Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World
By John Shelby Spong
HarperOne, Hardcover, 9780062011282, 414pp.
Publication Date: November 2011
List Price: $28.99*
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For two hundred years, scholars have been analyzing one of the most important books ever writtenthe Bibleand overturning much of what we once thought we knew. Everyday Christians, however, are not privy to this deeper conversation. It is for these people that renowned bishop and author John Shelby Spong presents Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, a book designed to take readers into the contemporary academic debate about the Bible.
A definitive voice for progressive Christianity, Spong frees readers from a literal view of the Bible. He opens the possibility that some of the characters in the New Testament are imaginary composites or even literary creationssuch as Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus; Judas Iscariot; Nicodemus; the Samaritan woman by the well; and Lazarus who was raised from the dead. He presents the Bible as an ever-changing and always growing story. He demonstrates that it is possible to be both a deeply committed Christian and an informed twenty-first-century citizen.
In this thorough, substantive guide, Spong explores the origin and essential meaning of each of the individual books in the Bible, examining the background, the context, the level of authenticity and even the trustworthiness of the messages found there. He explains why these particular books, written between two and three thousand years ago, came to be regarded as authoritative and preserved as sacred; he traces the pathway that biblical religion has traveled as it evolved through the centuries, and he shows how people have misused many of these texts in the service of their prejudices.
Reaching far beyond the familiar Sunday-school stories that have provided the content of most peoples biblical knowledge, Spongs journey into the heart of the Bible is his attempt to call his readers into their own journeys into the mystery of God. One does not, he asserts, have to twist ones brain into a first-century pretzel in order to take the Bible seriously in this increasingly non-religious world.
“Brings biblical scholarship to those who sit in church pews, but without getting bogged down in debates about biblical minutiae .... This book is well paced, the arguments are easy to follow, and Spong accomplishes exactly what he set out to do. A compelling and thought-provoking read.”
“Spong tours Christianity’s sacred text, leaving little unexamined and [much] demythologized as he urges Christians to grow up and take the Bible seriously—just not literally. Spong . . . has the gift and motivation for making biblical scholarship accessible; he writes with charity and clarity.”
“Spong here achieves what may be his most reader friendly, helpful book . . . a wonderful, illuminating adjunct to anyone’s Bible study.”
“A masterful reading of these texts that have shaped the Western world. This book is filled with insights from a lifetime of deep engagement with Scripture. Highly recommended!”
-Gregory C. Jenks, author of The Once and Future Bible
“Bishop Spong has built a much-needed bridge between the academy and the pews. Pulsing beneath his brilliant, thought-provoking, passionate book is this question: Can Christianity survive the education of its believers?—a question he answers with a resounding yes.”
-Sarah Sentilles, Author of Breaking Up with God: A Love Story
“In Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, Spong offers a way for critical and curious readers to discover the exquisite and profound ways the Bible can, in fact, lead towards abundant life. After a decade of feeling banished by the Bible, I am now drawn back.”
-Katie Ford, Author of Deposition and Colosseum
“If your addiction is the shallow, narrow, literal interpretation of the Bible doled out by most churches, then you need an intervention. Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religous World is like a treatment center in a box.”
-Rev. David Felten & Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, creators of the Living the Questions series
“A master teacher and story teller, Spong brings the best of current scholarship to free the books of the Bible from Sunday School naïveté and literalistic interpretations. The result is an introduction to the Bible that will engage readers who no longer sit in church pews.”
-Andrew D. Scrimgeour, Drew University, editor of Just Call Me Bob: The Wit and Wisdom of Robert W. Funk
“Bishop Spong’s newest book is not only for the ‘non-religious’ but it will find its way into churches, study groups, seminaries and the seekers. This book should renew a sincere interest in the biblical story that for too long has been lost in our corporate ignorance.”
-Fred C. Plumer, President, ProgressiveChristianity.org