2021 discount The Lost Art of popular Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred popular Texts outlet online sale

2021 discount The Lost Art of popular Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred popular Texts outlet online sale

2021 discount The Lost Art of popular Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred popular Texts outlet online sale

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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

ONE OF THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR''S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

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. The sacred texts have been co-opted 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.

Review

“[An] unusual, often dazzling, blend of theology, history, and neuroscience”— The New Yorker

“A penetrating look at scriptures . . . She writes with panache . . . There are always surprising bits of history and flashes of insight.”— Booklist

“In her most profound, important book to date . . . Both nonbelievers and believers will find her diagnosis—that most people now read scripture to confirm their own views, rather than to achieve transformation—on the mark . . . This is an instant classic of accessible and relevant religious history.”— Publishers Weekly [starred]
 
“As in Armstrong’s many previous works of popular religious-historical synthesis, the breadth of knowledge on display is formidable.” Harper’s

“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

“In her latest, esteemed religion writer Armstrong . . . once again demonstrates her encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s religions. . . . Armstrong’s grasp of global religious history and thought is beyond impressive . . . For those willing to travel this road with the author, the journey is expansive and worthwhile and will make them reconsider what scripture means to those who admire it. Excellent reading for religious scholars and students.” Kirkus Reviews

“Formidable . . . serious and inspiring . . . exhilarating, challenging and curiously comforting . . . Written not only with intellectual rigor and an accessible turn of phrase, but also with love.”— Prospect Magazine

“A glorious journey . . . Armstrong is the most articulate and generous-hearted exegete of religion writing in English at the present time.” —The New Statesman

“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
 
“Rich and wide-ranging . . . A fascinating read . . . This is a treasure chest of social and religious history. Armstrong’s lucid prose makes her many-stranded story remarkably straightforward to follow . . . a learned and stimulating book.” —The Tablet

About the Author

KAREN ARMSTRONG is the author of numerous books on religious affairs, including  The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha,and  The Great Transformation, as well as a memoir,  The Spiral Staircase. Her work has been translated into forty-five languages. In 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working with TED on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the general public, and crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The charter was launched globally in the fall of 2009. She is currently an ambassador for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

part one

Cosmos and Society

1

Israel: Remembering in Order to Belong

The Fall of Adam and Eve is one of the most famous stories of the Hebrew Bible. Yahweh, the divine creator, placed the first human beings in Eden, where there was “every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.” But Yahweh gave Adam a stern warning: he could eat the fruit of all these trees except the fruit of the tree of knowledge, “for on the day you eat of it, you shall most surely die.” But, alas, Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent, and she and Adam were condemned to a life of hard labour and suffering that could end only in death.

This story is so deeply embedded in the Judaeo-Christian consciousness that it is, perhaps, surprising to learn that in fact it is steeped in the Mesopotamian Wisdom traditions that embodied the ethical ideals that bound the ruling aristocracy together. Civilisation began in Sumer, in what is now Iraq, in about 3500 bce. The Sumerians were the first to commandeer the agricultural surplus grown by the community in the fertile plain that lay between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and create a privileged ruling class. By about 3000 bce, there were twelve cities in the Mesopotamian plain, each supported by produce grown by peasants in the surrounding countryside. The Sumerian aristocrats and their retainers—bureaucrats, soldiers, scribes, merchants and household servants—appropriated between half and two-thirds of the crop grown by the peasants, who were reduced to serfdom. They left fragmentary records of their misery: “The poor man is better dead than alive,” one lamented. Sumer had devised the system of structural inequity that would prevail in every single state until the modern period, when agriculture ceased to be the economic basis of civilisation.

Adam and Eve, however, lived at the beginning of time, before the earth yielded brambles and thistles and humans had to wrest their food from the recalcitrant soil with sweat on their brow. Their life in Eden was idyllic until Eve met the serpent, who is described as arum, the most “subtle,” “shrewd” and “wise” of the animals. “Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” the serpent asked her. Eve replied that only the tree of knowledge was prohibited on pain of instant death. The arum serpent’s prediction of what would happen to Adam and Eve drew heavily on the terminology of Sumerian Wisdom: “No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.” Of course, Eve succumbed: she wanted to transcend her humanity and become godlike. The couple did not, in fact, die as soon as they ate the forbidden fruit, as Yahweh had threatened. Instead, as the serpent promised, “the eyes of both were opened”—words that recall the exclamation of a Mesopotamian student to his teacher:

Master-god, who [shapes] humanity, you are my god!

You have opened my eyes as if I were a puppy;

You have formed humanity within me!

For this student, “divinity” was not “supernatural” but an enhancement of his uncivilised and, therefore, subhuman nature. But their knowledge of good and evil made Adam and Eve ashamed of their naked, raw humanity, so “Yahweh God made clothes of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on”—a reversal of an incident in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, when Enkidu, primal man, attains full humanity only when he dons the clothes required by civilised life.

The biblical author is drawing on these Mesopotamian motifs in a distinctive, perhaps ironic way, but this narrative, placed at the very beginning of the Bible, makes it clear that scripture does not fall directly from heaven but is a human artefact, rooted in the presuppositions of a culture shared with people who are not blessed with divine revelation. This enigmatic tale also shows that scripture does not always yield clear, unequivocal teaching, but often leaves us puzzled and unmoored. In the first chapter of the Bible, God had repeatedly pronounced the whole of creation to be “good,” yet we are specifically told that the serpent, who urges Eve to disobey, is part of God’s creation. Did the potential for lawlessness and rebellion lie at the root of being—and is it, therefore, “good”? And why was Yahweh economical with the truth, telling Adam that he would die on the very day he ate the forbidden fruit? The biblical author does not answer these questions, and we will see that Jews and Christians would interpret this puzzling story in strikingly different ways.

This is not an isolated instance of Mesopotamian influence in Hebrew scripture. There are, for example, obvious parallels between Mesopotamian and Israelite legal and treaty traditions. The epic literature of both peoples refers to a Great Flood that inundated the entire world in primordial times; and the story of Moses, whose mother hid him from Pharaoh’s officials in the bulrushes, closely resembles the legend of Sargon, who, in the third millennium bce, ruled the first agrarian empire, in what is now Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. More importantly, the preoccupation with social justice and equity, which would be essential to the monotheistic scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was neither peculiar to Israel nor the result of a special divine revelation. Even though the agrarian economy depended upon the suppression of ninety per cent of the population, the protection of the weak and vulnerable was a common preoccupation in the ancient Near East. The Sumerian kings had insisted that justice for the poor, the orphan and the widow was a sacred duty decreed by the sun god Shamash, who listened attentively to their cries for help. Later, the Code of King Hammurabi (r. 1728–1686 bce), who founded the Babylonian empire in Mesopotamia, decreed that the sun would shine over the people only if the king and his aristocracy did not oppress their subjects; in Egypt, Pharaoh must be just to his subjects because Re, the sun god, was the “vizier of the poor.” This reflected a nagging discomfort with the inherent injustice of the agrarian state and was also, perhaps, an attempt to distinguish the “merciful” king from the officials who implemented it. There seemed to be no solution to the moral dilemma of civilisation. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the common people complain of their king’s cruelty, but when the gods put their case to Anu, the high god, he shakes his head sadly yet cannot change this chronically inequitable system.

Adam and Eve had violated a formal agreement with Yahweh; this too was an expression of a widespread Middle Eastern fear of breaking a sacred contract. It was the “original sin.” The theme of a divine covenant, which would dominate the Hebrew Bible, pervaded the ancient Near East from the second half of the second millennium bce. The scribes of Egypt had also created a curriculum to enculturate elite youth in the ideology that would bind their society together and give it a distinctive ethos. Egyptians called this “Maat,” meaning “truth, fairness, justice.” It required an individual to think of others and adhere to what is often called the Golden Rule, which demands that we treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves—though this, of course, did not apply to the peasants toiling in the fields.

But Maat did not come naturally to human beings. It had to be cultivated by what has been called “cultural memory,” which consisted of a body of recollections, stories of the past and visions for the future that created a communal consciousness. To form a cohesive society, individuals deliberately cultivated this memory, designing rituals that enabled them to keep it constantly in mind. In the ancient world, ideal norms were usually traced back to the very distant past and embodied in such outstanding individuals as Gilgamesh, the ancient Sumerian king whose deeds were celebrated in the great Mesopotamian epic. This was not an exercise in nostalgia but a call to action: an ideal that had been realised once could be achieved again. The past was, therefore, a realisable “present,” a project for each generation. In Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and Egypt, aristocratic youths were enculturated in an educative process that inscribed core texts, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, together with proverbs, hymns, important historical treaties and tales of the beginning of time, in their minds and hearts.

Although these key texts were written down, they had first to be deeply etched into the psyche of the ruling class, who were in charge of the precarious agrarian economy. Our word “scripture” implies a written text, and since the invention of printing, literacy has become widespread, even common, and reading a silent, solitary activity. But in the ancient world, manuscripts were often heavy, unwieldy and almost illegible; the oldest Greek manuscripts, for example, were all written in capitals with no spaces between the words. In Mesopotamia, cuneiform clay tablets were often so small that they would have been extremely difficult to decipher. They were not designed to provide an initial reading, but functioned like a musical score for a performer who already knows the piece. It was taken for granted that a reader perusing the text of the Epic of Gilgamesh or Homer’s Iliad already knew it by heart. A written version could only provide a permanent point of reference for the memorisation and transmission of those texts that were integral to society. Students did not memorise a text from a manuscript, therefore; instead it was recited, chanted or sung to them until they could recite it verbatim.

In Mesopotamia and Egypt, the cultural tradition was preserved in the minds and hearts of the scribes who held society together and had “libraries in their heads.” As students, they had been required to recite these key texts with impeccable accuracy so that they could convey them punctiliously to the next generation: “You are of course a skilled scribe at the head of your fellows,” we read in an ancient Egyptian satire, “and the teaching of every book is inscribed in your head.” Scribal schools were usually small and family-based. A father would instruct his son in the Wisdom traditions but, because of the high level of mortality, he also took other pupils. The aim was not to impart facts, but rather to drill the values of the ruling class into the student’s mind until he embodied the ethos that permeated society. He then became a “civilised” human being. A Mesopotamian riddle describes the function of the scribal school:

With closed eyes one enters it,

With opened eyes one comes out.

Students, as we have seen, regarded their teachers as “gods,” who had enabled them to gain “humanity.” This did not imply that their education had made them compassionate and humane. Unlike the peasant masses who were regarded as an inferior species, only those students who had been fully enculturated in the Sumerian aristocratic ethos were regarded as fully human. Students were not educated to think for themselves; the survival of the precarious Sumerian civilisation demanded total and unquestioning conformity with the mores of the ruling class, which had to become second nature to each young aristocrat and scribal retainer. This so-called humanity was embodied most fully in the person of the king, who was revered as the pre-eminent sage.

Writing was, therefore, associated with power and coercion. The cuneiform script was initially developed to record the taxes extorted from the peasantry. It furthered the project of political subjugation and centralisation. Writing enabled a government to communicate at a distance; it was useful in commerce, state transactions and legal affairs. But no state had either the resources or, indeed, the incentive to make the public literate. For centuries, long after the invention of writing, the oral transmission of tradition remained the norm. Scribes were required to transform the unschooled student into an “insider” in a numbing indoctrination that turned him into a docile, obedient subject. Learning was usually enforced by corporal punishment and the students’ minds were broken by the stultifying experience of memorising texts that imparted obsolete, boring and seemingly irrelevant information in ancient Sumerian, a language which over time became so arcane that it was well-nigh incomprehensible.

But this gruelling regime did not always stunt creativity. An especially gifted scribe would sometimes be required to address current preoccupations by transforming and adapting the ancient traditions. He was even allowed to insert new material into the stories and Wisdom literature of the past. This introduces us to an important theme in the history of scripture. Today we tend to regard a scriptural canon as irrevocably closed and its texts sacrosanct, but we shall find that in all cultures, scripture was essentially a work in progress, constantly changing to meet new conditions. This was certainly the case in ancient Mesopotamia. An exceptionally advanced scribe was allowed—indeed expected—to improvise, and this enabled Mesopotamian culture to survive the demise of the original Sumerian dynasties and inform the later Akkadian and Babylonian regimes by grafting the new onto the old. The Enuma Elish, an ancient Sumerian creation hymn, was adapted to culminate in the founding of Babylon by Hammurabi. Later, scribes composed a version of the hymn that climaxed in Akkad, Sargon’s capital. They also added material that transformed the Gilgamesh epic into an Akkadian text, while the Akkadian epic celebrating Sargon’s career drew freely on ancient Sumerian tales. The scribes were not merely “citing” earlier works, nor was this a “cut and paste” operation. They had memorised these texts so thoroughly that they had become building blocks of their thinking process; like jazz musicians, they were improvising with material that had become integral to their very being and devising new texts that spoke directly to the present.

Egypt tended to specialise in Wisdom texts that promoted Maat. Here too, the aim was to create a cohesive society by preventing the ruling class from advancing their own interests at the expense of others. Egyptian Wisdom linked success to virtuous conduct, and punishment to transgression. As in Mesopotamia, the education of the elite involved the memorisation and recitation of texts, which seem to have been set to music, and were chanted or sung. Constantly, the scribe urged his students to “listen” to these beautifully composed maxims, to take them “to heart” and experience them viscerally. The “Instructions of Amenemope,” which were reproduced in the Hebrew Bible, gives us the flavour of these oral teachings that insistently promoted Maat:

Give ear to my words

and apply your heart to knowing them;

For it will be a delight to keep them deep within you
to have them all ready on your lips.
So that your trust may be in Yahweh,
today I propose to make your way known to you . . . Because a man is poor, do not therefore cheat him,
nor at the city gate, oppress anybody in affliction; For Yahweh takes up their cause,
and extorts the life of their extortioners.
Make friends with no man who gives way to anger,
make no hasty- tempered man a companion of yours.
During the sixteenth century bce, Bedouin tribesmen, whom the Egyptians called Hyksos (“chieftains from foreign lands”), man-aged to establish their own dynasty in the delta area. The Egyptians eventually expelled them, but after this experience, Egypt, hitherto a relatively peaceable agrarian state, became more militant. Imperial conquest seemed the best mode of defense, so Egypt secured its frontier by subjugating Nubia in the south and coastal Canaan, which would become the land of Israel, in the north. The rulers of the city states of southern Canaan were therefore ruled by Egyptian officials who may have enculturated the Canaanite ruling class into their curriculum. But by the middle of the second millennium bce, the Near East was dominated by foreign invaders. Kassite tribes from the Cau-casus took over the Babylonian empire (c. 1600– 1155 bce); an Indo- European aristocracy created the Hittite empire in Anatolia (1420 bce);  and the Mitanni, another Aryan tribe, controlled Greater Mesopotamia from about 1500 bce until they were conquered in their turn by the Hittites from the eastern Tigris region. Finally, the Assyrians, emerging in the same region, conquered the old Mitanni territories from the Hittites and became the most formidable military and economic power in the Near East.

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Top reviews from the United States

Lawrence A. Beer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
So much MORE than just a well-presented historical inspection – a MUST READ!
Reviewed in the United States on December 27, 2019
Author Armstrong has written another massively researched and documented in-depth book on the world’s religions. It is a scholarly work and as such the reader should be prepared for an exhaustive historical journey into the revered scriptures, both oral, written and... See more
Author Armstrong has written another massively researched and documented in-depth book on the world’s religions. It is a scholarly work and as such the reader should be prepared for an exhaustive historical journey into the revered scriptures, both oral, written and presented otherwise, of earths spiritual groups since the beginning of time. Opening with “a small ivory figure”, the Lion Man dated “40,000 years old” and considered “the earliest evidence of human religious activity” one is taken on a magnificent journey into the spiritual material development of mankind. It is a most worthy companion to her prior publications, especially A History of God, but more importantly it presents the reader with greater insights into how the inspired attributions and deeds we attribute to the ordained inspired teachers of ethical morality were themselves motivated.
My only regret is that I would have appreciated if the respected author went one step further in her presentation. As any devoted student of religion knows, no spiritual order was constructed out of whole cloth. All faiths borrowed, highjacked, appropriated or just sponged off prior principles to untangle the web of the supernatural; attributing earthly natural events and the behaviors of all species, including mankind, to some higher force. Strains, fibers or pieces of existing ceremonial trappings, and even the actual texts or pronouncement of previous wise learned men and women were incorporated – woven, into the tapestry of new religious orders.
If religion as Karl Marx once observed is the opium of the masses or as other philosophers have concluded it provides blue prints for our relationships with fellow man and the environment then to some degree all religions must contain common shared elements upon which universal principles can be constructed thereby uniting us all. By showing how a principle, first emerging in ancient holy scriptures and then appearing in the tenants of other religions that developed later, might help to bridge the chasm of distrust and perhaps hatred that has plagued mankind and resulted in countless religious wars.
As Armstrong takes the reader through the development of spiritually induced declarations from every corner of the globe it would have be deeply appreciated if she took the extra time, although at 603 pages it is long, to show how the religions of mankind are linked as opposed to separated. That they have surreptitiously learned from each other although each professes to be the most perfect, and hence better than the others.
The basic tenant of Judaism, through its patriarch Abraham, is featured in the gospels of Christianity and appears in Islam with these latter formed religions positively commenting on his influence as the initiator of monotheism, a singular all mighty God that all the western denominations are based upon. Many religious scholars even postulate that the Ten Commandments Moses presented to the Jewish people has its roots in the Egyptian Ritual of Judgement. After death one argues for their soul’s salvation being asked by Osiris, the chief god, a series of questions as to their virtuous actions in life. By responding positively to questions like ‘I have not killed’ one is granted entrance into the afterlife. Reframed as affirmations like ‘Thou shall not kill’ many are restated resolutions during life under the direction of YHWH, the Hebrew God. Moses, trained since birth as a Prince of Egypt, would have been well schooled in such spiritual rights and might have adopted them as fundamental offerings to his tribe of an exiled people after the exodus.
Other historic religious researchers have also considered the so-called lost years in the life of Jesus, prior to his emergence as a rabbinic preacher, as a period when he was exposed to the spiritual induced teachings of the far east – Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Many of his sayings, as recorded in the gospels by his disciples, can be found in the pronounced wisdoms of these earlier sects as Armstrong skillfully takes the reader through in her book.
The texts inspection into the spiritual affiliations in India and China are the most interesting sections. This is because technically many of these religious sects do not have a codified or canonized set of sacred texts or holy scriptures that are universally recognized, published and recited on a prescribed ritualistic basis. At the root of these numerous religious or in the case of the confused western interpretation of Confucianism a philosophy of life, is the simple fact that they are practiced by the individual as opposed to a required socialization of believers. Personal transformation via an individual’s internal reflection to achieve a euphorically related state of grace are contained in many of them. The catechism of the religion does not come from a strict reading and interpretation of sacred scriptures but an instructional process in which the body and mind are trained to absorb a private salvation through mindful meditation as accompanied by prescribed physical routines (stillness or body positioning or movement or all three). In these eastern religions, scripture is replaced by artful practice but they both comprise sacred paths for the faithful. To many untrained mind-sets in the west these practices fly in the face of accepted spiritual routines. Silently sitting in a corner or on the side of a mountain and contemplating one’s religious life by reciting mindful mantras or physical acting out like the whirling dervishes of Turkey spinning out of control in a ceremonial demonstration of their faith are alien and abhorrent to other sects.
As noted earlier a number of distinguished Christian scholars exploring the so-called missing years of Jesus Christ, events left out of his life in the gospels between the age of twelve as he debates the temple priests and thirty as his ministry begins, speculate that he was introduced to the religions of the east in respect to internal reflection. That the times he spends in the desert alone reflect the use of such methods. Even the Koran takes due note of Mohammed’s (may peace be upon him) solitary retreats into the wastelands. Both renown prophets and even Moses when he ascends Mount Sinai for forty days and nights to receive the Twelve Commandments have in common the necessity to be alone and reach a state of spiritual grace at one with their God. These periods to receive enlightenment and allow a spiritual force to become one with the soul, a common principle in eastern religious orders, seems to have a similar refrain in the three major faiths of the west. As all religions possess this directional practice; it would have been nice if the talented author had taken the time to point it out.
Armstrong repeatedly examines the directional idea on how to treat others as exhibited by her repeated reference to the Golden Rule – ‘do unto others as one would have done unto themselves.’ It shows that it is a guiding principle found in all of the world’s religions. Acknowledging that such a universal proposition is embedded in and therefore mutually shared by separate competing religious orders would certainly been a welcomed addition to her most informative treatise on sacred scriptures.
Perhaps the best part of the book is the introduction before the author gets into the dense weeds of each religions historical structure. Armstrong describes holy or sacred scriptures as emanating “in a reality that exceeded the reach of the intellect.” That “There is no specific ‘God-spot’ in the human brain that yields a sense of the sacred.” And further that the brain has two hemispheres, a wider holistic side and a narrow analytical or logic literally based side that automatically “suppresses information that it cannot grasp conceptually” in order to make practical use of external inputs. Scripture like the aforementioned Lion Man spiritual figurine are products of our imagination or holistic portion of the mind. Such brain side allows for “the creation of poetry, music and religion.” (Underlining my own). It permits the use of metaphors, parables or loosely constructed anecdotes to be introduced in our communication language, and our lives. In the end scriptures is an “art” form, an expression of faithful emotion that cannot always been grasped in concrete scientific knowledge. A special internal vision that cannot be quantified in reality with no limits. Hence while religious based stories as recounted in the sacred scriptures maybe considered mythos, they serve a purpose only the human spirit can conceive. Perhaps it is a method to discover a divine unexplainable presence in ourselves that is a connecting rod to the world in which we live that we cannot logically fashion nor rationalize. Spiritual faith has reason that reason cannot explain.
This is not to say religion is a mindful delusion and therefore scripture is fiction. Rather scripture, sacred declarations, be they initially symbolic depictions (pictorial or carvings), then transmitted via oral storytelling and later written down as well as ritually performed are all creative man-made reflections of the abstract to balance the obscure realities of life that cannot be fathomed. It has well served mankind and hence its value cannot be dismissed. The detailed inspection of this art offered by Armstrong is therefore important not just for the religious scholar but for all of us.
Beside the enormous historical research that went into the book there are portions that offer the reader a special beautiful insight into the magical realm of the spiritual that should not be overlooked. In presenting the underlying tenants of Buddhism the author explains that the Lotus Sutra text teaches that God’s influence on man comes in varying forms. It “is like rain that descends on all plants equally but is absorbed differently by each according to is nature and capacity.” This simple metaphor explicates why there are so many religious sects in the world. While they all share the same light from above, they just receive it in relation to their separate portion or grasp. This is a significant point that again I wish the author had stressed as such thought unites us as opposed to driving us apart. Further wonderfully noted is that the word of God is allegorically described as “the sound of a wind chime, which, without being activated by anyone, produces its sound when stirred by the wind.” As such, although it is not made by mankind it is commonly heard requiring no intermediary amplifier or interpreter as the resonance is equally understood and appreciated universally. These type of text excerpts make the book so much more than just a masterful scholarly work. It provides a meaningful inspirational introduction for followers of all religious faiths that can only bring us together.
32 people found this helpful
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Janet in Seattle
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
What the world needs now
Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2019
Karen Armstrong’s detailed history of the scriptural traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, China, and India, shows how well they have served their adherents over time, and how much has been lost through modern misunderstanding. When scripture is intimately bound with... See more
Karen Armstrong’s detailed history of the scriptural traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, China, and India, shows how well they have served their adherents over time, and how much has been lost through modern misunderstanding. When scripture is intimately bound with transforming ritual and compassionate living, it is of immense value. When it is confused with science and discursive reasoning, it not only loses its power but even becomes dangerous. Here is an illuminating history and a call to better understanding.
24 people found this helpful
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pjhatchett
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Enlightening!
Reviewed in the United States on January 4, 2020
This is one of the most enlightening books I''ve ever read on scriptures of the world''s religions. It''s a history and an exegesis which shows the common threads that run through all. Armstrong explores how the approach to scripture has changed, unfortunately leading to a... See more
This is one of the most enlightening books I''ve ever read on scriptures of the world''s religions. It''s a history and an exegesis which shows the common threads that run through all. Armstrong explores how the approach to scripture has changed, unfortunately leading to a loss of understanding in much of our modern world. The Golden Rule....treating others as you want to be treated...remains the heart of the matter. I highly recommend this book.
11 people found this helpful
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Julie P. Baker
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Well done.
Reviewed in the United States on November 29, 2019
I am enjoying this author’s broad research into the interpretations ofworldwide religious faith.
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Marlene Oaks
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating, Informative, Well-Researched
Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2019
I find all of her books incredibly interesting. In this book, she takes us into the various religion''s formations in India, Palestine, China and Greece. Each chapter discusses a topic regarding all of them in turn. She shows how the scriptures developed. I love history and... See more
I find all of her books incredibly interesting. In this book, she takes us into the various religion''s formations in India, Palestine, China and Greece. Each chapter discusses a topic regarding all of them in turn. She shows how the scriptures developed. I love history and particularly religious history and how the beliefs developed. I am very glad to have purchased this book.
4 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
For a correct understanding of how to read sacred text!
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2020
This is a detailed history of the journey of humanities desire to become better and the many attempts across the world to arrive at a better place individually as well as a culture. In the journey of myth the myth is allowed to change to fit the changing and evolving... See more
This is a detailed history of the journey of humanities desire to become better and the many attempts across the world to arrive at a better place individually as well as a culture. In the journey of myth the myth is allowed to change to fit the changing and evolving culture. She expresses a desire for all of us to understand that we want to be better human beings and that the myth is a an attempt to guide us in just that journey. Problems arise when we stop the evolution of the myth and ignore that we are impacted by the fact hat we are complex creature and all aspect of our brain help us make important changes of how we think and behave. She invites us to read the sacred texts in their intended reasons for existing. This brave approach can make a difference in our world views and how we behave as individuals and nations without the need to destroy being religious.
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Debra Brunk
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating book but a tough read
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2020
The concept behind this book is much needed in today’s world of extreme religion (or none at all). This is a well-researched and in-depth book on the history of world religions and how we interact with holy texts. I learned a lot and came away with a new perspective.... See more
The concept behind this book is much needed in today’s world of extreme religion (or none at all). This is a well-researched and in-depth book on the history of world religions and how we interact with holy texts. I learned a lot and came away with a new perspective. However, as a layperson, it was a slow and difficult read (I’ve never looked up the meaning of so many words!). But if you’re interested in why the world’s religions are the way they are and how we might go back to our religious roots (as humans), this is an informative a unique book.
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john ries
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting
Reviewed in the United States on December 17, 2019
Have not read it yet. Parts I have read are very detailed.
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john Lawson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 1, 2019
I have read most of Karen''s books and this one is as good as anything she has ever written. So many peoples lives are marred by the ignorance of how scripture should be read. They should be taken seriously but not literally and that is what Karen does. Well researched and...See more
I have read most of Karen''s books and this one is as good as anything she has ever written. So many peoples lives are marred by the ignorance of how scripture should be read. They should be taken seriously but not literally and that is what Karen does. Well researched and beautifully written. It is not an easy read nor could it be bearing in mind the subject matter, but don''t be daunted.
14 people found this helpful
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John Sheldon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliant but hardwork
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 29, 2019
This is a really great book. well-written, informative and insightful. I''ve read most of her books and enjoyed all of them. This is very comprehensive and quite dense, so it can be tough going in places. I finished it but may have skimmed over some of the text. But I''ll...See more
This is a really great book. well-written, informative and insightful. I''ve read most of her books and enjoyed all of them. This is very comprehensive and quite dense, so it can be tough going in places. I finished it but may have skimmed over some of the text. But I''ll re-visit.
4 people found this helpful
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Craig Millward
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another Armstrong masterpiece
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 27, 2020
I read Karen Armstrong''s two autobiographies a few summers ago as I was in the midst of a faith crisis and they were lifegiving. I followed these with A History of God which is majestic. The Lost Art of Scripture is just as enthralling, and hugely refreshing - even though I...See more
I read Karen Armstrong''s two autobiographies a few summers ago as I was in the midst of a faith crisis and they were lifegiving. I followed these with A History of God which is majestic. The Lost Art of Scripture is just as enthralling, and hugely refreshing - even though I do not concur with all the suppositions she brings to the party. Highly recommended.
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Mark Davis
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book by a great author too!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 14, 2021
This was a very interesting read, a book from a well learned author and is one of the most interesting of her novels. Released in hard back in 2019 then in paperback in Autumn 2020. I chose to wait but it was worth it. A modern book on a historical subject, comes highly...See more
This was a very interesting read, a book from a well learned author and is one of the most interesting of her novels. Released in hard back in 2019 then in paperback in Autumn 2020. I chose to wait but it was worth it. A modern book on a historical subject, comes highly recommended and if you like this kind of thing.
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Charles S G Bagnall
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliant idea but half way through - TLDR
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 30, 2019
Karen Armstrong is one of the best writers on belief I know. I have several of her books and admire them greatly. On this occasion however she had clearly done so much research she had too much information to work with and the promise of the title is lost in the endless...See more
Karen Armstrong is one of the best writers on belief I know. I have several of her books and admire them greatly. On this occasion however she had clearly done so much research she had too much information to work with and the promise of the title is lost in the endless recital of religious history. Maybe she steps back and analyses her findings at the end but I fear I may never get there. If you haven''t read earlier works though don''t let this put you off
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