Herbert L Calhoun
- Published on Amazon.com
The beauty of this carefully written Catholic analysis of the bible is that it not only proselytizes gently, but also juxtaposes what has come to be accepted as standard Christian orthodoxy with Jewish biblical religious history. It is done in such a subtle and careful way that a reader may not readily see the parallel developments of both Jewish religious and ethnic history in the Old Testament, and gentile Christian religious orthodoxy in the New Testament.
However, nowhere are the two modalities of biblical explanation clearer than in the summary section of the book the author calls "Around the Bible in 30 Days." What is most striking about this very much-compressed but pristine summary of both Testaments is that the reader gets to see the unalloyed forest from above the trees. One gets to see, to the extent any exists at all, the logic of both halves of the bible. The rest of the book is used to get down into the trees, i.e., the wars, the sex, the overthrow of Kings, dynasties, the killing of prophets, the miracles, etc.
On the one hand, there is an utter lack of any discernable order in the Old Testament, chronological or otherwise -- that is, beyond God's personal thousand-year interest in the survival of the Jewish people. One can see from this vantage point clearly that the Old Testament is little more than a very ragged, meandering compilation of a thousand years of the oral history of the Jewish people, cobbled together and then turned into print without much conscious forethought -- and done so over the better part of the same thousand years as the Jews struggled against being enslaved by one group of overseers or another.
The Old Testament then is clearly just a potpourri of songs, legal documents, contracts, letters, riddles, official histories, poems, family trees and secrets, containing almost as an afterthought the over-arching political and religious dogma about the many different kinds of Gods and their continuing personal interest in Jewish survival.
On the other hand, compare this thousand year disordered, meandering compilation of Jewish oral history, with the utterly purposeful rendition of the New Testament, authored mostly by Paul, who was eventually to become the first Catholic Pope.
When an outline of the two narratives is laid side-by-side, as is done here in the author's summary, an unmistakable subtext emerges. The juxtaposition begs the question: Is it not the case that the latter narrative, Paul's version of Christianity (a sect he had previously detested but later came to embrace), as it was expressed through Jesus and the New Testament, not intended merely as the replacement for the Old Testament?
One of the compelling reasons one might think this is the case is that the Old Testament rambles and meanders, with chronological switchbacks, while the New Testament is a profoundly linear and purposeful political document written and rewritten several times under the influence of committees of powerful men over a period of about 80 years. Its single preoccupation was to legitimize Jesus as the new religious standard bearer, the messiah, God stand-in as it were: Paul's Jew, Jesus, would be the new messiah, a stand-in God for the new religion of gentiles called Christianity. And like a good modern day Madison Avenue "pitch man," Paul hewed and shaped his creation not just into a new religion, but also into the cornerstone of the Western way of life. That is no mean trick for one committed warrior of a cause:
A great information packed read at any age. Five Stars.