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Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth and the Treatment of Women by a Male-Dominated Church Paperback – September 17, 1994
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Spong restores a flesh-and-blood humanity to the mother of Jesus.” (Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy)
“A marvelous combination of scholarly, speculative, and imaginative reflection written in language accessible to the theologically unsophisticated. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)
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Top Customer Reviews
Bishop Spong's books have opened my mind and allowed me to look at what being a Christian really means. Being a Christian doesn't hinge on believing that Mary was a virgin or that Jesus was resurrected. It is based on how you live your life.
This book brought tears to my eyes because it affirmed my right to question the things I was told to accept without question.
The core of this book is Bishop Spong's combination of the few clues in the Bible with the intellectual and political currents of the day in the early church, and how they effected the moulding of the traditions we know today as the "Christmas Story" and the "Virgin Birth".
When he has finished his interesting analysis, he then adds a final chapter to discuss how he feels the developing concept of the "purity of Mary" has influenced the state of women in the centuries since, to the present day. While this is somewhat disconnected from the rest of the book, it builds on the lessons of the previous chapters, and opens up the possibility of dialog on the subject.
There is no question that this book has and will offend many Christians, but for those who are intellectually curious and like to think "out of the box", this book is a treat.
It was therefore a huge relief to find a theologian (and a Bishop!) who espoused the same doubts as myself, and who didn't see anything wrong with rationalism, or even being an intellectual. If Christianity is to survive it needs more people like Bishop Spong.
The book brings a reasoned, historical and thoughtful approach to bear on the issue of the Incarnation and comes to an interesting conclusion that salvages much of the mystery and majesty of Christ, while ditching the myth. It will be challenging reading for traditionalists, but they should not find their faith damaged. If anything their faith should be deepened by the removal of mythological crutches. For doubters the book should be a revelation, and make Christianity look rather more attractive.
The book is divided into 5 basic parts. Chapters 1 and 2 are general in nature and discuss biblical scholarship. Chapters 3 to 5 discuss the Pauline and pre Gospel traditions. Chapters 6 to 10 are devoted to Matthew and Luke. Chapter 11 deals with Mark and John, and the remaining chapters discuss the two Marys. The notes are limited, as is the bibliography.
Throughout the book Spong continues to hammer his point that the gospels are neither history nor biography, and must be understood within their theological and symbolic contexts. Spong is right in this regard, although his own context is relatively narrow and he rarely discusses the broader issues (e.g., the astronomical background to much of the gospel texts, the influence of mystery religions, the roman/jewish interface, etc.). He can rarely be faulted for what he does say, although one might have wished that he perused some areas in more detail.
The section on Matthew covers several issues:
- On the four (sinful, foreign) women, Spong believes that "irregular sexual activity initiated by the action of the Spirit [that] enabled the promise of Israel to move forward" is what unites these women's stories and links them to Mary.
- He believes that Matthew's midrash tradition of prophesy was mistaken by later Christians to be literalized.Read more ›
The reader of this opus does not have to agree with the author's conclusions. For those, like me, who feel the need to embody Christian principles in real life as important contributions to human(e) endeavor but feel skeptical in the face of literal interpretation of Biblical stories, Spong provides a lens to view the information authored nearly two thousand years ago that is refreshing and revealing. Undoubtedly, his perspective is not totally original but it is very useful to me and I think it will be to many others.
I have seen just a bit of the orthodox and fundamantalist critics of Spong's work. I can understand their points intellectually but I cannot agree with some of their intolerence toward adjusting our understanding of Biblical meaning and Christian faith as civilization unavoidably marches on.
For insight as to my thoughts as I read this book: I believe in the approach to the Bible that emphasizes seeking an answer to "What does the story mean?" Personally, I am not very interested (any more) in "Why did it happen?" or "Is it literally true?" Spong's book is aimed at impressing folks who recognize the differences among these questions and want to seek answers to all of them.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Best religious book I've read. Highly admire the author. A must for anyone interested in Christian religion.Published 19 days ago by Honni
Excellent book. Makes you reconsider your faith. Every Christian should read it. Amazing helpful study. Britt Towery, pastor and missionary.Published 3 months ago by Britt E. Towery
Voltaire observed that if religion can make you believe absurdities it can make you commit atrocities. Read morePublished 5 months ago by callahanstudio
A good book, although it would depend on if you are a Progressive Christian, or a Conservative as to how you receive it.Published 7 months ago by Maxine Wegner
I really like/love anything by this author. Only one of his books would rate 2-3 stars, and that is his most recent work. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Bushop Spong approaches the subjects that most clergypersons fear to get near, and he does it so eloquently.Published 16 months ago by rev t
While reading this I had to keep referencing the Bible for guidance throught the book. Really not sure where John Spong is going with this book as he seems to be on the fence with... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Karen S. Augustsson
This is a terrific book, one of the best of its genre for my tastes and where I am in my quest for the historical Jesus. Bishop Spong is a genius with words and comparisons, e.g. Read morePublished on September 29, 2013 by Nanvan