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The Book of God by Walter Wangerin

 
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2021 6:23 am    Post subject: The Book of God by Walter Wangerin Reply with quote

This is an odd book subtitled, The Bible as a Novel, and that is pretty much what it is.

It is not a front to back inclusive rendition of the whole Bible story; it begins with the story of Abraham and continues from there, and I found this a bit of a shame. I think the early story of the Creation and flood myths, of Cain and Abel and Noah are some of the most interesting bits of the book and would have rendered well into the story telling mode that we have here. But no doubt the author had his reasons, and in fairness, once having started where it does, the story from thereon in is pretty faithful (drum roll) to the original.

And quite a story it is! It fairly rattles along, and without all of the repetition and asides of the original, and in prose that is both modern, but keeps an element of the 'feel' we are used to I have to say I think it really works. It's like it would be if you were sat round a fire with someone telling you the stories in the oral tradition. They'd use their own words, but the power of the story (if they were a good story teller) would remain.

I've reached the section on Kings, and am reading how Saul became jealous of David (he of Goliath fame) and tried to kill him. I really am learning a lot about the Bible story that a reading of the original text, even in the modern translations, does not make clear. The author clearly knows his source material and has done a fine job to date in getting the flavour and excitement onto the page without sacrificing the message or indeed the essence we are used to.

I'm guessing some people would have reservations about this way of reading the Bible - but I'm thinking they are missing the point; you are most definitely not reading the Bible. (No doubt many of the people who have read this book have missed exactly the same point). The book does not clothe itself in a sheepskin and present itself as Esau in replacement of Jacob - it is entirely clear as to what it is. It is the book equivalent of a Hollywood film of the subject, and like such films you are going to either like it or not, be able to accept it as a reasonable way of accessing the stories or find it a cop-out for the lazy.

For me it's doing the job really well. I've read another version that presents the Bible as prose (rather than as a straightforward story), but much more faithfully to the original text, and it was much harder to read. For me, this is a far more approachable way of getting the flavour of the original, but without the grind. Don't get me wrong - I love the King James prose; some of it is simply the best writing I have ever read. But I tend to love it in small chunks - in the quotations and bite-size pieces that are so memorable, so pithy. This on the other hand captures the tragedy, the thrill and the sweep of the stories themselves, and does so very very well. To any who have ever been interested in reading the Bible, but somehow never got round to it, I recommend it.
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