The Good Book Mar12

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The Good Book

The Good Book

Bible references are everywhere, giving the lie to the popular notion (especially amongst our younger readers) that the Good Book is irrelevant. Bruce Springsteen’s song Adam Raised a Cain makes references to the first man and his son Cain, the first murderer; Dostoyevsky mentions Elias from the book of Luke Chapter 1, verse 17 in his The Brothers Karamazov: ‘and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah/ to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children/ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just/ to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Who’s Luke anyway? I hear you ask. He is, according to Bible scholar David Pawson, “the best loved but the least well known of all the four Gospels.” The book of Luke contains the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son (The Rollings Stones have a song called Prodigal Son). And while other books such as Matthew talk about the Disciples being likened to salt, Luke elaborates on the metaphor. Luke also contains the only story about Jesus’ first 30 years.

Steven Pinker, renowned Harvard academic and author writes in The Better Angels of our Nature (reviewed elsewhere on this website) that the Old Testament is proof that the world has got less violent. The book Sex and Punishment by Eric Berkowitz mentions the book of Leviticus and how in it the Jews outline their laws including their ban on homosexuality because it doesn’t promote the production of more Hebrews. Leviticus is also where you’ll find Sodom and Gomorrah (Gomorrah is a movie too, while The Pogues have an album called Rum, Sodomy and the Lash).

Iron Maiden have a song called Revelations inspired by the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament; Thomas Harris’ book (and later the movie it gave birth to) Red Dragon is inspired by the same book of the Bible: “And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.”

When, in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock applauds Portia he (thinking she’s a man) calls her a “Daniel” – he’s in the Bible too, has his own book in the Old Testament. Daniel was a vegan or at least a fairly devout vegetarian –¬† he ate no red meat and like vegetables and fruit. Because, as Pawson argues, the book of Daniel can be so far-fetched, it causes people to wonder about the Bible and its purpose. That’s something all great books do: you can’t get away from them.

Evangelii Gandium

or Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis is, according to journalist Paddy Agnew, “an exhortation he wrote alone.” It comprises 50,000 words with headings like “No to an Economy of Exclusion” and “No to a Financial System which Rules rather than Serves.”He argues the poor know better the suffering of Christ and therefore are better placed to educate us about Christianity. He denounces Capitalism or more specifically modern deregulated capitalism; to it must be applied the limiting precepts of the Ten Commandments: “Thou Shalt Not…”

He appears to disavow Papal Infallibility: “the papal magisterium should [not] be expected to offer a definition or complete word on every question which affects¬† the church and the world.” Neither should European Catholicism try to impose its particular way of worship on Catholics elsewhere. Furthermore, the Sermon should be short seeing as it forms part of the Eurcharist – presumably Francis doesn’t wish for it ever to become the Eucharist.

R.H.