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  • The Gospel According to Lewis?

    by Margaret Cabaniss

    C. S. Lewis is big business these days, but is the new “Lewis Bible” taking things a bit too far?

    The Lewis Bible, available in cloth (18,000 copies sold since its November debut) or leather (6,000), shares a recycling genre with “A Year with C. S. Lewis,” a collection of 365 Lewis readings, which since 2003 has sold 200,000 copies.

    The new Bible splices in quotations from Lewis’s books and unpublished papers. For example, in Genesis, next to the story of Noah’s drunkenness, appears an excerpt from a 1955 letter to one Mrs. Johnson. “One can understand,” it reads in part, “the bitterness of some ‘temperance’ fanatics if one has ever lived with a drunkard.” But, Lewis suggests, teetotalers are wrong if they write alcohol out of the Bible.

    To the Book of Matthew, where Jesus denounces the outwardly but not truly religious, there is added a quotation from “Mere Christianity”: “How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious?” They are “worshiping an imaginary God.”

    Lewis has been the inspiration for many a conversion through the years… but is this the kind of thing likely to draw people to Scripture who might not have been otherwise inclined, or are both the Bible and Lewis’s works better served by standing on their own?

    One can understand Mr. Maudlin’s worries about marketing Lewis, who habitually overshadows books he loved, like the Bible. . . .

    “He would be uncomfortable if it were sold as a personality cult, or him as mentor or guru,” Mr. Maudlin said of Lewis, whose name looms larger than the word “Bible” on the book’s cover. “So we had to make it dignified.”

    One thing is for sure — financially, the timing couldn’t be better:

    “I would say in the last 10 years, C. S. Lewis has sold more books than any other 10-year span since he started publishing,” Mr. Maudlin said. “He’s not only not declining, he is in his sweet spot.”

    [Hat tip: Joe]

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Kamilla

      Is when the folks at HarperOne are going to the doctor to get that nerve problem checked – capitalizing on Lewis’ popularity is one thing. But when it comes to tying the words of the man who wrote the novels “That Hideous Strength” and “Perelandra” as well as the essay, “Priestesses in the Church?” to a so-called gender neutral translation, well, let’s just say I am glad I don’t have their nerve in my tooth.

    • smf

      There are even some scholars who have started a petition to try to stop this on the basis that Lewis would object to the choice of the NRSV translation used, if not also on the basic concept. It has been suggested Lewis would have been more comfortable with the King James or the RSV.

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    • Cord Hamrick .

      Lewis was very keen on the importance of gender and the distinctively masculine understanding of God the Father in understanding the faith.

      The NRSV’s watering down of such language is exactly the kind of thing Lewis would have detested — imposing our own petty politically correct pieties on the original text in such a way as to obscure the thought of the authors.

      Yes, of course he’d have preferred the KJV or RSV.

      For further information, read his essay “Priestesses in the Church?” (you can Google it; it’s easily found online).

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