Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The 100 Minute Bible, which was launched last week and has sold 100,000 copies in just a few days, is expectedly provoking plenty of reaction - both pro and anti. I did an interview recently with the Christian Science Monitor (syndicated on ABC News), which has presented a reasonable round-up. I loved the bit about "It has some searching for the beatitude 'Blessed are the editors, for they shall make stuff shorter to read.'" (Regarding my own contribution: it's interesting to see how an eight-minute conversation looks when it gets boiled down... and given the subject matter, that seems par for the course!)

Some Christian comment on this topic seems to start with a proprietorial angle: "how dare, you, this is our book, we own it." No you don't, it's in the public domain. And anything that makes people argue about it, wrestle with it and not take it "for granted" or "as read" seems a good thing. Besides, those who complain about hijacking now know how many Jewish communities feel about "the Old Testament". As Walter Brueggemann suggests, the Bible creatively handled involves texts under negotiation - an explosion of destabilising energy, not a bulwark for the status quo. Anyway, this is how my comment came out:

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, a London-based theological think tank, says that while new versions may find new markets, there is no substitute for time spent with the original. He says one problem with the "100-Minute Bible," for example, is that it "flattens out the literary variety" of the Bible - its poetry, prophecy, history, law, parables, polemics, and letters - into, simply, prose. "An example of where it can go wrong is in saying, 'God created the world in six days,' as if the whole story of Genesis was some literal statement," he says. "This could merely feed those who see the Bible as an oracle and don't see the poetry and parable there."... "If it gets people to read and think, that's good," he adds, "but we also need to say 'if you are going to understand this thing, you'll have to spend some time with it.' "

Ouch. The first sentence sounds like some kind of KJV promo. What I meant was "summaries" and "full versions", of course. Ah, the perils of punditry... Btw, this is an opportune moment to plug two very good weblogs: PostmodernBible (by NT teacher Pete Philips) and the new Dissonant Bible (Mark Balfour), which intends “to record some of my own reading of the Bible, with especial attention given to the discordant or dissonant parts, not in an attempt to harmonise them or restrain them within the straightjacket of some systematic theology, but as a genuine attempt to say - this book is strange, is alien and has the power, if we allow it, also to render our own world strange and alien to us.” Whatever next, a Bible podcast? Er, thanks, Maggi... ;-)

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