What is so good about “The Good Book”?

I am sure that I am late to this discussion, but this morning I was catching up on some podcasts. A great one that I think you will really like is PRI’s The World in Words. As the title implies, it is about words, language, and rhetoric around the world. The podcast I was listening to this morning was from December 12, 2011 and is about the Bible, the brain, and religion. There were several interesting assertions such as Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs asserting that Hebrew, and other right-left languages, are right-brained whereas left-right languages are left brained, thus Christianity is more of an “evidenced based” religion. Is this a commonly held belief? I had not come across it before, I have to confess.

The other interview was with British philosopher A. C. Grayling and former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London Giles Fraser. They were discussing Grayling’s The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, which is just what its title suggests. What I wanted your opinion on is why anyone should consider this a “version” of the Bible? (As it was presented by the BBC’s John Humphrys who moderated the discussion.) Listen to the discussion which opens with a comparison of Gen. 2:15-17 with the opening lines of Grayling’s work.

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

The Good Book

Chapter 1

1. In the garden stands a greed. In the springtime it bears flowers; in the autumn, fruit.

2. Its fruit is knowledge, teaching the good gardener how to understand the world.

3. From it he 1Not very progressive is he? learns how the tree grows from seed to sapling, from sapling to maturity, at last ready to offer more life;

4. And from maturity to age and sleep, whence it returns to the element of things.

5. The elements in turn feed new births, such is nature’s method, and its parallel with the course of humankind.

Of course this is not a translation or even a version of Genesis. It contains “truths” that I would suggest one could glean from the Bible and through natural revelation. This book that Grayling “modestly” offers (as the Canon pointed out, how modest can you be with your name on the spine of a book calling itself a “Bible”?) is intended to be a moral guide and text. Fraser rightly points out that the Bible is much more thank being about morality, it is about salvation. When Humphry said, but isn’t being saved all about doing good he was quickly corrected by Fraser. In fact, Fraser made my favorite point about the Bible, it is about real life and people, it is violent and messy with lots of things going on. That, to me, makes it far more compelling than a moral treatise (although the latter is no doubt better for battling insomnia).

Clearly Grayling is simply generating sales with the title of his book and perhaps it is the BBC’s fault for presenting this as a face-off between the KJV and the “Humanist Bible.”  Still, it irks me that this should be presented as a “version” of the Bible. Its not.

On the other hand, I can firmly recommend the version of the Bible that my daughter gave me for Christmas: The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament. This is the print version of BP Smith’s http://www.thebricktestament.com/. This is as valid a version as the many graphic novels out there (or R. Crumb’s Genesis). I recommend it, but it is not the complete Old Testament. Ruth is missing, for example. And Smith has made certain interpretations with which I disagree. For example, he seems to depict Jonathan and David’s love for another as something more erotic than platonic. True, 1 Sam. 20:41 does say that they kissed and we know that they had a love for one another that went beyond that of a man for a woman and it is very much the trend to interpret this as a sexual relationship, but I am not convinced of that. My point? Not so much that Smith’s representation is wrong but that we can have a discussion about his interpretation. We cannot do that with Grayling’s “version” which isn’t.


LEGO Builders 1 — Philosophers 0

  • 1
    Not very progressive is he?

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