Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 220s

229: Reading Judas by Pagels and King

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229.8: Pagels, Elaine and Karen L. King. Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. New York: Viking Penguin, 2007. 165 pp. ISBN 0-6700-3845-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 229: Apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, and other intertestamental works
  • 229.8: Pseudo gospels

In Christian history, Jesus Christ gathered twelve people to his side to be his apostles and spread his beliefs throughout the world. According to The Bible, Judas Iscariot accepts payment of thirty silver coins from the Sanhedrin priests and agrees to point out Jesus to the local authorities so that he can be captured and tried for purporting to be the Son of God. Judas’s betrayal results in the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection as depicted later in the Gospels. The traditional telling of this matter is done by the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—, but what if Judas himself got a say in the matter? In the 1970s, a papyrus codex was discovered near Beni Masah, Egypt which appears to be from Judas’s point of view. In Reading Judas, Elaine Pagels and Karen King tackle the new text to see if it can shed new light on old mythology.

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228: A History of the End of the World by Jonathan Kirsch

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228: Kirsch, Jonathan. A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization. New York: HarperCollins, 2006. 256 pp. ISBN 978-0-0608-1698-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 228: Revelation (Apocalypse)

After vexillology (the study of flags and their designs) and ichthyology (the study of fishes), my third favorite “ology” is eschatology: the study of the end of times. It is simultaneously incredibly easy and infinitely impossible to posit what the future will hold, and even more so when talking about the end of the future. How will humanity live out its final days? Will we relocate to a new planet? Will we succumb to our own destructive forces? Or will a grand creator revisit their creation and judge those left on the last day? Jonathan Kirsch’s A History of the End of the World looks at the Biblical writing concerning the end of days and finds that a lot of the prophecies influenced culture, history, and even civilization itself.

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227: How to Like Paul Again by Conrad Gempf

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227.06: Gempf, Conrad. How to Like Paul Again: The Apostle You Never Knew. Crownhill, UK: Authentic Media, 2013. 147 pp. ISBN 978-1-78078-061-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 227: Epistles
  • 227.06: Exegesis

The Apostle Paul is cranky, cranky man. Those who read the Bible tend to get hung up on Paul and his polemics on how exactly one should conduct one’s life. He has rules and arguments for everything. But many of the wonderful turns of phrase that we use nowadays come from translations of Paul’s writing. Conrad Gempf’s How to Like Paul Again offers readers and Biblical students a second chance to understand Paul’s context as well as his content. In the end, we become better for it.

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223: Job for Everyone by John Goldingay

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223.1077: Goldingay, John. Job for Everyone. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013. 211 pp. ISBN 978-0-664-23936-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 223: Poetics books of the Old Testament
  • 223.1: Job
  • 223.1077: Commentary with text

Job is a man of faith. He has a loving family, a thriving farm, and the respect of his community. One day, Satan declares that the only reason Job is happy and faithful is because God protects him and brings him prosperity. He says that if that protection was gone, Job would no longer have faith in God. Satan proposes an experiment: remove all the prosperity, all the riches, and his family and let us see his true faith. The only rule: Satan can do whatever we wants to Job, but he cannot kill him. John Goldingay’s Job for Everyone is pleasant explication of this metaphoric and heavy tale.

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226: Mark by the Book by P. W. Smuts

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226.306: Smuts, P. W. Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013. 225 pp. ISBN 978-1-59638-440-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 226: Gospels & Acts
  • 226.3: Mark
  • 226.306: Exegesis

If other books on Biblical scripture were like this one, I’d read more of them. The unfortunately-named Biblical scholar P. W. Smuts, in Mark by the Book, systematically dissects each passage in the Gospel of Mark and shows not only the meaning behind a straightforward reading of the text, but how the text is informed by the Old Testament, relates to the other Gospels, and helps in reading later passages of the New Testament. This model of straight-back-sideways-forward reading constitutes the “multidirectional” part of his method. His brand of hermeneutics (interpretation of the Bible) is refreshing and deep at the same time.

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220: God’s Secretaries by Adam Nicolson

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220.52038: Nicolson, Adam. God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible. New York: Perennial, 2004. 243 pp. ISBN 0-06-095975-4.

Dewey Construction

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 220.5: Modern version and translations
  • 220.52: Versions in English and Anglo-Saxon
  • 220.5203: King James Version
  • +8: History

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, she left England languishing in an old system of nobility and still divided on the topic of religion. English Protestants and Catholics had their country locked in an interminable spiritual tug-of-war for their souls. With the coronation of James VI of Scotland as King of England (renamed James I), came the inevitable questions: Would the clergy be upheaved? Which spiritual laws superceded others? Up until then, the Church of England was a mish-mash of theological concepts from both sides. But James sought to smooth out the rough edges and convened the Hampton Court of 1604. And herein lies our tale.

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225: Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene by Bart Ehrman

225.922: Ehrman, Bart D. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 260 pp. ISBN 0-19-530013-0.

The whole Dewey system is white-centric and Christian-centric. Unfortunately, that’s just how it goes. An undue amount of the 200s is taken over by Christianity, its history, and its pieces and parts. Christian Art gets 246, Jesus occupies 232, and the Bible gets all of the 220s. Since the subjects of today’s book are all New Testament folk, they get a nice spot at 225. I’m not saying I agree with it (Judaism and Islam deserve equal shares, too), but we live with it and do the best we can.

Bart Ehrman’s Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene was a real eye-opener. Not because it made me “see the light,” but rather due to the massive amount of non-canonical Early Church material that didn’t make it into the traditional Bible. Ehrman explores the history and legends around the three titular characters, parsing each canonical text and each apocryphal one to find out as much as possible about these three leaders.

One must understand that these were real historical figures once you strip away the miracles and divine interventions. They lived, loved, and wrote about their surroundings and their faith (except Mary–she couldn’t write). Paul was a curmudgeonly old lawyer until he turned to Christ and his teachings. Peter was a lowly fisherman; Mary, a Jewish sinner. The book gives a rich history of first century BCE Judaism and the centuries thereafter. My first foray into the religion books was exceedingly informative to say the least. For those who haven’t read any Early Church history, I urge you to, regardless of your faith.

Of special interest is the possible argument that without Mary and her witnessing of Jesus rising from the tomb, there would be no Christianity. (The other argument is that Peter started the whole thing.) Christianity does not become powerful among the region until people hear and believe that he rose from the grave as proof of God’s power. All in all, he makes a compelling case without resorting to didactic prose.