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Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World Hardcover – November 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062011286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062011282
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.” (Library Journal)

“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.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Spong here achieves what may be his most reader friendly, helpful book . . . a wonderful, illuminating adjunct to anyone’s Bible study.” (Booklist)

“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)

From the Back Cover

For two hundred years, scholars have been analyzing one of the most important books ever written—the Bible—and 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 creations—such 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 people’s biblical knowledge, Spong’s 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 one’s brain into a first-century pretzel in order to take the Bible seriously in this increasingly non-religious world.”


More About the Author

John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey for twenty-four years before his retirement in 2000. He is one of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity and has been featured on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, FOX News Live, and Extra. This book is based on the William Belden Noble lectures Spong delivered at Harvard.

Customer Reviews

Spong presents some realism into the Bible without destroying its sacredness.
Molly E. Hahn
I read this when it first came out and, once again, marveled at Bishop Spong's knowledge and interpretation of the historical foundations of each book of the Bible.
James D. Held
A very interesting book, one which everyone should read who has a problem with what the Bible has to say, and how it says it!
Gordon Wright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Dubious Disciple on December 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Could this be Spong's best yet? Perhaps not, his books are all so powerful, but it's definitely my new favorite. I've actually been looking for precisely this sort of book, so I was really excited to find it--authored by one of my favorite writers, no less!

Spong goes book-by-book in pretty much chronological order through the Bible, explaining scholars' best guesses at each book's origin (place, time, authorship) and the historical atmosphere out of which they were written. The idea for this collection sprang from a series of lectures Spong was invited to give, beginning in the summer of 2006, about how various Biblical books came to be written and regarded as scripture. Much of the information here was known to me already, but there was a host of new insights as well. I've got yellow highlighter marks all over the book! Here are some of the more interesting discussions you'll find:

[1] The formation of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. You'll learn more about the Documentary Hypothesis, and how scholars believe these five books came together, from the four primary sources. Not the most complete explanation, but surely the easiest to understand I've ever read.

[2] The "prophetic principle" (you'll find out you had no idea what a "prophet" is) and the historic background behind the three "books" of Isaiah. Scholars are coming to the conclusion that Isaiah had not just two authors, but at least three.

[3] The "protest" literature within the Bible, and what stimulated its writing.

[4] The "national mythmakers" who preserved Israel's history.

[5] The evolution of the Apostle Paul's beliefs, and how he grew over time from a fiery, apocalyptic preacher into a mellow, thoughtful philosopher.

Of course, you'll read about the Gospel story, the pastoral influence, the Johannine corpus, it's all there and it's all very readable. Highly recommended!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith) on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
According to Gallup's latest research, only 3 out of every 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally. Spong's Re-Claiming the Bible is an introductory survey text for the 70% who acknowledge the Bible is something far richer, more complex, and more human. If you are a mainline Christian who will never attend seminary and have never participated in an extended parish based course designed to explore the 66 books of the Bible in-depth, then you simply must read this book (and, ideally, gather together with others to discuss it as well).

Spong introduces modern biblical scholarship to a general audience as he explores the creation and content of the books that are now included in the Christian canon. His explanations are written in plain English, avoiding unnecessarily complex theological vocabulary unfamiliar to the uninitiated. Further, he is careful to construct his own view (e.g. dating specific books) only after sharing the historic perspective and that of modern scholarship. In short, Re-Claiming the Bible provides a helpful, practical, and engaging look at what the Bible really is and includes.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By S. Mezger on October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the Bible book I've been waiting 65 years to read. This is the interpretation I always sensed was real but could never put my finger on because of the way I'd been indoctrinated by churches, bible studies, and the rigid thinking of fellow Christians who said it was dangerous to doubt the Bible. Truly refreshing, rational and if there ever was a page-turner book on the Bible, this is it.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By William W. Crump on December 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Reverend Jack Spong has dedicated his life to probing the underpinnings of theology, especially Christianity. His books, published over a thirty-five year period, exemplify his moving through stages of personal discovery and maturity. This book, his latest, but probably not his last, presents the times of origin and the cultural environments of all of the Old Testament books and the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. It is a full Bible survey course in one easy to read volume.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joann on October 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Some may think this book is sacreligious, however, this book answers a lot of questions I have had for most of my life.

The book makes the Bible real.
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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth J Kohler on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bishop Spong is the leading expert on dymythologizing the bible. He has written a number of books that are well researched about the real Jesus, the bible, and whether or not there is a hereafter. This book is no exception. He is a former fellow of the Jesus Seminar and a leading intellect of our time. Bottom line most of the bible contains stories and are not true. This is true for both the Old and New Testaments. He believes in God, but not as he has been traditionally defined. For seekers of truth this is the book for you.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By RockinRobin411 on March 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
... you can't take away what was never there.

When I started reading this, I had a more closed mind. I was lying to myself. Although I continued reading this, I still thought very low of John Shelby Spong although I did respect, understand, and even admire his views. A little while later, I saw a couple of films of him giving lectures, where I realized that was backing him up was not as much being logical, but it was love. I discovered that Bishop Spong was someone who truly underneath it all had a heart. I then continued reading his book, and I started to see that come out more in his writing. After a while, I realized that he wasn't dismissing the Bible, in fact, I had more appreciation for some of the books from what he said. I at first thought it would be better to get this book from a Biblical scholar just simply giving the facts, but to me, it seems to be better to have it be from a Bishop who isn't dismissing it.
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