Book review: Whose Bible Is It?

by Jaroslav Pelikan


It’s been maybe a year since I read this book, but I recently dug it out again for a bit of research. I was looking into the Comma Johanneum, that controversial little verse in the first epistle of John that got a facelift in the Middle Ages: 1 John 5:7-8.

In this book, Pelikan discusses how the Bible came to be, how it was interpreted, and how Christianity built its own message atop the Tanakh (the Torah, the prophets, and the Writings). But the Bible didn’t stop growing 2,000 years ago; it continues to be interpreted, modified, translated through the ages.

Did Christianity steal the Bible from the Jews? Pelikan has a way of uniting Christian and Jew even while recognizing an impenetrable rift. His writing is wonderfully readable and occasionally funny, as he points out how contradictory religions can read the same words and be inspired in different ways. He sees diversity as something to be appreciated, not condemned.

One cannot help but appreciate the Bible more as a living, growing, entity after reading this. The Word is alive! And ultimately, in the search for who owns the Bible, we must conclude as Pelikan does: To speak of possessing the Bible or even to ask “Whose Bible is it?” is … not only presumptuous but blasphemous.



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