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Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  179 ratings  ·  35 reviews
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 des ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 2011)
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Lee Harmon
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 coll
This proved to be an unexpected read. I went into the book thinking that it would be a Bible as literature turn, only to discover that the author is a deeply religious man (A bishop in the Episcopalian faith) who approaches the Bible as scripture. His slant on the book was to take each of the sixty-odd books and place each in its historical timeline and context within Judaism, thus giving us more insight to what the writers were saying and whom they were addressing. His primary postulation is no ...more
As usual, Bishop Spong has written an incredible readable and thought-provoking book. If you are a person seeking understanding concerning the history of the Bible, the origins of many of the stories and myths found in the Bible, and are a person who cannot seriously read the Bible from a literal point of view, this book is for you. In addition, he sites Biblical scholars as his sources. In my opinion, this book is a breath of fresh air and recommend it highly.
To use a popular metaphor from recent decades in business training, Spong is one of the best I know at "thinking outside the box." Although I don't recall that he uses the phrase per se, he describes very clearly how many, if not most, of the Christian faithful--the persons in the pews--are boxed in by the ignorant assumptions and emphases of the teachings they get in their church traditions. With numerous examples of scripture which in no way should be revered as "the word of God," he points ou ...more
This is an accessible and well written introduction into contemporary thinking among biblical scholars. It serves to dispel many misconceptions about the Bible. For example, only some of the letters usually attributed to Paul were actually written by him. Even though these various correspondences are placed after the synoptic gospels in the Bible, they were actually written long before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Pauline letters reflect the thinking of a small sect within Judaism. Orthodox ...more
He takes each chapter of Old and New Testament, gives overview of the books, showing the narrative of what was, has been and is a story of Judaism. Demonstrates Jesus as being born a Jew, and lived his life in accord with the Jewish law of the time, and thus places the teachings in a framework not as well understood in today's Christianity interpretations of the gospel books. At the time, and after the death of Jesus, what is referenced as early Christianity looked more like reformed Judaism, an ...more
Another classic from passionate and always insightful progressive Christian theologian and heretic Bishop John Shelby Spong. In this work, he walks through the Bible book by book and shares his perspective on and insights into each of them. In so doing, for me at least, he brought the Bible alive in a way that motivated me to want to read a text I had long ago begun to use more sparingly. And whether I agree with him or not, his deep, reverent and, at times, irreverent appreciation for the Good ...more
This book repeats themes from Spong's other books, but in a format that systematically covers the entire Bible. Every book is addressed at least briefly. As with his other works, there is an underlying assumption that *obviously* no laws of science were actually broken, so there is a literary or political or metaphorical explanation for every story in the Bible. Sometimes this makes his tone condescending, and some might find his world view lacking in faith or imagination. The exciting part is t ...more
Eric Hägerström
This is a great survey of the Bible for those who, like me, who have never taken on the task. Spong reorders the books chronologically. There are two paragraphs (p.364) that are take-aways:

"Someone once said that Christianity probably would not have survived had it not become institutionalized and that it might not continue to survive because it did become institutionalized. Institutions, certainly including the Christian church, always subvert truth to institutional needs. That is why the vario
What a wonderful book. Who would think that a Bible study book would be one I couldn't put down, but this one was. Bishop Spong has clearly spent a lot of time researching and studying for this book. One will have to have a completely open mind and be ready, as St. Paul says, to leave childish ways behind and embrace a mature faith. While I don't agree with all of his conclusions, his scholarship cannot be denied. I know this is one I'll have to read again, preferably side by side with the books ...more
Kelly Barth
This is a lucid, refreshing, and surprisingly savory retelling of the stories from the Judeo-Christian scriptures from one of America’s strongest voices for reclaiming the Bible from those who have used it to imprison, enslave, and abuse. Though he condemns a simplistic, literal reading, Spong helps readers recover the Bible’s depth, beauty, and guidance as a sacred book.
Fred Kohn
This book didn't really go into a lot of detail on the origins of the ideas presented therein, but that was OK. It was really designed to be a quick overview of scholarship on the entire Bible, and as such it was excellent. I have been reading the Bible and about the Bible for over 30 years, yet there was quite a bit in this book that was new to me.
This is a really good book about the Bible - its history, how it was written, why. not for conservative believers, but great for believing skeptics like me. Did not change my faith but made some things that have bothered me about the Word understandable.
Sam Coates
One if my favorite books. Goes from genesis to revelation ... Spong is a liberal theologian so don't be surprised that he takes most of Bible stories as metaphor. But WOW will you learn a lot. Each chpt will only take you 15 min to read .
This is a good book for those who have not read any Spong. It's nice to have the various materials collated into one volume. For those of us who've read his corpus it might be a little shallow and repetitive.
Dick Harding
This book really got me to thinking. It has opened up new possibilities for me.
I grew up with fairly rigorous Biblical instruction in a fundamental, ultraconservative Lutheran church, and felt knowledgeable about the Bible -- even the Kings-- until I read this book. The author, a minister and scholar, offers a rational, academic, yet deeply spiritual perspective that both refutes and affirms much of what underpins Christian belief. He examines each book of the Bible critically, from a historical, literary, and spiritual point of view; some he dismisses as trivial, others e ...more
Jon Stout
Jun 20, 2013 Jon Stout rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: non-believers and true believers
Recommended to Jon by: Bishop Spong, in a column
Shelves: religion
In this “Study Guide” to the Bible, Bishop Spong draws on Biblical scholarship to show how both the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament were organized and written. Even though I took college courses in the Old and New Testaments, I learned isolated facts but never had organizing principles which helped me understand the structure of the Bible. Bishop Spong provides these in a variety of ways, but two examples seem particularly striking.

For the Jewish Scriptures, I was aware of the various a
Good stuff. Typical Spong, and an excellent survey of the Bible. I really liked the order of the books and the historical insights Spong has.

I gave it 3 stars because at times Spong is definitely rushing through the material and relying on his own bias. This is merely a methodological deduction.

My main beef with this book is that Song doesn't ever really affirm the Bible as the word of God. I get that Song is against fundamentalism and literalism, but why can't the Bible in the same light Spon
This is an excellent starting point for a study of the entire Bible--- Spong takes you through all the books of the Bible in short chapters. I did much highlighting in my reading! I think this is the beginning of a "Spong Seminar" for me--- that is, I will be reading more of his books.
Spong writes again about how the Bible cannot be taken literally, but saying that it does have merit and importance if read as a fiction. He states that to understand the Bible you have to understand the world at the time the books were written. He takes us through the Bible piece by piece. I found most quite fascinating. He lost me demonstrating how the synoptic gospels were written to conform to the Jewish liturgical year and his interpretations at times of why John wrote his piece the way he ...more
Beautiful and persuasive. It's a relief to realize you needn't leave Christianity to the ignorant and dogmatic.
Carolyn Lind
In this amazing book, John Shelby Spong takes the reader on a trek through scripture, shedding literalism along the way as his easily read chapters unfold scripture in a manner that may be surprising to many in the pew.

After reading this once, I would like to use it as a guide to study scripture more deeply. If several were interested in doing this together, I think this book would give the foundation for a lively discussion.

Written in a very reader friendly style by an author who clearly is in
Andrew Ward
John Shelby Spong is my favorite progressive Christian author. This book is a great overview of the latest biblical scholarship. Want to know what theologians know in a very lay friendly form, this is your book.
Cy Yang
A good book to people like me who used to go to church against their will and know just who are God’s people and who are not among the protagonists of the Bible. The author of this book is telling us not only the stories behind each and every historic writer of the New Testament and what made them write the plots but also what Christianity should be as a religion, love, justice, protesting against human prejudice and the wholeness of human being.
For those who love the church as well as the Bible and its history, this is an important book.
Spong is hyper- modern in his approach, and often a bit supercilious, but summarizes modern Biblical analysis and, yes, speculation. I read this as part of a discussion group, and enjoyed being the devil's advocate often.
At the end of the day, what difference does it make that the Bible is metaphor, not literal? Little to me.
Enka-Candler Library
Another provocative book by Bishop Spong. In this one, he address each book of the Bible, in *chronological* order as they were written. He puts each one in historical context and give backgrounds on the authors of each book. He offers a change from the usual dogma and tradition and opens up new ways to look at the library known as The Bible.
Jim Blessing
I've read several books of this author. This was an interesting one where he discusses all of the books in the bible and provides historic insights on them. A major theme is that many of the books including the first three gospels of New Testament are based on Jewish liturgical observances in the Jewish year.
Not for the faint of heart or weak in faith. Very challenging material. Some of it made so much sense and some was foundation-shaking, which then makes it scary. I believe in asking questions, one of my favorites being, "What if. . .?" At the end of it all, the author loves the Bible, loves Jesus and follows Him.
Jennifer Scoggin
A scholarly and historically-based look at the Bible. Very interesting and readable. Highly recommended to anyone feeling a bit jaded about Christianity! Not only does Spong approach this study with great intelligence, but his deep-rooted spirituality comes across in an inspiring fashion.
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John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a leading spokesperson for an open, scholarly, and progressive Christianity, Bishop Spong has taught at Harvard and at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has also lectured at universities, conference centers, and churches in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. His books in ...more
More about John Shelby Spong...
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love Jesus for the Non-Religious A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born

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