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The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart
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The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,378 ratings  ·  61 reviews
"The Bible and the social and moral consequences that derive from its interpretation are all too important to be left in the hands of the pious or the experts, and too significant to be ignored and trivialized by the uninformed and indifferent.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by HarperOne (first published 1996)
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Hom Sack
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
The issues raised are important in regards to the Bible. However, Gomes' arguments are not persuasive. Also, there seems to be contradictions, e.g., his criticism of interpretations in the chapter "A Matter of Interpretations", section "The Danger of Interpretations". Yet later, on the matter of homosexuality in "The Bible and Homosexuality", he offers his own interpretation of "The Law of Leviticus" i.e., Leviticus 18:22. Perhaps the non persuasive arguments are due to a verbose writing style t ...more
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
A very lively, excellent, and relevant booking on reading the Bible. It was written for readers across the spectrum - from those who are intimidated by it or curious, to those who may feel they know it rather well. Though this topic may seem prudishly boring, the author has a wonderful way of bringing both seriousness and illuminating humor to the subject. This book should be a mandatory read for every person who intends to or currently reads the Bible. One of my favorite assertions made by the ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-my-reads
To quote the book

"Once, perhaps a long time ago in childhood or in early youth or even as late as in college, you were introduced. You have a nodding acquaintance with the Bible, or at least you feel you ought to and you can recognize some familiar phrases, especially if they "sound" like the King James Version of the Bible; yet, to all intents and purposes the Bible remains an elusive, unknown, slightly daunting book. It is awkward to coincide that you don't know very much about the Bible, give
Jul 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Peter Gomes is a Harvard divinity professor, a Republican with strong ties to the Bush (Sr.) administration, and a gay black man. I picked this up because the contradictions inherent in his person fascinated me, but kept reading it because it's a...well, it's a good book, no pun intended. It's not the judgmental screed I expect from people associated with the right; it's a thoughtful look at the Bible itself from a perspective of deep personal faith and extensive academic study, and it touches o ...more
Danielle R
Jan 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone seeking to understand sexuality and the bible
This book provides a new way to read the bible. The author is a gay black minister at Harvard and so he is really suggesting a new way to understand the scriptures as it relates to homophobia, sexism and racism. In this book he takes apart and deconstructs all the misreadings about the bible that people have used to justify homophobia, sexism racism etc. I won't say that all his arguments are convincing but it is definitely eye opening and refreshing to hear a new reading of the bible that chall ...more
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberal or potential Christians
Shelves: religion
The author is likable, extremely intelligent, knowledgeable, and wholly dedicated to God. Particular attention is given to the role of women, African-Americans and homosexuals within the Bible. Gomes examines prejudice as "supported" by scripture, and how some Christians throughout time have used scripture to support marginalizing segments of society.
Mark Mitchell
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith
Dr. Peter Gomes was for many years the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School, and the Pusey Minster at Harvard's Memorial Church. (Regretfully, although I was a student at Harvard, I failed to hear him speak.) His stated purpose in this book is to encourage Christians to examine their own relationship with the Bible and its role in larger society. He claims that our interpretation of the Bible it is necessarily a reflection of us, and that we must interpret the Bible i ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have had this book on my shelf for over 10 years and never got around to it until a friend gave me a fresh copy at the start of the summer. This is an important book for anyone seeking a life of meaning and it serves to guide us to sacred scripture for succor, direction, wholeness, and relief from the cares of the modern technological world. The chapter on mystery, towards the end of the book, could stand on its own as a reason for turning towards the Bible for help, or to this book for that m ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Peter Gomes was an exceptional human being. His books are very good, but nothing will ever compare to the experience of listening to him in person. I can attest that you don't have to be Christian, or even religious, to appreciate his wisdom and humor. I used to drop in on his sermons at Harvard while I was in medical school, and it would restore me for the week. I was terribly sad when he died in 2011.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
With the many of the controversies swirling around us, and parties claiming the Bible supported their view, decided I needed to understand it better. And seeing the unique background of Rev Gomes, thought this should be a good place to start. It was. It takes on each of the main issues of our times and give his take on how the Bible does or does not address it. It does so without over-simplification, but also without getting too academic. Glad I read it.
Tina Miller
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bought and read it the year it was published after seeing the author interviewed on 60 MINUTES.
Oct 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Spiritual seekers
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 pract ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was okay. A little pretentious and sanctimonious and irritating but not enough of any of those to make me stop reading it and on the whole I felt I learned something, which, for summer reading, is pretty good.
Gregg Wingo
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reverend Gomes reflections on the Bible is many things and has many parts. It is essentially divided into three parts: 1) How we relate to it, 2) How it relates to us, and 3) How we interact with it. The first section is a look at the relationship of Christians and Americans to the Bible. The second section covers the utilization and misuse of the Bible for social control today and throughout the Christian period. And the last part of it reflects on the use of the Bible in our daily or not so da ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
A bit disappointing. Gomes covers too much material in too little depth, with too little boldness. The result is a very moderate book that never fulfills its potential. In each chapter Gomes introduces a problem, presents other thinkers' responses to that problem, and then spends precious little time voicing his own opinion on the matter (and analyzing scripture himself) before concluding and diving into the next issue.

Gomes employs an odd methodology--half-academic, half-personal narrative--and
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The late Peter J. Gomes was a black Methodist preacher most famous for his time as Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard College. I read this book because the chapter titled: "The Bible and Homosexuality: The Last Prejudice" was recommended to me by a colleague. It rocked my world. It was cool to read someone steeped in theology and biblical hermeneutics come to an "affirming" conclusion on homosexuality and the church. I also appreciated the dots he connected between the Bible and Race, the ...more
Mar 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, christian
I first heard of Peter Gomes, sadly enough, when I read his obituary in the B. Globe. He was "the minister to Harvard" for almost 30 years, I think. He weathered all kinds of controversies on campus. He was known for being a cultural conservative and created his own controversy when he came out as a homosexual in 1991... Here is a reflection on that time: "I’m always seen as a black man and now I’m seen as a black gay man. If you throw the other factors in there that make me peculiar and interes ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Reading the Bible with the Mind as well as the Heart? What a lovely notion.

I quite liked this book, even reading it as an outsider to the faith. It serves as a good antidote to idiots who quote scripture to support untenable positions.

His thesis is that the Bible can be quoted to serve any purpose, and that Biblical inerrancy is a modern heresy that turns the text, or the physical book itself, into an object of idol worship. Instead he argues that the Bible should not be read as the inerrant wo
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The audience for this book is the believers and "unbelieving believers" of Christian faith. It is not a book for conversion, nor a devotion for the faithful. With a lively and conversational voice, Gomes addresses the profoundly important questions of how to read and use Bible in real life. A renowned scholar and minster with famed oratorial skills, Gomes's book is a mixture of scholarly knowledge, personal reflection and real-life stories to teach his audience about Bible. Stepping aside of the ...more
Aug 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Gomes succeeds in the first half on his book with his instructions on a good way to approach reading of the bible - he balances devotion and scholarship well making the case for scholarship's ability to enhance a devotional reading

Gomes's method of looking at contentious issues through the bible is marred by two flaws. 1 He is WAY too focussed on Paul. Not only does he not balance his new testament reading with the hebrew scriptures, but even his new testament readings give Jesus short shrift. 2
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Nice book by a theologian from the Harvard Divinity School on how the Bible addresses various hot-button topics such as homosexuality, wealth, temptation, science, women, racial issues, etc. Balanced and written with a heart, the book reminds the reader of the historical and social context of a lot of the passages that are often lifted out of context to support a particular point, thus arming the reader with knowledge to refute those people who seem to love doing just that. I think he also makes ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: never-finished
This is a book that has already changed my outlook on life in a positive way and I only have read chapters 1, 8, and 9. I hope to read the chapters that I missed (a discussion group at my church has been reading it and I was out of town) and finish the book. One of the things that the author talks about in Chapter 9 is hope. I just did not expect that in a matter of one chapter I would be challenged with a deep question (what is a good life for me?) and look at such concepts as idols and hope in ...more
Amos Smith
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The reason I love this book is because Gomes draws deeply on his own experience growing up, which unveils a rich experiential approach to the Bible. This is not purely an academic analysis. Gomes shares a love for the Good Book that was passed down to him through those in his family and church culture who revered the Good Book. There are many luminous turns of phrase in this book that are original and unique, unlike any other analysis of the Bible that I have encountered.
-Amos Smith (author of H
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people like me
Recommended to Charles by: George Regas (?)
A rich and textured book whose author's voice was always kind, compassionate, knowledgeable, scholarly, but not off-putting nor pedantic, and occasionally downright funny. It has been a very long time since I've systematically read any of the Bible, but I feel drawn to the wisdom books and Gomes has sown the seed. I have realized lately that literature is really very much my religion and _The Good Book_is a nice way to lead this reader back to Scripture. Now I have to find more books by the good ...more
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"The Good Book" gives a readable history of social bigotry. It gives historical backdrop for
discrimination against Jews, African-Americans, women and gays. The book shows how the Bible
has been used to promote bigotry. Therefore the title is somewhat sarcastic. However, Gomes makes it clear that the problem is with the interpreters and not with the Bible. The total effect is to show
that anti-homosexual attitudes are the same old, same old behavior that has been going on for
centuries. There are ad
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aaron, Clayton, Norb
Recommended to Kev by: Jo Flemming
I can't say enough good things about Gomes. If you want to know the origins of biblical justification for slavery and racism just read. If you want an introduction to silent witness that is never cited by homophobes just read about future King David & Jonathan.

If you want a faith of integrity for the 21st century just read.

This book is cited so often that I had practically read it from afar before I ever read directly. It's great.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is worth the read for anyone interesting in "figuring it out" and taking a long, hard, soul-searching, introspective look at her life and how she lives it. It provides context and a call for responsibility to do what is most difficult. It never tarries from its challenging path and its unrelenting call to duty. Sobering, inspiring, and what most of us need to separate convenient interpretation from fact as we wander through each godless day.
Justin Pitt
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking and relevant. The Good Book is a good read for anyone curious about the relevance of the Bible or the Christian faith in the modern world who don't believe they must leave their brain at the church door. Equally relevant to long-time religious folk or newbies. Only requirement for this book is a slightly open mind. Gomes is a compassionate and intelligent writer of a deep and abiding faith. Chapters on slavery, homosexuality and mystery were particularly moving.
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
This is a very interesting book that takes different topics (like slavery, women's place in the church, and even homosexuality) and talks about how scriptures in the Bible have been used in discussion with these topics. It is interesting to read his interpretation of the scriptures. I'm not sure that I buy into everything he claims. It was definitely worth the read and worth giving more thought to his ideas.
Mark Bodenstein
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent help in reading and understanding the Bible, and in particular reconciling the culturally and morally difficult parts - slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, violence - with the "spiritual" parts, and with figuring out how to incorporate the lessons of the Bible into our lives. I'm very glad I read it. Overall there's a bittersweet quality to the book, maybe because reading the Bible isn't as easy as the author would like it to be. Recommend for anyone with an interest in the Bible.
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Born May 22, 1942, in Boston, Massachusetts from Cape Verdean parents, Gomes graduated from Bates College in 1965 and Harvard Divinity School in 1968. He also spent time at the University of Cambridge and is now an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College, where The Gomes Lectureship is established in his name. Gomes was ordained as an American Baptist minister by the First Baptist Church of Plymouth, ...more
“Says Freud: We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do that without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally, from our relations to other men. The suffering which comes from this last source is perhaps more painful than any other. Morality,” 0 likes
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