THE Bible may be the most-owned book in the world, but it’s also the least understood. This is the starting-point for Nick Page’s valuable romp through a multitude of issues that confuse casual readers of the Bible — which probably means most Sunday churchgoers.
The problem is, the writer maintains, that we have been misinformed, and have tried to force the Bible into our own categories of thought. Page tackles issues of inspiration and authority, how the Bible was written and put together, the key category of story, the problem of a God who seems to do a lot of “smiting”, the inconsistencies of various texts, and much more.
The author clearly loves the sacred texts and longs for them to speak to us on their own terms, with all their life-changing potential. He sets about shaking them free of false straitjackets, so that the rich strangeness of these documents can bring the reader to life.
“We want to pin the Bible down so that it proves our theology, but the Bible evades capture and plays hide-and-seek. We want answers, but the Bible keeps firing questions. We want the Bible to dance to our tune, but the Bible has music of its own.”
The writing is lively and laced with humour, but that serves only to make Page’s considerable biblical scholarship the more accessible. I could have wished for a little more attention to New Testament issues, but there is much fascination in his unpacking of apparent problems in the Old.
This book will be of real value to those wanting to engage or re-engage with the Bible, but finding themselves confused and sometimes repelled by it. They will find that Page is a congenial and reliable companion, and the badly behaved Bible might well sing again.
The Rt Revd John Pritchard is a former Bishop of Oxford.
The Badly Behaved Bible: Thinking again about the story of scripture
Hodder and Stoughton £16.99
CT Bookshop special price £14.99