The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts
By Karen Armstrong
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.
“[An] unusual, often dazzling, blend of theology, history, and neuroscience”—The New Yorker
“A manifesto . . . A panoramic tour of religious history . . . Armstrong is an exceptional storyteller, and The Lost Art of Scripture is an amazing story. It is, admirably, a compendium of religious philosophy.”—The Washington Post
“Armstrong is on good form in The Lost Art of Scripture. It exhibits her well-known and admired characteristics as a writer: an ability to be both authoritative on all the major faiths, and studiedly neutral as to which offers the best solutions/worst failings; a reasoned insistence that religion today is misunderstood, as much by the religious as by their critics; and a passionate appeal to our fractious and fractured world to embrace religion’s core message . . . It makes for a compelling read, impressive in the range of its scholarship, but always cogently expressed for those prepared to commit to the search to understand.”—The Sunday Times