This fine collection of essays offers the reader a vision of the notion of "Bible" from a variety of angles. In the introduction Bowley explains that these essays - which were delivered first at a conference held at King College in Bristol, TN in spring 1997 - address how Jews, Christians and Muslims have read and continue to read their Bible and how their Bible came to be. The aim of the collection in that regard is to give a broad overview of the development of each religion's relationship to the Bible and permit representatives of each religion to express themselves regarding the abiding value of the Bible for them.
To meet these goals the volume offers a wide range of essays. The first is by Bowley. He portrays the concept "Bible" as "a library of traditions." Adam Kamesar offers the second essay which treats the texts and interpretation of the Bible in its Greek and Latin forms. John Reeves addresses the use of scripture in early Judaism and Bruce Metzger treats the development of the Christian canon. Kathryn Johnson examines the scriptural legacy of Islam by focusing on its account of the garden of Eden. Demetrios Constantelos provides a straightforward discussion of the Bible in the Orthodox Church, as does Joseph Fitzmyer of the Bible in the Catholic tradition. David Steinmetz reflects on the Bible in the hands of the Reformers and of Luther in particular. James McLanahan offers an essay on contemporary Protestant use of the Bible and Michael Meyer closes the collection with a discussion of scripture in modern Judaism. As is typical of collections like this, the essays are uneven in their quality. But that small and not-unexpected complaint aside, the book offers much to appreciate. First, its wide scope has the simple virtue of reminding readers of the diversity among western religious traditions, a diversity which is moderated by the degree to which all of those religious traditions depend on a Bible, a collection of authoritative texts of one sort or another. The essays show that this commonality proves to be a significant point of contact for three rather different religious expressions. Second, it provides much-needed insight into some of the particularities of each tradition's understanding of scripture, and, where the essays are at their best, some idea of how each tradition's Bible came to be. While only a glimpse into the development of Jewish, Christian and Muslim Bibles and the uses of them in each tradition, the essays do provide the reader a sense of the awe each tradition has for the written word and its power. For that reason alone the book is highly recommended.