YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE
by Peter Kreeft
(Ignatius Press, 2005, 328pp, $33.90, ISBN: 978-1-58617-045-5. Available from Freedom Publishing)
This recent book by prolific American author, Peter Kreeft, tackles a common difficulty many Catholics have in reading large sections of the Bible - let alone the Old and New Testaments in their entirety. Most retire from that task, quite early, possibly daunted or discouraged by the immensity of the Scriptures. Unfortunately, not many take up the challenge again, at least in the short term.
Dr Kreeft is a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, a convert to Catholicism and the author of over 40 books including Prayer, The Great Conversation, Back to Virtue, A Refutation of Moral Relativism, Making Sense out of Suffering and How to win the Culture War.
In You understand the Bible, Kreeft begins with an easy-to-grasp overview of the Bible while at the same time anticipating the common problems encountered by the relatively unlearned reader. In this regard, he explains that his book is a reference for "amateurs."
Each chapter eases a beginner's path in terms of the "who, why and where" questions as Kreeft examines each book of the Bible in a way that allows for the difficulties of the non-specialist reader.
By way of an example of Kreeft's approach, during his treatment of the New Testament, he perceptively describes the dissolute condition of ancient Corinth that St Paul had to contend with, comparing at length the amoral condition of that world with that of our own times.
At the time of St Paul, Corinth could be described as the "Surfers Paradise" of the Eastern Mediterranean, not to mention "Sin City". On a high hill above the city stood a Temple to Aphrodite, replete with a thousand temple prostitutes, while two-thirds of Corinth's 700.000 citizens were slaves. Life was indeed cheap and there were few rules.
St Paul began his preaching in Corinth in the years AD51-52, and his chief difficulty in preaching to an intelligent, wealthy and educated audience was a prevailing climate of sceptism that excluded the possibility of anyone being raised from the dead, as in Christ's resurrection. It was a challenge St Paul addressed with courage.
Kreeft's treatment of the many other parts of the Bible is equally interesting.
In short, he has produced an easy to follow, illuminating guide for the relative beginner wishing to read the Scriptures. One hopes this will motivate more of us to embark with confidence on a spiritually rewarding journey through the Bible.