Every once in a while a rare book comes along that helps the reader see the entire Bible through a new lens, bringing numerous fresh insights into overly familiar passages and clarifying difficulties in obscure or often misunderstood texts. This new book by James G. Williams, a professor of Hebrew Bible and New Testament, is one such gem.
Our society does not take the Bible seriously, laments Williams: "Very few people now read the Bible. That is a commonplace. I wonder, in fact, whether Western culture now induces us to ignore the Bible, which is felt by many to be a sacred museum piece and by others to be a myth or collections of myths like all the other myths of the world."
Williams criticized the bulk of biblical scholarship today because so much is "permeated with overspecialization or intellectual faddishness...." Too often, he notes, theologians and Bible scholars are not accountable to any faith community whatsoever.
According to Williams, fundamentalists and evangelicals have "preserved a nucleus of respect for biblical texts and traditions amid cultural ferment and despite the disdain shown for religion (this usually means Christianity) by both its cultured and its uncultured despisers." He does criticize fundamentalist-evangelicals who are unwilling to study the Bible within "a broader context of human history and culture."
Here is an author who is not afraid to declare his opinions. In doing so he may upset or offend some, but he also challenges anyone with an interest in the Bible.
Williams applies the theory and analysis of René Girard to understand the origin, nature, and overcoming of violence in the Bible. Girard's work on scapegoating is having an increasing influence on many biblical scholars. He developed his scapegoating theory while studying literature, including classical European fiction and Greek mythology.