DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of Peter Gomes ‘The Good Book’


Author (or Editor): Gomes, Peter J..

Title: The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  William R, Morrow

Date: 1996

ISBN:  0-688-13447-5

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound, 384 pages

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL: religious faith, the Bible, and homosexuality


First, the title to me is interesting. I remember on my first day of sophomore English in high school, in those pre-computer days, that our main purpose would be to read and master “good books” – in those days that English was “grammar” and “literature.”  And the Bible is, after all, foremost, literature.

Peter J. Gomes is the preacher to Harvard University. In his own words, “the theme of this book is the risk and the joy of the Bible: risk in that we might get it wrong, and joy in the discovery of the living Word becoming flesh. It is around this theme that I formulate three basic questions: which the thoughtful reader brings to the Bible: What is it? How is it used? What does it have to say to me?

The three parts of the book are titled: “Opening the Bible”, “The Use and Abuse of the Bible,” and “The True and Lively Word.”  Gomes wrestles with the issues of Biblical textualism.  For hoim, the appropriate concepts are context and relativity, and a certain self-awareness while reading scripture.  He goes on to analyze numerous social controversies.  For example, he says, the Bible nowhere condemns slavery, and it might even be possible to justify slavery from a certain context in reading it. (Gomes himself is African-American. He provides a thorough Biblical interpretation of the problem of anti-Semitism.  And, of course, he must deal with homosexuality.

It is not until midway through the book that Gomes “tells” himself, in recounting a speech at Harvard Yard, where he announced his homosexuality after a conservative organization on campus had published an article critical of the homosexual lifestyle, whereupon many of Harvard’s gay students maintained that the material was defamatory and should not have even been published. Gomes arguments about the inclusiveness of the Bible resonate with free speech, and the idea that individuals need access to different patterns of thought in order to grow spiritually on their own.

This point seems relevant today as we face an enemy that views independent thought, by anyone, as infidelity to God.

Related reviews: Goodwin: Baptists in the Balance


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