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Book Review: What do we do with the Bible?

This deceptively concise and inexpensive (yet beautifully produced) book, carefully and systematically and intelligently helps readers to make sense of the themes, stories and contradictions found in the Bible ‘and deepen our hope for the future’.

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Book Review: What do we do with the Bible?

by Shirley Claughton

This latest book by Richard Rohr radiates his passion for his writing. Even the cover is explicit – not an ideal book to pick up and read in a waiting room – which is what I had done – and unintentionally invited uncomfortable glances by others.

There is nothing awkward about Rohr opening with a fervent argument for ways of using the Bible ‘the way that Jesus did, and use it for good purposes’. This involves not making the text of Scripture say, ‘what you want or need it to say’, listening, trusting and watching for any subtle feelings of righteousness ‘or grabbing on to those taken-for-granted feelings of I am right and they are wrong’.

In this inspiring little book, he sprints through the historical, the midrash, other traditions of interpretation, literalism, a succinct lesson on biblical sources, then quotes Emily Dickinson and Parker Palmer, finishing this introduction with a good word for St Paul.

Hermeneutic, ‘a person’s methodology or pattern of interpreting a spiritual text’, comprises the largest section of this book, and here he seeks to provide some tools to help with good scriptural interpretation.

A spirited and more relaxed chapter, ‘What the Bible is NOT Saying’ might make lively input for any discussion group, followed by ‘the Jesus Hermeneutic’ which he sums up as he says, ‘in one naive, straightforward line: Let’s use the Bible the way that Jesus did?’

This deceptively concise and inexpensive (yet beautifully produced) book, carefully and systematically and intelligently helps readers to make sense of the themes, stories and contradictions found in the Bible ‘and deepen our hope for the future’.

Published in Messenger, October 2019


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