Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of Date, 2002
Study guide adds Biblical context
Don't Know Much About the Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book but Never Learned, by Kenneth C. Davis, Perennial, 2001. 533 pages.
Review by DEAN SARNICKI
Special to the WCR
I admit it. I don't know much . . . about anything really. I am one of those Jack-of-all-trades, master of none types. One thing I do know enough about to be seriously dangerous though is the Bible.
In my academic studies and spiritual readings, the one thing that is becoming clearer to me is that the Bible is central to our coming to know God and Catholic beliefs.
Resources that can help the average person understand and appreciate the Bible are essential to understanding our own faith and our Church.
Kenneth Davis is a prolific author who has written a number of books in the Don't Know Much About series that includes geography, United States presidents, history, space.
Davis attempts in this series to provide lay people with a basic foundation for further study in a particular field, in this case, biblical studies.
Davis states that the Bible is probably one of the most talked about and least read books in all of history.
He quotes Mark Twain: "The Bible is a book that people praise but don't read." And for Davis, this is a shame.
Despite the fact it is underused, the Bible is seen as a source of inspiration, healing, spiritual guidance, and ethical rules for many people but many find it too difficult to read. And often those who do read it do not recognize that there is an art to reading and interpreting scripture.
History, linguistics, archeology, sociology and many other sciences can assist the reader in better understanding the Good News.
Don't Know Much About the Bible is divided into three parts: Whose Bible is it anyway?, The Old Testament, and the New Testament.
The first section briefly serves as an introduction to the Bible, offering explanations regarding translations of the bible, how the Bible came to be, the books included and how the Catholic/Orthodox bible differs from the Protestant scriptures, authorship and inspiration and some of the main characters in scripture.
The next two sections deal with specific books and/or sections of the bible.
Many of your favourite children's Bible stories are reinterpreted using modern biblical exegesis and some of the stories you never heard as a child are discussed and placed in context such as David and Bathsheba, Jezebel, and portions of many of the Psalms which we rarely hear at Mass (68, 137, and 144)!
While I recognize that the larger testament is the first or Old Testament, Davies spends much more time on it than the New Testament.
While Jesus is the focus of each of the books of the New Testament, his treatment of Jesus himself is not much longer than that of David or Moses.
This book has to be put into context: it does not attempt to replace reading the Bible. It serves as a compliment to reading scripture; it provides background and interesting features of the stories being read.
It is not an academic resource but written for the layperson trying to understand the biblical message and put it into practice in their lives.
If taken with this in mind, Don't Know Much About the Bible will provide the reader with the ability to enhance their reading of our sacred text.
(Dean Sarnecki may not know much but what he does know he shares willingly with students and staff at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School in Sherwood Park and at St. Joseph's College, Edmonton.)