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BOOK REVIEW: New Bible pairs wisdom of C.S. Lewis, Scripture Robin Russell, Dec 19, 2010
By Robin Russell Managing Editor
The C.S. Lewis Bible NRSV HarperOne, 2010 Hardback, Leather
Just in time for the December release of the latest Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the new C.S. Lewis Bible has hit the bookshelves.
This Bible, using the New Revised Standard Version, offers the reflections of the much-revered 20th-century Christian thinker as a sort of companion for daily Bible reading and meditation.
It’s not intended as a theological work; rather, the opening essays encourage the reader to imagine the Oxford don—and later Cambridge professor—“sitting alongside you, making observations on Scripture.”
“What would he say, and how would he teach and inspire you?” writes Jerry Root, an advisory board member and a Wheaton College professor who did his doctoral dissertation on Lewis. “He’d ask the tough questions. He’d make you wrestle with Scripture. He wouldn’t let you get off easy.”
For the uninitiated, Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was considered one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century and perhaps the most influential Christian writer of his day. He was a fellow and tutor in English literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was elected to the chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University.
Lewis earned renown for his contributions in literary criticism, children’s literature (including the Chronicles of Narnia), fantasy literature and popular theology. He wrote more than 30 books, and corresponded with a vast audience of readers.
Walter Hooper, literary adviser of the Lewis estate, and the Rev. Michael J. Christensen, a United Methodist elder and author of C.S. Lewis on Scripture, were among the Lewis scholars and experts who served on the advisory board, carefully selecting readings from Lewis’ scholarly essays, Christian apologetic works, fictional works and personal letters.
More than 600 nuggets of wisdom from Lewis’ spiritual classics such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters as well as letters to friends and strangers are paired alongside relevant passages in Scripture.
The Book of Ruth, for instance, is matched with sections from A Grief Observed, in which Lewis grieves the death of his wife, Joy. Passages in the Book of Revelation are paired with Lewis’ musings on time and eternity from The Great Divorce, and his rapturous description of creation’s song from The Magician’s Nephew runs alongside early chapters in Genesis.
Most intriguing to those already familiar with Lewis’ works will be the more obscure bits from his personal letters. Near the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, which describes an encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus, the editors include this line from a June 1930 letter Lewis wrote to an Arthur Greeves: “It does one good to see the fine side of people we’ve always seen the worst of.”
Or this from a letter written in June 1963 to a Mary Willis Shelburne, on the reality of heaven, tucked next to Jesus’ lesson of the fig tree from the Gospel of Mark: “I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming. It is nearer now than when I began this letter.”
Readers who want to know what Lewis might have to say on forgiveness or prayer will find a handy topical guide in the Bible’s concordance, and an index by source and Scripture reference is also useful.
Do we need yet another Bible? For longtime admirers of Lewis—or those just awakened to his contributions through the Narnia films—this one would make a welcome addition to enrich personal devotional times.