In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis by Karen Armstrong
|In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis by Karen Armstrong|
|Genre: Spirituality and Religion|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: A detailed and rather scholarly study, analysis and interpretation of Genesis - the first book of the bible. The book of Genesis illustrates many problems that we can actually relate to in our everyday lives in the 21st century.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: March 2011|
Armstrong's background (there's a page right at the beginning) is certainly diverse and interesting so I was looking forward to reading what she had to say. And thankfully, I didn't have to rummage around looking for my own copy of the bible (I've now located it) as Armstrong obligingly provides Genesis (in beautiful, old-fashioned typeface) here. So roughly two thirds is given over to her investigative prose and the remaining third is the actual book of Genesis, for handy reference.
This publication is all about A New Reading Of The Book Of Genesis. Methodically, we work through it from beginning to end (there's 50 chapters in total, all relatively short). We start off with Jacob under the heading Wrestling with God and Scripture and Armstrong is not afraid to give her opinions and she is also not afraid to criticise where she feels it necessary. There are plenty of morsels of information such as that the name of Israel translates into one who struggles with God. And as early as page three Armstrong underlines that the reading of the scriptures is not an easy task. I think many will be nodding their heads along with myself here. In fact, she takes it further by stating that ... we have to know how to read our scriptures. They demand an imaginative effort ... I couldn't agree more. Even reading this slim volume demands a somewhat imaginative effort, on my part. A lot of information is packed between the covers of this book.
Armstrong also mentions other religions (as an aside really in order to prove a point). She also stresses the 'reading' differences between those in the east and those of us in the west. On the whole, we westerners question more and science and hard facts tend to get in the way of our reading. And with such provocative chapter headings as Fact or Fiction? and A Happy Ending? the author really wants us to think and to challenge the status quo when it comes to Genesis. Tall order, I'm thinking. And as Armstrong gets into her stride she tells her readers that there was more than one account of the famous and well-recognized first line that many of us can quote from memory In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and poses the question why should we simply accept this version. Why should it take precedence over the other version (it's quoted in the book). In-depth reading indeed.
Adam and Eve, Noah (and his ark) all come under Armstrong's investigative eye. As well as 'sin' (in all its dreadful forms) Armstrong takes various sections of the scriptures which are perhaps better known to the majority and tells us that they can have relevance - deep relevance for us now. She also cites the greed of human beings and of our collective heavy footprint on the planet. This part I did particularly find interesting and I would have liked more time on it - but we moved rather swiftly on to Cain and Abel. A couple of sentences really did stand out - when Armstrong criticized not only Noah but - wait for it - God himself. Now there's a brave woman, I was thinking to myself.
This is an academic work on religion, there's no getting away from it. But for those who wish to get more from the bible and a better understanding of its first book then you may find this publication worthwhile reading. Myself - well, I found parts both interesting and illuminating but I won't be rushing off to read the other books of the bible anytime soon. Bite-sized chunks are just right.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might also appreciate Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.