Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
June 2018
Fred's Rating: 
John Shelby Spong
Total Pages: 
Harper Collins

John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ for 24 years before his retirement in 2000. One of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity, he has been featured on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, FOX News Live, and Extra. This book is based on the William Belden Noble lectures Spong gave at Harvard. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

I bought the paperback edition, but I give here Amazon’s website for the Kindle edition, as it includes all 12 pages of the Preface:

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this book's covers at the website above.]

The home page has a good summary (click on ‘Read more’). Among the ‘Top Customer Reviews’ I recommend reading the first one, by HT, for a very detailed review (if you click on ‘Read more’). However, I recommend using Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option and scroll down to the 3-pp Contents, where you will find the Contents pages list all of the subsections for each of the book’s 33 chapters – a feature that always pleases me a lot. I very strongly recommend reading Spong’s 12-pp Preface. The Kindle website includes the first six pages of the 11-pp Ch. 1 – Stating the Problem, Setting the Stage.

The online material given above should well prepare you for the material in this book. What I add to this is the reason Spong gave in his most recent book Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today (book 749), from which I select quotes from its Preface. [Any comments by me are in square brackets.] “I look back with some amusement on the fact that I have introduced all of my recent books as probably my ‘last book.’ In all honesty I must confess that this has been accurate.” … “The fact remains that I have thus far written five ‘last books.’ I think I can guarantee that this current volume, however, will be my last.” [He was 88 when Unbelievable was published on Feb. 13, 2018.]

“Some of my best books have been written in these twilight years of my life. I look at Eternal Life: A New Vision – Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell [book 693, out on Oct 5, 2010], The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic [book 698, out on Sept 2, 2014], and Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy [book 758, out on Jan 24, 2017].” [I had already read and reviewed three of these four ‘last books,’ by Spong, so I bought this current book – 758 – to complete my reading of his four ‘last books.’]

Spong then states [in the Preface of book 749] that he wrote these four books … “based on the experience of finding that the traditional words of religion have lost their believability; for me, it became a necessary piece of work to clear away things that had not been dealt with in previous books. It is a fitting culmination to a writing career that has extended for almost fifty years.”

This current book (758) makes the ninth book by Spong that I have read (so far). I found his analysis of the Gospel of Matthew to more strongly establish my less-informed prior conclusion that Matthew’s Gospel was based upon the traditional form of Jewish orthodoxy. This conclusion has been widely held for many centuries because Matthew seldom missed an opportunity to base his Gospel on something from the Old Testament. In this current book Spong supports such a conclusion on many details he gives that were beyond my knowledge. Although it gave me few new opinions about Matthew, it strengthened the basis for such a conclusion. I thus rate this current book at five stars.