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Customer Review

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Historiography, June 6, 2001
This review is from: The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible (Hardcover)
Fox is a brilliant writer and gifted scholar whose PAGANS AND CHRISTIANS may become a classic. THE UNAUTHORIZED VERSION, entertainingly written for the educated general reader, presents his professional's view of the Bible's value as history. Discussions about source issues and dates are too often written by Thomas Carlyle's old nemesis Herr Doktor-Professor Dryasdust. Lane Fox, to the contrary, argues with genuine verve and wit. His explanation of the reason why the Gospels' Infancy Narratives cannot be historically accurate is in itself a brief miracle of clarity. After reading it you would have to be singularly obtuse not to understand why you can have either a Roman tax census or Herod the King, but not both. He can be laugh-out-loud funny about the plight of the poor prophet, doomed to have his predictions fail if he succeeds in convincing people to repent. And when Biblical botanical issues crop up, and they do, he may be the only scholar alive really qualified to deal with them. He's written two books on gardening in his spare time. Personally an atheist, he takes care to be fair. Christian scholars who step outside methodological boundaries or who seem disingenuous are skewered mercilessly. Those who seem honest and conscientious to him are treated simply as scholars. You would never guess from reading this book alone that R.E. Brown is a priest. You would only know that he is a great scholar whose work Fox greatly esteems, even while disagreeing. Similarly, you would not know that the late W.F. Albright was an evangelical Christian. Fox's conclusions, of course, put limits on the ways we can trust the Bible as an historical source (primary for some limited purposes, clearly secondary for others, when not outright fiction). There is nothing earthshaking here, nothing new. Nothing even very controversial except in the eyes of "fundamentalist" readers. What he has to say is perfectly acceptable to most "mainstream" believers and their churches. In a nutshell, THE UNAUTHORIZED VERSION is the Gospel according to modern Biblical criticism. His thesis may be stated thus: If the Bible is claimed to be historically accurate in the way that we mean "historically accurate" today, then that claim can only be evaluated using the same historical standards and methods used to evaluate nonbiblical sources and nonbiblical questions today. Stated baldly like this, its truth is almost selfevident. He is preaching of course to the choir. The people who should read this book won't. But if you are curious about the issues involved, or wind up in controversies, you could not do better for an introduction than this genial book. For emerald_skye.
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