Each of the book's ten chapters uses direct quotes from the bible to touch upon a new theme. Though Holloway nudges us in the direction of mythical analysis, he offers the reader the opportunity to draw his or her own conclusions as to the stories'metaphorical significance and their inherent wisdom. As a reader, this approach offers a breath of fresh air in a world that is laden with an overabundance of those who seek to push their own spiritual views both "left" and "right" onto others. Another quality of the book that speaks of the authors experience and strong handle on the subject (he is a former Bishop of Edinburgh, after all) is how Holloway effortlessly links passages from the old testament to the new. Although each chapter is based on a particular passage in the bible, Holloway shows us how certain key themes pertaining to original sin from the book of Genesis, for example, present themselves right through to the story of Paul. In this particular example, he even goes so far as to connect this story to current western views on sexual and gender politics with regard to the distribution of respect or the lack thereof.
Through the progressing chapters, Holloway takes us on an adventurous whirlwind of thematic connections, drawing parallels between Moses and another reluctant modern day Hollywood hero portrayed by Clint Eastwood. He references ideas of morality and social egalitarianism presented in the book of Deuteronomy and shows how they are reconfigured in modern literature by authors such as E.M. Forster. He then goes back and shows us through the story of Amos how a god, who now has a strong sense of sympathy and compassion for humanity (and the underdog in particular), has a character that is morphing in concert with social progressions.
An echo in this book is that although the bible does not offer answers to man's suffering, a creative examination into man's relationship to his community as well as to his relationship with an ever-evolving god can certainly inspire hope. At only 120 pages, the book is fast-paced. One may say that its anecdotes, arguments, and thematic ties, are bite-sized; though true, these small portions do not leave the reader feeling unsatisfied. To the contrary, the author accomplishes his goal, which is to inspire a deep interest in playfully and enthusiastically investigating the bible for more insights. This is quite a feat given that I, a jaded parochial school alumnus, had previously written the bible off as quaint at best.
The above review was contributed by Dan Goldman. Danis a musician and music teacher. He's recently finished producing a CD that features his own songs about prehistoric sharks, child criminals, under ground rivers and reluctant biblical heroes. He can often be seen meditating, improvising tasty recipes, or riding his bike in -20 weather. He covets his very charming apartment in Kensington market,Toronto.
To read more about Richard Holloway and his books click on images below (Note: May not work with all browsers)
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