Friday, November 19, 2010

HarperOne, "The C.S. Lewis Bible" (reviewed by Jeffrey Needle)



Title: The C.S. Lewis Bible
Author: Various editors

Publisher: HarperOne
Genre: Scripture
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 1529

Binding: Hardcover
ISBN10: n/a
ISBN13: 978-0-06-198208-8
Price: $34.99

Reviewed by Jeffrey Needle for the Association for Mormon Letters

Was C.S. Lewis a Mormon?  Hardly.  Was he friendly toward Mormons?  I have no idea.  In any event, Mormons have had no trouble adopting Lewis as one of their own.  Full length book studies have been published, including two titles by Cedar Fort, Inc. ("C. S. Lewis: Latter-day Truths in Narnia" by Marianna Richardson and Christine Thackeray and "The Restored Gospel According to C.S. Lewis" by Nathan Jensen).  Deseret Book regularly carries Lewis titles.  And our good reviewer Blair Dee Hodges runs a webpage titled "Life on Gold Plates," in which can be found some thoughts about C.S. Lewis and Mormonism.


Why the attraction?  Why have so many Latter-day Saints latched on to a theologian whose personal views hardly reflect mainstream LDS views?  Well, in fact, some Latter-day Saints have found parallels between Lewis' writings and the beliefs of the Mormon Church.  And the enthusiasm for everything C.S. Lewis isn't going away very soon.  We can expect more scholarly works concerning this remarkable man.


Now, from HarperOne, we have "The C.S. Lewis Bible."  The idea is quite simple: take a modern rendering of the biblical text (in this instance, the New Revised Standard Version) and interweave relevant thoughts from the Lewis writings.  And make no mistake.  Selecting which of Lewis' thoughts to include had to be a gargantuan task.  He wrote so much, and wrote so deeply and sincerely, it must have been difficult to choose a limited number of his thoughts to include in this Bible.


But the editors did a fine job.  They have enhanced the text with insights from Lewis that offer the reader a deeply spiritual view of the Bible, a book that is, surprisingly, sometimes not read with spiritual eyes.  So much effort is spent on parsing the text, on finding proof-texts that support this view or another, that readers can sometimes lose sight of the deeply devotional nature of reading the scriptures.


Lewis understood the importance of the inner life, the centrality of one's personal relationship with God as the seeker looks to find God in the pages of Holy Writ.  Lewis appreciated and celebrated how the Word of God *becomes* the Word of God to each of us in a special way.  He is never doctrinaire.  Instead, he wants us to drink deeply of the Word and come to a relationship with deity through that Word.


The choice of the New Revised Standard Version is a good one.  It appeals to so many students and scholars who appreciate this rendering of the text.  Some have complained about the gender-neutral aspects of the translation.  Others mourn the loss of "thee" and "thou" without understanding that such ways of addressing God are an invention of some our predecessors.  Honest Bible scholars find much to admire in this translation.  One aspect of this Bible that is a bit disappointing is the absence of the Apocrypha.  Its inclusion would have made it a more complete resource.


What can't be denied is that, in the Mormon quest for ownership of Lewis (yes, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the point), it is easy to pick and choose from his writings to buttress Latter-day Saint doctrine.  What gets lost in all of this is the man's total lifework, his transcendence of doctrinal disputes and his subsequent immersion in the goodness of God and in the ever-present mystery of God's role in our lives.


Students of C.S. Lewis will do well to obtain this Bible.  It will serve in two capacities – it will give you a good contemporary rendering of the biblical text, and it will present a wonderfully encompassing view of Lewis and his work.


HarperOne is to be commended for bringing this volume to fruition.  With Christmas coming, "The C.S. Lewis Bible" would make a wonderful gift for family and friends who want, and need, this engrossing and wonderfully realized integration of scripture and Lewis.


Oh, before you ask, NO, you may NOT have my copy! <grin>



Jeffrey Needle
Association for Mormon Letters


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