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Today the Quran is used by some to justify war and acts of terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The significance of Scripture may not be immediately obvious in our secular world, but its misunderstanding is perhaps the root cause of many of today's controversies. In this Today the Quran is used by some to justify war and acts of terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The significance of Scripture may not be immediately obvious in our secular world, but its misunderstanding is perhaps the root cause of many of today's controversies. In this timely and important book, one of the most trusted and admired writers on the world of faith examines the meaning of Scripture. The sacred texts have been coopted by fundamentalists, who insist that they must be taken literally, and by others who interpret Scripture to bolster their own prejudices. These texts are seen to prescribe ethical norms and codes of behavior that are divinely ordained: they are believed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong shows in this chronicle of the development and significance of major religions, such a narrow, peculiar reading of Scripture is a relatively recent, modern phenomenon. For most of their history, the world's religious traditions have regarded these texts as tools that enable the individual to connect with the divine, to experience a different level of consciousness, and to help them engage with the world in more meaningful and compassionate ways. At a time of intolerance and mutual incomprehension, The Lost Art of Scripture shines fresh light on the world's major religions to help us build bridges between faiths and rediscover a creative and spiritual engagement with holy texts.


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Today the Quran is used by some to justify war and acts of terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The significance of Scripture may not be immediately obvious in our secular world, but its misunderstanding is perhaps the root cause of many of today's controversies. In this Today the Quran is used by some to justify war and acts of terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The significance of Scripture may not be immediately obvious in our secular world, but its misunderstanding is perhaps the root cause of many of today's controversies. In this timely and important book, one of the most trusted and admired writers on the world of faith examines the meaning of Scripture. The sacred texts have been coopted by fundamentalists, who insist that they must be taken literally, and by others who interpret Scripture to bolster their own prejudices. These texts are seen to prescribe ethical norms and codes of behavior that are divinely ordained: they are believed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong shows in this chronicle of the development and significance of major religions, such a narrow, peculiar reading of Scripture is a relatively recent, modern phenomenon. For most of their history, the world's religious traditions have regarded these texts as tools that enable the individual to connect with the divine, to experience a different level of consciousness, and to help them engage with the world in more meaningful and compassionate ways. At a time of intolerance and mutual incomprehension, The Lost Art of Scripture shines fresh light on the world's major religions to help us build bridges between faiths and rediscover a creative and spiritual engagement with holy texts.

30 review for The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This is a remarkable telling of the history of man's desire to commune with his creator, how it has been attempted or accomplished from early man to present day with the thread of left/right brain activity. This book is filled with historical information from the world's varied cultures and faiths. Whether you are a scholar of any of the world's sacred texts or familiar with the history of worship in all its forms in varying cultures, this book has applications for today. Highly recommend to anyon This is a remarkable telling of the history of man's desire to commune with his creator, how it has been attempted or accomplished from early man to present day with the thread of left/right brain activity. This book is filled with historical information from the world's varied cultures and faiths. Whether you are a scholar of any of the world's sacred texts or familiar with the history of worship in all its forms in varying cultures, this book has applications for today. Highly recommend to anyone interested in the study of worship through the ages. Library Loan

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rama

    This is a mishmash The New Testament and Quran were routinely revised since ancient times and their message dramatically reinterpreted to meet the needs of the ever present. The art of scripture erased the past because the sacred text is known to be the Word of God, and it had to conform to the moral rules set in ancient times. Hence, Muslims are practicing the moral and social norms of ninth-century Arabian Desert, and the Quran and Hadith are used to justify acts of Jihad-terrorism as a religio This is a mishmash The New Testament and Quran were routinely revised since ancient times and their message dramatically reinterpreted to meet the needs of the ever present. The art of scripture erased the past because the sacred text is known to be the Word of God, and it had to conform to the moral rules set in ancient times. Hence, Muslims are practicing the moral and social norms of ninth-century Arabian Desert, and the Quran and Hadith are used to justify acts of Jihad-terrorism as a religious duty. Muslim women deeply believe that God wants them to cover their head, and Christians use the Gospel of John 3:16 to recklessly convert others into the Christian faith. Force, coercion, savagery, and war was used to enforce Christian beliefs. The take home message from this book is mixed; the author dwells on the role of myth, how it evolved, and why religions need it. She takes us back to very ancient times, about 40,000 years ago: Long before established religions came into existence to reconstruct the human faith systems. The author is known for her work on Abrahamic faiths, Old and New Testaments, and Islam. Her analysis of Hinduism covered mainly in one chapter; namely Chapter 2, falls too short for a good comparisons with religions of The Middle East. The author lacks a comprehensive competence in the vast field of Hinduism. The religious literature includes Vedas, Upanishads, the Epics, the Puranas, Bhagavad-Gita and the six Hindu philosophical systems that articulate this most ancient faith system. The earliest hymns of Rigveda are dated back to 1700 BCE. The author’s work focuses on commonalities of religions and employs the need for compassion and often invoke political correctness. She is known to be overtly sympathetic to Muslims since they make the most demand from the Western societies to conform to Muslim sentiments and Islamic values.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    “In many ways, we seem to be losing the art of scripture in the modern world. Instead of reading it to achieve transformation, we use it to confirm our own views – ether that our religion is right and that of our enemies wrong, or, in the case of sceptics, that religion is unworthy of serious consideration. Too many believers and non-believers alike now read these sacred texts in a doggedly literal manner that is quite different from the more inventive and mystical approach of premodern spiritua “In many ways, we seem to be losing the art of scripture in the modern world. Instead of reading it to achieve transformation, we use it to confirm our own views – ether that our religion is right and that of our enemies wrong, or, in the case of sceptics, that religion is unworthy of serious consideration. Too many believers and non-believers alike now read these sacred texts in a doggedly literal manner that is quite different from the more inventive and mystical approach of premodern spirituality.” You could skip to the epilogue and just read its ~30 pages instead of wading through the 400+ pages that precede it. All of Armstrong’s recent books make much the same points and use many of the same examples. Her frame of reference here includes Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Chinese religion (chiefly Confucianism).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom Helmick

    Karen Armstrong is a profound thinker, writer, and historian. I felt like I understood about half of what she wrote, but that half was really worth the long read. My sense of her thesis is that to "rescue the sacred texts" we need to read them aloud and repeatedly, bringing them to bear on our present day histories. This far more of a right brain transformative experience than a left brain academic one. Karen Armstrong is a profound thinker, writer, and historian. I felt like I understood about half of what she wrote, but that half was really worth the long read. My sense of her thesis is that to "rescue the sacred texts" we need to read them aloud and repeatedly, bringing them to bear on our present day histories. This far more of a right brain transformative experience than a left brain academic one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I arrived here after watching Karen Armstrong talking about scripture on TV, on how its modern , narrow, and often misguided interpretation needs to be understood and redressed. Certainly, the first few pages set up this argument, but then the text seems to veer off on a tangent leaving that very argument behind and losing its grip on a clear and solid interpretation. There is some talk or neuroscience, but this comes down to the difference between the left and right brain hemispheres, which har I arrived here after watching Karen Armstrong talking about scripture on TV, on how its modern , narrow, and often misguided interpretation needs to be understood and redressed. Certainly, the first few pages set up this argument, but then the text seems to veer off on a tangent leaving that very argument behind and losing its grip on a clear and solid interpretation. There is some talk or neuroscience, but this comes down to the difference between the left and right brain hemispheres, which hardly clears anything up. It is a pity because I think there is a real discussion to be had, and having watched her talk, I believe she has a lot to say, but, unfortunately this book doesn’t really work for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    কিশোর ইমন

    No matter what you believe, this is one of the must-read books for everyone on this planet. Read it. Read it. & read it. That's what I have to say about this book. No matter what you believe, this is one of the must-read books for everyone on this planet. Read it. Read it. & read it. That's what I have to say about this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Austin

    Perhaps the most conspicuous thing about Karen Armstrong's new book The Lost Art of Scripture is that it is about twice as long as it needs to be. This is not really surprising. Most books are twice as long as they need to be. But this one is really, really twice as long as it needs to be. If an editor had required her to cut 50% of it before publication, it would have been a much stronger book. And this does not mean that it is a weak book. It is not. It has a strong and compelling thesis and a Perhaps the most conspicuous thing about Karen Armstrong's new book The Lost Art of Scripture is that it is about twice as long as it needs to be. This is not really surprising. Most books are twice as long as they need to be. But this one is really, really twice as long as it needs to be. If an editor had required her to cut 50% of it before publication, it would have been a much stronger book. And this does not mean that it is a weak book. It is not. It has a strong and compelling thesis and a lot of relevant support for the thesis, but it has a lot if irrelevant support for the thesis too, and that is why it is twice as long as it needs to be. Armstrong's primary argument, if I understand it correctly, is that "scripture" is, like "poetry," "drama," or "teen paranormal romance," a specific art form (I would be tempted to say "genre") with expectations, conventions, and assumptions. Among the most important of these assumptions are: 1) scriptures are a way to approach a "true and ultimate reality"; 2) scriptures are designed to help people connect with said TaUR within specific historical and cultural contexts; and 3) scriptures are normally part of a whole package that includes myths and rituals and liturgies and other stuff that helps people connect with the divine; and, perhaps most importantly, scriptures are never "done," and canons are never closed, because, while the true and ultimate reality never changes, historical and cultural realities are constantly shifting, so the way to contact the one to the other must change to. Scriptures, in other words, must always be updated and made relevant to new contexts. Canons are always evolving. We should never close the book and say "no more." But, she suggests, most Western religions have done just that. They have locked in a certain culture's ways of connecting to true and ultimate reality--Iron-age Levantine culture, say, or Early Roman Empire or Arabian-Peninsuala tribal culture. Because this is the context of the books we consider sacred, we have locked in something that should be fluid and created unchanging idols where there should be works in progress. I am quite sympathetic to this argument and would like to have seen it made and supported more as an argument. But that is not quite what Armstrong does. Rather, she spends most of the book looking at the development of religion in the Ancient Near East, the Indus Valley, and the Chinese Empire. A lot of this information is fascinating, and, by the end of the book the reader will have a good idea of how each major region produced a line of religions with sacred texts. In China, Confucianism lead to Mohism, Taoism, Legalism, and Neo-Confucianism, each with its own sets of sacred texts. In India it was Vedic Hinduism, Upanishadic Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. And in Mesopotamia it was Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, each of which went through classical, mystical, and Enlightenment phases. The problem is that this is either way too much for a book making an argument about the genre conventions of the scriptures, and not nearly enough for a comprehensive survey of all of the world's major religions. And instead of focusing on the former, she often wanders off into general descriptions of the religions themselves that are too fragmented, and too cursory, to do justice to any of them. The result, I think, is a book that spends too little time doing what it should be doing and way too much time doing other things that it doesn't do very well. All of that said, though, I do agree with Armstrong's thesis about the art of scripture and how we lost it. And I find enugh support for this assertion in the book to make it a valuable way to think about sacred texts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Karen Armstrong, for those unfamiliar with her work, is a former nun and British writer who has written extensively on religion and religious themes. I've read and learned a lot from a few of her many books, including A History of God, to which this current book seems almost a sequel. Armstrong, who is 75, is now an ambassador for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The Lost Art of Scripture could almost serve as a textbook for a course in comparative religions. In it, Armstong takes u Karen Armstrong, for those unfamiliar with her work, is a former nun and British writer who has written extensively on religion and religious themes. I've read and learned a lot from a few of her many books, including A History of God, to which this current book seems almost a sequel. Armstrong, who is 75, is now an ambassador for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The Lost Art of Scripture could almost serve as a textbook for a course in comparative religions. In it, Armstong takes us on a tour of the scriptural foundations of most of the major religious thought of humans. It is a fascinating and lengthy (more than 600 pages) journey. We visit India for the origin of the Vedas. And we revisit to pick up on variations of Hindu texts and the evolution of Jainist thought and of the beginnings of Sikhism. It is a rich and wide-ranging history that could fill - and has filled - many books by itself. Then we see the beginnings of Buddhism. The Buddha never wrote a text and so it was left to others to gather and record his philosophy as expounded in his teachings to disciples. China was the origin of much philosophy that could be termed religious, although the Confucian and Taoist texts that are most familiar to us are not about a "God" in the Western sense; instead, they are guides about how to live a good and compassionate life. They emphasize the idea that we are to revere all life and to treat others as we would ourselves wish to be treated. And here, Armstrong does not stop with what we might normally think of as religious texts or scripture. She includes the Greek philosophers and the ancient plays which also are instructions about living moral lives. She makes the argument throughout that God, or if you prefer right thought and righteous living, is revealed in poetry, music, love, sex, as well as religion. It is revealed perhaps most clearly in Nature itself. A major portion of her book deals with the origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their scriptures. She traces the development of the Hebrew Bible and makes the point that scripture was not meant to be read "with eyes passing swiftly over a written page." Instead, it was to be read or recited out loud, often with rituals that included music and body movements. In this way, the words would be imprinted upon one's heart and mind and remembered. The beginnings of Christian scripture can fairly be traced to St. Paul and his various letters to Christian communities, although scholars believe that some of the writings attributed to him were actually written by others, including some of the most misogynist passages that continue to be used by conservatives to justify the subjugation of women. The contradictions in the accounts in the earliest Christian texts regarding the life of Jesus are many. A comparison of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is revelatory. For example, the oldest of the Gospels, Mark, does not mention the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection, curious omissions to say the least. But, of course, such contradictions are replete throughout the scriptures, including various versions of the Ten Commandments that are found in the Hebrew texts. Armstrong makes the case throughout that scripture is not to be taken literally. The reader should adopt the more inventive and mystical approach of premodern spirituality. It is wrong to try to fit it into the confines of scientific discovery or historical facts. Religion and scripture should be approached as an art form, an invention of the human mind, just like music or painting or poetry. As such, understanding of it evolves over time. The understanding of Islam and its scripture, the Quran, have evolved over time. The origins of Islam emphasize compassion and justice and its bedrock gospel is that it is wrong to build a private fortune for one's own benefit; one should share one's wealth to create a society in which the poor and vulnerable are treated with respect. This is still the faith espoused by millions around the world, but, unfortunately, a few militant passages from the Quran, written at a time when the new faith was under attack and surrounded by enemies, are taken out of context by Muslim extremists as well as by Christian fundamentalists who despise them in order to transform Islam (which at its root means submission to God) into an excuse for violence and hatred. Christianity has seen a similar evolution through the Protestant Reformation, right down to the premillennialists of today who look forward to the Rapture and being able to sit on a cloud and look down to gloat at the suffering of those left behind. It all, perhaps, harkens back to the beginnings of the Hebrew Bible which has their God repeatedly ordering genocides or, as in the Noah story, committing genocides. One would do well to once again recall Armstrong's reminder that the scriptures are an art form that expresses "the complexity of the human dilemma" and are not to be taken literally. I have barely scratched the surface of the material that Armstrong covers in her book, including many references to poetry and secular literature which might be taken as adjuncts to sacred scripture. It is an admirable compendium of religious thought through the ages. The narrative slowed to a crawl at times as she emphasized or sought to explain a point and I admit my eyes glazed over at times, but, on the whole, it is a very readable account for a skeptical layperson such as myself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Karen Armstong is recognized as one of the most respected religious scholars alive today. She has a remarkable range of knowledge about the history of various religions including China, India, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She argues in this book that scripture, in its origins, was wedded to ritual and to art and its intent was to bring about kenosis (the ‘emptying’ of the self). It was chanted, sung and acted out long before it was written down and was intended to bring about an experience of Karen Armstong is recognized as one of the most respected religious scholars alive today. She has a remarkable range of knowledge about the history of various religions including China, India, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She argues in this book that scripture, in its origins, was wedded to ritual and to art and its intent was to bring about kenosis (the ‘emptying’ of the self). It was chanted, sung and acted out long before it was written down and was intended to bring about an experience of the ‘divine within’. In all of the faith traditions she enumerates, one of the consequences of the encounter with divinity was empathy and concern for others. In agrarian societies, however, only a minority of people had the luxury and time to pursue this inner experience and there developed a ‘priestly elite’. Over time, as well, the words were written down (though still unavailable to the uninitiated). Society moved from a period of mythos, when the important truths were understood to be timeless, to logos where the power was invested in words. She describes this as the difference between the right brain (mythos) and the left brain (logos). In Greece, theater was a form of worship and communal spiritual exploration. I was particularly struck by the ‘Prayer to Zeus’(p150): We must suffer, suffer into truth, We cannot sleep, and drop by drop at the heart The pain of pain remembered comes again, And we resist, but ripeness comes as well, From the gods enthroned on the awesome rowing bench There comes a violent love. As societies entered the modern period the characteristics of the left brain took precedence over those of the right brain and scripture came to be taken literally, leading to an unhealthy emphasis on literalism followed by scepticism. Instead of interpreting scripture in the current context, it was taken to be literally true and the ability to use it to achieve kenosis was lost. (Though she doesn’t mention him, Julian Jaynes work on the origin of consciousness fits in well here). “By forcing the sacred into a wholly rational mode of thought that was alien to it and by reading their scriptures as factual, Europeans had made religion unviable.” (p403) She sees this as a grave error: “Throughout this book we have seen that scripture is incarnational. It must enter the mind and body of the prophet or sage who receives and recites it, as well as the interpreter who explores its meaning. The Word must somehow be made flesh.” (p442) “ Scripture always drew on the past to give meaning to the present. Its message was never cast in stone.” (p457) and “Unlike science, scripture always had a moral dimension and was essentially a summons to compassionate, altruistic action… and that it issue positive, practical action.” (p457) Armstrong describes these trends taking place in all of the major religions and provides copious historical detail to support her argument. She also gives illustrations of how art sometimes continues to re-interpret scripture in modern context, just as scripture originally did. The examples she uses here are mostly literary such as Thomas Mann’s tetralogy on Joseph.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    It is always a pleasure to read Karen Armstrong - her clear prose and balance between scholarship and general interest. I was particularly appreciative of how she used Iain McGilchrist's thesis to structure this work (from The Master and His Emissary on neuroscience and the roles of the linear and literal left brain and the holistic right brain). "There is no specific ‘God-spot’ in the human brain that yields a sense of the sacred. But in recent decades, neurologists have discovered that the righ It is always a pleasure to read Karen Armstrong - her clear prose and balance between scholarship and general interest. I was particularly appreciative of how she used Iain McGilchrist's thesis to structure this work (from The Master and His Emissary on neuroscience and the roles of the linear and literal left brain and the holistic right brain). "There is no specific ‘God-spot’ in the human brain that yields a sense of the sacred. But in recent decades, neurologists have discovered that the right hemisphere of the brain is essential to the creation of poetry, music and religion. It is involved with the formation of our sense of self and has a broader, less focused mode of attention than the left hemisphere which is more pragmatic and selective. Above all, it sees itself as connected to the outside world, whereas the left hemisphere holds aloof from it. Specialising in language, analysis and problem-solving, the left side of our brain suppresses information that it cannot grasp conceptually. The right hemisphere, however, whose functions tended in the past to be overlooked by scientists, has a holistic rather than an analytical vision; it sees each thing in relation to the whole and perceives the interconnectedness of reality. It is, therefore, at home with metaphor, in which disparate entities become one while the left hemisphere tends to be literal and to wrest things from their context so that it can categorise and make use of them. News reaches the right hemisphere first, where it appears as part of an interlocking unity; it then passes to the left hemisphere, where it is defined, analysed and its use assessed. But the left can produce only a reductive version of complex reality, and once processed, this information is passed back to the right hemisphere, where we see it – insofar as we can – in the context of the whole" (p.2).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    A lot of knowledge of the material here, but I felt like Armstrong bit off more than she could chew. You get an overview of theology and scripture from China, India, and the West going back 4,000 years. The start of the book introduces the book's main point: how we've come to a point where we don't do a good job reading scripture. We go to scripture to confirm what we already think, not to learn from it. But that point gets lost in the mass of info. The last chapter takes the idea head-on, but i A lot of knowledge of the material here, but I felt like Armstrong bit off more than she could chew. You get an overview of theology and scripture from China, India, and the West going back 4,000 years. The start of the book introduces the book's main point: how we've come to a point where we don't do a good job reading scripture. We go to scripture to confirm what we already think, not to learn from it. But that point gets lost in the mass of info. The last chapter takes the idea head-on, but it barely mentions China or India in doing so. It's two books in one: a history of religion, and an intepretation of modern theology - but the two parts never quite come together.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Martha Anne Toll

    Shout out to this book here https://themillions.com/2020/12/a-yea... Shout out to this book here https://themillions.com/2020/12/a-yea...

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is a long read that takes the reader from about 2500 BCE all the way to present day. It's informative and follows the creation of the major religions. Karen describes what was going on when a religion was founded, what the religion was responding to, and where we are going wrong with that religion today. One of the more illustrative parts is her description of the beginning of Islam. I knew nothing of Islam and this text has given me a better appreciation of it and refuted the popular notio This is a long read that takes the reader from about 2500 BCE all the way to present day. It's informative and follows the creation of the major religions. Karen describes what was going on when a religion was founded, what the religion was responding to, and where we are going wrong with that religion today. One of the more illustrative parts is her description of the beginning of Islam. I knew nothing of Islam and this text has given me a better appreciation of it and refuted the popular notion that Islam is a violent religion. This text also speaks to the critics of religion. Many people use confirmation bias to make the text say what they want it to say. The goal of scripture was not to be read, but spoken. It was supposed to have a transformative effect on the listeners. Instead, many people transform the scripture because they know what they want the scripture to say. This is a fantastic read for any human being, religious or not.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I received The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts through a Goodreads Giveaway. It took me some time to finish this book, mostly because it was quite a long book filled with foreign information, but I did enjoy the overall experience. I'm not familiar with too many other forms of faith, but the excellent writing helped to explain different ideologies alongside conflicts that arose because of them. Overall, it's a nice book to have, but it definitely isn't a "read for fun" type of bo I received The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts through a Goodreads Giveaway. It took me some time to finish this book, mostly because it was quite a long book filled with foreign information, but I did enjoy the overall experience. I'm not familiar with too many other forms of faith, but the excellent writing helped to explain different ideologies alongside conflicts that arose because of them. Overall, it's a nice book to have, but it definitely isn't a "read for fun" type of book instead it is an academic review of various faiths with historical information on wars and religious themes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Johannes

    Scholars lose me a little when they say something like, "We always used to understand X to mean Y, but there's no real historical evidence supporting that. I propose X means Z, but I can offer no real historical evidence for that, either...I'm just hoping you won't notice." Still, Armstrong is a solid researcher, and there's lots of interesting information, here. Scholars lose me a little when they say something like, "We always used to understand X to mean Y, but there's no real historical evidence supporting that. I propose X means Z, but I can offer no real historical evidence for that, either...I'm just hoping you won't notice." Still, Armstrong is a solid researcher, and there's lots of interesting information, here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    dry and dull

  17. 5 out of 5

    Thom DeLair

    Having read several other Karen Armstrong books, when I read the introduction talking about the science of the brain on religious experience, I thought, how much more deeper do you want to go? The Lost Art of Scripture builds upon the research of her previous works, although, because the scope is so large, one can see how many directions could be to expound this narrative. Like Armstrong's other book, The Bible: A Biography, a large focus of the subject, is reconciling modernity with religion, u Having read several other Karen Armstrong books, when I read the introduction talking about the science of the brain on religious experience, I thought, how much more deeper do you want to go? The Lost Art of Scripture builds upon the research of her previous works, although, because the scope is so large, one can see how many directions could be to expound this narrative. Like Armstrong's other book, The Bible: A Biography, a large focus of the subject, is reconciling modernity with religion, using allusions about left and right parts of the brain and how this changed during the Enlightenment. Where for centuries, religion was more of an art form according to Armstrong, with the Age of Reason, the now dominate binary left brain was creating a poisonous cocktail of snotty atheists and dogmatic fundamentalists. The Postscript led the multiple narratives of this book in a lot of directions, for examples, the Chinese narrative drops off in the 20th century, and the role of Communism globally in shaping religious and philosophical attitudes. That was not part of Armstrong's investigation of all things. Suddenly, there is a discussion about global warming and it's over. Perhaps the book was intended to be like the Mahabharata, with a large unwieldy narrative that can derive different meanings from it. Overall, the main point is to engage in the text as they are new, have vitality and speak to modern issues of our own time. An art form that engages people to connect the past's imagination with our present time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jay Bryson

    This book has several over-generalizations, and controversial positions presented as the only option. Sometimes the very scripture passage she is discussing provides an answer to what she presents as an open question. Right-brain and left-brain thinking are not as independent as she presents, other than in trances, deep meditation, or drug-induced states. On the other hand, she has a valuable emphasis on the use of communal chanting, singing, and preforming of scriptures to help internalize them This book has several over-generalizations, and controversial positions presented as the only option. Sometimes the very scripture passage she is discussing provides an answer to what she presents as an open question. Right-brain and left-brain thinking are not as independent as she presents, other than in trances, deep meditation, or drug-induced states. On the other hand, she has a valuable emphasis on the use of communal chanting, singing, and preforming of scriptures to help internalize them, resulting in loving-kindness to all. However, communal chants, songs, and performances can also intensify communal violence and hatred, even genocide (e.g., Trump and Hindu rallies). The book gets overwhelming after the first 100 pages.

  19. 5 out of 5

    William

    In our modern world, religion has come to have very specific connotations - most of which are frustrating at best and appalling at their worst. Fundamentalism and self-righteousness the world over has wrested the power of religion as an art of challenge and mystery and co-opted it into a weapon of violence and oppression. As a self-professed “mystic”, I often can see peoples’ eyes glaze over as I mention my faith. I suddenly gain the image of a crystal healer, an anti-vaxxer or a New Age chakra- In our modern world, religion has come to have very specific connotations - most of which are frustrating at best and appalling at their worst. Fundamentalism and self-righteousness the world over has wrested the power of religion as an art of challenge and mystery and co-opted it into a weapon of violence and oppression. As a self-professed “mystic”, I often can see peoples’ eyes glaze over as I mention my faith. I suddenly gain the image of a crystal healer, an anti-vaxxer or a New Age chakra-aligning hippie. Putting me in the “woo-woo camp”, as it were, has always been preferable to placing me in a fundamentalist camp - but there is space in between new age ethereality and tribalism. In this book, Karen Armstrong traces the long history of faith, and argues that contrary to popular opinion, we need to engage with the mysteries of faith now more than ever. If you have read much of her other works, you will find quite a bit of intersection in this that may read as redundancy - much of the later chapters discusses literalism and fundamentalism, which is more deeply discussed in The Battle for God . Regardless, the work was deeply moving in many places, and provided insights both into the variability of human encounters with the numinous, and also the surprising consistency within varying traditions. Armstrong argues that the core of religious experience is expanding our empathy through understanding our one-ness with the world and with our fellow man, and encountering the spark of impossible wonder that life carries. The wrestling, struggling, existential dance of pressing up against this wonder is not bound by creed and dogma - far from it. In fact, scripture has always transformed to respond to the problems of the day; it is only recently that they have been seen as inert. That dynamism and deep yearning for unity is what needs to be cultivated as we increasingly see the effects of isolated, myopic thought - both secular and religious - manifested in the world around us. 4 stars for the material, and another star for the extensive and fascinating bibliography I will doubtless be pulling from for a long time to come.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Guy

    The Lost Art of Scripture is a colossal feat of scholarship; I can’t think of one I admire more. Karen Armstrong has studied scriptures from a wide variety of cultures, and summed up the basic messages from the scripture of every major religion and a number of minor ones. Her thesis is that scripture has not traditionally been a collection of writings set in stone, but was regarded as tentative attempts to reflect the divine. It’s stunning to see the variety of ways that human beings have done t The Lost Art of Scripture is a colossal feat of scholarship; I can’t think of one I admire more. Karen Armstrong has studied scriptures from a wide variety of cultures, and summed up the basic messages from the scripture of every major religion and a number of minor ones. Her thesis is that scripture has not traditionally been a collection of writings set in stone, but was regarded as tentative attempts to reflect the divine. It’s stunning to see the variety of ways that human beings have done that, beginning with “a small ivory figurine in the Ulm Museum” which “may be the earliest evidence of human religious activity.” It is estimated to be 40,000 years old. Confronting the ineffable mystery of how we got here and what our life is intended to be, human beings have come up with any number of answers. The idea that one of them is “right” seems preposterous. At various times in human history, in fact, religious groups which today are at war actually read one another’s scriptures and learned from them. People didn’t isolate themselves as belonging to this or that religion; humankind faced the mystery and people learned from one another. And the tendency toward fundamentalism, the idea that scripture represents a historical truth and that it is one hundred percent accurate in everything it says, is a late arrival. It doesn’t show up in Christianity until the late nineteenth century, for instance. Until then scriptures weren’t presumed to be historical accounts (especially because they often contradicted one another). They were stories that were intended to convey meaning. Looking at this vast output, and considering its huge breadth, makes me proud to be human (a rare occurrence these days). It also makes me glad to be living in an age when we can see the extent of all this. In the past, people were often confined to the scripture of their own religion.[1] When you look at these scriptures as a whole, one of the most startling things is the way Christianity emerged as a world religion. Judaism was focused on the Torah and commentaries on it, which formed a vast tradition and were in many ways as important as the original words. Jesus was somewhat independent of that, a wandering teacher from a background of poverty who taught not as a scholar but as a healer and intuitive teacher who’d had his own revelation. He was crucified as a criminal—a common punishment at the time—and Armstrong thinks the act probably happened in obscurity; she thinks the accounts of the trial with Pontius Pilate were made up later, because Jesus wasn’t terribly significant at the time. Nothing was written about him during his lifetime; the letters of Paul came first, preceding the Gospels by a number of years. The Gospels are similar, but each is its own book, with its own emphasis. The idea that Paul’s letters to early Christians and these four differing accounts could be cobbled together with Hebrew scriptures to form a vast world religion with any number of denominations is mind boggling. In the history of world religion, it doesn’t seem that substantial a collection of writings. And it’s definitely a collection, not a single entity. Far vaster and more varied are the Indian scriptures, which go way back in history. It’s ironic that India today is rallying around being a Hindu nation, because according to Armstrong the word Hindu was coined by Westerners to describe a collection of writings that hardly form a coherent religion. It’s a rich source of stories, staggering in its extent. Islam is a comparatively late arrival, since Mohammed lived in the eleventh century. He drew on the older Abrahamic traditions, of course, but the Quran was a series of revelations that came to him through agony and difficulty; they weren’t dictated from above but required a lot of work to be expressed in verbal form. It’s odd, then, when parts of the work are taken to be etched in stone. They didn’t come to Mohammed that way. I find myself drawn to the Chinese tradition, the early writings of Daoism as well as what Confucionism adds, especially through the years as Buddhism joined the mix to create the Chan/Zen tradition. I can still remember in my mid-thirties—a little late, I suppose—encountering the Dao De Ching and feeling immediately that it expressed an appropriate sense of awe and mystery in the face of the Divine. Christianity has a similar feeling in the apophatic[2] tradition, but I didn’t come across that until years later. And of course sitting meditation captured me immediately, far more than any Buddhist scripture. Armstrong talks from the start about how scripture was meant to be not just a left-brain activity, to be read and pondered, but a right-brain activity as well, through being performed and chanted. In Zen we do both things, read and talk about and interpret koans, but also meditate with them and chant famous teachings. Revelations about scripture come just as often from chanting as from study. Our understanding is intuitive more than rational. It seems petty to mention that Armstrong left something out, but I definitely noticed that the towering figure Eihei Dogen is not even mentioned. Armstrong couldn’t read everything, of course, and, as many a Zen student has discovered, Dogen’s writings are a vast and intriguing sinkhole from which one never emerges. But they’re a great example of what Armstrong is talking about. Dogen was a brilliant intellectual and scholar, as well as an intuitive mystic whose writings reflect the relative and the absolute all at once. They’re an important part of world scripture. The impression I was left with eventually is not of a world divided by religions, but a world confronting a mystery and coming up with a variety of ways to explain it, including, eventually, people who find a scientific explanation adequate. Armstrong writes about Western philosophers and atheists as well. Descartes was pivotal; though he himself was a religious person, his emphasis on thinking took an essentially right-brained activity and focused it on the left brain, where it often doesn’t make much sense. Religion became something where you affirmed a set of beliefs instead of exploring a mystery. It became a set of answers rather than a set of questions. I’ve long been an Armstrong fan, and am shocked to think that, at age 75, she has published this mammoth work that sums up so much, and may be her chef d’oeuvre. I hope she continues to write for many years. But I can’t imagine a greater accomplishment than this. [1] I vividly remember my grandfather, who grew up on a West Virginia farm, talking about the doctrines of Calvinist Presbyterianism as if they were, so to speak, Gospel truth. “That’s what we believe,” he would say to me. Why? I wanted to ask, but I don’t think that question ever occurred to him. He rooted for Presbyterianism the same way he rooted for the Pirates and the University of Pittsburgh (to beat Notre Dame, which they never did. One time my uncle was rooting for Alabama in a bowl game against Notre Dame, and I asked him why. He said, “Because I don’t want every Catholic in the country saying he’s number one”). [2] “Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God.” www.davidguy.org

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Harvey

    Take a deep breath before you start this book. It is brilliant and dense. If, like me, you find yourself overwhelmed by information around halfway through - persist! It will be worth it. Karen Armstrong takes a long, hard, detailed look at the world's major religions: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Bhuddism, Confusianism and Daoism and asks, 'What went wrong?' According to the author the rise of secularism and a scientific world view put 'objective' truth on a pedestal and everything else that did Take a deep breath before you start this book. It is brilliant and dense. If, like me, you find yourself overwhelmed by information around halfway through - persist! It will be worth it. Karen Armstrong takes a long, hard, detailed look at the world's major religions: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Bhuddism, Confusianism and Daoism and asks, 'What went wrong?' According to the author the rise of secularism and a scientific world view put 'objective' truth on a pedestal and everything else that didn't make logical sense was therefore factually incorrect, misleading and wrong. The response from amongst some of the faithful was to recast their religions in scientific mode in order for their scriptures to reamain literally true. As she examines each of the worlds biggest faiths she shows how each of them went through phases of etablishment, growth, schism, conflict, decay and revival. Central to this story is the treatment of Scripture. Karen Armstrong is very clear that the word 'Scripture' is misleading. To begin with it is derived from a Latin word that means 'write' and the writing is only a small part of it. Scripture has a strong oral inheritance and it is fundamentally the word embodied rather than on paper. This embodiments takes place in private and public recitations of the words as well as ritual. Without these the words are just words and, if taken literally, will lead to either ridicule or fundamentalism. The job of scripture, says the author, is to reach the ineffable sense of the divine through these words, teachings and rituals. They're not meant to make sense. And how do the ineffable, unnameable and sacred aspects of life manifest themselves in our lives? Through mercy, compassion and equality.

  22. 4 out of 5

    St. Gerard Expectant Mothers

    Everyone interprets all holy religious texts differently. Here's history of the arguments and all the wars fought because of it. Read this if you are an academic reader. 'Nuff said. Everyone interprets all holy religious texts differently. Here's history of the arguments and all the wars fought because of it. Read this if you are an academic reader. 'Nuff said.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Walt

    The purpose of religion has become increasingly confusing in the past hundred years, as people both in and out of religions feel that as history, moral instruction, and self-help, the scriptures of major religions fail. For anyone who feels like scriptures and religions should provide these, this book is an excellent introduction to an alternative understanding of religion, which places these texts back into the creative, dynamic, ritual context they have been interpreted through for thousands o The purpose of religion has become increasingly confusing in the past hundred years, as people both in and out of religions feel that as history, moral instruction, and self-help, the scriptures of major religions fail. For anyone who feels like scriptures and religions should provide these, this book is an excellent introduction to an alternative understanding of religion, which places these texts back into the creative, dynamic, ritual context they have been interpreted through for thousands of years and shows how they remain relevant.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mr G Cotterill

    A book for those of any faith or no faith Lots of challenging ideas in here. An uncomfortable read for fundamentalists of any faith. Particularly those who are print literalists. It explores how much more we have in common rather than our differences.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Armstrong traces the history of the use, interpretation, and evolution of text in five scriptural canons of India, China, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The texts revered as scripture today are the product of an evolution of culture, belief, and practice over millenia. The origins can be found in pre-literate society -- in narratives that were memorized and chanted. These narratives evolved over centuries, even after they began to be written down. As core scripture began to be written down, t Armstrong traces the history of the use, interpretation, and evolution of text in five scriptural canons of India, China, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The texts revered as scripture today are the product of an evolution of culture, belief, and practice over millenia. The origins can be found in pre-literate society -- in narratives that were memorized and chanted. These narratives evolved over centuries, even after they began to be written down. As core scripture began to be written down, traditions of written commentary evolved and also became accepted as "authoritative". Armstrong reminds us that "until the modern period, [scripture] was nearly always acted out in the drama of ritual and belonged to the world of myth ... a myth expressed a timeless truth that in some sense happened once but which also happens all the time." In response to the challenge that arose as science began to challenge religion's claim to provide a complete and authoritative "explanation" of the world, these two domains began to be viewed in many circles as fundamentally separate. But Armstrong points out: "Scripture is an art form designed to achieve the moral and spiritual transformation of the individual and, if it does not inspire ethical or altruistic behaviour, it remains incomplete. The “art” of science is quite different, because it is morally neutral. In fact, that is one of the reasons for its success. Science can say nothing about what we should do or why we should do it. It cannot and does not prescribe or even suggest how its discoveries should be applied. Science and scripture, therefore, are chalk and cheese, and to apply the disciplines of one to the other can lead only to confusion." Perhaps some of the greatest abuse of scripture has been the literalism that arose in conjunction with fundamentalism in the modern era. This practice rejects any attempt to read scripture as metaphor or symbol and insists on the literal and infallible truth of the text. In conjunction with the practice of cherry picking individual verses, stripping them of the larger context of the scriptural message, and using them to advance a particular agenda. This practice has perversely become a tool of injustice and intolerance. Throughout the book, Armstrong maintains an essential optimism based on "the fact that in all the traditions we have considered, despite their striking and interesting differences, the art of scripture has been so similar suggests that it tells us something important about the human condition." And, "We have seen that theologians and philosophers had long insisted that our idea of God is entirely distinct from and bears little relation to the unknowable reality itself. We only know the “God” we have created for ourselves and should remind ourselves that what we call “God” is always greater than we can conceive. To which I say, "Amen."

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Martindale

    Typical Armstrong here--a repeat a lot of the content found in other works by her; however, there were some sections of interest. Unfortunately, Armstrong still employs her chief vice--stating her opinions as absolute fact. One example, she simply states how Josephus never spoke of Jesus, as if that was a settled matter and then moved on. However, Josephus did mention the death of James, whose brother was the Jesus--called the Christ. And though Jesus-Mythicist argues this is an interpolation, t Typical Armstrong here--a repeat a lot of the content found in other works by her; however, there were some sections of interest. Unfortunately, Armstrong still employs her chief vice--stating her opinions as absolute fact. One example, she simply states how Josephus never spoke of Jesus, as if that was a settled matter and then moved on. However, Josephus did mention the death of James, whose brother was the Jesus--called the Christ. And though Jesus-Mythicist argues this is an interpolation, that isn't the dominant position. The longer passage about Jesus as more than a man, in Josephus, is rightly recognized as an interpolation, but numerous scholars without faith commitments believe it was a Christianization of an actual unflattering reference of Jesus by Josephus, and their arguments seem plausible to me. Also, Origin specifically wrote about how Josephus didn't believe Jesus was the Christ, and this seems more likely if Josephus spoke of him. But yeah, sadly when Armstrong writes on things of which I know are contentious and debated, she doesn't use the word "some scholars argue" or "It seems" or "possibly" but instead she presents her opinions, often without evidence, as an unquestionable fact. This means it is unwise to trust any of her "factual" statements when she is writing on the subject matter of which I am not very learned. Armstrong, theologically couldn't be further from the Evangelical fundamentalist she derides, however, she writes as a dogmatic fundamentalist who doesn't have a shadow of a doubt on a single view she holds, and this doesn't increase her credibility. I knew, from other works, that Armstrong has expressed a highly favorable view of Islam, and I learned more of her view here. She almost totally absolves them of any wrong and violence while taking over much of the world (all the Islamic wars that occurred well before crusades), and sees their scriptures and religion as one of peace, until some in response to Christian provocation re-interpreted Jihad. Though there is no doubt she spins the evidence, this is an example of where I am okay with it. It would be exceedingly better if Muslims around the world embraced the more liberal view, interpreting their scriptures in a way that repudiates war and violence, and in a way that promoted human rights and love. Whether or not this is in tune with reality, as long as a lot of people are going to adhere to this religion, far better they understand and live it according to this spin. Better to weave a narrative about their past and how to interpret their scriptures for the present that doesn't result in harm to themselves and the world in which they live.

  27. 5 out of 5

    S Suzanne

    This is a meandering book, and may be too long as some suggest. But much of this history was unknown to me, and I enjoyed having it wash over me slowly over time in audiobook form. Karen Armstrong is an incredible scholar. My favorite book from her is "A Case for God" which is a wonderful response to the "new atheists." Karen herself is an ex-Nun, and I believe scholarship of world religion has replaced Catholicism for her. This is part of why she founded the Charter for Compassion- spreading th This is a meandering book, and may be too long as some suggest. But much of this history was unknown to me, and I enjoyed having it wash over me slowly over time in audiobook form. Karen Armstrong is an incredible scholar. My favorite book from her is "A Case for God" which is a wonderful response to the "new atheists." Karen herself is an ex-Nun, and I believe scholarship of world religion has replaced Catholicism for her. This is part of why she founded the Charter for Compassion- spreading the idea that world religions should start with the golden rule before we hack one another up over details of scripture. Along with her, I believe there is so much to be gained from Scriptures of the world, whether one is devout or not, there is plenty to learn about where we have been and a reflection of who we are. I agree with her that any true scripture is a living thing, not a rigid and unyielding piece of dogmatism. One of my favorite facts to learn as about the Jewish concept of midrash - IE, that every generation must interpret for themselves. I also loved learning about how the care for all in a society was at the heart of some eastern religions. Unfortunately, dogmatic, literal interpretive use of scripture is becoming a norm and problem worldwide. In my view, that does not indicate that actual religious practice is at fault. There is much beauty to be found in the history of religion, and much of the violence attributed to religion is when it serves politics. We have a front-row seat in the US to the hollow "use" of scripture to prop up a proudly soulless man who shows blatant disregard for any truth or learning that could be gained from the Christian scripture he claims to subscribe to, and certainly shows no connection to the social justice aspect of the Christian religion. He does not bother to quote, because it's clear he has never read the book, or if he has, he has retained nothing from it. Better to see an honest and humanist atheist than such hypocrisy, but it can be healing when someone tries to unite us with religion. When president Obama sang "Amazing Grace" - perhaps many saw it cynically, but I think many felt healing, and certainly a pride in such a beautiful and vulnerable gesture from a head of state. Listening to this book soothed my parched soul - just the fact of someone bringing important comparisons to light about actual spiritual seekers had been a balm to me. Scripture brings out simple and complex lessons and meditations at a time when many make simple answers complex and complex answers simple.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erwin Thomas

    Karen Armstrong’s The Lost Art of Scripture analyzes scripture from the major religions of the world. By so doing she discussed the concept of God. Is God immanent, omniscient, and omnipotent? Certainly, God is infinite and beyond description. The human concept of God is quite limited. Our definition of this Ultimate Presence humankind can’t begin to comprehend. It’s as though God doesn’t even exist. People can’t begin to define this Reality. Another interesting aspect of Armstrong’s work is the Karen Armstrong’s The Lost Art of Scripture analyzes scripture from the major religions of the world. By so doing she discussed the concept of God. Is God immanent, omniscient, and omnipotent? Certainly, God is infinite and beyond description. The human concept of God is quite limited. Our definition of this Ultimate Presence humankind can’t begin to comprehend. It’s as though God doesn’t even exist. People can’t begin to define this Reality. Another interesting aspect of Armstrong’s work is the recognition that all faith traditions e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and indigenous religious, all profess the major tenet of the Golden Rule. People ought to do unto others as they wish to be done to themselves. These faiths uphold the tradition of how to live compassionately in the world. Throughout the text Armstrong stresses the tension that exists between a right and left brain dichotomy. The right brain is myth - poetry, and music. Ancient scripture was transmitted orally. It was dramatized, and acted out for groups. In the past there weren’t books or scriptural sources like the canons that were recorded later. Eventually scripture was codified, no longer was it only to be committed to memory. The Quran itself means “recitation.” When Muhammad received these sutras he was told to recite them. It was long after his death that these same sutras were recalled, and formed the basis of the Islamic cannon. As for the right brain there were ramifications that didn’t sit too well. By the 18th century the emphasis was on rational thinking. Religious critics began looking at the discoveries in science as a way of interpreting scripture. Many of the scientific humanists saw scripture as untrue. Their myths were considered falsehoods. These critics concluded the stories of the Hebrew bible and the Quran were untrue and ought to be dismissed. But Armstrong pointed out that myths and science have different roles in our understanding. These approaches accomplish special goals. That’s why Armstrong explained that some theologians brought understanding to myths through midrash. Verses are often strung together to give them meaning. That’s why it’s necessary when reading scripture theologians and lay readers alike should take a holistic approach to find its meaning.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Harry Allagree

    In the Acknowledgments at the end of this book, Karen Armstrong refers to "the nadir of my career". She has been writing books of superb quality for nearly 40 years, & this new book once again attests to her exquisite scholarship & perception of humanity & the world. Let us hope that she is only "slowing down" a bit, & not at "the nadir" of her very valuable writing career! Armstrong states: "The fact that in all traditions...despite their striking and interesting differences, the art of scriptur In the Acknowledgments at the end of this book, Karen Armstrong refers to "the nadir of my career". She has been writing books of superb quality for nearly 40 years, & this new book once again attests to her exquisite scholarship & perception of humanity & the world. Let us hope that she is only "slowing down" a bit, & not at "the nadir" of her very valuable writing career! Armstrong states: "The fact that in all traditions...despite their striking and interesting differences, the art of scripture has been so similar suggests that it tells us something about the human condition." She goes on to lament that, "In many ways, we seem to be losing the art of scripture in the modern world. Instead of reading it to achieve transformation, we use it to confirm our own views...Not surprisingly, all this has given scripture a bad name..." Because of this, "...the scriptural ideal needs urgently to be restated in a way that speaks to the modern world." At the end of the book Armstrong concludes how frighteningly necessary, though slowly, this is being recognized by humans. "...whatever our 'beliefs', it is essential for human survival that we find a way to rediscover the sacrality of each human being and resacralise our world." Throughout the book she traces, in great & understandable detail, in all of the major religious traditions, the importance of seeing the deep relationship between the Sacred & all the earth, as well as the necessity for personal transformation, then personal action, in reaching out to all created beings & to all creation with compassion, mercy, truth, justice and love. Karen Armstrong concludes the book with one of the most sobering quotations I've ever read, about what happens as the world "grows old", especially given the current reality of climate change. The quote is from an ancient text in the Hermetic Corpus, or Hermetica, a collection of Egyptian-Greek wisdom texts from the 1st cent. BCE to the 4th cent. CE. Be sure to read it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob Mobley

    This is an interesting, informative and fascinating book that the religious writer, Karen Armstrong, has created and crafted on the history of Scripture. She looks at Scripture and multiple religious, as well as historical times throughout most of history. A central theme in her compelling study is that modernity and its tendency towards rationalism and liberalism, has taken away from religions a key component of the mythical and binding power that Scripture brought into cultures. One of the key This is an interesting, informative and fascinating book that the religious writer, Karen Armstrong, has created and crafted on the history of Scripture. She looks at Scripture and multiple religious, as well as historical times throughout most of history. A central theme in her compelling study is that modernity and its tendency towards rationalism and liberalism, has taken away from religions a key component of the mythical and binding power that Scripture brought into cultures. One of the key points she makes is that much of the history of Scripture resides in oral stories, and it was not until well into the fourth or third century BCA that this was the only way the stories that became Scripture were passed from generation to generation. With the invention of writing, it was possible for Scripture to be put into books that ultimately became the principle messaging device for the transmission of these ancient and complex stories. Karen Armstrong’s knowledge, understanding and grasp of global religious history is impressive. The problem this can cause for the general reader is the depth of her analysis may become overwhelming and frustrate or cause the reader to lose interest. The linkage between myth, cultural tales as imbedded in oral stories, and the shaping and development of cultures that influenced the behavior and thinking of civilizations around the world, is interesting and thought-provoking. What I found most enticing as a take-away from reading this in-depth survey, is the power that stories play in everybody’s every day life. I recommend this book to individuals who have an interest in the power of language and messaging, and wants to pursue the genesis of historical development and background of cultural history, as represented within the lost art of Scripture.

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