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Archive for August 25th, 2010

Understanding the Bible

A lot of people misuse the Bible, viewing it as a large jumble of material out of which they can pull little bits that suit them for various purposes, ignoring those parts that are inconvenient. However, if we are going to read the Scripture in a meaningful way, we need to understand the unity and content of the entirety of the Bible.

That need to see the Bible as a unity, as a cohesive whole, is what animates Walking with God: A Journey Through the Bible, by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins, which I read as part of the Catholic Company reviewer program. The book is an effort to offer a narrative that presents a “big picture” that “weaves together all the individual events and details of the Bible.” It does so by focusing on fourteen “narrative” books of the Bible, finding in them the “basic storyline of God’s revelation.” (This follows the approach of Cavins’ The Great Adventure Bible Timeline learning system.)

I applaud the aim of the book. I am also enthusiastic about any effort to encourage greater familiarity with the major stories of the Bible. The book is well-written and very accessible, drawing the reader into the events it discusses. I found many of the observations and links thought-provoking. I also found many of the side notes interspersed through the story informative and interesting.

On the other hand, I’m not convinced that the 14 book focus is sufficient to tell a cohesive story and question the relegating of the remaining fifty-nine books of the Bible to “supplemental” status. Although it is true that in using Luke, for example, as the primary Gospel story, the authors do make reference to the other Gospels, there is still material I would consider more than supplemental that is of necessity left out in such an approach.

More bothersome to me is that I found some of the links the authors drew between episodes to be forced and some of the assertions about why things occurred to be…well..mere assertions. (I particularly had that reaction during the story of Abraham.)

Having said that, the authors explicitly say that they make no claim that their interpretation represents the consensus of scripture scholars or is an interpretation that must be accepted by faithful Catholics. Rather, because the Bible is the living Word of God, they offer what they believe is a fresh interpretation would considering. With that, I have no disagreement.

Despite my quibbles, I think the book is a good aid for those seeking to get a broader context for the major movements of the Bible.

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