YHWH:the flood, the fish and the giant: ancient mysteries retold

G.P.Taylor & Paula K.Parker
Authentic Media Ltd, 2010, £6.99, Pbk, 305pp. ISBN: 978 1 86024 800 9

When my husband was teaching RE in the early nineteen eighties he began to notice a difference in the children’s reactions to Bible stories. Instead of groans and “We already know this story, Sir”, they began to listen with avid interest because the stories were new to them. The age of biblical illiteracy had arrived. Now it is even worse. Notice how clever contestants on University Challenge cannot answer the simplest questions about the Bible.

If it can be widely enough distributed this new book will go a long way to correcting this state of affairs. G.P.Taylor and Paula Parker have taken twenty Old Testament stories – the ones that used to be really well known – and in vivid and contemporary language re-told them in a way which holds the attention of even those who know how they are going to end. We feel the horror of Adam and Eve (renamed Marah and Havva) when they realise the effects of their disobedience, we experience Abraham’s conflict between faith and fear when he is told to sacrifice Isaac and then his relief when he doesn’t have to after all. If you ever wondered how Noah got all the wild animals into the ark read Chapter 2 for the probable solution. The last chapter, ‘The Prophet’ retells how Isaiah received his revelations about the coming Messiah to redeem the world and his incredulity at the ‘madmen and fools’ who kill the son of YHWH. With a large chunk of Isaiah 53 woven into the narrative it is probably the most powerful and compelling chapter in the book.

In 2007 G.P.Taylor gave the LCF annual lecture. In it he mentioned how his books have been opposed from organisations like the BBC on the one hand and American fundamentalist Christians on the other. This book is unlikely to arouse the same opposition because it can be read on one level as a book of exciting stories. On the other hand there could be some Christians who think liberties have been taken with the text. Perhaps the idea that Dathan and Korah were spies for the Egyptians is going a bit far. However if it is wrong to fill out the details of the text we could have no Bible story books for children and sermons would be much less interesting. Also, much of the extra detail is educationally valuable information about ancient middle eastern customs that helps our understanding of the stories.

This book should be in every school and public library. It is suitable for older children, teenagers and adults and would make an excellent present for any young person.

Contributed by: Ngaio Malcolm, MA, DipNZLS, who worked as a School Librarian in New Zealand and the United Kingdom before her retirement.