"'Oh,' said the shepherd, the glow of the fire lighting his eyes, 'I didn't know before that the Bible was a sheep book.'"
~ from Robert J. Morgan's The Lord Is My Shepherd
For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan HamiltonBest remembered now from the film Chariots of Fire, which portrayed his triumph in the 1924 Olympic Games, Eric Liddell went on to serve as a Christian missionary in China. He taught there for nearly 20 years, until the Japanese invasion and his incarceration in their concentration camp. While a prisoner of war, he strove to improve the conditions of fellow internees until his death in 1945. In For the Glory, author Duncan Hamilton compellingly weaves together information from documentary sources with other historical records to create a vivid and inspiring portrait of this man, whose devotion to God led him to excel in whatever he attempted.
Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto by Lesley HazletonWhile many people who profess a religious faith adhere to just one belief system, author Lesley Hazelton speaks up for the freedom to stay uncommitted. A member of a Jewish family who was educated in a Catholic convent school, she has written several well-researched and balanced books on Islam and biblical women. In Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, Hazleton observes that agnosticism permits wide exploration into the concept of "God" while accepting the existence of mystery (or unexplainable phenomena) and other religious concepts. Rather than deny everything religion offers (as an atheist might), she celebrates spiritual possibilities. For an atheist's similarly engaging approach to the spiritual life, try Barbara Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God.
Siddhārtha's Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment by James KingslandModern neuroscience meets the Buddha's discovery of enlightenment in this "compelling treatise on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness" (Kirkus Reviews). James Kingsland, the Guardian's science editor, presents a brief spiritual biography of Siddhārtha Gautama, who made mindfulness meditation the foundation of Buddhism. With the Buddha's experiences as a framework, he provides an extensive and accessible review of clinical studies of meditation's neurological effects and mindfulness-based therapies. Siddhārtha's Brain includes references to meditation practice in other religious traditions and adds guided exercises to illustrate its effects for readers.
The Lost Book of Moses: The Hunt for the World's Oldest Bible by Chanan TigayIn this combination of biography, memoir, travelogue, and scriptural history, author Chanan Tigay explores the life of a 19th-century antiquities dealer who claimed to have discovered the oldest manuscript of Deuteronomy. The dealer, Moses Shapira, was denounced as a fraud, and the scroll disappeared, but 64 years later the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, transforming the field of biblical archaeology. Could Shapira's find have been genuine? In The Lost Book of Moses, Tigay traces his efforts to find the lost manuscript while chronicling Shapira's life. Fans of archaeology and scriptural history won't want to miss this thrilling account.
The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book by Timothy BealReligious studies scholar Timothy Beal grew up in an evangelical Christian household where people diligently and enthusiastically read and studied the Bible, from his grandmother's floppy, well-worn book to his mother's Greek New Testament. In The Rise and Fall of the Bible, Beal portrays the Bible's status as an American cultural icon while exploring its textual history. Through chapters that include "Biblical Values," "What Would Jesus Read?", "The Story of the Good Book," and "Library of Questions," he urges Christian readers to grapple with the provocative challenges of the scriptures. Publishers Weekly calls this engaging book "engrossing and excellent."
The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ by Daniel BoyarinIn this concise and accessible book, author Daniel Boyarin, professor of Talmudic studies at UC Berkeley, reviews precedents in Hebrew scriptures to the stories about Jesus in the Gospels. While some teachers of Christianity and biblical scholars have argued that Jesus represented a radical departure from Jewish doctrine, Boyarin shows how earlier Jewish writings describe the actions and qualities that Jesus' followers recognized when they met him. For more on the topic of the Jesus movement's roots in traditional Judaism, read Amy-Jill Levine's The Misunderstood Jew.
The Book of Mormon: A Biography by Paul C. GutjahrBeginning by noting that the story of the Latter Day Saints' holy book, the Book of Mormon, is inseparable from that of LDS founder Joseph Smith, Jr., author Paul Gutjahr vividly portrays Smith's life and his accounts of receiving the tablets that contain the Mormon prophecies. Gutjahr builds on the early history of the book and the LDS movement, exploring the Mormon prophecies' contents as well as the book's 20th-century influences on popular culture through films, theater, and fiction. While some discussions of the Book of Mormon have emphasized controversy in LDS history, Gutjahr (a professor of English, American Studies and Religious Studies) offers a balanced view, accessible to both "scholars and interested general readers" (Library Journal).
The Lord Is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23 by Robert J. MorganIn The Lord Is My Shepherd, popular religion author Robert Morgan explores Psalm 23, connecting its shepherd metaphor to anecdotes about sheep he has raised. He illustrates each verse with examples of their power to offer peace in the midst of real-life turmoil and anxiety. One of the most frequently memorized passages in the Hebrew scriptures, these six verses encapsulate the strength and solace a human being can receive through the awareness of God's presence. Morgan's inviting examples and meditative commentary emphasize the realistic value of deeply considering small portions of the Bible.
If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart... by Carla PowerFriends for years, secular American journalist Carla Power and Islamic scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi had become frustrated by the increased amount of name-calling within and between their communities. Hoping to improve her ability to discuss Islam with other non-Muslims, Power undertook extensive study of the Qur'an with Akram. For a year, she met with him weekly for private lessons and observed his Oxford University lectures. They explored and debated Islamic doctrine, and each found new understanding of their own cultures as well as an even deeper friendship. Power's engaging memoir of this experience offers compelling insight into difficult religious topics.
Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own... by Sarah RudenLetters by the Apostle Paul provide the majority of the New Testament's content outside of the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Paul's writing also provokes the most controversy. In Paul Among the People, classical scholar Sarah Ruden examines his theology and doctrine in the context of his day, focusing on both the Greco-Roman culture and on classical texts that were familiar to Paul and his original readers. While 20th-century criticism characterizes Paul as narrow-minded and misogynistic, Ruden explains how he was offering a countercultural message of tolerance and freedom found in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Readers interested in early Christian doctrine will appreciate this new look through the lens of Ruden's engrossing, scholarly discussion.
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