An Aristocrat For Your Bookshelf

The Cambridge History of the Bible: The West from the Reformation to the Present Day, edited by S. L. Greenslade (Cambridge, 1963, 390 pp., $8.30), is reviewed by Calvin D. Linton, dean of arts and sciences, The George Washington University, Washington, D. C.

Very occasionally, a new book will begin to assert its importance the moment one takes it in his hands. The dignity of its format, the solid permanence of its binding, the excellence of its printing, the repute of its publisher, the significance of its title, the stature of its author—all make a quick appeal. This volume, the first of a projected two-volume Cambridge history of the Bible in the West, is such a book. Those who for many years have made room in their libraries for the fourteen-volume Cambridge history of English literature instinctively began deciding which peasant volume to push aside to make room for this new aristocrat.

Such courtesies over, however, it is necessary to scrutinize the newcomer’s credentials carefully. And, as with many distinguished personages, one finds at least enough weaknesses to keep his critical impulse alive without diminishing his admiration.

The basic claims to significance are those essential to such a history: comprehensiveness, authoritativeness, objectivity, currency of scholarship. As to the first, breadth is achieved not by giving equal attention to everything (with the inevitable consequence of superficiality), but by a highly selective set of topics chosen for concentrated treatment, each area handled by one of a score or more distinguished (and chiefly British) contributors. Writes Editor S. L. Greenslade, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Oxford, “We have tried to give … an account ...

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