HOW TOREAD THE BIBLE, by Abbe Roger Pnelman (Longmans, 6s.). LET us open the bible, the book of which God is the author, " the Word of God "; and what shall we find ? Well, we know that we shall find a bewildering mixture of history, poetry, prophecy; of laws, rules regulations; stories gross and delicate, edifying and disedifying. In the very first book there are two distinct and " differing " accounts of creation and the making of man.
Shall we then open the Bible and try to read it as a connected story. or shall we content ourselves with dipping here and there as the spirit moves us, and the references of the liturgy or a stirring sermon urge us? Or shall we think in terms only of The New Testament, and concentrate the little time. we think, we have for reading scripture upon the Gospels and Epistles ?
Clearly the first is a counsel eof despair, and the second contrary to the whole mind of the Church and the explicit teaching and commands of all the Popes. Further it is logically and intellectually. not to say spiritually, impossible to understand the " fulfilment " if we do not know what is being fulfilled. We must then open the Bible and read and listen to the Word of God: equally obvious is it that we need a guide, we literates, who have been taught how to read our Chaucers. Shakespeares, Miltons, Dantes and the Classics generally, or if we have not, find plenty of simple guides to their reading.
SUCH guides to the reading of the Holy Scripture have for some time now been appearing; but one of the very first, one of the very best. one that no less an authority than Pere Danielou called " the guide that the whole Christian laity should have today" was in 1950 revised and rewritten in the light of suggestions and criticisms of those who had used it.
It was the Abbe Roger Poetman's Ouvrons la Bible (Let us open the Bible). This invaluable book is now made available to English readers.
Now. what exactly makes thie book. which in the English edition is called How to Read the Bible, " invaluable." ' one of the very best " guides ? It is the fact that it really is a guide
Read Genesis 1-3," saysthe guide, and then proceeds to explain briefly, and give the links to John 1. 1-18; Job 38. 1-40; Psalms 8. 138. and 103. and the " wisdom " literature.
It covers and unifies the whole of the Bible from " the book of the beginnings " to the " book about
the end," the Apocalypse. It is written simply. factually, using a vast scholarship, not displaying it. counselling to wider reading than it demands; and always leading the reader on to the spiritual aspect of this whole business of reading the Bible which is really that of " praying the Bible."
It is a pity that for the price thepublishers could not have made the binding more sturdy; for this is precisely the book that ought to become a more or less standard " text book " for Fifth and Sixth Forms; and be a permitted " personal issue" to all those entering upon studies for the priesthood. Or the religious life. as well as he in the possession of every Christian layman, as Father Danielou said.
A RETREAT FOR PRIESTS, by Ronald Knox (Sheet! & Ward, 10s. 6d.).
THIS Retreat for Priests should' be read by every layman as well as priest. In its first edition it won " golden opinions," " firstclass notices " from Catholic and Anglican, clerical and lay. newspapers and reviews alike.
The first reason why it should be read by laymen is that it con• nects with the matters raised above: these 18 conferences. or talks. are all based on stories from the Old Testament : The Creation; The Flood; Esau; Jacob; Joseph: Saul; Raboam; Elias; Esther: Manna in the Desert; The High Mountain.
Of his plan Mgr. Knox has this to say himself:
" I only want to use the Old Testament stories more or less in their order as a thread on which we can hang our meditations . in most cases I shall choose also sonic incident in the New Testament and put it side by side with the other as type and anti-type; between the two, we ought by God's help to be able to see what warning it was, or what encouragement, that the Holy Ghost meant us to draw. when He inspired the sacred authors to write as they did."
Mgr. Knox's own tentative suggestions of what these lessons were are masterly, inspiring, refreshing. and so down to earth in their high spirituality.
-fo delay only on one example of many: "Certainly all schoolboys who are introduced to the facts (of the Esau and Jacob story) go away with the firm conviction." writes Mgr. Knox, " that Esau was a sportsman. that Jacob was a cad and a sneak." He then develops the story as the tragedy of Esau rather than the triumph of Jacob.
So much of the Old Testament springs to life in these conferences. new. and fresh. and helpful, meaningful. and we go back to the text. the Word of God.