78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2004
I tend to like books whose ratings vacillate between five stars and one. Clearly some readers get it and some don't.
The Bible has been used for centuries as an excuse for slavery, for bigotry, for war, for torture, for anti-Semitism, for homophobia, and for misogyny. It has been used as a crutch for those emotionally immature enough to need to feel right and morally superior. The people who would use the Bible in this way--and they continue to flourish and proliferate--will probably have little use for Gomes's impressive volume, and so be it. For the rest of us, however, The Good Book is worthwhile and enriching. It illuminates the Bible for both the veteran churchgoer and the uninitiated. In teaching Sunday school and Confirmation classes for the Episcopal Church and in delivering funeral and wedding sermons, I have drawn on Gomes's book again and again to help convey the Christian message.
Anyone interested in reading the Bible with "mind and heart" will find The Good Book to be a good read.
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 1998
My wife read this book aloud to me cover to cover on our commutes to church. She bought it because she is black and an Episcopalian and wanted to see what a black Episcopalian bishop had to say about the Bible. We found Gomes writing to be clear, well reasoned, and very non judgemental.
My wife knows many Jews and got a lot out of the chapter that refuted Biblical arguments for Anti-Semitism, as did I. We especially got a lot out of the chapter on the refutation of Biblical justifications for slavery, as I am white, and our marriage would have been illegal 50 years ago in many states. We found Gomes rebuttal of the sinfulness of homosexuality to be very balanced and informed and were a little surprised when he bravely admits to being gay.
Overall, The Good Book opened our eyes to the fact that the Bible is a great source of understanding God as a peaceful and loving God. We are no longer scared of reading the Bible anymore.
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 1999
Those who have never had the unique privilege of hearing Rev. Gomes preach will most enjoy and benefit from this book, for the book memorializes the singular virtues of his ministry: his delightful use of language, the great clarity of his thinking, the openness of his mind, and his general resistance to ideology and dogma. As a book targeted to a general audience, it is not as comprehensive nor as successful at handling intellectual complexities and contradictions as a more scholarly tome might be. Too often, Rev. Gomes makes interpretive leaps which are perhaps not supported adequately by his arguments and marshalling of evidence. However, it must be said that any book of this ilk would necessarily be guilty of similar "sins." In any event, Rev. Gomes does not intend for his book to be yet another addition to the library of general Biblical scholarship. Instead, he succeeds at his primary objective, which is to breathe life into the reader's relationship with the book and to rescue the Bible from individuals on points of the political spectrum who brazenly manipulate its complex and elusive message to support their own particular points of view. A thought-provoking and surprisingly easy read.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2000
I was someone who had studied the Bible (on an lay level) mainly for historical interest. My past encounters with fundamentalism had turned me off to trying to find spiritual inspiration from much of the Bible.
This book helped me see that one does not have to turn the Bible into a religous idol in order to gain spiritual nourishment from it. It also placed into context some of the more confusing laws and holiness codes from the Pentateuch.
In short, Professor Gomes has helped me reclaim much of the good from my Christian heritage.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 1998
This work by the preacher to Harvard University would have been unnecessary if he was not gay, black, and a Republican. These credentials alone suggest that he might have something different to say about how Americans interpret the Bible. And, in this regard, Rev. Gomes' book does not disappoint.
Gomes' aim with this book seems to have been to help recover the original "voice" of the Bible. His concern, as has been the concern of many before him, is to let the Bible speak for itself rather than through the interlocutors of its many and varied readers. Reclaiming this more authentic voice, he contends, is necessary if we are to rescue the Bible from the hands of those who mistakenly use it to advance their own prejudices and agenda. His particular concern is with those who use the Bible to further circumscribe the freedoms of women, blacks, and homosexuals. But in the course of his defense, he also does a creditable job of rescuing the Bible from others who in one way or another have misunderstood its essential nature. You may not agree with his conclusions, but you will appreciate Rev. Gomes' fresh new look at some familiar passages of Scripture.
Intended for the layman, The Good Book also is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the Bible and its interpretation.
52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2000
Gomes takes the Bible off its pedestal and presents it to us as a tool for Christian living. This book is a must read for any Christian struggling to read and understand the Bible in modern terms. He explores many of the controversial topics of the Bible, including race, homosexuality, women's roles, anti-Semitism, wealth, and more. He challenges the reader to accept the Bible as an interpretation of fantastic religious events with historical and sociological significance. He teaches the reader to deal with contradictions within the Bible, even within individual books of the Bible. He helps the reader to discern for himself what facts are crucial to an individual's belief in Christianity and what facts enrich the stories of the Bible. This book challenged my beliefs in positive ways and taught me to never "idolize" the Bible again.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 1999
As a former pastor and now professor of religion in the Bible-belt, I found Gomes' reflections to be heart-warming and encouraging. In a culture where the Bible is often used to support exclusion and condemnation, Gomes presents the biblical message of inclusion. In a religious climate where the Bible is frequently literalized and idolized, Gomes presents the Bible as a "living text," the spirit of which transcends human attempts to place truth in a box. I found his writing at once stimulating and familiar. It was familiar in at least two ways: 1) his message is consistent with the spirit of the Bible and 2) I repeatedly found myself thinking, "I wish I had said that!" Gomes' content and writing style are readily accessible to the general reader. This volume is a "must read" for anyone interested in interpreting the Bible in the contemporary context.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2007
Dubbed by Times magazine as one of America's seven best preache's, Harvard professor of Christian Morals and pastor of the school's University's Memorial Church, Rev. Gomes' latest work, The Good Book, is a bestseller selection of the Book of the Month and Quality Paperback Book Clubs. This well-written, compassionate and thoughtful book is written for the general public to entice them back to reading the Bible through new eyes, paying more attention to its moral principles than the social practices.
Rev. Gomes asserts that Biblical literacy in this country is extremely rare. Among a thousand people polled in the US by the Barna Research Group 10 percent said that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife, 16 percent were convinced that the New Testament contained the Gospel of Thomas, and 38 percent believed the Old and New Testaments were written a few years after Jesus' death. Gomes observed humorously that, "These replies are worthy of the old Sunday school howler in which the epistles are defined as the wives of the apostles." (p. 5)
The Good Book is divided into three sections: "Opening the Bible" wherein Gomes warns against three dangerous and common temptations on Biblical interpretation: (1) bibliolatry, "the worship of the Bible, making it an object of veneration and ascribing to it the glory belonging to God," (2) literalism, "the worship of the text, in which the letter is given inappropriate superiority over the spirit, and (3) culturalism, "the worship of the culture in which the Bible is forced to conform to the norms of the prevailing culture." Section two, "The Use and Abuse of the Bible" is a historical account of how the Bible has been used to oppress certain groups: Jews, women, homosexuals, and minorities. Section three, "The True and Lively Word" explores what the Bible has to say about the good life, evil, suffering, temptation, wealth, science, mystery and joy."
In an interview about the book with the Harvard University Gazette, Gomes commented "I would say, one, the Bible is accessible. Two, it takes work. The Bible is not a Reader's Digest sort of enterprise, and you can't simply open it up, as 90 percent of religious people do, and just hope that inspiration oozes out of the page or that you can just figure it out because you're a reasonably intelligent person. But, three, the work pays off because the Bible has to do with issues, both great and small, that are as relevant as tomorrow's headlines."
The Good Book is filled with scholarship and imagination, with wit and wisdom sufficient to serve as a road map back to and through the Bible. I join with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, The Right Reverend Lord Runcie, who hailed The Book as "easily the best contemporary book on the Bible for thoughtful people."
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 1999
As amember of a multi-denominational federated, protestant Church I am overjoyed to be in a weekly study group focusing on Peter Gomes' The Good Book. Being in a diverse religious group there are individuals who have vocal doctrinal agendas that are expressed as ultimate truth. Many who do not share these views become silent in response to those individuals and their interpretations. Reverend Gomes has helped us to find our voice, and that voice is compassionate, concerned and inclusive. His fresh and loving perspectives on religious "hot topics" are enlightening and liberating and his humor and humility engage the reader in a personal way.As a result of studying this book I have been truly touched with grace, wisdom and the pure hope that we can come to realize that "Now we know only in part; Then we will know fully, even as we have been fully known. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." 1Corinthians 13:12-13
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 1998
I was once very involved in born-again Christian activities, but never felt fully comfortable there. With due respect, I always felt the 'born-again' interpretation of Christianity mimicked the Pharisees more than it did Jesus' disciples.
After distancing myself from this path, though, I missed feeling active in my faith. This book helped me to be excited again about being a Christian. It has helped restore the joy in my faith, in a way that seems more Christian to me than the born-again path (which I unfortunately thought and unfortunately still think is exclusive and arrogant). Thank you, Thank you, Peter Gomes!