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The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,474 ratings  ·  66 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. ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 28th 2002 by HarperOne (first published 1996)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  1,474 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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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
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
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. ...more
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
Will Waller
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is much like a skipping stone, it dips into the water and then back into the air. I doesn't become an overly intellectual book or dip into the water of anti-intellectualism. It navigates that narrow land between a university press and a self-help Lifeway style book. This is a rare book indeed.

It shows its age in spots in talking about "homosexuality." Also, the book predicts a large-scale return to church and the things of mystery. Alas, the latter may have occurred but the former cer
Mary Rude
Sep 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Rev. Peter Gomes was one of my college professors, and I've always been a big fan of his lectures and sermons. It's a good thing, too, because he really does write the way he spoke. It's wordy, to be sure, but with a beautiful cadence that feels like you're getting a moving sermon in almost every chapter. The book is also quite dated now. There's a lot of discussion of the impending millennium, and a couple times he references how global warming has been "solved." But nevertheless, there is ...more
Peter Walt
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Peter Gomes was a distinguished Harvard academic and theologian, a black man, a homosexual and a Republican.

His delightful sermons and conversations are well remembered by anyone who visited - and his work the Good Book is a baggage free, bad memory free, rediscovery of the Bible.

Too often, many LGBT-readers, or politically progressive readers (and those two are not the same thing, necessarily), miss out on some of the rich material, symbolism, narratives and beauty of the Bible - because they
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
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.
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. ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
My favorite book of the season of Advent! This book provides great background on what the Bible is and isn't. In addition Peter Gomes provides great biblical insights on how to understand a variety of critical issues. He doesn't pretend to answer all questions. But, he sure gives plenty of reasonsfor reading, studying and praying with the Bible. ...more
Kevin Carey
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really enlightening read.

A book that addresses the Bible and many important topics, among them: Race, Anti-Semitism, Women, Homosexuality, and even Suffering, Wealth, and Science. It was a great read. Super enlightening, especially on those topics.
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.
Ellen Rendle
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant author, so much to take in and to think about. Loved this book.
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
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bible
The Bible is a misunderstood, misused, and mysterious book (or rather, library of books). Overall, the Bible should be a source of wisdom, an invitation to living a good life, and a pointing toward the ultimate mysteriousness and transcendence of God.
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
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
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
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
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
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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

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