Bible Matters

Bible Matters by Peter and Charlotte Vardy was published by SCM Press in January 2016.

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Reviews of Bible Matters follow…

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Bible MattersThis book is an extraordinary achievement…. It takes the latest scholarship from archaeology, Biblical studies and other disciplines and presents it in an engaging and relevant way to the non-specialist – but it is far more than this.. Biblical scholarship increasingly seems to lead to the Bible being seen as irrelevant in the modern world but this book shows that this is far from the case. The title is apt – the Bible DOES matter in spite of the difficulty of being clear what, if anything, actually happened or what Jesus actually said or did. I wish some of the Biblical fundamentalists (not least in the U.S.) could read this book and understand that claiming that their understanding of the universe and of ethics as Biblically based is fundamentally flawed and indefensible. On the other hand, those who dismiss the Bible as simply a compilation of stories written down long after the events that they were supposed to described as also flawed. For me, the most interesting insight was the extent to which Christian writers down the ages have ignored or distorted the wisdom of the Jewish tradition. Anti-semitism has been present in Christianity across the centuries and this led many commentators, not least the early Church Fathers but succeeding generations as well, to see the Hebrew Scriptures solely though Christian eyes. The wisdom and philosophy (and this surprised me!) of the Jewish writers which can and does illuminate so much of the Bible has been marginalised and badly needs to be recovered.

The authors are an interesting pair as they are clearly very well qualified and can present complex ideas clearly but the book seems to be free from any personal hidden agenda – which is refreshing! The book is listed on Amazon as being solely by Peter Vardy but this is clearly an error as it is written by Peter and his wife Charlotte Vardy.

This is a book for anyone with a genuine interest in Christianity both today and in its development. It will help people of faith to come to a more mature understanding of the Bible, it will give the atheist pause in too readily dismissing the wisdom of the Bible today and it will be a serious help to any student.

BIBLE MATTERS
Peter and Charlotte Vardy
One of the puzzling aspects of the most read and studied book in the history of civilisation is how little people know about it. The bible has shaped so many dimensions of Western culture through the foundational scriptures for Judaism and Christianity. One could not imagine the composition of the Koran without the biblical context. During the last 2000 years other non-Western cultures have also been influenced by the bible, especially in jurisprudence and democratic ideals. However popular surveys indicate how widespread is a basic ignorance about the origins, history, language, ethical teachings and literary genre of the bible. Even today after hundreds of years of hermeneutics, literalism is still the bane of many Christians. The relationship between mythos and logos is still a contentious issue in the use of the bible.
Bible Matters is a significant contribution to address this ignorance. This is a timely book which is easily read, very comprehensive as a summary of major issues about the bible and a ready reference source for themes and contemporary scholarship about the bible. The authors display an impressive depth of their own distilled learning in biblical studies. They have the gift of being able to communicate so concisely a huge expanse of information and diverse opinions about the unfolding story of biblical studies. There is a plethora of references to literary sources and a very complete Glossary as an easy access site.
The scope of the topics covers major issues in biblical studies today, including enduring questions about biblical truth, development of historical criticism, the quest for the historical Jesus, the bible and ethics. Of particular interest for me are the chapters on women in the bible and political readings of the bible.
In view of the crisis in the state of planetary health, perhaps a section on the topic of the bible and environment would be further addition to the wealth of information in Bible Matters. For Jewish and Christian believers the bible is a foundational book about God’s revelation. Biblical spirituality has nourished billions of believers. The tradition of ‘Lectio Divina’ is a time honoured practice of reading and meditating on the Word of God in the bible. Bible Matters would be a helpful resource for deepening the prayerful experience of ‘Lectio Divina’.
The book would be an ideal resource for Studies of Religion teachers and students as well as a helpful book in adult life and faith formation. This book is a ‘must-have’ for parish resource centres.
I congratulate the authors on such a book and hope it is widely used to enhance knowledge and spirituality of the bible.
Dr Kevin Treston Brisbane
Bible Matters London. SCM Press. 2015