Reviews

A 21ST CENTURY BIBLE – PART 1. THE PROMISED LAND

Kirkus Review – January 2014

An ambitious reordering of the Hebrew Bible.
Recognizing that many people find the Bible to be strange, difficult or unapproachable, Curtis decided to create a new version of key sections of the Old Testament to allow readers an easier introduction to Scripture. His resulting work draws upon standard translations as well as modern scholarship to present the most ancient Hebrew Scriptures in a way that is at once familiar as well as engaging and explainable. Readers already well-versed in the Bible will be surprised to find that the order Curtis uses is notably different from the actual texts. Instead of starting with a creation story, Curtis begins with the stories of Terah and Abraham. The early tales of Genesis appear much later in a chapter called “Wilderness Stories,” told during the wandering of the Israelites. Similarly, the Book of Job appears between the stories of Joseph and of Moses, a new placement that may seem somewhat jarring to many readers. Curtis often inserts commentary to explain a situation in the text. For instance, when Joseph’s father suspects that his son has been eaten by a wild animal, Curtis adds, “Public displays of grief typically included tearing one’s clothes and wearing sackcloth,” and later, in the tale of Job’s woe, he writes, “The behemoth…was an animal not unlike a hippopotamus.” Such comments are reminiscent of the simple explanatory footnotes found in many editions of the Bible, but they appear here within the text. Curtis avoids being technical or utilizing cross-references, but his charts showing family trees, details of laws, etc., are helpful additions. Readers won’t find the complete Old Testament in this work; instead, Curtis strives to present only the most ancient texts, culminating in the laws given by God through Moses. Familiar works, such as the Psalms and Proverbs, as well as historical and prophetic books of the Bible are not represented.

An original concept that yields a commendable, approachable reworking of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
indie@kirkusreviews.com

 

Catholic Life – April 2014

 

This is an interesting book because it is basically a reworking of the Old Testament to present the books in a more logical historical order to make it easier to understand. The author is an ordained Anglican minister who ministers and does social work in Tasmania.

When reading the Hebrew Scripture in a standard Bible, one often comes up against obstacles which prevent us from understanding the narrative. Customs of the times and geography are rarely provided in Biblical text because the people for whom these stories were originally written knew the information already.

A parallel in today’s world could be that when we say that someone flew from Melbourne to London, everyone would know that it means they travelled in an aeroplane from airport to airport, without providing the detail. But 4000 years from now will people understand that aeroplanes are our normal means of inter-city travel?

Normally, one would have to undertake Bible studies or further reading, or have the stories explained from the pulpit, to really understand what is happening. However, the author has overcome this problem by adding his own narrative to the stories in italics to help us gain the full picture.

This book does not follow the traditional order of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus etc., and the Psalms have been separated and fitted in at appropriate parts. The first 11 chapters of Genesis have been slotted in as wilderness stories, a collection of the stories repeated over and over by the Israelites and finally written down as some time after their arrival in the promised land. YHWH’s laws have been presented in table form and cover the second third of the book.

The treatment certainly makes the Old Testament easier to understand and this book will no doubt be discussed in theological circles for quite some time.

 

Catholic Life, Catholic Diocese of Sale, Victoria, Australia

 

Rainbow Connection – May 2014

 

If you’ve ever struggled with understanding the Old Testament, stumbling at one of the many hurdles, this book is for you.

Brian Curtis, former Cursillo Tasmania Diocesan Spiritual Director and parish priest, takes us on a journey from Abraham to Joshua in plain English.

Based on the complete Hebrew text, the narrative is presented in a more logical historical order, dealing appropriately with many of the obstacles. At the same time, YHWH’s laws are treated with the seriousness they deserve.

I remember when I first started my ministry education, spending the entire first year on the Old Testament, one of the difficulties I found was the presence of so many parallel passages; the same events told in different ways in different books of the Old Testament, often with different names for the same people and places.

This book is a must have in the library of any serious Bible student. And for those less committed to study, it is also interesting and involving reading. This is a book that brings the Old Testament to life. To improve the flow of the story, the book is divided logically into two parts. Part One deals with the narrative—the story of the Old Testament from the migration from the Fertile Crescent to the taking of the Promised Land by Joshua. Part Two brings together God’s laws and presents them in a new and meaningful way. Although given over time, the laws are set out in a way that mimics the Ten Commandments, bringing them together and making it easier to understand how the individual laws amplify and relate to the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue).

I heartily recommend this book to any who desire a deeper understanding of the story of God’s people—and isn’t that every Christian?

 

Rainbow Connection, Magazine of the Anglican Cursillo Movement in Tasmania, Australia

 

Midwest Book Review- May 2014

 

Synopsis: Who has tried to read the Hebrew scriptures from cover to cover and fallen short at one of the many hurdles? Who really understands them? This book takes the reader on a journey from Abraham to Joshua and deals with these very issues. Based on the complete Hebrew text, the narrative is presented in a more logical historical order, dealing appropriately with many of the obstacles. At the same time, YHWH’s laws are treated with the seriousness that they deserve. Additional comments in italics are interwoven into the text to enhance the readability and understanding of both the narrative and the laws.

Critique: In “The Promised Land”, author and theologian Brian Curtis draws upon his years of study and expertise to provide contemporary readers with a modern English translation of the biblical record from Abraham to Joshua. Of special note is the Curtis provides an historical cultural context to explain biblical events (some of which he has rearranged into a more accurate chronology of presentation). Informed, thoughtful, and extraordinarily ‘reader friendly’, “The Promised Land” is very highly recommended for community and academic library Biblical Studies reference collections, and personal biblical studies supplemental reading lists. It should also be noted that “The Promised Land” is also available in a hardcover edition (9781483694313, $56.07).

 

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