This one’s for you if you’d like to understand more about the Bible.

As humans, we live quite happily in the knowledge that we all have favourite colours that differ, favourite singers that differ, favourite clothes and shops that differ, hobbies and interests that differ, favourite foods and drinks that differ. I could go on but I think you get the gist. For some reason we just can’t quite accept that we have different tastes when it comes to faith. I read this book in an effort to deepen my understanding of the Christian faith. There was no particular reason for picking the Bible over the religious text of any other religion, it just so happened that this book caught my eye, partly because the author has gone through periods of being both religious and an atheist. Having come to the realisation that the Bible can mean very different things to different people within Christianity, I immediately felt ignorant that I had thought of people within a faith as uniform in some way. Which takes you back to my first sentence. Round and round in circles, appreciating the diversity of human culture. Something to celebrate. To rejoice in. To respect and have compassion for. Now more than ever before. Read these quotes to the end- the last two will reinforce this message.

“None of these documents [New Testament writings] provide more than fragmentary hints of what the actual historical Jesus did or said…They are gifts of an inherited tradition of faith. They are not ‘research materials’: they are the living words of an already existing tradition, which worships Christ as redeemer.” p20

Reading the New Testament “the understanding can never grow unless, as in the middle of a baffling foreign liturgy, we allow it to speak to us, rather than imposing our prejudices and presuppositions upon it.”p22

“No doubt the religiously based conflicts in the world originated for any number of psyschological, historical and sociological reasons…fought between people who entertained different views on the Bible. And these views were not based on reasonable difference. The bitterest wars, the bloodiest battles, were fought between people of near- total ignorance.”p29

On fundamentalists who take the Bible’s words literally. “Obscure bits of the Bible, perhaps scratched on a piece of papyrus in the second century BC, relating to some Bronze Age myth, were seriously produced, in the US and GB, as reasons for objecting to medical research, or liberalisation of certain laws. Questions about how we could teach our children science are also obscured by arcane twisting of the Bible, to make it a geological or a biological textbook, set up in competition against the discoveries of post- 1850 scientists.” p30

Religious fundamentalists:“they expect other people to live their lives in a particular way because of their crazy way of interpreting the Bible.” p40/1

“because they do not read the Bible, because they do not read it over and over again as their forebears did, and live in it, these anti Godders and secularists have forgotten, totally, what the experience of reading the Bible is actually like”p46

“One the one hand, the written- still more the engraved- word has authority. It conveys, and reflects, power. Write something down and we are beginning to move towards a time when it is unchangeable”. To provide some context, the author was discussing the effect of making the Bible into a book. While this made it accessible to everyone who could read, it did away with the religious authorities who guarded its metaphorical meaning. p77

“Those who regard it as mental poison blind themselves to the forcefulness of religion as a power for good against monstrous injustices.” p84

“the really disturbing thing about the Book of Job, as about the Bible as a whole, is its refusal to answer the questions which it so honestly and devastatingly puts.” p108

“Rather than allowing these words to infuse their imaginations, some human beings would prefer to read the Bible ‘literally’, deriving from it not just the false impressions but shutting themselves off, not merely from an understanding of the Bible, but an understanding of anything at all.” p120

“But are we going to throw away all our religious inheritance, and two and a half thousand year of shared reading of the Bible, because we can’t be bothered to read it imaginatively?” p122

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”p168

“Reading is always a two stage process, even if you are reading a newspaper or a cheap crime story: there is the process of you absorbing the text, and of the text itself working some performative act…making her or him a different person.” 183

“The Bible is the Book of the People, and we understand it by listening to what other people have made of it. Some of these people are so different from us that it is quite inconceivable that we shall ever think in exactly their way. This does not mean we have nothing to learn from them…they were human too, and some of their insights can help us.” p187

“It contains much that is puzzling, much that is repellant, much that is alarming, as does the human soul.” p191