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Pp. xv, 288 . Peabody, MA , Hendrickson Publishers , 2005 , $19.95 .

The work edited by Michael Gorman is a special work in a number of ways. It is an introduction to Scripture not by one individual or from a single perspective but by a number of persons, and originated from the experience of several professors in the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore (USA). Currently there are some thirty Christian traditions represented within the student body of three hundred mostly part-time adult learners – from Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Orthodox, Mennonite, evangelical, nondenominational and other churches. The teaching staff is equally inter-denominational. The present work (by fourteen current or former members of the faculty of St Mary's Ecumenical Institute of Theology) is for these learners and for others in the same condition: designed as an attempt to introduce beginning theological students, and the interested general public, to the Bible.

The book is in two parts: Part One: The Bible; Part Two: The Interpretation of the Bible. As an introduction to the subject the work is an outstanding success. Te first part (in seven chapters) covers the Bible as book and as library; the geography, history and archaeology of the Bible; the character and composition of the books of the Old Testament, and of the New Testament; significant non-canonical books; the formation of the biblical canon(s); the transmission and translation of the Bible. Part two (in nine chapters) treats of the interpretation of the Bible before the modern period; modern and post-modern critical methods of biblical study; theological and ideological strategies of biblical interpretation; the interpretation of the Bible in Protestant Churches; the interpretation of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches; the interpretation of the Bible in African-American Churches; the Bible and spiritual growth; the Bible and social justice: ‘Learn to do right! Seek justice’ (Isa 1:17) and, finally, the Bible and ecumenism:'That they may all be one' (John 17:21).

The work is produced in a spirit of a genuine ecumenical approach. In the introduction Gorman writes: ‘Today, despite their ongoing differences, Christians of different churches and traditions work, study, and pray together more than ever. The interpretation of the Bible, whether as a means of spiritual nourishment or as an exercise in professional academic scholarship (or both), is an ecumenical enterprise and a means of growth toward Christian unity’. The presentation in each chapter is exceptionally clear; every chapter ends with a conclusion and a bibliography for further reading and study. There is a glossary of the technical or semi-technical terms and phrases used at the end (e.g. ‘postmodernism– the intellectual ethos of contemporary culture that questions objectivity, universal values, and ‘master narratives’ while stressing participatory knowledge', with reference to chapters 9, 10 of the text). There is a subject index.

While directed principally to the North American scene, this work should prove immensely useful anywhere for the intended readership: beginners in theological and biblical studies, general interested public.