The Bible for the Curious

A Brief Encounter

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Philip R. Davies
  • Sheffield, UK: 
    Equinox Publishing Limited
    , November
     168 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


In The Bible for the Curious: A Brief Encounter, acclaimed author Philip R. Davies brings to life the scriptures, highlighting the need to not only observe what “the bible should say or what we are told its says, but to observe what is says” (4). This book attempts to pave a path for readers to be informed of the “intelligent, sympathetic and critical responses” when revealing the ways in which the Bible was formed and how these writings came to be (4). 

Make no mistake: Davies begins the book by asserting the understanding that the Bible “for many people in our multicultural society has no historical or cultural value” (3). Yet, the detailed exploration of how the development of scriptures were formed by “real authors in real historical settings” demonstrates the significance of the work of those who open and see the Bible. 

Enriched with scriptural passages, images, and maps, the work is divided into four parts. First, Davies describes the way in which one should approach the Bible, and challenges the reader to reflect on how it was written. Shaped by the first part, the second and third parts mirror the structure of the Bible itself by discussing the stories of Israel and Jesus. The final section adheres to the dimensions of philosophy, ethics, and piety. Throughout the text, interesting points are developed. How can the taking seriously of the writing, formation, and the context from which the Bible is written help readers come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah? How does this approach help us understand more of our own culture and our faith formation practices in and outside of the Christian faith? Why is this important in a modern secularsociety? 

The goal of this text is twofold. First, Davies’ objective is to widen the vision of the scriptures in ways that furthers critical conversations, especially in light of scholarly historical and material analysis. Second, Davies directs the reader in such a way that challenges the practice of dismissing the Bible as the “Word of God” as well as to adhere to those who see it as such. The major strength of this text is not only in Davies’ systematic understanding of Biblical scholarship, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the way in which he enables readers to embrace the value of scriptures in our times. One weakness, I suggest, lies in his commitment to not “simply acquaint the reader with the content, but to help inform critical responses” (4). Perhaps asking more questions throughout the work would help to shape more reflectivity from readers, which then would compliment the Bible’s connection with culture and ourselves. 

Nevertheless, The Bible for the Curious an impressive achievement and reveals how readers become believers, how believers can become readers, and how a recognition of how scholarly approaches to scriptures can contribute in bringing Biblical scholarship to life. It seems fair to ask, how can I use these brilliant notions of the Bible within my own classroom, as a theological educator? Indeed, Davies’ work has manifested his objective in creating new possibilities to understand present actualities.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Jane M. Curry is Lecturer in Practical Theology at St. Thomas University.

Date of Review: 
July 31, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Philip R. Davies, who died in 2018, was Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield.


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