Book Review of: The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love, By Bishop John Shelby Spong
Let’s begin this book review with who Dr. John Shelby Spong is. He is an Episcopal Bishop and wears a white collar and a lovely smile. From all outward appearances he looks the part. He has taught at Harvard and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has written many books to include: A New Christianity in a New World, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalists, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? and Why Christianity Must Change or Die.
In his book published in 2005, his chapter titles tell a very interesting tale of what he thinks the bible is saying. There were several chapter titles that I just thought were very telling about the direction in which this book intended to go. For instance, “ Creation: The Woman is not Made in the Image of God”….he had me there. I was intrigued, I just had to read that one. The other chapter title that caught my eye immediately was “The Homophobia of Paul”. Hummmmm, I’m now dubious.
I will not cover every chapter, there has to be some surprises for those of you who choose to read this book. In Chapter 7, “Creation: The Woman is not Made in the Image of God” begins with “Patriarchy and sexism are certainly not limited to our own Judeo Christian heritage…” That was very true. The commentary of the New Testament (NT) reeks of misogyny, but is that what the NT really says? He also gives us an interesting rendition of sex slang. He goes on to use a quote from Genesis 2 “but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him” and sums up this verse as saying “ can anyone seriously argue today that these words are the “Word of God”? (pg 75) So, by now, I was beginning to think maybe he doesn’t really, in fact, believe this is the word of God. I began having many questions about his authenticity as a true believer. But I pressed on. “She was designed as a helpmeet not an independent person”. I was stunned. Isn’t he supposed to be a biblical scholar? Has he not studied the “ezer kenegdo” of Genesis 2? It was becoming crystal clear that possibly the bible that he studies is not the same as the one I read. I study both the Hebrew and Greek….maybe that hadn’t occurred to him. I could say so much more about this chapter, but I won’t, I will leave you a few surprises.
The next chapter that I focused on was “Chapter 15: The Homophobia of Paul”. He starts with quoting from Romans 1:27 (KJV) “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” His conclusion? Okay, hold on to your hat. Bishop Spong states, “Paul is asserting that homosexuality is the punishment by God to those who fail to worship Him properly.” I’ve read that verse more than a few times and not once did I get that. Clearly I was missing something. I read on, but unfortunately it was more of the same.
I finished the book wondering what bible exactly Bishop Spong was reading. I will have to say, I’m sure I don’t have the same biblical education of this man, but I clearly was missing the conclusions that he so easily came to. And after all that, if you choose NOT to read it, that would truly be understandable.