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The Savage Text: The Use and Abuse of the Bible

Adrian Thatcher

Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Pp. x, 218. Pb.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

Reviewed by Paul Badham, University of Wales, Lampeter in Modern Believing Apr 2009.

Publisher's description: Misuse of the Bible has made hatred holy. In this provocative book, Adrian Thatcher argues that debates on sexuality currently raging through the churches are the latest outbreak in a long line of savage interpretations of the Bible. Fascinating reading for anyone concerned about the future of Christianity.

  • A provocative book claiming that debates on sexuality currently raging through the churches are the latest outbreak in a long line of savage interpretations of the Bible
  • Argues that the Bible has been abused to convert the 'good news' which it brings to the world, into one which has been used to discriminate against many groups, including children, women, Jews, people of color, slaves, heretics, and homosexuals
  • Asks how Christians have been able to conduct, in public and on a global scale, an argument that has exposed so much prejudice, fear and hatred
  • Offers an alternative, faithful and peaceable reading of the Bible, drawing on numerous examples throughout
  • Breaks new ground in debates about sexual ethics and biblical interpretation

Signs of the Times article.

Blake and the Bible

Christopher Rowland

Yale University Press, 31 Jan 2011. Hardcover, 320 pages.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

All those beguiled by the work of William Blake recognise the importance of the Bible for his poetic genius, whether as an object of criticism, or an inspiration. This book, the first substantial study for sixty years, attempts to locate Blake within the broad spectrum of Christian biblical interpretation, orthodox, heterodox and radical. It explores the particular ways in which Blake engaged with the Bible and the distinctive interpretations that emerged, not least through the medium of images. Rowland considers Blake's series of engravings on the 'Book of Job', and his only commentary on a biblical book, to illuminate the distinctive features of the poet's exegesis. These include the priority given to the Spirit over the Letter; the critique of a theology which places supreme value on what is found in a book rather than attending to what Blake calls 'the Word of God Universal'; the advocacy of a religion of divine immediacy rather than transcendence; and, experience of suffering as the motor of theological and ethical change. This powerful and richly-illustrated work brings forty years of study to bear on one of the great interpreters of the Bible.

Land of Our Fathers: The Roles of Ancestor Veneration in Biblical Land Claims

Francesca Stavrakopoulou

T & T Clark, 16 Dec 2010. Hardcover, 208 pages.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

The book argues that ancestor veneration plays important - and hitherto overlooked - socio-religious and ideological roles in various and competing territorial claims as presented in the Hebrew Bible. In this book, the biblical motif of a land divinely-promised and given to Abraham and his descendants is argued to be an ideological reflex of post-monarchic, territorial disputes between competing socio-religious groups. The important biblical motif of a Promised Land is founded upon the ancient Near Eastern concept of ancestral land: hereditary space upon which families lived, worked, died and were buried. An essential element of concept of ancestral land was the belief in the post-mortem existence of the ancestors, who were venerated with grave offerings, mortuary feasts, bone rituals and standing stones. The Hebrew Bible is littered with stories concerning these practices and beliefs, yet the specific correlation of ancestor veneration and certain biblical land claims has gone unrecognized. The book remedies this in presenting evidence, both biblical and non-biblical, for the vital and persistent impact of ancestor veneration upon land claims.

Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians

Alison Milbank

T & T Clark, reprint edition 2009. Paperback, 208 pages.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

This book offers a new reading of Tolkien in terms of Chesterton's literary and theological project. It takes Chesterton's 'natural theology' through fairytales seriously as a theological project appropriate to an intellectual attempt to return to faith in a secular age. It argues that Tolkien's fiction makes sense also as the work of a Catholic writer steeped in Chestertonian ideas and sharing his literary-theological poetics. While much writing on religious fantasy moves quickly to talk about wonder, Milbank shows that this has to be hard won and that Chesterton is more akin to the modernist writers of the early twentieth-century who felt quite dislocated from the past.

Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema and Theology

Gerard Loughlin

Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. Paperback, 336 pages.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

Gerard Loughlin is one of the leading theologians working at the interface between religion and contemporary culture. In this exceptional work, he uses cinema and the films it shows to think about the church and the visions of desire it displays.

  • Discusses various films, including the Alien quartet, Christopher Nolan's Memento, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth and Derek Jarman's The Garden.
  • Draws on a wide range of authors, both ancient and modern, religious and secular, from Plato to Levinas, from Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar to Andr Bazin and Leo Bersani.
  • Uses cinema to think about the church as an ecclesiacinema, and films to think about sexual desire as erotic dispossession, as a way into the life of God.
  • Written from a radically orthodox Christian perspective, at once both Catholic and critical.

Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology

Susannah Cornwall

Equinox, 15 Sep 2010. Paperback, 192 pages.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

The book explores the theological implications of physical intersex conditions and their medical treatment. Christian theology has valued the integrity of the body and the goodness of God reflected in creation, but has also set much store by the complementarity of "normal" male and female physiology. However, a deconstruction or querying of male and female as essential or all-embracing human categories changes conceptions of legitimate bodiliness and of what it means for human sex to reflect God. Theologies which value incarnation and bodiliness must speak with stigmatized or marginal bodies too: the Body of Christ is comprised of human members, and each member changes the Body's definition of itself as well as being defined by it.

The Bible for Sinners

Christopher Rowland, Jonathan Roberts

SPCK Publishing, 2008. Paperback, 128 pages.

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In this book, two experts in biblical and literary studies offer a wide-ranging discussion of what is going on in different types of Christian interpretation. They consider examples from history, from literature, and from a range of contentious present-day situations. Rather than providing answers, the authors open out the fundamental interpretative questions raised by same-sex relationships, justice in society, religious heresy, and marriage and divorce.

The Bible, The Basics

John Barton

Routledge, 2010. Paperback, 200 pages.

Details / buy from: Amazon UK

The Bible, The Basics is a compelling introduction to the Bible as both a sacred text, central to the faith of millions, and a classic work of Western literature, containing a tapestry of genres, voices, perspectives and images. This masterly guide skilfully addresses both aspects of the Bible's character by exploring:

  • the rich variety of literary forms, from poetry to prophecy and epistles to apocalypses
  • the historical, geographic and social context of the Bible
  • contemporary attitudes to the Bible held by believers and non-believers
  • the status of biblical interpretation today

Including maps, a chronology and detailed suggestions for further reading, this is an ideal starting point for people of any faith or none who are studying the Bible in any setting or simply want to know more about the best-selling book of all time.

The Writing on the Wall: High Art, Popular Culture and the Bible

Maggi Dawn

Hodder & Stoughton, 2010. Hardcover, 272 pages.

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In an increasingly secularised society, the average person is unlikely to have a working knowledge of the Bible. Yet a great deal of our culture is built on stories or ideas that come from the Bible. Literature, art, music, language and even the fabric of our society - such as our justice system - are built on Christian concepts and biblical references. The Writing on the Wall provides a fascinating introduction to the Bible's best-known, and most influential, stories. Each chapter gives the full text of a story from the Bible and explains its original significance, then shows how this story has become enmeshed in Western culture. Adam and Eve, the ten plagues of Egypt, The Prodigal Son and Mary Magdalene all feature - along with how the Bible has influenced everyone from Shakespeare to Ian McEwan, and The Beatles to Monty Python.